Friday, November 8, 2013

Little Birdie

A Little Birdie stopped in for a visit yesterday   photo by Georgianne Jackofsky
We've had very little rainfall for the past six or eight weeks. In a time period that we normally get six or more inches we have had less than a half an inch of rain. I've been filling our birdbaths everyday, so our yard has become somewhat of an oasis for local critters. Between the birds, deer, squirrels, and Rocky (our resident raccoon), pretty much all the water is being consumed every day. As I'm typing this a huge flock of grackles (several hundred) just landed in our backyard. Wow, what a racket they make!

This "Little Birdie", a golden crowned kinglet, knocked himself out when he crashed into one of our windows. At first I thought he was dead, but he woke up as soon as I picked him up. He didn't seem to mind being handled at all as he sat in my hand, let me stroke his head, and crawled up and down my arm for ten or fifteen minutes before he took off. When he finally did take off, he hovered in front of me, like a hummingbird, then did a few slow laps around my head before he settled on a nearby tree limb.

I made this quick recording of the traditional banjo tune Little Birdie. This song is a favorite of Ralph Stanley. It was one of the first songs he learned from his mother, who taught him to play banjo in the traditional frailing, or clawhammer, style.

Saturday, November 9, will find the Homegrown String Band performing at the Elwood Public Library, 1929 Jericho Tpke., Elwood, NY, at 2:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Please contact the library at 631-499-3722 to save yourself a seat!

The next day, Sunday, November 10, will find HGSB performing at another Long Island library. For those of you a little further west, we will be at the Franklin Square Public Library, 19 Lincoln Road, Franklin Square, NY; (516) 488-3444. The show is also at 2:00 p.m. The library is only open for the concert on Sunday, so please go to the side door entrance not the front door!

Sunday, November 17, will find Georgianne and Rick presenting the duo program, Homegrown Two, at the Bellmore Memorial Library, 2288 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, NY; 516-785-2990. Once again the show will start at 2:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 8, will find the full band doing their last Long Island show of the year. The Town of Oyster Bay, Cultural and Performing Arts Division, presents this program at the Bethpage Public Library as part of their Distinguished Artists Concert Series. Bethpage Public Library, 47 Powell Avenue, Bethpage, NY; 516-931-3907. 2:00 p.m.

* Many thanks for coming out to a show & for helping keep the music alive! *

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fungi Fun Guy

Rick's Homemade Tempeh
I have been experimenting with and cultivating various strands of yeast, mold, and bacteria for several years now. Georgianne and I have been making our own yogurt for about 30 years, we've also had a sourdough culture bubbling away in the fridge for the last 20 years. Three or four years ago I was introduced to the writing of an interesting "fermento" by the name of Sandor Ellix Katz. Sandor's books, Wild Fermentation, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, and The Art of Fermentation changed the way I think about food. Katz points out that fermented cultured food has been an important part of our diets for thousands of years, providing a safe and easy way to preserve food while enhancing it's flavor and nutritional value, but our modern love affair with antibiotics and our obsession with sterilization is destroying our culinary culture along with the bacterial cultures we need to survive. The big food and agro business conglomerates have managed to convince most people that genetically modified, shrink wrapped, artificially colored, chemically saturated, irradiated, vitamin fortified "food" produced in factories is somehow safer and healthier than fresh home cooked food and foods preserved using traditional time tested techniques. These mega corporations lobby for government regulations in the name of "food safety" that require traditional foods to be produced in multimillion dollar laboratories and clean rooms rather than in kitchens or on farms. That's crazy pants! When you use traditional, low tech methods of food preservation, like drying and fermentation, you are creating an environment that makes it impossible for toxic bacteria, like botulism, to survive. Modern techniques like canning, vacuum packing, and sterilization, do just the opposite. They wipe out the beneficial and benign bacteria, creating an environment that is easily colonized by toxic organisms. And unlike the smelly slimy organisms that cause food to rot and decompose naturally, many of these toxins can't be seen, smelled, or tasted.

Rooster Rick's Oyster Mushrooms
Since reading Wild Fermentation I've enthusiastically joined the ranks of passionate fermentos. When you walk into our kitchen you will be confronted by the sounds and smells of my various fermentation projects. At the moment I have a cranberry wine must fermenting in an open crock, a batch of hard cider bubbling away in a one gallon air-locked jug, a half gallon of kombucha (fermented tea) with a mushroom like SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) floating on top, two small oak barrels of live apple cider and wine vinegar, a quart of milk being transformed into a pro-biotic fermented super food by some magical kefir grains, and my latest fermento adventure: a bag of soybeans inoculated with the spores of a fungus called Rhizopus oligosporus that will yield a pound and a half of delicious tempeh. Meanwhile, down in the basement I have a box of coffee grounds and newspaper that I am using as a substrate to grow some very tasty Oyster mushrooms.

All this made possible by friendly yeast, mold, and bacteria. So many people fear these organisms, not realizing that they are responsible for creating so many of our most popular foods: yogurt, bread, cheese, coffee, tea, wine, beer, sauerkraut . . . They may also not realize that their own bodies are host to billions of bacterial cells. According to the National Institute of Health's Human Microbiome Project published in 2012, 90% of the cells in a human body are non human microbes. A healthy human body contains two to six pounds of bacteria, friendly bacteria that aids in digestion, protects our skin, and keeps the bad guys in check. By the way, antibiotic means anti-life, take a pro-biotic stance, eat real food.

Photos by Rick Jackofsky

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Planting and Picking - Garlic and Guitars

Last weekend we had a great time performing for the folks at the Hampton Bays Public Library. One of the highlights was when we were joined onstage by our, inimitable, old friend Artie Scholtz who accompanied us on his rhythm bones for a rousing version of This Train is Bound for Glory. This weekend The Homegrown String Band, The Family That Plays Together,  will be doing two shows. On Saturday, November 9, 2013 we will be performing at the Elwood Public Library and then on Sunday the 10th we'll be at the Franklin Square Public Library. Both shows are free and start at 2:00 pm.

Photo by Rick Jackofsky
The weather has been dry, we're starting to get cool nights, and I knew I would be busy for the rest of the week, so I decided to plant my garlic today. I followed the old axiom, plant the best and eat the rest, so I picked out 120 of the biggest cloves from this year's garlic crop. Last year I planted 100 cloves and harvested about eight pounds of garlic. Georgianne says "that's not enough," it's never enough, but by June we'll have a few pounds of delicious garlic scapes and by early July the 120 plants should give us about ten pounds of organic ophio hard neck garlic.

Photo by Rick Jackofsky
A couple weeks ago I was discussing various types of garlic and planting strategies with a friend when he mentioned how much he and his wife enjoy garlic but hate peeling it. I told him about a cool little tool we had discovered about 15 years ago called the Canterbury Crack and Peel Mushroom. It makes peeling garlic a snap. The magic mushroom had been out of production for a number of years, but has recently been brought back by the Vermont Bowl Company. It's a low tech wonder!