Archive for the 'books' Category

Production Vs. Distribution and Food Security

Sharon November 30th, 2008

There’s no escaping the Depression. I’ve been saying throughought my long life that money and love take on their various significances when they’re totally absent.  Same is true of food.  Food becomes most important when there isn’t any.” - Stetson Kennedy, WPA writers project  

 Check out Aaron Newton’s latest post - I think it provides a great introduction to issues of food security.

These are going to be the central issues of our time - both producing enough food where it is most needed, and also equitable distribution.

For those who are new to my blog, Aaron and I are co-authors of the forthcoming (soon - March!) _A Nation of Farmers_, which explores what the US is going to have to do to prevent a massive food crisis.  This is our grand passion, the product of the second most productive collaboration of my lifetime (the first one is with Eric, obviously).  In the end, all my work, all Aaron’s work comes down to this - we want people to be able to eat sufficiently, sustainably, well - and for our children and our children’s children and onward to have this as a basic right. 


Check This Out!

Sharon November 10th, 2008

It was a long and engaging weekend, and I’m running more than a little behind on sleep.  So far that the post I’d planned for today is going to have to wait.  But I did want to show y’all something pretty cool (I think).

 It won’t be out until March, but I’m still pretty pleased.  And yes, that’s a beet!

Cheers, and more tomorrow,


Recipe Contest Winners!

Sharon October 31st, 2008

Remember our recipe contest?  Well, we’ve selected 8 winners - one for each chapter.  Each of you will have a recipe in our book _A Nation of Farmers_ and will get a free, double autographed copy.  And to everyone who entered - thank you!!! We got some great new recipes to try - there were more than 70 recipes posted!  Yum!

 Meanwhile, if you won, I need you to email me at [email protected] and tell me two things.  First, send me your full name and address (the book won’t be out until March or April, so don’t expect it to appear immediately ;-)).  Second, I need to know how you want to be credited in the book - we’ll put the recipe in with an attribution (ie a name - do you want to be in with your full name, your internet, id, whatever?) - we’ll do it however you want, but I do need to know.

 Here are the winners:

1. Shelley for “Alaska Root Stew”

2. Shaunta “Gallos Pintas”

3. Chile’s “Urban Chicken”

4. Dani: “Wild Fennel and Dandelion ‘Risotto’”

5. Lynn “Kale Chips

6. Jena “Oatmeal in a Thermos”

7. Colleen “Methglin”

8. Gina “What the Heck am I Going to Do With All these Cherries Crisp”

Heck, that sounds like one heck of a pot-luck dinner.  Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone - a lot of the recipes that didn’t get in would be in if we didn’t have a word limit on our already-long book!  Thank you all!


Food Storage Quickie - A New Feature

Sharon September 12th, 2008

I got a great idea from one of my food storage students, by way of her LDS church.  She told me that each month or week at her church, they hand out cards that encourages people to focus on one area of food storage, and one or two other issues - including suggestions for where to get things at reasonable prices.  One month might focus on protein sources and flashlights, another on sweeteners and blankets.

Now being a person who steals all her good ideas from somewhere or other, I’ve decided to borrow this wonderful idea, and start running a weekly “Food Storage Quickie” that gets people focusing on one segment of their food storage, and one non-food item.  I’d encourage everyone who can to do little more in your preps this week in that area, even if it only means buying an extra bag or couple of cans of something.  All that stuff does add up pretty quickly - so even if you can only do a little, just doing it makes a difference.  And for those getting started, this is a good way to get things moving, without being too overwhelmed.  I’m going to try to have one of these up every Friday (we’ll see whether I can pull it off) as an adjunct to the Independence Days Challenge Reports.

Ok - this week, we’re going to focus on three things - pasta, popcorn and matches.  Why pasta?  Because it is a starch that almost everyone can eat in some form - even those with wheat intolerances can usually eat rice or soy pastas.  Whole wheat pasta stores for more than a year, while white noodles (not as nutritious) stores even longer.  Those of you hot to make things yourself can make egg-free noodles and dry them, or egg noodles and freeze them.  With the price of wheat still extremely high and the harvests coming in unevenly, my guess is that the price of pasta will go up in the coming year.  And since this is one of those things that you can pretty much feed to everyone - even your weird uncle or picky grandkid, it makes sense to have some on hand. 

The cheapest way to get pasta would probably be to buy it in bulk from a coop or buying club in 10 or 20lb boxes.  But if you can’t afford this, remember pasta is a frequent supermarket loss leader, and even unusual pastas, made of other grains show up at odd lots stores, drug stores and dollar stores.  So add a few more packages of pasta to your supermarket cart if you can. 

If your budget stretches that far, now would be a good time to pick up a bushel of tomatoes and make and can some tomato sauce. Or keep an eye out for canned tomatoes or bottled sauce cheaply.  Or if you’ve got basil, consider making some pesto, and freezing it in ice-cube trays for springtime.  Butter or olive oil and garlic makes a great sauce as well, and cheap, particularly if you can throw in some chopped up herbs you keep on your windowsill, or some greens.

Now, to popcorn, which has many of the same virtues as pasta and some extra ones - nearly everyone will eat it, and unlike many pastas, it is a whole grain that can be digested by most people and extremely nutritious, and it is associated with fun, comfort and snacks - something you want in tough times.  Popped popcorn with a light sweetener on it isn’t a bad substitue for sugar cereals, if your family still hasn’t been weaned off of them, and it is great and filling.  If your family doesn’t buy into the idea of storing food generally, or won’t eat most storage staples, popcorn is one way to get around this - tell them you aren’t “storing food for a crisis” but planning for winter evenings by the fire.

By “popcorn” I don’t mean “microwave” - the power is likely to be off.  I mean the real McCoy, without artificial butter-flavored grease (you can add actual butter or other oils and it tastes much, much better).  You can pop popcorn in any pan with a lid, but it will be easier if you have a popcorn popper - or if you will be cooking over an open fire, a long handled implement especially designed for popcorn.  It is one of those things that is so easy that I’ve never quite understood the proliferation of microwave popcorn.

Where to get it?  The best options are probably a local farm that grows their own, or the abovementioned coop or buying club.  But if you can’t do that, try a couple of extra bags at the grocery store, or keep an eye out for sales and other cheap sources.  Kept reasonably cool and dry, popcorn keeps just about forever. 

Also, does your reserve include an ample supply of matches or other ways of lighting a fire?  You’d be surprised how often you need them in an uncertain energy situation - for lighting stoves and candles, kerosene lamps or relighting a pilot.  If you heat with wood, the long handled matches are really nice to have, but even cheapie little ones are valuable.  You could also consider lighters (and extra butane - but store very carefully!) or  magnesium firestarters.  Make sure your bug out bags have good, waterproof, strike-anywhere matches if at all possible.  But add more to your “in place storage” as you go - these are also a good dollar store find, where I’ve often seen five large boxes for a buck.

Ok, I hope this helps a few people get organized just a little!  I’m off to check if the popcorn is dry enough to harvest yet ;-).


If You Tried to Order a Book…

Sharon August 27th, 2008

Hi Everyone -

Ok, I had some trouble with email back in July and August, and somehow, people who emailed me asking to order a book didn’t get through.  I have sent out all the books I have the emails for, but I’ve gotten enough “Where’s my book” queries to know that there is a problem.  My apologies - gmail seems to be straightened out, but the messages are nowhere to be found.

 So if you tried to order a book from me and never got one (fortunately, I don’t think anyone who didn’t get one paid already), you can do so now, either by paypal to [email protected] or by mailing a check to Sharon Astyk, PO Box 342 Delanson, NY 12053.  Please include *with it* (so that I don’t get confused - I get confused easily ;-)) your address and how you want me to inscribe the book. 

 The cost of the book is $18.95 plus postage - I’ve listed below.  If you want to order one somewhere not listed, email me at [email protected]

For US postage: $2.40

For Canada: $4.80

For Britain and Australia $10.30

I realize this is not cheap, and am not at all offended if people get the book elsewhere - amazon is selling it quite reasonably and delivers quickly, and I love to see local bookstores make a profit as well, or you can order directly from New Society at  And local libraries are great also - so please don’t see this as pressure or solicitation.  But if you did try to order and never heard from me, I apologize for the technical difficulties and they are still available.


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