Saturday, October 3, 2009

compost and mulch

apparently, i'm not the only ecological preacher out there! the beach we went to in colombia this past summer was full of trees with inspirational messages on them. i got such a kick out of them! here it says "la idea no es limpiar mas, si no ensuciar menos," or rather "the idea isn't to clean more, but to dirty less."

this tree is saying "si me quieres no me ensucies," so "if you care about me, don't dirty me." cool, huh?!

so, here i'm writing about two idea to "dirty less." first, compost. some italian towns collect "wet" trash separately, meaning organic trash, meat and grease remains, paper napkins, etc. unfortunately they don't compost this stuff (at least not in my town), even though they couldn't really with the animal byproducts in it, but they dispose of it in some way that isn't dumping it in a landfill or bringing it to our despised local incinerator. i need to find out more about it, i honestly don't know exactly what they do with it. anyway, even doing this, it's still trash that needs to be gotten rid of. so i decided to start composting.

if you have a yard, it's super easy to pop a compost pile or bin in the corner and dump all your fruit and veggie remains, egg shells and paper napkins in it. after a while, the heat helps decompose it and after quite a few months (or years) you'll have marvelous soil, full of nutrients, that you can put back in your garden or use for potting plants. some italian towns even give out free composters to those who have a yard to use it in.

those who live in an apartment will have a bit more difficulty using a compost bin, and that's why i didn't use one myself. but then a friend of mine managed to do balcony compost, so i gave it a go as well. so, procure a bucket and a plastic bag that fits in it nicely and is wide enough to fold over the rim of the bucket (so it won't slide down or move). use something pointy (i used an ice pick) to make a bunch of holes in the bag, then put it in the bucket. first put dry twigs at the bottom. the twigs and holes let air to circulate a bit, otherwise you'll end up with some yucky, stinky mush. then you can start dumping your stuff in it. it's important to remember NOT to put any animal products in your compost (except egg shells)! put the bucket on your balcony, preferably in the shade and where the rain won't get it. leave it uncovered when possible, but if it might rain, cover it. the contents should stay dampish, but not too much. it's better if you mix it every so often and you'll see how it starts decomposing. don't worry, it won't stink if you don't let it get wet. if possible, mix in a couple of tablespoons of fireplace ashes every couple of months. it's amazing to see how so much trash can become so little soil and how much less trash you'll have. in about 6 months you'll already start to be able to use some of your awesome new soil for you balcony plants!

i grew up in a town on the atlantic ocean and it's common to take frequent walks to the beach. in our area the beaches are full of dry seaweed. my mother brings home masses of this seaweed and spreads in among her garden plants as mulch/fertilizer. it works really well, is cool-looking, is super ecological, gives the soil lots of nutrients, and is free! go mom!

so, there are another couple of ideas of how to dirty less, enriching your soil, all for free!

yersinia's blog candy

seeing as i've been a bit out of the blog loop lately, i'm trying to get back into it. and this morning i found il cantuccio di yersinia, who makes different types of cool objects and also has a blog candy. thanks!

Friday, October 2, 2009

ginger and finocchietto

A friend of ours has recently discovered the joy of candied ginger and tried to find a way to make it himself at home. Seeing as I like it a lot too and that ginger is really good for you, I asked him for his recipe. I tried it out and it turned out pretty well, even though it is considerably different than what you find in the supermarket.

--peel the fresh ginger root and slice it about 5mm wide.
--put the ginger in a pot, cover with water (I put enough to cover it and then doubled that), and let it boil about 20 minutes.
--drain the ginger, putting aside the boiled water. let both the ginger and the water cool.
--weigh the ginger, then put it back in the pot and cover it with the water from the first time around (which should be just enough to cover the ginger).
--when the water boils, add the same weight of sugar as there was ginger. let it boil 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often and being careful that the sugar doesn't burn. in theory the ginger should start getting a bit transparent, but we only managed to get it slightly so at the edges.
--remove the ginger and let it dry. the water is delicious cooled and used as a syrup with cold water for a refreshing drink.

Last summer we spent a few days at the beaches of Acciaroli, sleeping at Pollica, a truly beautiful place where we've gone for years. You can't help but eat super yummy stuff there and one of the things that we love is cooking with finocchietto selvatico, wild fennel flowers. It's a plant that grows in the summer with wispy green parts and yellow flower umbrellas that look sort of like Queen Anne's Lace flowers. Here's a picture of it with the background of the beautiful hills of the Cilento. I've always wanted to make liquor from finocchietto and finally I did it. Unfortunately I'm writing this a bit late, so if you want to try it, you'll have to wait til next summer. Here's how I did it:

--wash and completely dry a couple of handfuls of wild finocchietto flowers.
--put them in a jar which closes hermetically with 1 liter of alcohol. put it in a cool dry place for about 30 days.
--when the 30 days are up, make a syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. then let it cool down.
--when it's completely cool, filter the flowers from the alcohol, mix the alcohol with the syrup and put it all back in the hermetic jar. let it sit about 4-5 days out of the light.
--filter and put it in a nicer looking bottle. wait at least 3 months before drinking.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

blog action day 2009: climate change

October 15 is Blog Action Day, a day in which all registered blogs write about a specific topic as it relates to their blog's topic. This year the topic is "climate change," something that I consider pretty darn important, so I registered right away. The idea is that if everyone writes on this topic at a specific time, readers can't help but read about the environment and climate change, and it's really important that everyone is well-informed not only about the environmental crisis, but also about what they can do to help out.

So I ask everyone with a blog to think about registering-- it only takes a minute!