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Mother Earth News Fair
Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.

5 Questions for Barbara Pleasant

Barbara Pleasant

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Good knives. You can make anything, from breakfast to a house, if you have good knives.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

In the old purchase category, it's my long-handled Cobrahead weeder, which is the most often used tool in my garden. Among recent purchases, last summer I bought a small Karcher power washer. It is great fun to use and we keep finding new jobs for it, like the annual cleaning of the chicken coop.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Morning light. I'm always up at dawn so I don't miss it.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

Hickory barbecue. Even during times in my life when I was a vegetarian, the smell of slow-smoked hickory barbecue made my day.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

When something feels too complicated, there is always a way to make it simpler.

Barbara Pleasant has practiced organic vegetable gardening for 30 years in gardens large and small. The author of numerous books (including Homegrown Pantry, Starter Vegetable Gardens, and The Complete Compost Gardening Guide) Pleasant earned a Silver Award of Achievement from the Garden Writers Association for writing the popular Gardening Know-How column in MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Pleasant lives in Floyd, Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers, and where she keeps a small flock of chickens..For more on Barbara check out!

5 Questions for Deborah Niemann

Deborah Niemann

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Eating real food (not the foodlike substances sold by big corporations.)

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Premier1 ElectroNet fencing.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Having babies born on the homestead (just had two litters of piglets and triplet goat kids born today!)

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

Food cooking with garlic in it.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Never say never.

Deborah Niemann is a homesteader, writer, and self-sufficiency expert. In 2002, she moved her family from the Chicago suburbs to a 32-acre parcel on a creek in the middle of nowhere. Together, they built their own home and began growing the majority of their own food. Sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, and turkeys supply meat, eggs, and dairy products, while a garden and fruit trees provide produce. Niemann presents workshops across the United States and in Canada. She is the author of Homegrown and Handmade, Ecothrifty, and Raising Goats Naturally.For more on Deborah check out!

5 Questions for Janet Vorwald Dohner

Jan Dohner

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Something to read. A book, a magazine, a newspaper, digital, paper - doesn't matter. The very idea of being stranded somewhere without something to read is terrifying.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Murray McMurray Hatchery chicks. 100 years of shipping chicks to farms. I love pouring over the catalog, ordering my choices, and picking up that cardboard box at my local post office.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Family. Dogs. Playing with yarn. Reading on a tropical beach.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

Lilacs or fresh hay in the barn. Either one makes me inhale deeply.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Never stop learning and trust your curiosity.

Janet Vorwald Dohner is the author of Farm Dogs and Livestock Guardians. She has 35 years of experience on her small family farm and has relied on livestock guard dogs and corgis with her sheep, goats, and poultry. She writes for magazines, including MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and she gives presentations on livestock guardians and predator control at various conferences. Dohner is a board member of the Kangal Dog Club of America and a member of several learning communities for working dogs. For more on Janet check out!

5 Questions for Joe Putnam

Joe Putnam

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

A well worn flannel shirt.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Misono Swedish Steel Chef Knife. Quick to take an edge, holds it very well. Has developed an attractive patina from cutting tomatoes and onions through use.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Remember that flannel shirt I mentioned earlier? Putting it on.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

It's a tie between garlic and onion sautéing in cast iron skillet or line-dried laundry.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Advice from my Mother, "Companion plant with garlic. You'll keep pests away and wind up with much more garlic."

Joe Putnam works as a marketing copywriter and occasional shepherd for Premier 1 Supplies. He frequently appears in Premier's instructional how-to videos on YouTube. Putnam can be found at farm industry events, where his gentle, hands-on approach makes even the most complex farming topics simple. When not at work, Putnam spends time on his family's 40-acre farmstead in southeast Iowa. There the family raises cattle, sheep, poultry, multiple gardens, corn, hay, and oats. For more on Joe check out!

5 Questions for Ellen Zachos

Ellen Zachos

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Good food.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Vitamix blender and Excaliber dehydrator.

What brings you the greatest joy?

My husband, my family, my friends, and my cat.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

A moist forest full of mushrooms.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Make sure you love your work because you'll be doing it every day.

Ellen Zachos shares seasonal recipes and tips on foraging at She teaches foraged mixology workshops to bartenders in partnership with Rémy Cointreau USA, and is a regular contributor to several Edible magazines. A longtime instructor at the New York Botanic Garden, Zachos is the author of six books, including Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn't Know You Could Eat. For more on Ellen check out!

Food Fermentation at the FAIR

At the 2015 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, I attended a talk by Sandor Katz on an introduction to the fermentation of vegetables, and checked out some of the cool new vendors who have joined the fermentation revitalization.

Sandor began by saying that we might think of canning as old-fashioned, but its a relatively new form of preservation, invented in 1815 or so in France. Fermentation is a much older, ancient process that predates recorded history. Sandor calls himself a fermentation revivalist. He says, people think of biodiversity as about whales and wolves but “no less important is the biodiversity inside of us." In fact, “fermented foods are the embodiment of biodiversity."

The revival seems to be going well, as the number of fermentation vendors, workshops, and books at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS are growing quickly. They are a creative, energized lot, the fermentation revivalists.

Last year, Tara and her fermentation bus, Fermentation on Wheels, attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. Fermentation on Wheels, established in 2013, is a traveling culinary research hub with a mission to harvest & preserve, encourage sustainability, and teach fermentation. Tara travels around in her bus and teaches and demos, sharing the word and the starters for all kinds of ferments.

This year, my local friends from Maryland, Rachel and Luke of The Sweet Farm, brought their spankin' new fermentation truck to vend at the fair. It has that old-timey old truck feel, but its a decked out refrigeration truck with pull down wooden bars, chalkboard walls and three fermented soda taps for three flavors: ginger beer, lemon lime and blood orange. They also sold brine pickles on a stick and dilly beans, along with their line of Sweet Farm krauts. The Sweet Farm has been going strong since 2011.

Fermented products need to be kept at the earth's temperature or lower, ideally around 55 degrees. They can be refrigerated or kept in cold storage, like a basement or cellar. Sauerkraut at the store is processed to be in the jar, on the pantry shelf, so it loses its beneficial properties. Health food stores sometimes sell refrigerated fermented products, like Bubbie's Pickles.

Sandor says you really need to make fermented foods yourself to get the healthy benefits that our bodies need. If you are lucky, there might be a local small business making and selling small batch fermented products near you. They can keep you stocked when you can't make your own, and provide valuable expertise in the revival of fermentation.

I would say Sandor Katz has been an exceptional revivalist. His books are considered must-have guides to fermenting food for good health and easy, effective preservation. Since his first book Wild Fermentation came out in 2003, he has been educating people about the benefits and easy methods of fermentation. Sandor's newest book is The Art of Fermentation. His books have been guiding me with my at-home pickling and kim chi making these past few years.

Fermenting vegetables is easy to do. Search Mother Earth News for many resources, including a couple blog posts I wrote about fermentation: Sarah's Farm Chi, Make Old-Fashioned Dill Pickles. You can also sign up for the new Food Preservation newsletter on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Photos by Ilene White Freedman

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 

Vegetable Quiche Recipe from Leanne Brown’s 'Good and Cheap'


As much as I love this quiche hot, I like it even better cold out of the fridge the next day. It makes a great, fast breakfast or lunch (paired with a side salad). The quiche in the picture uses broccoli, but you can make it with pretty much any kind of vegetable. Some of my favorites are roasted green chilies and cheddar, winter squash with goat cheese, zucchini and tomato, or spinach and olive. Spreading out onions on the bottom of the quiche adds a crust-like layer and a bit of crunch. Serves four


• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
• 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
• 1/2 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
• 3 to 4 cups chopped vegetables*
• 8 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup grated cheddar or other cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Melt the butter in a cast-iron or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (If your skillet isn’t ovenproof, transfer everything to a pie plate in Step 3 to bake it.) Add the onion slices and sprinkle a bit of salt and

pepper over them. Cook the onions until they are golden brown and starting to caramelize, about 10  minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the onions evenly across the bottom. Spread the vegetables evenly over the onions. The dish or pan should look fairly full.

* For hardier vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or winter squash, I suggest steaming or cooking them before adding them to the quiche to ensure they’ll be fully cooked. For tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, or any other quick-cooking vegetable, just use them fresh.

4. In a bowl, use a fork to beat the eggs lightly with the milk, cheese, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper, just enough to break up the yolks and whites. This is a savory custard mixture. Pour the custard over the vegetables and onions and enjoy watching it fill in all the open spaces.

5. Transfer the quiche to the oven and bake for 1 hour. Once the surface is lightly brown all the way across, it’s fully cooked.

6. Let the quiche cool for about 20 minutes, then slice into wedges.

Leanne Brown’s book Good and Cheap can be found online in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS bookstore.

Photo courtesy of Workman Publishing

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.