Canine Cuisine

Once upon a time on an aisle in a grocery store,

Debby Martin searched for the healthiest dog food and treats, wanting only the best for her Dorkie (Dachshund and Yorkie mix) Kirby. Then, one Thanksgiving, after Kirby became sick from eating dressing from the table, Debby was determined to find out what dogs should and should not eat. Her discoveries surprised her – not about table food, but about commercial dog food.

“It’s been proven that some commercial products have tiny bits of the drug used to euthanize pets.” There can also be poisons and pesticides, said Debby. “I think over the years this builds up to the cancers we are seeing today.”

Thus began Debby’s seven-year journey from grocery store aisle to the kitchen. Questioning every ingredient in her canine’s diet, she researched holistic veterinarians and other websites on healthy food ingredients. In turn, she developed her own website to inform and educate others and to provide tried and trusted canine recipes.

“I started making Kirby’s treats and now he eats about 90 percent homemade. I just love creating the recipes. Kirby is very picky and won’t eat just anything.” 

Realizing, however, that one day her website might be gone, she wrote the canine chef cookbook to provide people with the same information and recipes on her website. The book includes sections on Wholesome Canine Nutrition, Recipes, and The Pantry. Within these sections, she includes pertinent information on healthy and harmful ingredients, food colors, tips and tricks, tools in the kitchen, and much more. Her ultimate goal: Pay attention to what your dog is eating. 

Take spices, for instance.

Holistic veterinarians consider garlic very healthy and safe for pets, but certain ingredients can be very dangerous, especially if your dog has health issues. 

“For example, Rosemary is beneficial for dogs, but if your dog is epileptic, it can cause seizures, whereas Nutmeg is extremely toxic for a dog,” said Debby. Always check with your vet first about the ingredients before cooking for your dog. “If you have any reservations about any ingredient, leave it out.” Table foods are fine as long as you know what’s in it.

Debby’s passion and concern for other people’s pets most likely grew when Kirby got sick. Sugar, Debby’s dog before Kirby, lived to be 15 years old. Though Debby did buy dry dog food, Sugar ate mostly table scraps from carefully prepared family meals that were low in sugar and fats. 

“So Sugar was really eating some very good food, said Debby. “He ended up living a long life and never had any illness.”

There is no moisture in kibble and a dog’s diet should be 70 percent water, explained Debby. Food that dry overworks the kidneys to reconstitute and break down that food. Over time, this can lead to kidney failure.

“Would you eat the same dry food every day?” she asked. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. As humans, we try to avoid fast foods. It’s healthy for your pet to eat fresh foods, just like you.” Even if you don’t prepare every meal for your canine, make treats and supplement the dog food. Juicing is healthy for you and your pet, so pour a topper over your pet’s dry food. 

When Debby provides foster care to neglected and abandoned animals, she feeds them the same food Kirby eats. She admits to being an advocate for healthy pet diets, saying, “I keep a list on my refrigerator of things Kirby can and cannot eat so everyone knows.”

Kirby knows not to take treats from people because Debby doesn’t know what’s in that treat and a well-meaning bite can be dangerous.

“Your dog is a member of your family, so you want them to live longer. Think about what you are feeding them,” said Debby. “You feed your kids well so they will grow up healthy. Feed your dog with the same attitude.” 

BREAKOUT BOX:

http://thecaninechefcookbook.com/  –  All recipes in the cookbook are on the website for people who can’t afford the cookbook.  Debby responds to all emails and contact.

https://www.facebook.com/kirbythedorkie

the canine chef cookbook is available on Amazon, the Book Store on Main street and at Animal Medical Center, Starkville, Mississippi.

 

This article originally published in Town & Gown Magazine.

 

Growing Green to Grow Community

Go Green Meridian is committed to providing information and resources to empower the Meridian community to make healthy, sustainable life choices.

DSC_0455With a mission to increase awareness, connect the community, support our local farmers and businesses, and create a more sustainable and healthy life for the people of Meridian and surrounding areas, Go Green Meridian is a local chapter of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi (GGSIM), a state-wide educational, networking, and outreach institute in Mississippi growing community around issues of sustainability by identifying sustainable initiatives, connecting those efforts, and expanding on them.

Pamela Dees

Pamela Dees

Meridianite Pamela Dees got involved with Go Green Meridian in this past spring. To her, a community garden is important because it brings so many different people from the community together, including the children, who learn about gardening while also enjoying getting their hand dirty with their family.

“There are so many knowledgeable people here who know about the plants or the bamboo teepees,” said Pamela.  “Go Green planted and tilled and everything.” The planted area Pamela speaks had been a field of high grass. “They cleared it out and made the beds; the city donated a lot of material and people in the community have donated,” she said. “So the garden has really been a community effort.

Community gardens have been growing in popularity across the nation for quite some time and have provided families who don’t have access to yard or land, the opportunity to produce their own food. In 1999, 15 New York gardens organized as the City Farms program of the group “Just Food.” They grew close to 11,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits and donated approximately half of the harvest to nearby soup kitchens and food pantries.

The non-profit Gardeners in Community Development (GICD)

of Dallas, Texas has made it their mission since 1994 to “grow people” through community gardens.

They have compiled a List of Benefits of Community Gardening, something every community, large or small, should do. That list includes:

Benefits of Community Gardens

  • Community gardens increase a sense of community ownership and stewardship.
  • Community gardens foster the development of a community identity and spirit.
  • Community gardens bring people together from a wide variety of backgrounds (age, race, culture, social class).
  • Community gardens build community leaders.
  • Community gardens offer a focal point for community organizing, and can lead to community-based efforts to deal with other social concerns.

Crime Prevention

  • Community gardens provide opportunities to meet neighbors.
  • Community gardens build block clubs (neighborhood associations).
  • Community gardens increase eyes on the street.
  • Community gardening is recognized by the many police departments as an effective community crime prevention strategy.

Cultural Opportunities

  • Community gardens offer unique opportunities for new immigrants (who tend to be concentrated in low-income urban communities) to:

– Produce traditional crops otherwise unavailable locally,

– Take advantage of the experience of elders to produce a significant amount of food for   the household,

– Provide inter-generational exposure to cultural traditions,

– Offer a cultural exchange with other gardeners,

– Learn about block clubs, neighborhood groups, and other community information.

  • Community gardens offer neighborhoods an access point to non-English speaking communities.
  • Community gardens allow people from diverse backgrounds to work side-by-side on common goals without speaking the same language.

Youth

Community gardens offer unique opportunities to teach youth about:

  • Where food comes from
  • Practical math skills
  • Basic business principles
  • The importance of community and stewardship
  • Issues of environmental sustainability
  • Job and life skills

And,

  • Community gardening is a healthy, inexpensive activity for youth that can bring them closer to nature, and allow them to interact with each other in a socially meaningful and physically productive way.

Food Production

  • Many community gardeners, especially those from immigrant communities, take advantage of food production in community gardens to provide a significant source of food and/or income.
  • Community gardens allow families and individuals without land of their own the opportunity to produce food.
  • Community gardens provide access to nutritionally rich foods that may otherwise be unavailable to low-income families and individuals.
  • Urban agriculture is 3-5 times more productive per acre than traditional large-scale farming!
  • Community gardens donate thousands of pounds of fresh produce to food pantries and involve people in processes that provide food security and alleviate hunger.

Health

  • Studies have shown that community gardeners and their children eat healthier diets than do non-gardening families.
  • Eating locally produced food reduces asthma rates, because children are able to consume manageable amounts of local pollen and develop immunities.
  • Exposure to green space reduces stress and increases a sense of wellness and belonging.
  • Increasing the consumption of fresh local produce is one of the best ways to address childhood lead poisoning.
  • The benefits of Horticulture Therapy can be and are used to great advantage in community gardens.

Green Space

  • Community gardens add beauty to the community and heighten people’s awareness and appreciation for living things.
  • Community gardens filter rainwater, helping to keep lakes, rivers, and groundwater clean.
  • Community gardens restore oxygen to the air and help to reduce air pollution.
  • Community gardens recycle huge volumes of tree trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, and other organic wastes back into the soil.
  • Community gardens provide a place to retreat from the noise and commotion of urban environments.
  • Community gardens provide much needed green space in lower-income neighborhoods which typically have access to less green space than do other parts of the community.
  • Development and maintenance of garden space is less expensive than that of parkland.
  • Scientific studies show that crime decreases in neighborhoods as the amount of green space increases.
  • Community gardens have been shown to actually increase property values in the immediate vicinity where they are located.

Go Green Meridian provides the community with an informative website and facilitates special events and workshops and meets every month to discuss ongoing sustainability initiatives in Meridian and how to better serve the community.

“I’m not from Mississippi and I haven’t had a garden myself and it’s a good way for me to meet people,” said Pamela. Even though we’re all in the community, we stay in our own comfort zones. A community garden presents a good representation of what community can be with the diversity of age, gender, race, culture, social status, everything.

 

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO IN YOUR COMMUNITY (From United We Serve):

ADOPT A PLOT AND VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME:

Each community garden has unique by-laws and requirements. However, most provide a plot of land and some training in exchange for a time commitment and a small fee. Find the garden near you and get involved. For first time gardeners, a wealth of information is available online.

DONATE HARVESTED FOOD TO LOCAL FOOD BANKS:

Many community gardens provide fresh fruits and vegetables to local food banks and churches. Find a local food bank and enlist others in planting a row for the hungry.

WORK WITH SKILLED LEADERS TO ASSIST AT CHILDREN’S OR CLASSROOM GARDENS:

The effects of community gardening are particularly pronounced among low-income children with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Volunteer at an organization or a school garden that specifically targets youth. Once screened, volunteers help in the garden, offer nutrition courses, provide administrative support and more. To connect with the right group, call your local high school or search for community groups like Seattle-based Cultivating Youth.

ORGANIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION PROGRAMS AT YOUR COMMUNITY GARDEN:

Partnerships between local schools and community gardens are blossoming around the country. If you already work at a community garden, consider inviting local students in or running a free workshop over the summer for low-income youth. There are resources and manuaLs available to help design a curriculum.

CREATE A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FOR THE LOCAL COMMUNITY GARDEN:

Sharing successes and identifying best practices will help foster the sense of community at your garden and keep people involved. There are many tactics, both high and low tech, for sharing information. Consider starting a community notebook at your school garden or creating an e-newsletter outlining opportunities for service and issues for advocacy.

HELP WITH GRANT WRITING OR FUNDRAISING ON BEHALF OF THE GARDEN:

Fundraising can pay garden rents, buy new tools, support service projects and keep the garden growing. Online resources can help you navigate the world of private foundations, individual contributors, and old fashioned bake sales.

RESOURCES:

Go Green Meridian

Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi (GGSIM)

United We Serve Corporation for National and Community Service

Gardeners in Community Development

The Return to Victory Gardens

With the ever-escalating cost of produce, you can save money and still feed your family a nutritional diet by planting a Victory Garden in the corner of your backyard. A small plot of earth will provide a family with red, green and yellow vegetables all summer long; plump red tomatoes, yellow crook-neck squash, butter or green beans, purple eggplants, dark green leafy collards, cucumbers and red skin potatoes are hearty choices for the miniature southern garden.

These small gardens were originally called War Gardens and Victory Gardens during World War II when canned goods, sugar, meat and gas were rationed. War gardens helped provide food for the family and prevented a food shortage, ensuring a food supply for the military during the war. There were approximately two million victory gardens in the United States during this period, producing almost half of the food grown in America. .

A family affair

Engaging your children in gardening will be the perfect time to discuss the nutritional value of each vegetable grown. Not all will enjoy planting and gathering their crop, but most enjoy the hands-on experience and learning about soil preparation and the methods of planting and harvesting a victory garden.

Tomatoes

The tomato is called the world’s healthiest vegetable because it’s rich in the anti-oxidant, lycopene. In the early 1930s, tomato clubs were formed in schools to teach girls about growing this popular and versatile tomato. Tomato Clubs would later become known as the 4-H Club, which began in Mississippi.

Tomato plants require staking, Wire cages, available at most any store with a home and garden department, can be used year after year. Six tomato plants will be sufficient for most families.

Garden tomato plants

Lush, healthy tomato plants

Tips:

1) Scalding washed whole tomatoes will aid in removing the skin before canning or freezing.

2) Wash all vegetables thoroughly before preparing.

3) Add a tablespoon of vinegar in simmering pot of snap beans to preserve the rich dark green color.

4) Fruit and tomatoes should be refrigerated indoors to prevent fruit flies.

5) Take a soil sample to the County Extension service to test for your soil requirements.

6) Plant in full sun, or at least morning sun in a well-prepared bed to achieve maximum crop results.

7) Plant by the moon phase; underground crops such as potatoes are planted when nights are dark. Above ground crops are planted when the moon is full.

8) The Farmers Almanac’s is free booklet filled with useful information for the beginning gardener.

9) A tablespoon of vinegar in simmering dark green snap beans preserves the color.

 

Garden 2 Squash blooms

A beautiful squash bloom

 

Garden-Bobby Davidson gather squash

Harvesting the squash

Then and Now

Years ago, our grandparent used wood poles, attaching wire to the top, which ran the length of the row. Twine was added and zigzagged from the wire and anchored to the ground to allow the beans to grow up the twine. With Victory Gardening, do what the Native American’s did. Plant beans near the base of corn stalks and let the beans grow up the stalk. Not only will this reduce gardening work, but is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

From the garden to the table

Instead of a hamburger or hot dog meal, gather a couple of nice size green tomatoes. Wash and slice the tomato into thick pieces, salt, pepper and meal before frying in that seasoned iron skillet grandma gave you. Serve fried green tomatoes between a layer of bread spread lightly with mayonnaise and a leaf of dark green lettuce before you lightly toast the sandwich in a buttered skillet. Serve with a side of vegetable soup made from your garden; tomatoes, beans, corn kernels and okra and a quarter of an onion, simmered with a dash of salt, pepper, oregano and basil for a easy and delicious hearty meal.

Thoroughly washed and freshly cooked collard greens can’t be beat for flavor; garnish them with a dollop of sour cream and serve. A dish of cucumber and diced tomatoes is a cool,refreshing addition to your dinner table during the summer months. These two vegetables contains nutrients that decrease during the cooking cycle. Season and cook young, slender green beans in a wok. Scrap corn off the cob, add butter, salt and pepper and bake until done. Less butter is needed to season food than imitation margarine.

The Gardener’s chore

Victory Gardens are easy to maintain and require little work, other than preparing the soil for planting, just keep the weeds at bay and water. Sit back and watch it grow and produce. A rule of thumb is to plant one row about 14 feet long for each vegetable, except for eggplants, cabbage, cucumbers, and radishes.  A tiller comes in handy for breaking up the ground, but this can also be done with a shovel, although this takes longer and requires more effort. You’ll need a hoe regardless, to keep the weeds at bay. A weed free garden helps reduce pests. Some plant marigolds between vegetable rows because they claim marigolds keep insects away from vegetable plants, although there is no scientific proof that supports this theory. After the harvest, can or freeze excess vegetables, but follow FDA safety instructions on canning.

From acres of vegetables on family farms in the rural south to the small Victory Garden in our backyard, we can still supplement our diet with wholesome, healthy and additive free food.

 

So, grab your straw hat . . . its time to plant!

 

USEFUL RESOURCES:

FDA

Fenway Victory Gardens

Organic Gardening

June Davidson book cover image copy

June Davidson

June Davis Davidson is the author of Country Stores of Mississippi, Images of Meridian and coauthor of Legendary Locals of Meridian. She is a member and former board member of the Mississippi Writers Guild and currently serves as the Meridian Chapter head. June is member of Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education and is listed on the Mississippi Arts Commission as a literary artist.