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Understanding Fertilizer

So you know you want to grow organically, which means chemical fertilizer isn’t an option. Well, that eliminates about 90% of fertilizers on the garden center shelf, doesn’t it? The topic of using organic fertilizer is better covered in book form than in a blog post, but today I’m just going to cover the highlights.

First, let’s talk about what the numbers on fertilizer bags mean. They are formatted in numbers that look like 10-10-10. In order, these numbers represent (to memorize it, keep in mind that it’s in alphabetical order):

NITROGEN-PHOSPHORUS-POTASSIUM

This is where that handy, dandy soil test comes in. You’ll want to know your current levels in these nutrients before buying or adding fertilizer because adding too much of a certain nutrient when you already have an abundance of that nutrient can cause a problem. So, if your soil test shows that your nitrogen levels are too high, and you add more nitrogen, you will end up with large, bushy, green plants, but little fruit. This is how we remember what nutrient serves which part of the plant (it’s in reverse alphabetical order, if you want to memorize it):

Nitrogen (SHOOTS)- Phosphorus (ROOTS)- Potassium (FRUITS)

What we are looking for here is balance. Don’t think that you can pour potassium rich fertilizer on the soil and get copious amounts of fruits while ignoring the other elements. You still won’t get fruits without a good, healthy root system. The most confusing part of reading that soil test is knowing what your numbers should be. I published those desired numbers, according to the International Ag Labs, on my website. Print them and hold them dear to your heart. This is where we make a real difference in our health. Having the right nutrients in the soil means we are consuming the right nutrients in our bodies.

Today I have covered only three of over 60 nutrients necessary for healthy plants and bodies. I will get into more details and other elements in my next blog post, as well as knowing when to add compost and why. It takes some time, but learning to grow healthy soil really is the key to a healthy garden!

I would like to put together a Q&A post of soil questions. Do you have something you want to ask? Post your question in the comments, or email me at songbirdtiff@gmail .com and I will add it to my post!

compost

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Cilantro Sale and Recipe!

Today only (April 16th) all of our organic cilantro is $1.00/off! Owners get the low price of $1.29/bunch! It’s a great time to add this delicious herb to your salsa, salad, curry, or…. pesto! Why wait for basil season? Try this easy recipe for a great pesto:

 Cilantro Pesto

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or Braggs Liquid Amino Acids
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve with steamed veggies & pasta or on top of roasted chicken for a delicious cilantro-inspired meal.

cilantro

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Potted Herbs

Now that spring is in full swing we have been seeing many more varieties of local produce, plants and herbs. Our Farm & Garden department currently has organic, locally-grown potted herbs including rosemary, thyme, lavender, oregano and others. These plants are very healthy and are ready to be transplanted into your garden or a container around your house. Our local farmers from Dripping Springs Garden take great pride in their organic gardening and supply us with not only vegetables but arguably some of the best looking flower bouquets and other potted plants such as paper whites and hyacinths (which not only look great but smell amazing!).

We are also working on increasing the varieties of vegetable transplants that are readily available. This will include types of salad leaf, kale, chard, and many different varieties of tomatoes. These will all be available in the upcoming weeks, so make room in your garden for these tasty plants and stay tuned for upcoming plant sales and classes. And while we are trying to provide you with everything you need to plant a healthy garden, we are always open for questions about our products or suggestions about products you would like to see us carry. Please let us know!

lavender

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What’s Fresh 4.16.14 Juice of the Day Contest!

In case you weren’t already aware, each day in the Produce department we make fresh bottled juices with our organic produce. All of our juice comes in 12oz glass bottles and is always made daily, each morning, so you get to enjoy the freshest possible juice. We regularly make a certain selection of fresh juices and we feel like it is time to re-fresh our daily selection. Typically we offer:

  • Apple Greens Lemon
  • Carrot
  • Carrot Celery
  • Apple Beet Carrot
  • Apple Pear Ginger
  • Orange Juice
  • Ginger Shots
  • Wheatgrass Shots

These juices range in price from $3.39/ea to $5.29/ea. The Wheatgrass Shots are $2.49/ea and Ginger Shots are just $0.99/ea! Recently, we have begun making fresh Tumeric Shots for $2.49/ea, though this item is not always available. We also make a Juice of the Day with some ingredients inspired by what is coming in fresh with our regular produce deliveries. The creative combinations range from seasonally inspired juices to embellishments on our regularly offered juices. No matter what the ingredients are, our Juice of the Day is only $4.29. After playing around with some different recipes this past week, we’ve come up with some truly fantastic new juices that we could reasonably add to the lineup above.

How to decide which one? We thought we’d let you choose. This Friday, April 18th from 11am-2pm in the front of our store we’ll be offering samples of the following new juices:

  • Apple Beet Carrot Ginger
  • Apple Pear Fennel
  • Carrot Orange
  • Carrot Orange Ginger
  • Apple Greens Lemon Pineapple
  • Pineapple Cucumber Basil

Try them out and let us know which one you think is best. The one with the most votes will make it into our daily selection! We love the input from our owners. Cheers!

produce juice

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Pellegrino: the Champagne of Waters

If there is one thing that I have learned in the twenty seven years that I have graced this beautiful earth it is that if something sparkles, that means its good, and if you’re thirsty, you should drink some water, and if you come across water that sparkles, hold onto your hat, open your mouth and enjoy. Ok, I guess that’s more like five things but those are the only five things that I know. If you haven’t already tried it, Pellegrino Sparkling Water is some of the finest of fizzy waters. Perfect for calming a belly ache, mixing with juices & other choice beverages to give them an extra pop, or even just by itself, if you like a nice dry, carbonated bite. If you already like sparkling water and haven’t tried Pellegrino, I highly recommend it, and if you have yet to try sparkling water, but would like to, again, I highly suggest Pellegrino.

-Nich, Grocery

pellegrino

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Organic Valley Milk in À la Carte

Why choose organic milk? Organic milk has been certified Organic by USDA standards. These standards mean that the cows must be fed a certified organic diet. In addition, they must spend at least four months a year in pasture.

Antibiotics, added hormones, and pesticides are all verboten in certified organic milk. This means that you can rest assured that you are not adding any unnecessary exposure through your dairy consumption.

À la Carte uses organic milk exclusively for our Coffee Bar and our kitchen. It is important to us that we bring the cleanest ingredients to you and we think this is a standard that you have come to expect.

We use Organic Valley milks, specifically. Not only are they organic, but they are also a cooperative! (Co-ops supporting co-ops, super cool!) As a cooperative, they use mostly small family farms, with an average herd size of 77 cows.

With every ingredient that we use in À la Carte, we strive to bring you only the best, not the cheapest. We will continue to make our lattes and baked goods with certified organic milk.

mlk_hg_CA_UP_FF_ip

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North Little Rock Food Co-op?

We are holding a meeting on Thursday, April 17th at 5pm at the old Argenta Market location to begin a conversation about starting a food co-op in North Little Rock. We would like to help a food co-op start up in the North Little Rock area, and would support it in its beginning stages. Mike, our Store Manager, will be presenting basic information about cooperatives, how to start one, and why it’s a good idea. There will also be time for discussion and questions.

LR Food Co-op

So what is a co-op?

A co-op is an organization that takes the idea of working together and puts it into a business structure. A cooperative is a business voluntarily owned and controlled by the people who use it: its members or owners. It is operated solely for the benefit of its owners, to meet their mutual needs. When groups of people have similar needs, such as the need for lower prices, more affordable housing, or access to telecommunications services, cooperatives offer great potential to meet those needs.

At its core, a co-op is a business. It is subject to the same needs and demands of any business: co-ops require sufficient financing, careful market analysis, strategic and comprehensive planning, well-trained and competent personnel. Co-ops are not immune to the market and economic forces that cause small businesses to struggle and fail. But in several important ways, co-ops are also unique and different. Most distinctly, a cooperative business is owned by the people who use its services — the owners. Co-ops may resemble other businesses outwardly, but the fact that they are owned by the community makes them unique.

Although definitions of co-ops vary, they all contain the following elements:

  • Co-ops are owned and controlled by those who use their services (the owners).
  • Co-ops are democratically governed.
  • Co-ops are businesses, not clubs or associations.
  • Co-ops adhere to internationally recognized principles.

A simple definition of a co-op: A co-op is a member-owned, member-controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all members and according to 7 common principles established for cooperatives.

So come out on Thursday evening to the old Argenta Market location (521 N. Main Street in North Little Rock) to hear about how you could be a part of starting a brand new food co-op in Arkansas!

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Crazy About Ghee!

I have been crazy about ghee! Ghee is a type of clarified butter, which is butter that has been simmered to eliminate water and the milk solids. This leaves a smooth, shelf stable spreadable clarified butter. It originated in India, but has recently found a new revival with the paleo/primal community.

ghee

Our Grocery department carries Purity Farms Ghee that is made from milk of pastured, organic cows on family farms. If you have butter on hand, you can also make ghee at home.

I have been using Ghee as a replacement for any recipe calling for butter or oil. It adds a distinct flavor of nutty richness to any dish.

This might sound crazy, but I have also been adding it to my coffee! Here is my recipe for my morning coffee using ghee.

Put the following in a blender or food processor:

  • 16 oz of freshly brewed coffee
  • 2 TB of ghee
  • 2 TB of extra virgin coconut oil

While coffee is hot, blend on high speed to emulsify.

Pour into cups and enjoy!

This makes enough to share, but I guarantee that you will want to have it all for yourself!

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Owen’s Top Ten for Owner Appreciation Weekend

I use Owner Appreciation Weekend to stock up on many of the products that I use often, like olive oil and dog food. But I also find it to be a good time to buy a few things that don’t normally make it into my shopping cart. Which is why you’ll find some practical items on my list alongside a few extravagances. So here it is, the Top Ten Items I will be buying this Owner Appreciation Weekend:

First off, we have one of the best deals in the store right now, 25.4 ounce bottles of Organic Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This high-quality olive oil is perfect for all your olive oil needs, whether it’s low heat cooking or as a base for your favorite salad dressing. And right now, it is on Owner Bonus Buy for only $9.99 a bottle (saving you $3.00!). Buy a bottle at Owner Appreciation Weekend and you’ll get an additional 10% off that price. I’m planning on getting a few.

Napa_Valley

Next on the list is one of my new favorite cheeses we carry in the store, Organic Valley Grassfed Raw Cheddar Cheese. Before you declare the choice of a cheddar boring, you must taste it. The difference is in the source of the milk, pasture raised cows whom are 100% grass fed. There is a slight hint of grass (a good thing, I promise!) along with its complex cheddar flavor and creamy texture. It is a classic cheese at its very best.

organic valley cheese

Speaking of cheese, I’ll definitely be picking up a case of frozen Amy’s Cheddar Cheese Burritos. These are the only frozen burritos that I never get tired of. Why? Well, they cook consistently without getting too tough or soggy, their flavor compliments a wide range of salsas and hot sauces, and because they are made by Amy’s, they contain real ingredients that are recognizable when eating.

amys-burrito-cheddar-cheese

Recognizable ingredients is also the main reason I love the next item on the list, Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Hot Dogs. Unlike when eating most conventional brands, you don’t have to consciously ignore what you’re putting in your mouth when chowing down on Applegate Farm’s hot dog. Their all beef dogs are made from the better parts of grass fed cows. Of course, they taste great grilled!

applegate farms hot dogs

Now you know what tastes great with grilled food right? Why root beer, of course! And when it comes this spiced soda, one of the best available is Virgil’s Root Beer. Conveniently, the four packs of Virgil’s are on Owner Bonus Buy for only $4.69. Buy one, or many, this Owner Appreciation Weekend and receive an additional 10% off.

virgils-root-beer-bottle

You know what also goes great with root beer? Pizza! While I don’t eat nearly as many frozen pizzas as I have in my past, it never hurts to have one as back up in the fridge. My favorite lately has been Annie’s Homegrown Rising Crust Organic Four Cheese Pizza. Not only does it have a nice chewy crust, it also is a perfect vehicle for adding your favorite ingredients. I like to add sliced jalapenos and Applegate Farms pepperoni on mine for a spicy slice.

annies

If you like a little spice, I also recommend stocking up on some Frontera Mexican Everyday Sauces. While they tend to be fairly mild in heat, these flavorful sauces are an easy way to turn a few simple ingredients into a tasty meal. And right now we have $1 off 2 coupons for all Frontera products. Stock up on Owner Appreciation Weekend and receive 10% on top of the coupons.

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So this next item on the list isn’t one you can really stock up on. The reason I’m including Local Produce in this list is, because we are seeing so many great spring vegetables from our farmers right now, I’m definitely going to be treating myself to some this Owner Appreciation Weekend. The local greens look especially tasty right now!

local

Of course, we have more to offer than delicious food! Our Wellness department has a wide variety of supplements and personal care items available and Owner Appreciation Weekend is a great time to get some of your favorite of these products. I’ll be picking up some Giovanni Avocado & Olive Oil Ultra Moist Shampoo & Conditioner. My hair doesn’t agree with many shampoos because of it’s fine texture. Giovanni’s is the only shampoo I’ve found that keeps my hair from frizzing without looking greasy.

giovanni shampoo

The final item on my list isn’t for me. It’s for the little four legged fiend named Iggy who rules over my household. She is a fussy creature, and has allergies, so she needs a dog food that contains no fillers or strange ingredients. Which is why I’ll be picking up a 25 lb. bag of Whole Earth Grain-Free Chicken & Turkey Adult Dog Food. The 10% I’ll save for Owner Appreciation Weekend will help my pocket book, all while keeping her highness happy. Win, win!

whole earth grain free dog food

Speaking of a win win situation, make sure to come down this weekend and save on your own top ten!

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Behind the Scenes: Getting ready for Owner Appreciation Weekend

As we near the big weekend, what would normally be feelings of fear and dread has been replaced by literal excitement. We have a very small back stock space and Owner Appreciation Weekend has traditionally been hard on us. It’s hard to prep for hundreds of special orders and maintain stock to fill the shelves because we simply didn’t have the space to store all of it. So special orders were often ordered and organized that week prior. This led to all kinds of mistakes, mostly due to disorganization because of the small time frame to accomplish so much work.

This year, however, it has all changed. While I never celebrate the loss of a local business, having the space next door has allowed us to spread out. In the Grocery department alone, we received 700 special orders. The extra space allowed us to begin ordering two weeks early. We’re getting the special orders organized and troubleshooting problems before the weekend arrives. This also allows additional room for back stock to hopefully prevent empty shelves this weekend. How revolutionary.

As we gear up to for what is projected to be our biggest sales weekend ever, I wanted to share what the prep week looks like for us in the best way I know how: pictures! Hope you enjoy a little walk through the Grocery department.

 

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Last Sunday we began the task of organizing all 700 special orders. These pictures were taken in the middle of that project.

 

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And the after! It’s amazing what a little extra space can do for organization. The special orders are so organized I’m excited for the mad rush on Saturday morning. It’s going to be smooth sailin’ this time.

 

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This is our Grocery back stock area. It’s actually not much bigger than the picture you see here. This was taken after the truck was delivered Sunday morning.

 

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This is Bulk back stock during the Wednesday’s delivery. Um, I think it speaks for itself. Oh and that’s Drew receiving the Wellness orders.

 

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This is our fridge back stock in the middle of getting received and organized Wednesday. The picture shows about half the space in the cooler. Produce Manager, Pauline, and I are hoping for a Mega Cooler someday. It may be a pipe dream but we can hope, right?

 

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Matt and Matt getting’ stuff done.

 

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Mad Billy stocking the tofu cooler.

 

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This is your favorite ONF blogger, Nich. He’s ridiculous and usually is making someone laugh.

 

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Morgan, one of our awesome Grocery buyers, took the time to smile for us.

 

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This is Nicole and it’s her first full week with us. Make sure you’re extra nice to her this weekend.

 

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This is my boss, Store Manager Mike. He’s a huge nerd sometimes but he’s a really good boss.

 

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This is McKenna. She’s another one of our awesome Grocery buyers.

 

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These two can’t wait to see YOU this weekend.

 

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And this is my little helper, Ruby. She helped me get the last of my photos Wednesday after work.

That’s it, folks. We’re working really hard to make sure this is an enjoyable Owner Appreciation Weekend for us all. Can’t wait to see you there!

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