The most recent issue of Rural Missouri carried a short article on composting. I never seem to get around to building a compost pile, but i compost all the time on the fly. I compost straight into the garden or pasture. The less materials have to be handle the better in my book. BUT, on a small scale with limited space for growing plus needing a place to ditch those apple cores and coffee grounds, backyard or porch composting is awesome!
Sometimes a stumbled upon recipe in a catalogue or magazine or flyer really resonates with your family and it becomes part of the regular menu lineup. This casserole is one such that i found probably 20 years ago. The beauty of it, is that it is easily modified to accommodate your own tastes and whatever you have on hand (within reason of course!)
The original recipe is pictured way below, but the one i made yesterday included my home raised green beans and home grown grass finished ground beef. For chopping the vegetables i use a mini food chopper and even chop the green beans if i’m preparing for Sunday’s meal with Allen’s 98-year-old Aunt June. She has lost her teeth and can’t keep track of dentures – so it is what it is.
Family sized version:
2 lbs grass-finished ground beef
1 medium sized onion – chopped
3 medium sized carrots – chopped
1-2 cups Asian long pole green beans – chopped
1 24 oz jar of Eden Organic tomatoes (normally i use my home raised tomatoes, but i’ve already run out!) Eden’s brand is excellent, but, honestly, to open them, i either need my stout son, Dallas, to do it, or i go get my long handled Channel Lock pliers. It’s really ridiculous.
2 cups of your favourite cheese, divided – 1 1/2 cups to stir into veggie/beef mix, 1/2 cup to top off the casserole. Or stir in 2 cups of cheese to melt – whatever your choice!
Brown the ground beef in a 4 quart pot and add all the vegetables, including the tomato sauce, throw in maybe a tablespoon of salt (check your tomato sauce – it may already have salt in it – i try to use straight tomatoes) and a teaspoon of black pepper -whatever suits ya, and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so. Add 1 1/2 cups of your favourite cheese and stir to melt.
Once the mix is ready, pour into a 9×13 inch pan, level it off, then top with biscuits. I make my own, but you can buy some to use. Then sprinkle about a cup of shredded cheese on top. Then add a sprinkling of parsley, basil, or oregano if you like.
Bake in a preheated oven of 375 F for about 28 minutes until cheese is melted and biscuits are golden brown. This makes 6-8 servings. Takes about an hour to make and bake, but if there are leftovers, it’s still a time saver. What does it cost? that will totally depend on the quality of ingredients you purchase.
As soon in the spring that i can source good veggies, i start making my Israeli Salad. I eat a whole batch nearly everyday that i can through the growing season until the veggies get yucky again.
My recipe is simple:
1 green pepper chopped
1 tomato chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cucumber chopped
2 tablespoons dried cilantro or parsley (double that if using fresh)
1 teaspoon Real salt (double this if you are sweating a lot and need salt)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Stir it all up. As with most veggies and fruits – room temperature is best for lovely flavours.
There are certainly obstacles – huge obstacles- in place to keep a person from farming, but if you don’t even have a garden and feeding your family from it – i will suggest you take a really hard look at the reasons keeping you from farming.
Do you lack motivation? knowledge? funding? land? Of those four, lack of motivation is the most deadly to keeping you off the land (or whatever your dream). The others are easily overcome.
The only way to get started is to do it! In four square feet you can grow 15-20 lbs of pole beans! That is 60 servings of fresh green beans at a start up cost of seed (4 seeds at $0.08 each for $0.32) and a tiny spot of earth. Plan ahead and start putting all your kitchen scraps into your planting area all winter long. Use the lasagne method of building compost in your garden (aka sheet composting). Retail Value of your crop – $34.35! On four square feet! Now, that is not counting your labor or water. But i can tell you that with green beans, the most labor is in harvesting!
What if you scale that up to 1/4 of an acre? Don’t forget that gardening doesn’t scale without an increase in labor on every single plant or vegetable that you harvest. And you can’t go on holiday during the growing season. Oh, right, the RETAIL value of crop on 1/4 of an acre = $49876!
Before getting too excited about long pole beans, bear in mind, that even though the seeds cost 8 cents a piece and retail value of your production could approach $210,680 per acre, (difference in math is number of plants on a larger property) it’s a LONG way between purchasing an acre, equipment costs, preparing the soil, purchasing and building trellises, watering when necessary during the next 5-6 months, and, without fail, hand harvesting every 2-3 days after the plants begin producing in about 80 days, finding a market for those fresh beans immediately, or be prepared with refrigeration and storage AND putting money in the bank. Add in crop failures every once in a while and that seemingly massive income per acre whittles away very quickly. BUT, with careful management, use of cover crops, crop rotations, offering a variety of staple produce, and developing an excellent market, a good living could be gleaned from a small property – even in town!
Additionally, i can tell you right now, that even if i was so motivated to produce this many best-tasting-beans in the world, there is no way i could find buyers for 92,000 lbs of long pole beans. We simply have too much food produced in this country (not in Linn, CO) for people to buy that many. That would be 19 lbs per household in Linn County, MO and $2.29/lb far too expensive. Cheaper products are available at big box stores.
Just my opinion, but the easiest crops to grow and sell (available market) are tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, snow peas, garlic, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, squashes (squash bugs are challenging though). Now, put a sharp pencil to inputs, especially labor and marketability. Only plant what you want to eat in case you can’t sell it all! Too much diversity just increases stress! But some variety all season can bring in more customers.
However, Missouri is considered a minor state in vegetable production, due to inappropriate soils and wide swings in weather variation. Heavy soils in our north central part are particularly challenging and other than small gardens, vegetable growing is not part of the agricultural base found in this part of Missouri.
Ready to explore alternative profitable plants? Read about these. But you must do your homework! Can you even find a market for ginseng or bamboo?
There is a movement across the country to embrace homesteading as a way of life. Remember, though, farming is hard work with little financial reward, but it can be profitable with careful management, hard work, and no debt. Keep your day job until the farm is paying.
What are your success stories of living on the land?!
Cutting vegetables this morning for Jerry’s 90th Birthday bash/open house. Except for the parts that go onto the garden for composting (which was actually only the seeds, pith, and stems of the bell peppers), the rest of so-called waste is in this bag from 2 celery bunches, one cauliflower head, and two small broccoli heads. This stuff will make great soup stock and soup parts, or chopped up to combine with ground beef or lamb for lumpia filling. Absolutely nothing went into the bin.
There is little doubt this situation is just as bad in the US and around the world. Yet the big food companies (not food producers) tell us we’ll all starve if we don’t buy their products to produce more food. It’s a pack of lies. We waste far too much food. What we have is a distribution problem and in the first world countries we have so much food that we are incredibly picky.
Food waste is a subject i feel is important – as a cattle rancher and mom, i hear a lot of people complain (in the US) about the high cost of food, yet most producers (meats, eggs, chicken, vegetables, fruit) barely scrape out a living. The facts are that the cost of production continues to skyrocket, yet, by and large, the producer’s income has remained stagnant while the consumer’s cost has risen only a little. The margins are very thin and oftentimes only the much aligned farm subsidies provided by the govt are the difference between going another year and losing the farm. We could utilise our resources much more efficiently and produce a great deal more foodstuffs. But there is no reason to do so. Food is so cheap, we would simply lose money.
That huge pile of parsnips that Mr Fearnly-Whittingstall is standing in front of could consumed by cattle or sheep or just returned to the soil to be ploughed back in, but will it? For sure, the food you throw into your bin at home will go only to the landfill.