Blogs for January, 2014
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
As most of you know I train animals for the studios. Well one of the most rewarding jobs I have done in a long time has been working on the new Budweiser commercial featuring the Clydesdales and a Budweiser puppies! …8 puppies. We trained 8 puppies to play the part of one puppy in this fabulous new commercial directed by Jake Scott. Check out this link for a quick tease behind the scenes.
Have I mentioned that my mother is a liar? She prefers “teller of tall tales,” and she often adds an element of truth to the tale, making it a story easier to swallow as unlikely-but-true. So when she told the tale of a new mom who brought her beautiful but orange baby back to the hospital, only to be told to cut back on the baby’s whipped carrot diet, I believed her. She was, after all, an RN in the maternity ward.
Years later, I’ve begun to question almost everything my mother told me. For instance: That music truck? IT SELLS ICE CREAM. But, after coming across a beautiful bunch of carrots fresh from the dirt at an outdoor market in Paris, I decided it time to learn more about the root. And in doing so, I learned that my mother was, for once, not weaving her words into a tale, but that baby was being fed too much beta-carotene. And, according to Rebecca Rupp, author of “How Carrots Won the Trojan War,” “raw carrots release only about 3 percent of their total beta-carotene to the human digestive system. In boiled carrots, where the cooking acts to break down the root’s thick cell walls, up to 40 percent is released; and blended or juiced, carrots release up to 90 percent.”
And if you’re thinking grandma might have lied to you about eating carrots so you could see in the dark, she did. But there’s truth in the need for vitamin A, which carrots are steeped in, for healthy eyes: “Vitamin A … is perhaps best known for its effect on eyesight. In the retina of the eye, vitamin A binds to a protein (opsin) in the rod cells to form the visual pigment rhodopsin, which allows us to see — more or less — in the dark. In fact, the first hint of vitamin A deficiency is impaired dark adaptation (‘night blindness’), and a severe or prolonged lack of vitamin A can lead to permanent blindness.” (Rebecca Rupp, “How Carrots Won the Trojan War: Curious (but True) Stories of Common Vegetables”)
I’m sorry. You don’t care about juicing vs. cooking or night vision, you want to know how carrots won the Trojan War? According to Rebecca Rupp as well as the World Carrot Museum, carrots originated in what is present day Afghanistan 5000 years ago, purple, “scrawny, highly branched, and unpromising, these wine-colored roots belonged, like their plump cultivated descendants, to the Apiaceae family.” And those “primitive purple, violet, red, and black carrots owed their color to anthocyanin, a pigment that dominated the carrot world until approximately the sixteenth century, when a pale yellow anthocyanin-less mutation appeared in western Europe. It thus must have been an anthocyanin-laced purplish carrot that Agamemnon’s soldiers legendarily munched (presumably quietly) inside the Trojan Horse ‘to bind their bowels,’ and that Greeks on the home front used to concoct an aphrodisiacal potion or philtron. Like any vegetable even vaguely resembling a penis, the carrot was thought to be a passion promoter.” (Rupp)
I know. I’m never going to be able to eat a carrot the same way again. But we love them, raw, cooked, juiced: Americans consume about twelve pounds of carrots a year (up from a mere four annual pounds in 1975). After making their way to Europe in the 12th century, and being honed into the sweet, orange snack we chomp on today by the Dutch, carrots made their way to America with the first settlers. According to Rupp, they were planted between tobacco fields in Jamestown, and Jefferson grew carrots in several colors at Monticello.
For a twist, add the leafy-topped veggie to your bridal bouquet or boutonniere, their lacy, leafy tops were the original inspiration for Queen’s Anne Lace, descended, we read in Rupp’s history, from ex-cultivated escapees. The Queen of these lacy flowers is said to be Anne of Denmark, wife of England’s James I and an expert with the needle and thread. “Queen Anne challenged her ladies-in-waiting to make a piece of lace as fine as the flower of the wild carrot. The Queen herself, not surprisingly, won hands down, and the flower was rechristened in her name. Less romantically, it is known as bird’s nest or devil’s plague.” (For the sake of the future of your wedded bliss, I’d call it Queen Anne’s Lace, not devil’s plague.)
And? While we’re not going to be able to take a field trip to the World Carrot Museum, you can visit it online, and get your carrot facts fix. You can plan that field trip to a carrot festival near you, like the one in Holtville, California, a town of 6005 folk that calls itself the Carrot Capital of the World. The festivities kick off this Friday, Jan 31st, when they crown their Carrot Festival Queen and her court. And if you want to rival the small town’s crop, check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac guide to grow your own.
(Photo credit: Carrots in Color from Mixed Greens Blog, Paris Market, Rebecca Snavely)
As an animal trainer working for a company that supplies so many animals for the entertainment industry, one of the worst times of the year would be October and November when the weather brings us a local condition known to all who live here as the “Santa Ana’s“.
Sadly, our fire season has become more of a year round problem. Right now, at the end of January, when we should have had some decent rain, we are parched dry.
The Santa Ana winds are a warm offshore wind that creates perfect conditions for brush fires – especially after a hot summer, when the surrounding canyons and landscape are now dry and crispy.
Having an animal company with hundreds of dogs, cats, squirrels, birds and other small animals set in the heart of a dry canyon can be nerve wrecking at this time of year. Studio Animal Services has evacuated many times over the years, one of the worst times was October 2007, when we had to evacuate everyone. We are prepared, we have multiple horse trailers fully loaded with crates, food, water etc., so we can load up, pull out and can be self contained if need be. In 2007 we had to stay away for 3 days while the fire roared down our canyon burning everything in sight, except the 8 acre ranch we work from, the firefighters did an amazing job of saving that.
Being prepared is the key. I personally have my house set up with bins of stuff ready to load up and move out in the event of a local brush fire. I label them in order of importance, depending on how much time I have to evacuate, depends on what I grab and leave with.
I took all of these photo’s including the one above, when many people swarmed the local Wildlife Waystation to help evacuate all the animals. The fire was moving up the canyon toward the facility. I left that evening in a horse trailer with 3 emu, (or maybe they were ostrich) and 2 pigs. Luckily the fire did not make it to the Waystation and days later all the wildlife were returned.
If you live in Southern California (and other dry states) make a plan, be prepared – especially when it comes to your animals – and especially if you have larger animals like horses. No good waiting until it happens and panicking. Get set up now!
Ahhh… Paris. I have so many lovely memories and favorite places to eat. Two restaurants I always try to visit are Chez Janou and Chez L’Amis Jean. I love that there are parks all over the city, but my favorite for taking a stroll are the Tuileries gardens in front of the Louvre. And whenever I visit with my family, I always take my children to Angelina’s in the park for hot chocolate. Another favorite is Luxembourg garden on the left bank. It’s beautiful any time of year. I love to visit the city of light, and I love to bring it home with me. And to offer Parisian style to you through The City Farm store!
Afar Magazine’s September ’13 issue transports us to Paris, exploring what makes the Parisienne so iconic, and highlights what Parisian artists are creating today that continue the region’s reign of style-makers.
“Those gamines ingénues in ballet flats and perfectly fitted little T-shirt dresses really are riding bicycles all over town,” writes Alexandra Marshall, who moved to the city in 2006. “In working-class Belleville, tony Saint-Germain, or the groovy Marais there really are young moms in ponytails, skinny jeans, and Bréton stripe T-shirts, and sleek fifty somethings in angular bobs, with neat handbags and silk scarves, their creases pressed just so. Parisian style is mythical: The chic “Parisienne” is natural and feminine, her heels never too high, nor her skirt too tight, nor her makeup too pronounced except for that little pop of lipstick. But it’s also real.”
At The City Farm, we love to bring a touch of Paris to your home, whether you reside in London, Los Angeles, or the City of Light itself, through the mixing and melding of different design ideas. Let’s look to Paris and beyond, as I’m always looking at how to incorporate the countryside with the city.
I was a flower delivery driver one college break. A pre-GPS / smart phone flower delivery driver, with no sense of direction. I spent hours lost, driving a large van the wrong way down one-way streets, looking at a Thomas Guide through tears of frustration, the recipients of a bouquet no longer surprised, as they had to wave me down as I just could. not. find. their. address. My saving grace was the pre-van morning in the flower shop, when I would help pack the arrangements into boxes to protect them from my sharp U-turns. The smell of a shop filled with flowers is indescribably sweet.
Yet I never asked where they those beautiful blossoms came from before I took them on worst ride of their floral lives. Years later, after I watched “Food, Inc.,” that documentary deploring the horrors of factory farming which made me lay off beef from unknown origins, and ask where my salmon was sourced, I was pretty confident: I was all about sustainability. That is, until I talked with Jessica Stewart and Justine Lacy, the founders of Foxglove Floral Design Studio in Brooklyn, NY. I’d never asked the same questions about the bouquets I buy.
Do you know where your flowers were grown? Is there a dark side to that beautiful bunch of begonias you’ve arranged for a garden party? From poorly-paid farmers to those exposed to chemical fertilizers or toxic pesticides, there may be an ugly side to those beautiful, store-bought flowers. Slow Flowers, a la Slow Food.
The easiest thing to do is ask, says Jessica. She and Justine, delightful, smart, funny women who fell into and in love with floral design, were already striving to live in an eco-friendly way, and immediately chose the sustainable route when they teamed up as Foxglove. New business owners, they work diligently and drive miles to grow a network of local farmers who will supply their botanical needs for weddings and events, and they know other designers around the nation doing the same thing. They thrive on this, and are happy to do the research and leg-work to ensure their flowers are sustainable, so you don’t have to. If you run into a wall from a grocer who isn’t in the know, there is a label to look for: the frog of Rainforest Alliance. When Foxglove Floral can’t buy locally in NY or the surrounding areas, they look to the UK, France, and The Netherlands, all of which comply with strict standards.
It’s an uphill battle to find reliably sourced flowers and create those connections with farmers; there are un-returned emails and phone calls, larger farms that only work with bigger buyers, smaller farms for whom a delivery drop isn’t cost effective. It takes drive. It takes people who, like Justine & Jessica, up and move from small towns to New York City to pursue dreams: Justine for her work in costume design, and Jessica as a grad student in labor history. Switching their focus to flowers, both are happy to put in the hours and sweat equity to offer their clients local, seasonal designs. And working farmer by farmer has its perks, they tell me. Straw Hill Farm, started by two artists living off the land, just starting to sell flowers commercially to small shops. They get their hands dirty. “We headed out there, helped plant bulbs,” the pair said. That allows them to open the conversation about what is on trend for events, and to call the farm directly to check on their crocuses, working intimately in the farm-to-centerpiece business.
But often their clients are of the bridal persuasion, and this is their big day. Emotions can run high, and while I don’t want to unfairly label, some turn into a beast that rhymes with “pride-villa.” Jessica & Justine get it. They work with folks who truly *want* to source their flowers locally and sustainably, but who maybe, just maybe, have had a bridal look-book going LONG before Pinterest was a thing. Justine and Jessica lay it all out at the beginning: “We explain what is in season, what is available, and also that nature is ultimately in control,” says Justine. If nature should decide to shake things up with a storm or flower-killing freeze, the wedding couple is the first to know, and have already been presented with the other seasonal options available.
Want to join the slow flower movement? If you’re interested in the business of sustainable flowers, Justine and Jessica recommend Amy Stewart’s book, Flower Confidential. And check out the NYT conversation with Debra Prinzing, who recommends finding local flowers in your neck of the woods via The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (say that five times fast), or via her indiegogo campaign – Slow Flowers: A Directory of American Flowers, Florists, Designers, and Farmers.
And take a tip from Jessica & Justine: take risks, take leaps of faith. Stalk…er … engage people who are doing what you dream to do — the two met one of their inspirations, Jenni Love, at a flower show. They spent hours in conversation, learning from Jenni’s experiences, and consider her a mentor in the field. Check out a video of Jenni picking and creating a winter bouquet, here.
(Photos: Foxglove Brooklyn, bouquet/boutonniere split shot Khaki Bedford)
“Nature is what makes us human; what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves.” Jennifer Sahn, an editor at Orion Magazine, shared that perspective to open a talk with Rebecca Solnit and Robert Macfarlane on the power of nature writing.
“The world outside was my salvation, because I wasn’t so good at the social,” Solnit shared during the talk. She referenced two books that burrowed deep into my soul upon first read: Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. Both writers take time away from what we call civilization, to live alone and observe nature in its messy, wild ways. Both books carved out space in my head and heart, expansive room to breathe beyond the daily duties of life in Los Angeles.
Even in the city, I find nature to soothe my soul, from farmer’s markets and community gardens to Griffith Park hikes. I recently visited the Borough Market in London, and walked its gorgeous, winding routes of food, sweets, and vegetables. Surrounded by buses and cabs driving on the WRONG SIDE OF THE STREET (thankfully, mostly due to the signs telling me to look right, I survived), the tube stations and busy trains, the gorgeous architecture the city, the market was a respite in the city, a chance to take in a little nature, the dark green of the avocados, the yellow lemons, orange persimmons. Next door I leaned over the railing to stare down into the garden at the Southwark Cathedral, its trees and bushes stripped bare for the winter, I watched for a bit, wondering what would soon bloom in the spring.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire.
Perhaps you cannot take an extended break from your life, work, kids, cats, but you can create a Desert Solitaire in your own space, a place to drink in the beauty of the wild, the spare, and the original. What does your wilderness look like? It could be a small table devoted to potted plants and terrariums, like this gorgeous nook to the right.
Or if you have a wall to create a climbing garden, check out the tips and tricks over at Apartment Therapy.
And, best of all, if you have a place for a persimmon tree in your garden, you can add a little life and color to the cold days of late winter / early spring.
“Persimmon trees are really easy to take care of,” fruit expert Ed Laivo says. “They’re actually very adaptable to a wide range of soils, they’re disease- and pest-free, and basically drought tolerant after established.” Depending on your climate, persimmon trees can be planted in early spring or winter.” – HGTV.com
Check out HGTV for Laivo’s tips on how to plant your persimmon. You may have to pay a bit more for a grafted, healthy tree that will bud, letting growers like Laivo do all the hard work. He doesn’t recommend amending the soil, as “the roots need to adapt to the nutrients that will be available for the next 100-plus years. Instead, he uses other protective measures like mulch. Mulch helps to cut down on evaporation and also keeps the roots cooler in the summertime.”
We’re heading toward spring, and each day a bit more light is creeping in, giving us hope for things to sprout and grow. In that Orion talk on nature writing, Macfarlane mentions Samuel Beckett’s play, “Waiting for Godot.” “In the first act, there is a willow tree with no leaves,” Macfarlane recalls, “but in the second act, the tree has sprouted four or five leaves. … this moment of very possible hope. … Some of the work that’s emerging, [such as] Caspar Henderson’s Barely Imagined Beings, where growth and astonishment and wonder are weirdly reconfigured as kinds of virtue, I see Beckett standing almost at the beginning of that, these glimpses of hope in what is a very difficult context. We find ourselves back at the word ‘hope.’”
Where will you grow a space for nature in your life? How do you escape from the social and find yourself in nature, to dig around in the dirt, in what makes us human? Tell us in the comment space, or show us with photos tweeted to @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
I love The City Farm’s Avocado Honey. It’s just delicious, and unlike mass-produced commercial honey, which can be thick as old glue, City Farm Honey is smooth and easy to transfer to a measuring cup when you are using it in a recipe.
The following appetizer recipe for Sesame Chicken with Honey Dip came from a neighbor of mine when I lived in Aspen. I also like to make this with whole boneless chicken breasts as a main course. If you are making it as a main course, coat the raw chicken with the mayonnaise mixture, then the crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until done. Be sure to make plenty of honey dipping sauce. It’s so good.
Sesame Chicken with City Farm Avocado Honey Dip
½ cup Best Foods mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dry mustard
1 tsp. Instant minced onion
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
Mix first 3 ingredients, set aside.
Mix crumbs and sesame seeds.
Coat chicken with mayonnaise mixture, then crumb mixture.
Place on baking sheet.
Bake in 425° oven for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Serve hot with dip.
Mix 1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise with 1/4 cup of City Farm Avocado Honey
Researching rosemary took me on a journey through the origins of Aphrodite, said to have arisen from the sea wearing just a wreath of the herbs, to the original Love Potion No. 9, when in the Middle Ages it was considered a love charm, which brides wore in their hair while the groom and guests donned a sprig.
I bought all that info with only a few fact-checking jumps around the interwebs, especially as it was posted by Newcastle University. I didn’t bat an eye when I read that planting a bit outside your home warded off witches, a belief held in the 16th century. Sure. And I’m down with those 18th century dudes who used rosemary oil to promote hair growth — male pattern balding doesn’t bother me, but it’s your scalp, guys. I’m all about holistic, non-toxic beauty regimens and am personally tempted to see if it might still “beautify my teeth.” Then the University’s site notes that during the 17th century, “rosemary was used medicinally to cure jaundice and to restore speech to a mute.”
(Record screeches to a stop.)
I’m sorry. What? Just like that, an herb you can grow in your garden so you might ward off witches while you sit safely inside brushing your lush, long hair whilst you smile your gorgeous grin can also RESTORE SPEECH TO A MUTE? HOW did it restore speech to a mute? No reference for that fun fact? I posted that question on the site, and will attempt to find the story
behind it. I’m on it.
As I read Wikipedia’s note that when burned, rosemary smells akin to a wood fire, my sensememory sparked the woodsy smell, my mouth watered, and I suddenly craved meat. Do you use rosemary in your stuffing or to season lamb or pork?
Known for strengthening memory, adding flavor to your food and luster to your locks, and apparently giving speech to the speechless, why not grow a little in your garden? Rosmarinus officinalis is perennial, and though native to the Mediterranean regions, it is hardy and can grow almost anywhere, though it prefers the sun. The seedlings grow very slowly, so for instant gratification, it’s best to buy plants. And since the ideal time to plant rosemary is in April, check with your local nursery to learn when to plant in your region.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests getting a head start and planting the seeds or cuttings indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. If you’re a city dweller in a small space, keep it in a container but give it lots of sunlight. And if you transplant it outdoors, be sure to give the plant plenty of room to grow, some reach four feet in height and spread the same distance. And if you need a planter, check out The City Farm’s gorgeous way to grow your herb garden here.
There are so many ways to enjoy your new addition to your herb garden! I’m thinking of starting a new slogan: “Rosemary, it’s not just for warding off your neighborhood witch.” Dry some and throw it on the BBQ the next time you’re grilling, or snag this recipe from Convet Garden and make some brown butter & rosemary popcorn to serve your guests a savory snack the next time you host movie night. Since rosemary keeps on growing and thus giving, try making an essential oil to add to your lotions, shampoo, or in your baked breads. Over at A Healthy Life for Me, Amy Stafford gives her tips for making oil with your own rosemary: all you need is a mason jar, oil, and clippings from your garden.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! So…we’ve been partying, and eating Christmas Cookies, and drinking Champagne, and going to the end-of-the-year blockbuster movies instead of the gym. After the holiday excess, it’s now time to get back on track. Here is a simply delicious recipe to celebrate the start of a new year. You’ll need a mandolin to slice the vegetables. It’s good enough to serve to guests…and even though it’s lasagne, there’s lots of veggies in each serving! Enjoy!
Low-Cal Vegetable Lasagne
½ pound fresh or dried lasagne noodles
1 pound carrots
1 pound zucchini
1 cup (8 3/4-oz.) Part skim ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. Chopped fresh oregano
½ tsp. Fresh ground pepper
12 ounces (about 8 cups) fresh spinach
3 cups Red Sauce (recipe follows)
1 ½ cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add noodles and cook until just tender (about 2 minutes for fresh, 10 minutes for dried). Drain. Place noodles in cold water until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 375°. With mandolin or kitchen slicer at thinnest setting, cut carrots and zucchini lengthwise into paper-thin strips.
Mix ricotta cheese, basil, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper in small bowl.
Trim noodles to fit 13″ x 9″ glass baking dish; layer one third of the noodles on the bottom. Layer half the spinach, then half the carrots and zucchini. Top with half the ricotta mixture. Repeat, layering another third of the noodles and remaining vegetables and cheese. Top with noodles. Cover with foil.
Bake 35 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Cut lasagne into 6 squares and transfer to jelly-roll pan. Preheat broiler. Top each square with ½ cup warm Red Sauce and 2 tablespoons mozzarella. Broil 2 minutes. Pass remaining sauce.
Makes 6 servings
Combine 1 can (28 oz.) Plum tomatoes with their juice, 3/4 cup chopped carrots, ½ cup chopped celery, ½ cup chopped onion, 1 can (13 – 14 ox.) Chicken broth plus enough water to equal 2 cups, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil and 1 Tbsp minced garlic in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 4 cups, about 30 minutes. Transfer in batches to blender, process until smooth.
Makes 4 cups