Archive for March 10th, 2016

Indolent Pest Management

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There is a semi-organic, thought-intensive mode of pest management called Integrated Pest Management. It has occurred to me lately that I could spearhead an alternative IPM called Indolent Pest Management. It has two phases:

  1. I notice a pest problem.
  2. I wait to see what happens.

The most recent example started last fall, when I noticed a proliferation of large garden snails from who knows where, leaving slime trails on the chard. I read about preparation of escargot out of curiosity but never did anything effective about the snails, because I was busy and there were so many other things to eat.

After a month or so, I started to see these everywhere:

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Snail shells, broken open and empty, appeared all over the place. Further observation revealed that a roadrunner, our local little feathered velociraptor, had taken over my yard and was exploring the mulch and eating all the snails, as well as a few stray mice. With the first warm day of spring he began strutting on my roof, calling for eligible females. I keep trying to photograph him, but roadrunners are wary and fast. Most of my photos of him are just a blur. The ones at the top and bottom of this post, where at least you can sort of see him, are the best I could do.

A sharp-shinned hawk has started nesting nearby and this helps keep the mice and English sparrows down. Yes, he hunts at my bird feeder occasionally. Hawks have to live too.

My much-loved Toka plum tree gets an aphid infestation every year after leafing out, although none of my other plums do. Ladybugs move in and decrease them, and the remaining aphids are certainly unattractive but don’t diminish yield in the slightest and are gone by early June.

Cabbage loopers put a few holes in my collard leaves every year. No issues. I feed those leaves to the chickens and eat the others.

Squash bugs spread viruses that are hard on my zucchini. But I am no worse afflicted than people who spray.

My point is that we are gardeners and urban homesteaders, not commercial farmers. Also, we typically have day jobs and limited time to attend to our crops. So why spend it trying to exterminate things that don’t do that much harm? Wait and see, and if a planting fails, other plantings will succeed.  Before fixing, wait to see if it’s really broken. Meanwhile, eat something else. There’s plenty.

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Low Carb Easy: The Clay Pot Bake

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When I’m having special friends over for dinner and want to have plenty of time for serious conversation, my favorite weapon is a 14″ Spanish cazuela that I got at a Spanish import store many years ago. Any large clay baking pan would do just as well. The idea is to be able to roast chicken and vegetables together in chosen seasonings and have a veggie-rich low-carb meal come out of one pan without a lot of fuss, and be able to bring the baking dish straight to the table fairly attractively. Dark meat of chicken is ideal for a “mixed bake,” and if you don’t grow your own, get the best pastured chicken that you can lay hands on.

Decide on your seasonings. One of my favorites is a loose paste of a few cloves of garlic, about half a cup of oil-cured black olives, a little salt ( half a teaspoon or so, since the olives are pretty salty,) a sprig of rosemary chopped, the juice of half a lemon, and enough olive oil to form a runny paste in the food processor. Work this paste over eight pieces of chicken thighs and legs and set them in the refrigerator overnight.

Then choose your vegetables. A head of cauliflower cut into florets is top of the list for me because it takes up the seasonings so beautifully. Leave out all the stemmy center, which is a nice break for your backyard goat. I always add a cup of thickly sliced celery and a lemon sliced thin, peel and all. You can put in 7-8 chopped stalks of green garlic at this time, or if you already have some cooked green garlic in the refrigerator, it can go in later with the chicken. Have your veggies prepped in a bag in the refrigerator.

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About forty-five minutes before you want to serve, preheat your oven to 425. Spread the lemon slices in the bottom of the dish and put the other veggies on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt but for the most part they will be seasoned by the chicken. Stick in the oven and roast about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, enjoy some wine and nuts or other nibble with your company. Pull the pan out and arrange the chicken on top of the veggies skin side up. If you like (and I do,) you can also add several stalks’ worth of green garlic at this time before putting in the chicken if you have green garlic waiting, pre-sautéed, in the refrigerator. Glop any remaining seasoning paste on top and pour in about half a cup of rich chicken broth to prevent burning.  Return to the oven and roast until the chicken is done, put the pan on a trivet on the table, provide a large serving spoon and a pepper mill, and eat. That’s all there is to it.

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I find the softened, slightly caramelized lemon truly delicious and include a bit of it in each bite, but dubious guests can shove it to the side of their plate if they prefer and still get the flavor. I only suggest doing this with organic lemons.

Even people who don’t usually eat low-carb will find this a satisfying meal, but you can provide some toasted sourdough bread if you want to make sure.

Berries or dark chocolate or both make a good finish.