Monthly Archives: August 2011

Back Yard Bats

Common Michigan Brown Bat

I found a little bat inside my outdoor sink. He/she was a cute little brown bat. He seemed OK. I thought I it was sleeping because I believe bats are nocturnal, so I put a dish of water in there and I figure he would fly out when he wanted too.

He was in there the next day, so I called a local bat expert for help. She said that he was probably stuck in there.

The thing about bats is that they cannot take off from the ground like birds. Bats need a little bit of height to start their flight. My high walled sink had trapped him in there.

Bats are good climbers and will climb up trees, caves walls. There need for a little height for take off is why we see them hanging on rafters, under bridges, trees, caves etc…

So I ended up putting the cute little bat in a shoe box and setting him next to a tree. He quickly hung onto the tree, and climbed up a little. He then jumped off and flew away.

I wore gloves to prevent being bit. He was not happy about it and he made the cutest little high pitched sound.

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind.

What should you do if you have bats in your house?

For starters, remember that bats are our friends.

Bats eat insects that are harmful to crops like moths and they are major mosquito eaters. A bat can eat over a 1000 mosquitos in an hour, which can put your bug zapper to shame.

Bats turn those insect pests into garden gold called guano, a prized fertilizer for gardeners.

If you do have bats in your house the key is exclusion techniques, not poisonous extermination. Exclusion is a process of sealing up your house to prevent bats from getting in.

Extermination will only work on the short term because other bats will get in and it creates a toxic risk to your family.

Bats unfortunately are declining in numbers, so there is a movement to bat conservation that includes home owners and bats putting up bat houses.

Bat Box

I noticed that County Farm Park has several bat houses up.

Community Garden Potlucks Rock

Ann Arbor Food

County Farm Park Ann Arbor Gardeners

OK. I have said it before. If you want a really great meal, go to a gardener’s potluck. You never know what you are going to get, but it will all be fresh from the garden and the meal will reflect the culinary energy and diversity of the community.

On a culinary note, I feel that there are a few important cooking techniques that are essential for any gardener to help them use all of their great veggies. In my opinion all gardeners need to know how to make:

1) Stir Fry (Great for a large number of mix veg)
2) Quiche (Perfect for all of those dark leafy greens)
3) Salad Dressing (great taste giver to fresh raw veggies)
4) Pizza (Think Veggie Toppings)
5) Soups/Stews (Think purees, gazpacho, lentil dahls, minestrone, hearty stews, chowders)
6) Roasted Veggies (Thinks potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus, and mix root veggies)
-And do’t forget to add a healthy bunch of fresh herbs to these dishes

Today’s Potluck Menu:

Cherry tomato tasting
Steamed Eggplant mash
Home made sour Kraut
Mix salad with chicken
Sprouted bread with olive/tomato tapenade
Pan fried veggie cake of dandelion greens and garlic chives
Cellophane Rice Noodles with Dried Shrimp
Baked veggie cake with yogurt dressing
Cabbage, beet, and carrot cole slaw
Bitter Melon dish
Fattoush Salad
Varies Fermentation: Pickled Lemon
Home Made Pizza and Focaccia Bread (Recipe) (My offering)

Note: The pizza shown below uses the entire dough recipe to create a very thick single sheet pan crust pizza. You can probably half the dough recipe and get two sheet pan pizza from the it. I use a sheet pan because it is easier to transport. One of these days I will get some pizza boxes.

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Home made pizza ready for transit

Ann Arbor Food

Cherry Tomato Sampler

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olive tomato tapenade

Ann Arbor Food

Baked Veggie Cake w/yogurt sauce

Ann Arbor Food

Fattoush Salad

Ann Arbor Food

Rainbow Bright Sour Kraut

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Steamed Mashed Eggplant

Ann Arbor Food

Cole Slaw

Ann Arbor Food

Salad with Chicken

Ann Arbor Food

Rice Noodles with Dried Shrimp

Ann Arbor Food

Pan Fried Veggie Cake w/dandelion and garlic chives

Are There too Many Farmers Markets?

This is a copy of a letter I sent to the Michigan Farmers Market Listserv. I will post updates with feedback from vendors/market managers.

There was an article in todays Sunday New York Times:
As Farmers’ Markets Go Mainstream, Some Fear a Glut.

The gist was that there are too many farmers markets and it is making it harder for farmers.
Selected Pieces From the Article: By 
Nationwide, the number of farmers’ markets has jumped to 7,175 as of Aug. 5; of those, 1,043 were established this year, according to the federal Agriculture Department. In 2005, there were 4,093 markets across the country.

Rick Wysk, who spent the morning pulling beets out of the eight acres he tills at River Bend Farm in nearby Hadley, says his business at farmers’ markets is half what it was five years ago.

“You have a certain amount of demand, and the more you spread out the demand, you’re making less,” said Mr. Wysk, who has been selling at markets for 13 years. He believes his business is further hurt by additional markets that opened this year in Northampton and Springfield.

“We’re Western Mass. We’re not New York City. We’re not Boston,” Mr. Wysk said. “We’ve got people, but not the population in the bigger markets.”

In New York, farmers’ markets in some parts of the state have started to “cannibalize each other’s customer base,” said Diane Eggert, the executive director of the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York. The organization has started distributing feasibility surveys to communities that want to open markets so they can figure out if the location has the farmer and customer base necessary to survive, Ms. Eggert said.

Jeff Cole, the executive director of Massachusetts Federation of Farmers Markets, said the organization had urged groups not to open new markets near thriving, existing ones, but could not order them not to because of state law. In one instance, a new market opened less than two miles from another, Mr. Cole said. Sales at the first one dropped by more than 30 percent.

Other communities do not have enough farmers to keep up with all the new markets that are opening, Ms. Miller said. According to federal agriculture officials, there are approximately 2.2 million farms nationwide; in 2006 there were 2.09 million.


So is this happening in Michigan and in Ann Arbor where I sell at the Westside Market?

The Westside is the new kid on the block starting in 2005. 

The Yspi Farmers Market is also relatively new comer too (2006), but Yspi seems to far enough away to affect Ann Arbor and Ypsi needs all the fresh food they can get because they’re bordering on being in a food desert.

Last year was my first year at the Westside. I am a super small farmer (offering sprouts and baked goods), more of a backyard grower and I was grateful to get into the Westside market because the Ann Arbor downtown Farmers Market was more expensive, was hard to get into and a farmer was already selling sprouts there. 

The Westside was the only night market in town, which I felt gave us an advantage with customers who wanted to shop after work. We also have easy shopping mall parking unlike downtown, which can get so crowded on Saturdays that I some times leave without shopping because it is impossible to park.

(Maybe they can run shuttles on Sat????)

This changed this year when the Downtown Market decided to extend their Wednesday day hours to include nights.

I cannot say how this new Wednesday night market has change the Westside business. 

I am not the only Westside vendor to speculate about the impact of the Wednesday Night Market. 

Maybe the Wednesday night market will grow to swallow up the Westside for good or vise versa. 

Maybe we can both reach a happy medium. 

Or maybe we will both dilute each others customer base and poach each others vendors making Ann Arbor night markets an all around loss.

Or maybe another Thursday night market will pop up next year a few miles away?

It does seem like their have been fewer people at the Westside this year, but I do not have the numbers. If our numbers are shrinking, I cannot say if the recession is a factor or a saturated market place.

So, are there too many Farmers Markets?

Are we spreading ourselves too thin and forcing farmers to have to go to 2-3 markets instead of one to make the same sales or half of their sales at the one market?

If there are too many Farmers Markets, it could be a good thing. I figure that Farmers Markets need to start poaching customers from super markets instead of from each other. Think of all of the Kroger shoppers who buy from their organic food section. They can be shopping at the farmers market instead

If there are too many markets, we need more customers all around to support them, which is the challenge for market managers, farmers/vendors and the go green/buy local media machine and food movement.

I think that there is a perception that the farmers market is too expensive, which is entirely untrue. Dollar for dollar, I have found the farmers markets are competitive on price if not less expensive with Whole Foods, and organic/natural sections in super markets for comparable produce. I know my prices are on average or lower than area super markets for organic produce.

With that said, it seems that Farmers’ Markets are experiencing growing pains.

Brian Steinberg
Inchworm Farms
Ann Arbor, MI

Toilet Paper Mushrooms: Blue Oyster

Ann Arbor FoodSome may note my minor obsession with growing mushrooms this year. My plan was to hit the ground running with my Wine Cap mushroom that I planted last Oct.

My wine caps have yet to pop up, but I am still hopeful for a fruiting this year in a few weeks. They can take up to 18 months to fruit, so if they do not come up soon it will look like I will have to wait over winter.

The next idea was to get some Shitake logs started, but it was/is next to impossible to find fresh cut oak logs. Believe me I tried.

Don’t be surprised if you hear a chain saw going in the middle of the night in your yard to see mushroom obsessed vandals in a desperate attempt to score a log or two.

So with my wine caps in wait-and-see mode and no go on logs, I set my sights on Oyster mushrooms.

Oysters can be grown on a variety of substrates including pasteurized wheat straw, coffee grounds, newspaper and I even seen I class teaching mushrooms growing on old phone books.

And then there are Toilet Paper mushrooms.

Ann Arbor Food

Toilet Paper mushrooms are by far the easiest ways to get started with growing mushrooms.

I purchase some spore from Chris of Easy Grow Mushrooms, and ordered some special Toilet Paper mushroom  growing bags that have a mess air vent on the top.Trader Joes had the best deal on Chlorine-free Toilet Paper.

Step by Step Instruction

The idea was to grown mushrooms for sale at my booth at The Westside Farmers Market.

They worked like a charm. I got mushroom on 3 weeks with most fruit around the same time.

Chris at Easy Grow said that Toilet Paper Oyster mushrooms tend to be on the same side because the small amount of substrate compared to a good size log, or several gallon bag of straw/coffee grounds.

He was right and I figured that I would not yield enough mushrooms off of my 18-20 rolls of toilet paper to have enough mushrooms for sale.

Each roll yields around 1-2 ounces of mushrooms per fruiting.

My mushrooms looked great and were ready to harvest, so on a lark I figured that I would bring a few to the market to show off.

Ann Arbor Food

The response was huge. People gravitated toward these alien looking things. The toilet paper after three weeks gets so morphed by the mushroom spore that it is hard to recognize. Form a distance, people thought it was a hunk of soft cheese.

They were amazed when I said it was toilet paper.

I ended up selling/trading them as mini-mushroom kits.

They make for a fun grow project for kids and would-be mushroom growing enthusiasts.

I will have more next week at the Westside Farmers Market.

Traverse City Food: Black Star Farms Hearth and Vine Wine Bar and Cafe

Hearth & Vine is located on the scenic grounds of Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, MI.

It is a food must for visitors in the area, especially for Michigan wine tasting tourist.

Their specialty is wood fired pizza (menu).

Wood Fired Goat Cheese Pizza

It was raining the day I went there, but you can see in the picture that there is outdoor seating.

Along with pizza, they offer sandwiches, salads and a potato dish that features Leelanau Cheese Company’s famous Raclette.

Italian sandwich:Prosciutto, coppa, salami, fresh mozzarella, pickled onion, arugula & balsamic reduction on ciabatta

Black Star Vinery’s tasting room is just up the hill and they also have farm animals for the kids to check out.

Can Hold Four Large Pizzas


Summer Hours:
Sunday, Monday & Tuesday: 11 – 6
Wednesday,Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 11 – 9

Slider Buns Recipe

OK. I have to admit that I am a huge slider fan. Sliders are smaller sized hamburgers on smaller buns and 2oz patties.

But sliders do not have to be burgers. I made salmon sliders last night.

poached salmon w/tarter sauce slider

When thinking sliders, think of your favorite “bun” sandwich, but in miniature.

Slider sandwich ideas:
-Fry chicken breast with ranch dressing or white gravy
-Steak with crumpled blue cheese
-Buffalo Chicken Slider (chicken breast with Franks Redhot w/ranch or blue cheese dressing
-Shrimp Paw boys
-The Slider Club: Turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato (avocado optional)
-Corn beef Rueben
-Salmon Slider: poached salmon with cumber dill yogurt sauce
-Mini meatball sub slider: Turkey, beef or pork meatballs with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil
-Pulled Pork with hot slaw
-Grilled Mushrooms w/goat cheese and balsamic reduction
-Crab Cake with spicy mayo
-Fried Fish w/ tarter

Vegan Sliders:
-Baked tofu w/vegan slaw
-Grill mushrooms with teriyaki  sauce and pickled veggies
-Pan fried vegan risotto cakes with spicy vegan mayo
-Vegan sloppy Joes: Saute crumpled silken tofu w/thinned BBQ sauce
-Tempura Slider: Mix veggies tempura (sweet potato, potato, carrot, onion, mushroom) with asian dipping sauce. (1/3 miron, 1/3 tamari soy, lime juice and water or dashi both, minced ginger)
-Peanut butter, banana and maple (dust with cinnamon)

I have been thinking about offering slider buns at my both at the Westside Farmers Market to create a cross promotion with McLaughlin Farm who sells beef at the market.

So last night I tested a recipe that turned out well. Look for them at the Westside Market on Thursday 3:00-7:00PM while they last.

Slider Bun Recipe: Makes 16 slider buns (or 8 full size) 

3 1/2 cups AP Flour (King Arthur or Bob’s Redmill or use Bread Flour)
3/4 to 1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter (melted)
(For vegan option use olive oil or melted vegan shorten)
1 large egg
2 TBS sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

Plus 2 TBS melted butter to brush
(For vegan use olive oil or melted vegan shorten)
Sesame seeds (optional)


Mix the yeast, flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl of a mixer with dough hook attachment. With the mixer running, add the egg, melted butter and slowly pour in the water. Mix in high for about eight minutes.

Place the dough in a bowl and coat little with olive oil. Cover with plastic or a damp towel and let set in a warm place for 2 hours or until the dough doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and place on a clean counter. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces.

Mine dough came out to 28oz, which figured out to approximately 1.75oz (using a digital scale) per roll, which comes to 16 rolls.

Roll the dough into rounds balls and flatten them into disks. See below.

Place them on sheet pan lined with parchment and cover with a damp clothe and let them rise for about an hour. Don’t worry if the touch a little.

Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 375 degrees for 15-18  minutes.

Traverse City Fudgies

When I come to a new area to enjoy the food the question I ask is:

“What is the thing here?”

The answer for Traverse City Michigan is Fudge.

The tourist are called Fudgies by the locals. There are two popular fudge shops down town

Fudge shops always have samples

Doug Murdick’s and Kilwins have locations downtown Traverse City on Front street.

Andrea’s Farm Market Traverse City

I passed this place every morning on the way to drop off Emily for her art classes. The sign aways said sold out, so I figured that the farm had harvested all of thier fruit and were done for the season.

But today the sign was open again, so I stopped.

Rick Coors mans the fruit/berry stand next to his 1800’s craftman style cobble stone house. The fruit stand was the brain child of his daughter Andrea during a sleep over when she was 12.

Rick says that she had the idea to start a farm stand because the location of their house would work. At 12 years old, Andrea was started the business, which is around today.

Rick tells me that she is now a teacher of economics.

Andrea’s offers cherries, blueberries, apricots, and a variety of raspberry.

Get there early, because he usually sells out. They do not grow the fruit themselves. He’s got the location and the farmers have the fruit. The relationship works out great.

Rick says Andrea’s idea of the business was to sell out early so she could get to the beach by 1:00PM.

Andrea’s Farm Market
4872 Long Lake Rd
Traverse City Michigan

Old Mission Peninsula Traverse City

Traverse City Michigan is home to two bays that I split between a narrow Finger like Peninsula called Old Mission.

There was a light house at the top of the peninsula, so I figured that I would take a coastal drive and check it out.

I had no idea that the peninsula was a center of agriculture for the area boosting miles of a scenic cherry, apple and grape orchards including several vineyards with tasting rooms (look for my post on Black Star Winery).

Jim Sullivan’s Cherry Capital Farm Market road side cherry stand shown above offers three varieties of cherries including sour pie cherries, sweet red cherries and gold cherries, which I tried for the first time.

Jim also offers ice cream cookie sandwiches.

One of the fun features of Jim’s farm stand his cherry pit spitting challenge.

You have to stand behind the pole of his tent and successfully spit your pit across the double yellow lines on the road a distance of 30-35 feet.

Winners get a free ice pop. Loser, who cannot manage to get their pit over the white line have to pay double Jim jokes.

My first try landed my pit square in the center of the white line. Jim gave me a second cherry and I was able to at least get my pit past the white line. Rolling counts. Jim says many kids win the contest.