Friday, October 30, 2009

Tomatillos on PEI? Yes You CAN


Please enjoy this recipe for authentic Mexican Salsa Verde!

Jane Dunphy prompted this post because she grew tomatillos in her PEI garden this year and has been searching for information about how to use them. Turns out you can freeze them or can them and of course, they make wonderful salsa verde, one of the most popular condiments in Mexico. But all of the ingredients can be grown and used in PEI!

You can simmer your salsa verde with pork to make chile verde or you can bake chicken, shred the meat, cover it with salsa verde and serve with beans and rice. Salsa verde It's spicy but not too hot and the tangy fresh flavor is a delicious change of pace.

Please enjoy!

  • 3 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed
  • 2 large jalapeƱo chiles, stems removed
  • 5 small garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro, thick bottom stems trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Mix first 2 ingredients in large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.

Coarsely chop tomatillo mixture, garlic, and cumin in processor using on/off turns. Add next ingredients; blend until herbs are chopped and salsa is chunky.

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add salsa and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced to 4 cups, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt.

NOTES: This is a recipe from the web that most closely resembles Monica's description and technique with measures to help you.

You can add other herbs (mint, etc) and lime juice is a common addition too.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Visit to Colonial California...and a Classic Car.

This year, Fourth Grader is engaged in a rite of passage. He is studying the Spanish Colonial / Mission Period in California. Part of this experience inevitably includes a craft project in which students create representations of the missions. I remember that mine was a replica of Mission Santa Barbara carved out of a large bar of Ivory Soap.

We live in what was a Spanish colonial city. El Presidio de Santa Barbara was built in 1782. And Toby has contracted to build a replica of the Presidio Chapel out of sugar cubes for his 4th grade project. To facilitate the design and plan, I twisted Toby's arm and we drove downtown to look at the chapel and begin our flurry of sugar enhanced historical learning.

Chapel - El Presidio de Santa Barbara

Presidio Chapel Bells

I hope this photo story interests our friends in PEI who might enjoy a window seat in the unfamiliar SoCal landscape. And those of us who live here don't often find time to stop and wander the grounds of this historic state park.

Walking the Presidio on a gorgeous Sunday morning, I found myself thinking of the Spaniards who found themselves essentially marooned here, in a far flung frontier outpost.

Presidio Chapel Altar (click to enlarge)

The original chapel, like most of the old Presidio had fallen into decay, was damaged by repeated earthquakes and the arrival of new settlers after the Califonrnia gold rush brought Statehood.
Nothing was left but the stone foundations. The chapel we visited today has been painstakingly rebuilt overt the past 30 years.

Canedo Adobe (click to enlarge)

This adobe structure was added to the original Presidio walls and became a residence granted to a Presidio soldier. These original buildings serve as the inspiration for tacky apartment buildings and restaurants all over the southwest.

Toby and I will be working on our chapel project this week. We'll post our results and let you compare.

Santa Barbara is full of beautiful trees and interesting plants from all over the world. But there weren't many trees on this coastal plain in the 1700's. Native plants were adapted to long dry the cactus flowering below...

Cactus Blooms

Street Parked Classic (click to enlarge)

When I drove the Big Yellow Truck around PEI I talked to lots of guys who asked me about the drive up to the island. Wistfully, they'd say, "You must have a lot of classic old cars out there..." So I thought I'd start posting a series of photos called, "Street Parked Classics".
I spotted this 1970 Camaro about 4 blocks from home.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And We're Back...

Happy to say that the website is repaired and the links to the podcasts are working.
Please do visit and enjoy the pictures and the weekly podcasts from PEI.

I'm continuing to use our urban exposure in Santa Barbara to harvest more knowledge and technique in communications technology.

In the next two weeks I'll be "planting" seeds for new business based in part on what I learned from producing content for this blog. One project, based on our summer podcasts, has already become a commercial radio campaign.

But most interesting will be the opportunity to take you on podcast tours of our edible landscape at home and wanderings in Santa Barbara and Southern California.

So, now I have to get to work on all that!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Just a quick note to let you know that there is a problem with the website that hosts elements of this blog. It appears that my home page may have been hacked.

That means you could see a warning from your browser if you attempt to open one of our links.

I'm working on the problem and will let you know when it's clear.

Thanks -


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Getting Up To Speed

Well, I promised you I'd deliver a harvest from this urban environment. But the crops are different here.

I published the link to the New York Times about hamburger to help you make smarter food choices and on Thursday, I went to a communications technology seminar at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Kevin Barron invited members of the local, independent media community to come to campus for a seminar at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Three representatives from Apple Computers put on a demonstration of their new Podcast Producer 2 software on the Snow Leopard server system. It was very impressive. And being a podcaster, I captured audio I hope to share with you in the next few days on this blog.

There are great things happening in communications technology that are already changing the ways that we live and work. The fact is that I can now be a remote farmer on Prince Edward Island and still be connected to multiple markets by internet technology. And that is only one aspect.

Another aspect is the grass roots nature of this technology. As the means to communicate spreads downward and puts the means to communicate into the hands of ordinary people,
the value of communication itself changes from the broadcast model of hitting millions of people everywhere, to local producers communicating directly with local people and addressing the needs of consumers where they live.

Apple's technology development is wonderful. But my take away this week is that the techs don't really understand how this technology will actually be used in local commercial markets.

My friend and independent producer, Patrick Gregston and I, intend to contact Apple and offer some insight into the changes this technology represents beyond their current design.

The brilliant Apple talent in Cupertino, Ca, have developed a wonderful new tool that will allow multiple sources of audio and video to be captured and streamed by a single user on a laptop to an online server. But until they learn that this tool represents the reality of live, local, streaming TV quality production on the internet - they're missing the real point and the potential of this program.

Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Going to the Superstore? Don't Buy the Burger!

I can tell you from experience that it's hard to have conversations about local organic food. Right now organic producers spend a lot of time trying to declare what it is - by defining what it's not.
Here's an article that should help you understand how important that distinction can be.

There are a lot of people in conventional agriculture who are no longer amused by the small organic farmer, even though we've been easy to dismiss with a roll of the eyes and a laugh for the past 30 years.

That's changing. The consumer herd is getting nervous. They're starting find reasons to wonder where their next meal is coming from and the answer is - sometimes scary.

This week, the New York Times published a piece of investigative journalism the likes of which we haven't seen in a hundred years. It features the story of a 22 year old American woman who is now paralyzed from the waist down because she ate processed hamburgers her mother bought at the grocery store. The meat was tainted with E. Coli. And just like thousands of other people this year, she was poisoned by a food supply she trusted to be safe.

From the article:

Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes.

Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.

Sad enough, but was this an isolated case? You might think so. But read on.

The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.

It seems that even with the huge numbers of food poisonings and product recalls, the standards for commercial processing of beef allow the problem to go on and go undetected. Because of this, a 22 year old dance teacher is no longer dancing. She's no longer walking either.

And in case you're wondering:

Food scientists have registered increasing concern about the virulence of this pathogen since only a few stray cells can make someone sick, and they warn that federal guidance to cook meat thoroughly and to wash up afterward is not sufficient. A test by The Times found that the safe handling instructions are not enough to prevent the bacteria from spreading in the kitchen.

(To read the rest of the story, please link to: E.Coli Path Shows Flaw in Beef Inspection by Michael Moss, published in the New York Times, October 3, 2009.)

Don't look for me to suggest that you stop eating beef. As a former cow hand on a family owned California ranch, I can tell you something. We used to know who grew, slaughtered, inspected and butchered the beef we ate. An unscrupulous beef buyer in this area was once found hanging upside down from a ranch gate - howling for help after local cowboys strung him up for trying to rip off local producers.

That's what happens when the public gets fed up. I suggest we all need to be fedup with this kind of food processing. It not only poisons people, it destroys the high standards and honest hard work of farmers and ranchers, local processors and butchers.

Protect your food supply. Buy from local farmers and ranchers who still have a personal stake in the food you eat. Buy from local processors and butchers who personally inspect the meat they cut and sell.

When you see packages of insanely cheap, pre-formed and pre-seasoned beef patties in the grocery freezer - walk on by - while you still can.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Harvest From An Urban Farm

Greetings From Santa Barbara

Well we've made the jump back to Santa Barbara. Here's our home away from PEI.
Might be hard to tell, but this is an original farmhouse from the 1910's, before the area
was subdivided into housing back in the 1930's.

We live in the county, right across the street from the city and a short walk from the Junior High where I went to school.

Susan has been working as a volunteer accountant with Fairview Gardens Farm in Goleta. In exchange we get a small share from their CSA Program (Community Supported Agriculture). CSA programs are great and we're looking at the potential of a CSA for Dunn Creek Farm.

This week our share from the 12 acre farm at Fairview included pomegranates, yellow summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and anaheim chiles (which will be turned into chile rellenos tonight!)

Our farm shares on PEI would be quite different to suit local climate and tastes. But they could include fresh herbs and garlic, staples like sweet corn and beans and even ground whole wheat flour! A CSA could support fresh, local, minimally processed, sustainable and organic products for people in eastern PEI.

These sunflowers looked so bright against the barn. If you look at the top picture, you'll see that our environment in California is often muted tans and brown. The fall light in PEI makes primary colors POP.

A busy honey bee pollinates a sunflower. We had an active bee yard. Thanks to Island Gold Honey (and John Burhoe) for keeping bees in our certified fields. At a time when honeybees are under stress, we're glad to provide safe organic pasture to our local bee keeper. And we more than enjoy the natural honey from our variety of clovers, buckwheat and wild flowers.

We also benefit from working bees in our inter-cropped rows of vegetables. They increase the yields from our plants.

Never trust a sheepdog with a kitten.

We're in transition back to our urban life and I'm using this opportunity to harvest new knowledge to take back to the farm. We've made a farm plan for 2010 and I'm working on learning some new media skills to continue our efforts at communicating with our friends, supporters and customers. And I'm hoping to learn more about the operation of the CSA at one of California's oldest organic farms.

Our friends Laura-Jane and Cameron at Whimfield are working on the Growing Circle project and we intend to support that effort and use it to reach out to the community of on-line users on PEI.

Our summer series of audio podcasts was well received and provided me with a lot of learning and inspiration. I'm collecting new material to continue our story from the West Coast.

And tonight I'm going to make an organic Mexican dinner!