Thursday, August 23, 2012

Scratching around in the dirt

August is harvest month for gardeners! We are getting our fair share for sure, but it is definitely eye-opening to see how much we can actually bring in and how much we need to feed everyone given the space/knowledge/resources we have.

I made a real grocery trip this week. I haven't done that in months. To be completely honest, it feels so bittersweet. I have so much more peace when it comes to a meal time because there is enough food stocked up in the pantry and refrigerator to actually put something together that resembles a meal instead of a plate full of snacks from all of the food groups. On the other hand, it was weird just picking up cheese in a brightly lit deli case and not getting it from a cooler stashed behind a 3 foot table.

Carrots have been the prize winning crop for us this year. We haven't bought carrots since... March, maybe? It's been a long long time. They just keep coming! We have chopped, steamed, pureed, stir-fried, or roasted these beauties in at least one meal every day.

The cooler days have us back outside playing in the dirt again. We are all really enjoying the lower temperatures. All of us...the people, the poultry and the plants. The naughty-flighty-moody, yet curious and totally quirky, hens are each laying about an egg a day, giving us anywhere from 24-28 eggs a week.

We have beets! This was totally an experiment. I had a pack of Burpee's Golden Beets from Seed Savers sitting in my seed box and an empty row between beans and potatoes. The entire plant is edible, which means greens in a stir fry and beets in a salad. I love using ALL of the plant up.

The tomatoes are still rolling in, thank goodness. See these two jars of tomato sauce? 23 roma tomatoes. 23.  We are pulling anywhere from 10-15 red tomatoes every night or every other night. We consume them just as quickly as we pull them, so nothing has been canned yet. I froze a couple of jars of salsa and these two jars are sitting in the refrigerator awaiting their fate in a spinach lasagna that is planned for this weekend. 

We visited the Randolph Fair this morning. It was so... magical. I don't know how the importance of the county fair got lost on me over the years, but it is so important. Teaching kids how to care and raise animals should be a required class in every school, in my opinion. I wish I knew half of what older generations know naturally about raising livestock.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sustaining the High Cost of Sustainable Food

You might think this video is ridiculous. It is. But... I have been both the waitress answering to such inquisitive people and to some extent the diners who are super over-the-top. I know I don't ask those questions when I go out to eat, but I also know I am thinking at least some of those same annoying questions. I could easily find myself in a Portlandia episode on more than one occasion throughout the day, but really that isn't who I am. I come from a long line of poor people. Most of us do.  We don't buy meat we can't afford, we just buy less. I consider it a flat out luxury to be able to buy food that fits our environmental, health, and social standards.


I know cows aren't supposed to eat corn, yet most of this country's beef is stuffed with it. I know cows gain weight faster/go to slaughter faster if they stuff themselves with carbohydrates rather than greens.  I know that shoving all of our cows into a feedlot to get them fatter quicker has horrible effects on the livestock, on the Earth, and on our own bodies. I also know that our buying choices are powerful... and are mandated by what is actually in our bank accounts. I can't shake my head at the guy in front of me with styrofoam packages of ground beef because I don't know how much money he brings home and how much he pays for rent, and frankly it's none of my business. I am not in a place in my life where I can pay $6 a pound for the 'perfect' beef... but my conscience will not let me get away with paying $1.99 a pound for feedlot cattle either. I think we are somewhere in the middle.   
We buy our meat from Duma's. You can read about their practices right on their website. Right now our buying pattern has been about 3 pounds of each: chicken, ground beef, pork chops, pork sausage, and beef round steak. The total comes up to  $48.15 This comes out to be about 12 meals or 3 times a week with meat. We eat a lot of beans. We eat a lot of vegetables. I am so torn about the sustainability of fish right now that I can't even really think about it because it makes my brain cry.
 If I really thought about it all, from the standards of organic certification, to the gas drilling beneath our soil, to the chemicals in the water we dump on our carrots I would likely starve to death. The saying "high cost of low price" has been shouted from the rooftops. We have been been relentlessly reminded of the effects of our choices. The saying that goes through my mind and brings me a little bit of peace comes from my mother-in-law.          
We do our best within our means.   
 This to me, is the core of sustainability. I want to save the world, I do. I want to do all the right things that will turn this doomed ship away from the iceberg... but I cannot become an unsustainable system myself. I don't know the long-term effects of multiple systems built on debt, but I can only imagine that it is a monumental disaster. So we make our best choices with our paycheck and we cross our fingers that some day we can raise our own meat and forget about these decisions altogether.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August Kitchen

We have been putting our kitchen skills to use this summer. Things we have never made before are turning out so amazing we eat them up before a picture can be snapped (fried green tomatoes).  And some old things we are finally learning how to make taste good. (johnnycakes)

Our canning has been limited to raspberries, blueberries and cherries. We didn't get a single of our own raspberry or blueberry this year so all of our fruit came from nearby farms. (Damn birds) We have stocked up a portion of the freezer with salsa, green beans, peaches and basil pesto. I am still waiting to get enough tomatoes at once to can whole tomatoes and hopefully a few jars of ketchup.

I see us forming new habits in our cooking, eating, buying, and obsessing. For starters, we are fat hoarders now. You heard me. We save all the fat from everything we cook that leaves fat in the pan. We use it over and over. I know that sounds gross, it isn't. It's amazing.

We eat what we pull in from the garden and if we run out then we will hit up the farm down the road.  But, mostly what I'm seeing is when we've eaten up the beans for the week we just stop eating beans and move onto whatever else is in the basket we haul up from the backyard.

We are buying way less. I mean way less. Our freezer is pretty well stocked with cows and pigs that used to live down the road. I am so conscience of how much meat we consume that I am always 'forgetting' to thaw something out, so we have to eat beans again. We are eating either beef or pork about 5 times a week now, that includes all meals... not just dinner.  I still haven't found a meat chicken supply that is local and in our budget, so we eat a lot of (free) eggs!

I am trying not to obsessively say in my head 'I can make that - don't buy it' because really the list of what I can make is growing (yay!) but my allotted time to make those things isn't (boo!).  Honestly, though when I reach the point in my life where I have all the time to make all of the things, I won't have all the people to feed on a daily basis and that is just too sad to think about.

fried eggs
rosemary pork with peach chutney and sweet corn
pesto, parmesan and roma grilled pizza

peach pie