The Lost of Art of Canning

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Lindsay Vidrine | Posted on 22-09-2010


I ran across an interesting USA Today article this afternoon discussing how the Local Food Movement Spurs Canning Trend and the renewed interest in canning food. Whether it's because of food safety or security concerns, or other reasons, canning is making a comeback.

The article also included a chart showing the number of households that participate in vegetable gardening — 31 million households for 2009 and ever-so-steadily climbing.

Do you take the time to preserve your land bounty? If so, what local resources have you found helpful for classes or supplies?

Posted by Lindsay Vidrine. 

Wayne Coyne’s house in the news and other assorted green stuff

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Locavore, Sustainability, Sustainable OKC, Transition Movement | Posted on 21-02-2010


twitter3 We’re still in the Fresh Greens reorg phase. Yes we’re slow, a little like a turtle, but since the turtle symbolizes perseverance, patience and ancient wisdom, we’re hoping this will turn out to be a useful thing.

A few months ago Sustainable OKC joined the Twitter universe and you can follow us here. Our top ten tweets from the last few months:

  1. RT @TheGreenBuff: SustainableOKC workshop Feb 27 teaches how to start yr raised bed garden. Sign up @
  2. Wayne Coyne’s trippy house in OKC is not so weird, on Treehugger
  3. Right on London! RT @transitiontowns: 2,012 community food growing spaces in London: funding for London food projects:
  4. RT @OKAgritourism: Early birds will get a spot in Strawbale Construction Workshop @ Turtle Rock Farm, June 6-12. Space limtd.
  5. Training 4 Transition wrkshp to org your community to make Energy Transition Plans, on April 10,11. Details coming @
  6. RT @TheOilDrum: WSJ reports The Next Crisis: Prepare for Peak Oil.
  7. RT @transitionus: How to Start a Buy Local Campaign (PDF):
  8. A certain number of number of deaths caused by dioxins released from incinerators are considered acceptable.
  9. RT @OKAgritourism: TGI Locavore Friday, Earth Elements Market & Bakery, makin’ the season bright wi/yummy OK food.
  10. RT @sejorg: RT @theCIRESwire: New rprt: Climate chng acclrating beyond expectations, urgent emissions reductions reqrd.

Keep on reeling in the green world

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Consumption, Current Affairs, Energy, Environment, Farming, Film, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Sustainability, Sustainable OKC, Transition Town | Posted on 11-09-2009


Sustainable OKC, the Cimarron Chapter of Sierra Club, and Slow Food OKC are sponsoring a film series, “Sustainability on Film,” at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Wed., Sept 15 – Sun., Sept 20, with a panel discussion following the Sunday film.

The films highlight a complex array of the challenges facing us. Film Curator Brian Hearn describes the series:

As our economic, social and environmental activities become increasingly integrated on a global scale, the human species faces unprecedented challenges. In the wake of the groundbreaking documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” filmmakers have been examining the complex issues facing our species and planet: climate change, dwindling natural resources, population growth, economic crises and political conflict. Along the way humans are finding innovative, simple solutions from growing their own food, to green building, to developing new forms of renewable energy. These films explore how we meet our needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.


Wed., Sept. 16 – “Fresh” & “Food for Thought”

Thurs., Sept. 17 – “The Great Squeeze: Surviving the Human Project” & “Greening in the Heartland”

Fri., Sept 18 – “The Greening of Southie” and “Food, Inc.”

Sat., Sept. 19 – “The Garden” and “No Impact Man

Sun., Sept. 20 – “Earth Days

Join us Sunday after the final screening for a panel discussion, “Sustainability in Oklahoma: Where Do We Go from Here?” with local experts on how Oklahomans are dealing with the global issue of sustainability. Panelists for the discussion following Sunday’s film:

Bruce Edwards, Director, Urban Harvest at the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank

Kenneth Fitzsimmons, architect, U.S. Green Building Council, Oklahoma Chapter

Stephanie Jordan, Sierra Club Conservation Committee / Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Oklahoma

Jim Roth, attorney and Chair of the Alternative “Green” Energy practice group, Phillips Murrah P.C.

Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainable OKC / Transition Town OKC

Jonathan Willner, Professor of Economics, Oklahoma City University

Complete listing of films, screening times and summaries of each film available here.

Here a chick, there a chick

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chickens, Compost, Home and Garden, Homesteading, Organic Gardening, Ron Ferrell, Urban Gardening | Posted on 20-08-2009


by Ron Ferrell

As a farm kid, I was always fascinated with birds. Wild birds as well as domesticated birds stirred my curiosities with their beauty and amazing range of feather colors. I had geese, ducks, a variety of chickens, pea foul and pigeons, but my favorites were the peacocks, followed by chickens. Geese, pigeons and ducks were so nasty, but chickens had a terrific pay off — eggs. Peacocks ate lots of bugs and they were just beautiful.


As a middle-aged urban homesteader I’ve eschewed raising chickens but my neighbor Matt’s garden convinced me to reconsider my self-imposed “no chicken” rule. I call birds in a pen “predator bait,” so as a work-around Matt loaned me one of his electric chicken fences, and after much additional prodding from Matt, I decided to get a small flock of chickens for eggs, composting organic matter and soil building. My new flock of 26 Welsummer chickens, a heritage breed, have been on my property for a week now and they are maturing so quickly.

When I first released them into the electrified poultry pen, they obviously had not been out of a brooder house environment as they were not used to grass and all that open space. They just stood in a tight flock for a couple of hours before they started to venture out away from the fence corner. The chicken feed and water helped lure them away. 

I have been dumping various veggie matter over the fence, some of which the chickens eat, but the bugs drawn to the veggie pile seem to attract their attention the most. Yesterday I dumped the spent grains I collect from COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City into the pen, and slowly the chicks began picking through the grains. This morning however, they were very actively eating the spent grains. Chickens are the ultimate composting machine!

The spent grains are high in protein with small amounts of nucleic acid as well as many trace minerals. In addition to the spent grains, I will be feeding my flock lots of vegetable matter from my kitchen and local restaurant sources. Apart from the effort of getting the spent grains and the vegetable materials to my property, they are free food sources for my chickens.

If you have any interest in keeping a chicken or two, check out chicken tractors. YouTube has several examples of chicken tractors, along with construction techniques, use and feasibility of use for city dwellers.

One of the most wonderful aspects of my chickens is they are so darned cute, playful and endlessly curious. I’ve placed lawn chairs and a cocktail table beside the chicken pen and in the cool of the evening I just sit, meditate and watch my beautiful Welsummers as they grow from chicks into beautiful chickens.

Sun Oven saves the day!

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Christine Patton, Food and Drink, Home and Garden | Posted on 14-08-2009


By Christine Patton
The Sun Oven is a versatile tool. It can bake banana bread, roast a butternut squash, cook a lasagna or quiche, and turn brown rice into moist perfection. Normally, I appreciate itGarden trellis 019 for the way it keeps my house cool in the summer and for its zero carbon emissions.

But lately, it's been doing more than that. It's been saving my bacon.

I currently have no functioning kitchen sink, dishwasher, cooktop, or oven. Because my family is doing half the work of our kitchen remodel (general contracting, prepping cabinets for paint, painting, and tiling), it's proceeding slowly. Despite the remodel that has turned our house into a disaster area for the last three weeks, we are still living and cooking at home. But how do we make a variety of healthy meals without a cooktop or oven, how can we avoid unhealthy and pricey take-out meals when our kitchen has been destroyed? The answer is: the Global Sun Oven.

I've been able to use the Sun Oven to cook dinner on almost every sunny day that we plan to eat at home, and what a blessing that is! About two-thirds of the days have been sunny since our remodel began, and I've re-discovered the variety of things that the Sun Oven can cook:

- Rice for rice and bean salads, burritos, or as a good side for anything
- Chili, stews, soups
- Quiche and cheese (and other egg dishes)
- Beans
- Potatoes (baked or cut up for potato salad)
- Roasted vegetables / ratatouille

Of course, it's cloudy today. Looks like we may have hummus sandwiches for dinner tonight! 

The Tomato Blog

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Home and Garden, the Madfarmer | Posted on 06-08-2009


by The Madfarmer


By now most of you should be enjoying a few life-changing bites of naturally-grown, heirloom tomatoes. Some of you are growing them, others may be buying them at a local farmer’s market. But none of us should miss out on these seasonal beauties. I have a few brief words for those in both groups, followed by a recipe we discovered to enjoy these tomatoes at their simplest and tastiest.


First for the growers; Keep your tomatoes watered and picked and they should keep producing into early fall. As soon as they die, pull them up and compost them into their own compost pile. Use this tomato-based compost on your tomatoes next year for a bumper crop. Tomatoes are narcissistic and LOVE to be grown in their own compost.


For the buyers/eaters; Check out your local farmer’s market and try to find a tomato you’ve never heard of. Try something bold like Jersey Devil, Giant Oxheart, or Nebraska Wedding. Cherokee Purple is still my ultimate favorite. A perfect one looks like a rare steak when you slice it up. Mmmmmm. But it’s also almost always a safe bet to get any variety named after an Aunt (such as Aunt Ginny’s or Aunt Ruby’s German Green). Most heirloom tomatoes were bred for flavor and are not disease resistance so they can sometimes be hard to find. But once you do you will experience a taste sensation you will not soon forget.


Now for a (loose) recipe:


3-5 lbs of heirloom tomatoes (good variety of colors) sliced into bite size pieces

Scatter them about several plates (Usually one per person- but you might want extras)

Add a hefty dose of salt (tomatoes are mostly water)

Add a bit less than hefty dose of cracked pepper

Sprinkle on some dill weed

2-3 splashes of red wine vinegar (or balsamic works too)

A few drizzles of olive oil

Top it off with some shredded parmesan or goat cheese


Let me know how it works!

Ode to Mrs. Hogg

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Home and Garden, Ron Ferrell | Posted on 28-05-2009


Growing up in a small western Oklahoma town was a blessing for me in many ways.  Rural living, huge families, big gardens, riding horses was an every day event, and being witness to the rural family farm before corporate mono-cropping with chemicals became the normal way to farm, and the school system. 

My brothers and sisters, along with all the neighbor kids, rode the school bus about 10 miles to and from school daily and the road we traveled we called the ‘ridge road’ because it ran along the south rim of the vast and beautiful South Canadian river.  The big creeks that were the river’s tributaries ran through all the prairie and farm land where I grew up and created an endless playground which I explored on horseback every day of my childhood. 

We always had a few horses in the pasture, so I had my pick of which one I wanted to ride.  Television shows of the 1950’s were this wanna- be cowboy’s recipe for fun…a real western adventure right in my back yard.  Of course, I always wanted to be the Indian, so I fashioned bow and arrows out of tree limbs, and covered my front and back side with Mom’s tea towels, stuffed into my underwear. I was a fair skinned Indian, but what great fun I had exploring the rolling prairie, creeks and south Canadian river on horseback to my young heart’s desire. 

School was a world that I didn’t take so keenly to.  There were books, schedules, rules, social structure which was totally foreign to me, and the teachers that made it all work.  I liked most of my teachers, all these women who were married to local farmers, and probably provided the only stable income their family enjoyed.  The lunch room cooks were also farm women, and let me tell you, the food was made from scratch and wonderful!  Those ladies made hot rolls, cinnamon rolls, deserts and the like for all of us kids.  The food was so good that I worked in the lunch room doing dishes through the noon hour in order to get special favor from the cooks, and all the wonderful food I wanted. 

School was a mere extension of my family at home, and any adult at school or in the public at large had my parent’s permission to discipline us if we were out of line.  And they did.  My uncle put me off the school bus about half way home one day for being a nuisance and made me walk home.  I got an ass whippin’ from my Dad when I finally got home, and then had to walk to my Uncle’s house and apologize to him for being a jerk.  It worked!  I never pulled that again. 

One teacher in particular totally captured my exotic interests.  Mrs. Lorene Hogg.  Mrs. Hogg never had children, so she could afford to spend her frivolous money on such things as an aquarium for our class room and at home she had peacocks, exotic pheasants, fancy chickens, plants I’d never heard of nor seen and in a green house no less, with the open heart to share it all with us 6th graders.  She taught us to propagate angel wing begonias for our Mom’s, how to grow colorful salt crystal gardens, the importance of hand- made cards for holidays and the fun side of public education in addition to book learnin’. 

Her flower garden collection was big and impressive to me, as I’d only known about cotton, feed grains, hay and growing vegetables.  Her pea-foul freely roamed the property and I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.  HOW EXOTIC!  She had cannas, Iris of many colors, elephant ears and I don’t really remember what else, but it seemed like the botanical gardens of a foreign land to me.  She very patiently showed me around her farm answering all kinds of questions.  I would beg my Mom to take me there for a visit because her place was an exciting and foreign place for me to visit and imagine how all that stuff would look at our farm.  But, alas, it was not to be.  We were farmers, not flower gardeners. 

Never taking no for a final answer, I did amass $35.00 from somewhere and bought my very own pea-foul family.  There was the incredibly beautiful peacock, the peahen and 4 babies.  My dad was furious and screamed something about those “noisy bastards”, but soon came to love them as much as I did.  They would follow him around for feed and attention, and at one time he had several grown males beautifying our monochromatic farm. 

Mrs. Hogg and her husband have been gone for 20+ years, and with no children to continue her legacy, their farm has fallen into a sad, quiet decline.  Their home still stands, and to this day it has never been emptied of their possessions.  Peeking through the window it looks as if they went to town on Saturday and just never returned.  A life-time of effort by Mr. and Mrs. Hogg slowly dissolving into oblivion. 

Springtime, 2 years ago while visiting my sister who lives just up the road, the Iris were making their annual effort to grow and bloom.  I asked my sister what was to become of the place, and she said the nieces who’d inherited the place hired a cousin of ours to come ‘round a couple times a year and mow everything flat – denying those Iris the wonder of colorful spring blooms. 

This news was so sad to me that I took about a dozen grocery bags and a shovel to Mrs. Hogg’s now silent homestead and dug samples of Iris from all around her yard.  Were they allowed to bloom, I could have perhaps chosen many colors, but random is as random does.  I took what I thought might provide a big variety. 

Along the driveway at my new homestead, the only place soft enough to dig was the filled in trench that OG&E dug to put my electrical service underground.  Sorry, hard clay soil, but I planted my samples and top dressed them with compost, gave them a drink and hoped for the best.  Now in their second year, Mrs. Hogg’s Iris are again in their glory.  There are about five different colors that have been in bloom for the last two weeks and they have quadrupled in number.  The purples are beautiful, but one bunch of very tall, very yellow Iris surely were Mrs. Hogg’s pride and joy. These flowers make my heart happy and I know Mrs. Hogg would be giddy in the knowing that I still think about her influence on my life whenever I look down my driveway at her wonderful, almost forgotten Iris.  


Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in David Brooks, Farming, Film, Home and Garden, Science, Seeds | Posted on 18-05-2009


by David Brooks

It is time
once again to put the seeds in the ground, and with that come some questions: Do
I put one seed in the hole or two? What happens if I put three? How close
together should I put the seeds? Can I squeeze one more plant in this row, or
will that crowd out the others and lead to the ruination of the entire garden?
To a seasoned gardener there is no quandary concerning the seeds, but to a
novice that plot of ground can be a puzzle of immense proportions.

The seeds
planted determine a lot about your garden. So, let’s look at seeds. Where did
you get them? Are they safe? Did you choose organic seeds to try and control
what is inside you food?


There is a
lot of research going into seeds and crop output in the country now. Over the
past 20 years we have seen the introduction of a number of bioengineered crops
throughout the world. The argument rages as to whether we are making it
possible to feed the world, or setting ourselves up for a genetic mess and an
insect or disease infestation that cannot be stopped.


Many of you
are seasoned enough to remember in the mid-nineties when it became almost impossible
to buy a taco in America. A bioengineered corn seed named
Starlink made
it into the food supply and was quickly deemed unsafe and not fit for human consumption.
The corn had made it so deep into the food supply that anything made with it
was pulled from the shelves and millers nationwide had to stop milling and
empty any silo that could possibly have had
Starlink in it. To this day
labs check each load of corn delivered to a processor for traces of


The quality
of the seed determines the quality of the product you grow. Choose wisely.


The Future
of Food
is a good documentary to watch concerning this issue. The length is
around 1 hour and 30 minutes, but it’s well worth the time spent.


After you
watch the documentary the timeline following will make more sense. Please take
time to watch it and then enjoy your backyard garden.


  • 1901 -
    Ishiwata Shigetane discovers that the cause of a disease outbreak in silkworms
    is a new species of bacteria, later called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.
  • 1905 – Sir
    Roland Biffen shows that the ability of wheat to resist infection with a fungus
    is genetically inherited.
  • 1907 -
    Erwin Smith and C. O. Townsend discover that the cause of crown galls is a
    bacterium called Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
  • 1930 – In
    the 1930s, plant breeders notice that plants infected with a mild strain of a
    virus are protected from infection with a more destructive strain.
  • 1938 – The
    first commercial insecticide that contains Bt hits the market.
  • 1947 -
    Armin Braun shows that A. tumefaciens introduces a factor into plant cells that
    permanently transforms them into tumor cells.
  • 1950 – In
    the 1950s, studies show that proteins produced by Bt bacteria kill insects.
  • 1972 -
    Ernest Jaworski reports that glyphosate herbicides work by inhibiting a
    critical biochemical pathway in plants.
  • 1974 – Jeff
    Schell and Marc Van Montagu discover that a circular strand of DNA (a plasmid)
    carried by A. tumefaciens transforms plant cells into tumor cells.
  • 1977 -
    Eugene Nester, Milton Gordon, and Mary-Dell Chilton show that genes on the A.
    tumefaciens plasmid are transferred into infected plant cells.
  • 1981 -
    Helen Whiteley and Ernest Schnepf, at the University of Washington, clone a Bt
    toxin gene.
  • 1983 – Jeff
    Schell and Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and colleagues, and scientists
    at Monsanto introduce genes into plants by using A. tumefaciens plasmid
  • 1986 -
    Roger Beachy shows that plants bioengineered to produce a viral coat protein
    are protected from infection with the virus.
  • 1990 -
    Field trials show that Bt cotton strains resist bollworm and budworm.
  • 1996 -
    Genetically engineered virus-resistant squash seeds hit the market.
  • 1996 – Bt
    cotton hits the market.
  • 1996 -
    Herbicide-resistant strains of soybeans, cotton, canola, and corn reach the


A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings, And…

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Home and Garden, the Madfarmer | Posted on 12-05-2009


by The Madfarmer

I was thinking this week (after I planted my 73rd tomato plant) about how small decisions can radically alter the lives of those around us. It was only five short years ago that my wife and I lived in a small patio home in OKC, and I had never grown any type of vegetation on purpose. But a casual interaction with a friend of mine changed the course of my life forever. My friend lives in Houston, and he had planted a 6' x 5' salsa garden. I think he had two tomato plants, a four foot row of onions, some cilantro, and a jalapeno pepper plant. I thought it would be fun to try something similar. So I went back to our 20' x 20' yard in the suburbs, removed a little sod, and planted a tomato plant. One little tomato plant was all I needed to fall head over heels in love with gardening. Now you can't keep me out of the garden, but just a few years ago I knew nothing.

I tell this story because we never know what will become of the seeds we plant in the lives of others. Small conversations may be the impetus one needs to begin a new course on life. A simple comment about how you choose not to use paper napkins just might be all it takes to spur your entire office into a way of life which produces less waste. Offering a neighbor a free pepper plant could irrevocably alter their life. Offer a friend a book, or better yet encourage your existing book club to read something by Wendell Berry or Barbara Kingsolver.  We all have stories such as this. Someone around us encouraged us to view the world through green eyes, or to plant that first plant, or to start buying organic food. And now we will never be the same.

A Quick Guide to Solar Cooking

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Christine Patton, Energy, Food and Drink, Home and Garden | Posted on 30-03-2009


by Christine Patton

What is solar cooking?

You can use the free energy of the sun to bake and cook meals in a sun oven. The sun oven uses mirrored reflectors to concentrate heat in an insulated box. Temperatures in a sun oven can easily reach 350 degrees. On a sunny summer day in Oklahoma, you can cook your lunch, a loaf of bread, and dinner in your solar cooker! Best cooking times are between 9 am and 6 pm (summer) and 10 am to 2 pm (winter).

Garden trellis 019

What can I cook in a sun oven?

You can roast vegetables and cook fish, chicken, banana bread, muffins, cookies, manicotti, lasagna, quiche, casserole, rice, beans, eggs, potatoes, soups, chili, hot water for tea, etc. Some things cook faster than others, but many dishes can be cooked in 1-2 hours in the summer. You can also pasteurize water by boiling it in a sun oven.

What types of solar cookers are availale?

You can buy or make a solar cooker or sun oven. Different designs are available.

    * Global Sun Oven (Retail $225-$250)  **The GSO is my personal favorite.
    * Tulsi Hybrid Sun Oven (Retail $220-$250)
    * Others ($100+)
    * Handmade Cookers (Plans available in Cooking with Sunshine & other books)

What do I need to cook with the sun?

   1. A purchased or handmade solar cooker/sun oven
   2. A spot receiving several continuous hours of sun between 9 am and 5 pm (summer)         or 10 am to 2 pm (winter)
   3. Oven gloves and sunglasses
   4. Dark colored pots or pans with dark-colored lids

What are the advantages of solar cooking?

   1. Solar cooking uses no fossil fuels or wood fuel. So it doesn’t pollute the air or                 contribute to global warming.
   2. Solar cooking doesn’t heat up your house in the summer.
   3. Solar cookers can be used during power outages.
   4. Solar cookers can be used at “off-grid” locations like campsites or homesteads.
   5. It cuts down on energy bills–from using less of the cooktop, oven, and A/C.