Sunday, November 30, 2008

Open Air: Coupeville Farmers Market

The 2008 market season was a success for farmers and vendors selling at the Coupeville Farmers Market in Coupeville, Washington.

The seasonal Saturday market had a 30 percent increase in revenue from the previous year, according to a report in the Whidbey News Times.

The market brought in a total of $236,000 throughout 2008 while bringing in $178,000 in 2007. There was a $33,100 increase in the amount of produce sold throughout the year.

The market's season goes from the first Saturday in April to Harvest Fest, which takes place the second Saturday in October.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Selling Points: Meat Goat Opportunity

Significant economic opportunities await producers raising meat goats, according to University of Illinois Extension meat goat specialist Dick Cobb.
"Population projections predict an increase of 100 million people in this country by 2040. Much of this growth will be due to the increase of Hispanic and Islamic populations with much of it in Illinois centered on Chicago. Both of these groups enjoy goat meat."
The University of Illinois, Western Illinois University, and Southern Illinois University are working with producers to develop a sustainable Illinois meat goat industry. The Illinois Meat Goat Producers Association is hosting a buck test in July, 2009, to identify bucks that can convert feed to meat protein efficiently.

The test station will be at WIU's Agricultural Research facilities in Macomb. Bucks must be delivered to the test station on July 18, 2009. Following a six-day adjustment period, the 84-day confinement test begins. It concludes Oct. 16. Test candidates must be born between Feb. 20 and April 20, 2009.

The test will evaluate and compare test bucks in a common environment for average daily gain, feed efficiency, and other factors. For more information contact: WIU-bucktest@attglobal.net or call Paul Miller (217) 322-4687 or Jennifer Miller (217) 688-2043.

Source: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Home Made: Felt

Felting wool is an ancient skill, practiced by such legendary figures as Attila the Hun and Genhis Kahn, both known as "maker of felted tents."

Felt is simply matted wool. Wool becomes felt when it is subjected to moisture, heat, and agitation. Hot soapy water makes the wool slippery, and causes tiny scales on the fiber to "open up". With agitation, these fibers get intertwined and, when cooled and dried, the scales close and lock the wool into the tough, durable material we call felt.

In her book Sweater Renewal, fiber artist Sharon Franco Rothschild outlines two methods of felting at home. Visit our Here's How to... page for Felt.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recipe File: French Apple Tart

This just might be my all-time favorite dessert. It’s the simple essence of sweet apples and crisp pastry with no distractions. We’ve all collected several similar recipes over the years, but this is the best one I’ve ever made. – Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

For the Pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water

For the Apples
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small-diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or war sieved apricot jam
2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water

Directions

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.

Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball.

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 x 14 inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and

Note: For a really fast apple tart, you can use one sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted. Roll out to 10 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches and then proceed with the apples continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.)

Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don’t worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture.

Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Reprinted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics with permission from Clarkson Potter/Publishers.

Rural Delivery: Final Harvest

Standing in a field just a few hundred yards from the place where he was born 70 years earlier on "a cold February morning," the retiring rancher eyed the crowd gathered around his dimantled windmill.

An auctioneer cried out from the center of the throng, "Last chance! Two-twenty-five, give me two-twenty-five! Sold for two hundred dollars."

The auctioneer and the crowd moved on, away from the rancher and toward a rusty manure spreader. The man with the highest bid, a neighbor, lagged behind. He studied the metal fan blades of the windmill and then crossed over to the rancher. His round, flushed face was reflected in the older man's dark glasses.

"You're going to have to help me put this thing together," he said.

The rancher studied him a moment from behind the glasses, then announced in mock seriousness. "Nope, I can't help you. I told you not to buy the thing."

Auctions like this can be gloomy affairs. When a century-old ranch is sold and its equipment goes on the auction block, often there's a foreclosure or a death in the family. Neighbors stand around, hands in their pockets, and bid sheepishly. The owner may not even attend.

This southern Idaho rancher stood his ground, wryly watching three generations of tractors, trucks and farm implements pass into other hands. Friends and neighbors, farmers and ranchers with weathered faces and calloused hands, approached the lank old man in the tan felt hat. Like the land around them, their conversation was sparse, but not subdued.

"I'm just getting too old," he explained. His three sons were not interested in -- or could not afford -- taking over the ranch. The rancher's wife had passed away 18 months earlier.

"Does this baler work good?" the auctioneer called out as he started taking bids on a John Deere 216.

"Oh yeah," said the rancher with a slight grin. "You hook it on the tractor and it'll follow."

The 1,100-acre ranch had been sold to a developer from California. Soon after the auction, the old rancher would leave a land homesteaded by his grandfather in 1886, a place that he grew up on in the 1930s, and a family business he had owned for 40 years.

At various times during its history the ranch had supported a thousand head of dairy cows, nearly 500 head of beef cattle, crops of clover, seed, hay, alfalfa, wheat, barley and potatoes. Some years were tough, others prosperous; adequate water supplies were always a concern.

To keep the ranch operating, the owners purchased fleets of tractors and trucks over the years. Their outbuildings swelled with machinery and equipment. Long rows of those belongings spilled out across the field below the rancher's log home, and the ranch's final harvest continued.

A horse-drawn manure spreader sold that day for $235, a calf table for $140. A New Hiolland 1049 Super harrow bed stacker drew a top bid of $7,000.

In selling the family ranch, the old man kept title to 40 acres of unimproved land across the valley. What he'd do with it, he had no idea. But looking out across the broad plain that used to be his ranch, nestled tight against the southern flanks of the hills, it's not hard to understand why a man would want to retain some portion of that space, if only to have a place to stand and watch your way of life go down the road.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Stall Review: A Radiant Curve

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved.

A Radiant Curve
Poems and Stories
by Luci Tapahonso
University of Arizona Press, 2008

Each evening, the mountains surrounding us glow gold,
then pink, then purple that deepens into soft black.

The mountains know such evenings will be only memories decades from now.
Memories that will bring the sudden, light ache of waiting tears

and a gentle pang to the depths of one's chest.

The mountains remember the tenderness with which they were created.

They remember the way the Holy Ones sang with such beauty,

it compelled them to rise out of the flat desert.

The lyric spirit of the Navajo Nation (Diné Bikéyah) infuses the poems and stories of this collection by Diné poet and literature professor Luci Tapahonso. It whistles beneath memories of horse rides and burials, ancient ceremonies and new beginnings. It lingers in the voice that reads on the accompanying audio CD.

Tapahonso evokes this spirit from a solitary dove "whose delicate coos are the rhythmic pauses of desert mornings," and from the "sweet scent of refreshed creosote" and "skies of brilliant teal." Navajo words and phrases mingle with her English verse and prose, offering brief glimpses of prayers and rituals and sacred ways of thinking. Despite its many moments of despair and melancholy, life's mysteries and meanings continually express themselves in the natural world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book Stall Review: More Hold'em Wisdom for all Players

More Hold'em Wisdom for all Players
by Daniel Negreanu
Cardoza, 2008

The world's hottest poker player (aka Kid Poker) reprises his Hold'em Wisdom for all Players , published just a year ago, with this collection of Texas Hold'em strategy tips for players of all levels.

A book of advice on the most popular poker game in the casinos of North America and Europe by its most successful practitioner obviously enjoys a wide audience. This one offers suggested approaches divided into four parts: tournament strategies, adjusting to your opponents, betting and bluffing effectively, and how to think like a pro.

Negreanu knows the percentages of his game and how to use them to his advantage. In discussing "How Much to Bet," for instance, he explains that a smaller bet can sometimes get a play more "bang for his buck" than a larger one.
"When you actually have a good hand and want your opponents to play with weaker hands, they'll be more likely to call a bet of one-half the pot than a full pot-sized bet. If you have a monster hand and are looking for action, betting half the pot will get you a few more loose calls, and that's exactly what you want."
Other tips in the book cover:
  • The Stop-and-Go Play
  • When to be Aggressive in Tournament Play
  • Kamikaze All-In Plays
  • Dummy It Down
  • Coming Over the Top
  • Five Ways to Spot a Bluff
  • Limping in with Pocket Aces
  • Why Professionals Hate to Play A-Q
For beginners or intermediate players, Negreanu's wisdom bits will certainly help their game. More advanced players, however, may find his revelations familiar.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book Stall Review: The Montana Gardener's Companion

The Montana Gardener's Companion
An Insider's Guide to Gardening under the Big Sky
by Bob Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough
Globe Pequot Press, 2007

No matter where you live in Montana, gardening is a challenge. The Big Sky Country, for all its virtues, is a tough place to grow crops or raise flowers. The fourth largest of the U.S. states, Montana encompasses a diverse assortment of soils, climates, pests and hydrologies and hardly any other gardening books specifically address the issues, conditions and choices common to Montana gardeners.

This book offers a primer on gardening as it is practiced successfully in Montana. The authors are veteran Big Sky gardeners and professional horticulturalists. Nowhere else will you find so much information specific to Montana's gardens. In separate sections on lawns, fruit and vegetables, flowers, trees or native plants, this book identifies the best plants to grow and how to cultivate them successfully.

Refer to the opening section on "Firm Foundations" for advice on analyzing soils, adjusting to the local climate, and conserving water in this drought-prone state. Look to the back of the book for solutions to pests, weeds and diseases, and a glossary of unfamiliar terms.