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      Easy Peasy Soup Stock

      Easy Peasy Soup Stock

      My daughter Carly and I were talking about "garden guilt" recently.  That's when you have more produce than you can eat and not a lot of time to can or freeze all your garden goodies.  If you have a crock pot here is an easy technique for turning an abundance of garden produce into a tasty yummy stock that you can freeze and enjoy summer's bounty on a cold winter day.

      Easy Peasy Soup Stock made with tough garden vegetables.

      If the garden gives you tough green beans make a stock.  You can use basically anything to make your stock.  I like to start with a nice chunk of kelp.  Kelp is a wonderful seaweed that adds depth and flavor to cooked dishes especially stocks, soups and beans.  The rich flavor that seaweeds add to foods is known as umami.  It's the Japanese word for the fifth taste sensation. Umami is a great substitute for meats in your stock.  Another way to boost the umami flavor is to use dried mushrooms.  There's no hard and fast rule for making this broth and it will be different each time you make it- it all depends on what's available in your garden and farm market.  For more information about cooking and enjoying sea vegetables check out the cookbook Sea Vegetable Celebration.

      DIY Garden Stock

      The next step is to load your crockpot up with vegetables, onions, beans, tomatoes, squash, carrots, greens, whatever you have an abundance of including bunches of herbs.  This is a perfect opportunity to use older and tough vegetables including clean skins.  Turn the crock pot on and let it simmer away for hours.  I like to cook mine over night, the house is cooler and you wake up to a lovely savory smell.

      When everything is cooked, strain the stock.  You can stop here and freeze a soup base or you can use gorgeous, lovely vegetables and make a soup.  For this step I like to use the best veggies I can.  Tender and sweet.  I'll put onions and carrots in to simmer until tender and will lightly simmer other veggies including corn, beans, peas, chopped greens and herbs.  I freeze my vegetable soup without any grains, pasta or rice.  It takes up less room and I can quickly cook up my choice of starch to add to my soup before serving.

      It's not a lot of actual work making the stock, it takes awhile for the broth to simmer and then simply pop into your choice of containers and freeze.

       

       

      Dogs Go Green

      Dogs Go Green

      Every month or so, once I've mastered my current zero waste/plastic free goal I start on a new one.  Usually it's a goal that's been on my mind for awhile but takes a bit to actually get into action.  Compostable dog poop bags have been on my list for awhile.  Tuffy, my girl poops at least twice a day and since we visit our local dog park almost daily that's a lot of plastic poop bags.

      Compostable Dog Poo Bag Review

       

      READ THE LABELS

      I first decided to try and buy compostable dog bags locally and visited our local pet store.  I asked the clerk for compostable bags and she looked at me blankly.  She did walk me over to the dog waste section and recommended a product that had "eco-friendly" on the label.  Well, the container the bags came in was packed in cardboard made from recycled paper but the bags were your ordinary plastic bags.  The product was more expensive than others because it was geared to a dog owner who was environmentally conscious and who most likely had forgotten their reading glasses.  You have to read the labels when shopping for eco-friendly products.  There is a tern called "green washing", it's labeling cleverly designed to make products look as environmentally responsible as possible.  If I hadn't carefully read the label I would have assumed that the bags- the item I wanted to purchase were eco-friendly.

      Compostable Dog Waste Bag Review

      IT'S COMPLICATED

      My next stop was the internet. There are quite a few choices on the market I wanted a smaller company, a plant based bag and one that could be composted at home.  bioDOGradable Dog Poop Bags fit the bill.  As I learned more I realized how complicated biodegradable bags are (not a big surprise).  On their FAQ page the question "Are these bags degradable/biodegradable?" was answered yes and no.  The bags are made from a material called "bioplastic" which is plant based- corn not fossil fuel based-plastic and when it breaks down it produces non-toxic byproducts such as humus.  The FTC has guidelines as well as California which has laws about the claims and marketing of what exactly is biodegradable.  The take away from this is consumers should be wary of products that claim to be 100% biodegradable.

      THE FINE ART OF COMPOSTING 

      There are two ways to dispose of your poop bags.  The best is home composting.  I'm lucky to have a large backyard so I'm adding my poop bags to my large pile of slow composting.  I'm not filling my food/garden waste compost bin with bags of poop.  The next choice to to find a facility with a biosolid composter, compost made from sewage sludge.  I would guess biosolids composter are few and far between.  Finally, simply putting you poo bags in the dog waste receptacles is an option- because at least the corn based bags will decompose.

      Compostable dog poo bags review

      WHAT ABOUT EXPENSE?

      So, with all the complications is it still worth using compostable poo bags?  In my opinion, yes.  Even when added to traditional landfills the bags will compost at the same rate as food waste, paper or lawn clippings.  It's not perfect but it is better than traditional plastic bags because in the end they will turn back into a natural material unlike plastic which simply hangs around forever.  Another benefit is the manufacturing process and lack of chemicals.  These particular bags are manufactured in India and I don't have any info about the actual factory.  Finally they are free from chemical dyes and additives.  

      The bags are more expensive.  One consumer change I've made is to buy better and buy less.  I'm definitely spending more on poo bags but the feeling of satisfaction I get from not adding plastic pollution to our planet is worth it.

      AND FINALLY

      My only complaint was the mailer my package arrived in.  I would have preferred a mailer without any plastic.  There was some extra packaging inside the package, everything was in one of their dog bags, it was wrapped in brown paper and I got a info card (which I turned into a sign) as well as a few free samples.

      Dulse & Rugosa has a bundle package right now, with every purchase of our Dog Shampoo Bar will include a sample biodogradable dog poo bag.

      And for the foreseeable future purchase of our Mama Earth Shower Shots will go directly to support Houston and possibly FLA SPCA.  

      Plastic Free July

      Plastic Free July

      This month- there is a world wide movement- Plastic Free July with the goal of raising awareness and challenging people to do something about single use plastic.  Single use plastic is plastic that is essentially used one time and then discarded.  Straws, coffee cups, lids, take out containers.  Basically anything that is convenient, quick and saves time. 

      It's not that plastics are inherently evil.  The Plastic Free July organization has a really interesting perspective on plastics- "Plastics were developed in the early 20th century and were environmentally important, replacing ivory, tortoiseshell, horn and other plant and animal products. By the 1960's plastic had gone from being used in durable items to widespread use including disposable plastic packaging."  When you think about all the plant and animal products that have been saved you realize plastics have a place in our society and often especially with medicine and agriculture the benefits of plastic can make life better.  

      The problem is we have too much of a good thing.  We are simply using way, way, way too much plastic- it's everywhere and it's created a host of problems.  "Everypiece of plastic ever produced still remains somewhere in the earth today. In the last half of the 20th century over 1 billion tons of plastic was produced. This figure has already doubled in the first ten years of this century."  One of the biggest culprits is single use plastic, in the USA over 500 million straws are used daily.  

      And while many people recycle household plastic, single use plastic is the least likely to be recycled.  We tend to use these plastic products at events, concerts and while traveling.  Often our recycled plastic is sent to a developing country where we can't see it but it's still there.  There may also be health issues related to plastic especially with food stored or cooked in plastic.  And finally just the trash that is filling our land and oceans.  Plastic pollution in the oceans affects all sea creatures.  According to the Ocean Conservancy the biggest source of ocean pollution is plastic beverage containers.  They break down into smaller and smaller pieces and are often mistaken for food by hungry animals.  

      The best way to get started on your Plastic Free Journey is to visit Plastic Free July and take the Pesky Plastic Quiz.  Answering the questions will give you a great starting place to make a change in your life.  I guarantee once you get started you won't look back.  

      Resources to get you started- 

      From the Plastic Free Mermaid a free downloaded e-book Plastic Free July Guidebook

      Another resource from Treading My Own Path has Enough is Enough- 18 Ideas for Embracing a Life With Less Waste and Less Stuff.  She also writes great blogs with practical tips, her latest is How to Buy Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Without Plastic

      Follow Australian writer and activist Anita Horn on Facebook, her page is devoted to Plastic Free Produce.  It's an easy one to start because many of our fruits and vegetables are beautifully packaged by Mother Nature.

      Zero Waste Alcohol- Oh Yeah!

      Zero Waste Alcohol- Oh Yeah!

      If your idea of a good time is sitting outside listening to the birds chirp and watching your garden grow while sipping a fruity, boozy drink then infused vodkas are for you.

      I first read about infusing vodkas in the cookbook "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson.  Her rhubarb schnapps recipe caught my eye.  Living in Maine rhubarb is one of the first things to pop up in the garden and this was a new way to preserve it.

      I've been tinkering with infused vodkas ever since.  I tend to focus on seasonal fruits but my Finnish friend told me wonderful stories about herbal infused vodkas that pair beautifully with fish.

      Perserve fresh, seasonal fruits in vodka for delightful sipping.

      You need three simple ingredients- fruit, sugar and vodka.

      Fruit infused vodka needs only 3 ingredients- fruit, sugar and vodka.

       

       Plus big glass jars.  I don't recommend plastic.  The easiest jars to repurpose usually contained a vinegar based product so wash quite a few times.  Otherwise you'll end up with this slightly vinegar note that is so disappointing.  

      It's a bit of a balancing act and a mystery how much sugar to add.  If you are super serious about the process- keep notes but remember you are working with natural ingredients and there will always be variation due to weather and growing conditions.  In general, I use more sugar because my favorite way to enjoy is to sip from a glass filled with vodka, a slice of citrus and lots and lots of ice.  I found if I skimped on the sugar it has a raw taste.  If the infusion is too sweet I can tone it down by adding seltzer, juice or water to dilute.

      Strawberry Rhubarb Liquor

      1 lb rhubarb chopped and 1 cup sugar

      1 lb strawberries  and 1/2 cup sugar

      Combine fruit and sugar in a large bowl and mix to coat fruit evenly with sugar.  Put in glass jar, fill with vodka.  Shake.  Store in cool, dark cupboard for at least 6 weeks.  Strain into a pitcher and pour into a fancy bottle.  Viola- perfect holiday gifts and what a treat it is to sip summer fruit on a snowy winter's night.

      Capture summer by infusing vodka with seasonal fruits.

      If you keep vodka and sugar on hand you are ready for whatever is in season is in season. You don't have to make big batches, have fun experimenting with flavors and combinations in small jars.  

      And finally the trash- I composed my rhubarb and strawberry bits, the strawberry baskets I'll see if my local farm can reuse them first or  compost or recycle.  The vodka bottle can be returned for my bottle deposit and the sugar bag will get recycled.  That's not to bad for waste.

      Happy infusing!  I'd love to hear about your adventures and combinations.

      Spring in Maine (Finally)

      Spring in Maine (Finally)

      Here in Maine, spring is sometimes really late coming.  For months now my Facebook feed has been full of flowers and green grass from my friends further south.  But after a week of rain, the sun finally came out and it feels like spring has arrived.  The first daffodils have unfolded, the forsythia is blooming, and the symphony of lawnmowers and chainsaws has begun.

      For us, the promise of spring started months and months ago, back when there were still snow drifts on the ground. We grow all the botanicals, flowers and herbs that go into our products but we also grow most of the veggies that we eat all season long and through the winter.  Back in February the first seeds were sown for this summer’s harvest.  Three trays of onions that steadily grew and grew as the days got longer and longer.  Four weeks ago we moved them to the outside greenhouse to make room for the trays of flowers, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs.  Our living room is filled with green, busting at the seams, as the plants grow.  In a few short weeks, once we are sure that the nighttime frost will not return, they will be carefully placed outside and the hard work of summer will begin.

      Seedlings ready to be transplanted

      This weekend we celebrated spring by transplanting or potting up the majority of our vegetables and flowers.  We cleared off the picnic table, mixed batches and batches of potting soil and rooted through the shed to find the right size pots for our precious babies.  As we worked together the barbecue was going in the background with the promise of an amazing dinner once the work was done.  One person worked, gently uprooting the small plant, while the other prepared its new home.  Once the plant was snugly tucked into its new abode we gently watered them before bringing them back inside.  Its still too cold here in Maine for some of tender plants that we grow to live outside…just yet.

      It’s a labor of love to grow these plants from seed all the way through till the end.  It would be much easier to just buy the tomatoes, the onions, the lavender, the thyme.  But that is not what we believe in here at Dulse & Rugosa.  We know that the tomatoes that you grow will taste better than any other.  In the depths of winter when we reach into the root cellar and pull out our onions, potatoes, and squash something magical happens.  Even though its winter a glimmer of summer shows through.  The same magic happens each time I go to make our shower shots or our seaweed shampoo bars.  I open the glass jar filled with rugosa rose petals and I am back on Gotts Island, next to the ocean reaching for the petals, avoiding the thorns, and breathing in the heavy scents of roses, salt, and the summer sun.

      Harvest of plenty  

      There is a magic in growing plants.  And each spring as the small, hard, dry seeds magically turn into bountiful flowers, succulent fruits and verdant vegetables I am reminded of how lucky I am to a part of this process.  I cherish spring for its power, magic and most of all the return of GREEN.  Spring has finally sprung here in Maine and we are sooo excited. 

      Calendula Flower