Saturday, May 15, 2010

Animal , Vegetable, Miracle - Food for Thought

These aren't very clear photos, but it's a woodpecker on what was left of the corn in my garden last fall.
In a way, it is a snapshot not just of the bird and corn, but more of the way my life has changed in a certain area over the past two or three years - the way I think about food, and my own little footprint on earth.
I have no idea what started it, but my views of food, the type, and where it comes from, really have undergone a significant change for the better. I guess probably it comes from general education in the past few years that things like whole grain bread is better for you than white bread, homemade wheat bread is better than store wheat bread, fresh fruits and vegetables should make up a large part of your meals, etc. Most of that really isn't rocket science, and, thankfully, I really LOVE almost ALL fruits and vegetables and would choose to eat them over starches and other stuff most of the time anyway. A huge bowl of fresh steamed broccoli? Yum. Yellow and green summer squash, steamed with onions, lightly buttered and salted? Double yum. Favorite veggie of all time: brussel sprouts. I could and do eat a whole grocery store carton of them, when I buy them.And fruits? Not a one I don't like. I LOVE fruit, almost more than chocolate. Fresh nectarines, peaches, strawberries, berries of any kind, kiwi, oranges in the winter... I can never have too much.
But, those aren't really changes for me, since I have always liked wheat bread, fruits, and most vegetables. The changes are more in my attitude toward where my food comes from, especially meat. I'm not a HUGE meat eater, and could, actually, live happily on only seafood and fish as my protein sources if they were more readily available here, and IF I liked to cook more. I like chicken better than red meat, though occasionally nothing beats a pork chop cooked in cream of mushroom soup, or a small piece of steak with tons of mushrooms on top. But lately I care WHERE my meat - all of it - is coming from.  If I have to eat my chicken or beef or pork from the grocery store, knowing it came from big, crowded farms, processed in questionable meat packing plants, I'd rather eat another helping of a sunflower butter and homemade jam sandwich, thanks. So we have turned to buying our meat from local farmers, and from 4-H kids at the fair. That way, I know my "meat" was actually a very happy animal, before it became my dinner. I don't mind that it was killed for me to eat - I do actually believe that really, that IS the purpose of a cow, or a pig, or a chicken. I just want to know that it had a good life before it became Shake N Bake.
Thoughtful eating. I think that's really it.
And I grow what I can. I will never really be a fanatical gardener. I have too many other summer interests. So I dabble. I plant only what I like, and what I will use. I freeze the beans I grow, make sauce out of the tomatoes, onions and peppers I grow, pickles from the cukes. I grow enough summer squash and zuchini to keep me happy. I don't grow lettuce, because I don't LIKE lettuce much. I can't possibly grow enough peas to freeze, so I don't bother. I will buy a bag or two of fresh peas locally when they're ready, and support someone else. This year, I begged my husband to have his brother plow and til a spot at my motherinlaws house where I could plant and grow potatoes. Who knows what that's all about, but I have a burning desire to grow my own potatoes this summer. Thankfully, if I don't get enough, there is a student in my class whose summer job it is to sell potatoes that her grandfather plants. That's how she earns her school shopping money.  And another student is raising a sheep to take to the fair, so if i am lucky, I will buy that from her in July to put in my freezer.
Oh, and I got chickens last summer. I have decided that my mission is to not sell their eggs, but to give them away to my neighbors. I have lots of good neighbors who can always use a dozen eggs, and who do a dozen good things for me all the time. I can "repay" some of that by passing along fresh eggs, while having the pleasure of raising chickens. And the chicken manure is great, natural compost for my garden. And whatever I don't harvest or use from my garden, doesn't go to waste, because the chickens eat it!  I started a compost heap last year, to reduce our trash going to the landfill. My "design" didn't work so well, so that will have to be changed this summer. But at least I started.  And I have been researching vermicomposting as well, which can only be good for my garden. And bees. I would love bees. Not right now, but sometime. In the meantime, I can buy honey locally from a former principal at my school who raises bees. There is nothing quite like fresh honey. I can't go back to buying store-bought. There is just no comparison. And now that my younger son is old enough to hunt, he has filled the freezer the past two winters with venison. Now THERE is happy meat! 
So what does the picture of the woodpecker eating corn in my garden have to do with any of this stream-of-consciousness, random food rambling? Well, last summer I planted corn, even though my husband told me that it probably wasn't going to grow too well in our soil, and we really would need a much bigger plot for it. I most often can't be told things, and simply need to learn the hard way, through experience. He was right, but that's ok, because what few ears I DID get? The wood peckers ate. And I felt good about having provided them with food, in return for the pleasure of their company. It seemed a fair trade.
And the same girl who sells potatoes? Her grandfather also plants corn, and by September, I can always get as many bags as I need of it to throw in the freezer for free. Otherwise it will just go to waste. Maybe I should put a sign in MY garden directing the woodpeckers to their corn field. The pickings would be not quite so slim there!


Leigh said...

I really enjoyed reading this post! I feel the same way about food. It is hard to explain what the connection is but how something was raised means a great deal to me.
We only planted a small raised bed of peas and had quite a few meals with them. Home grown peas are the best! You are very lucky to have so many options as far as were you get you food. I cant wait to hear about your chicks too! ;)
Really interesting and connecting post.

Murphyfish said...

Hi there,
Your post has really struck a chord with me as we’re going through a similar thought process over here, paying much more attention to our food, where it comes from, how it was produced etc I started to dabble with growing a few things this spring but I’m severely hampered by lack of space and even less knowledge (although the learning is becoming easier – well slightly). Trying to convince my better half to allow me to convert the front garden which consists of the, typical suburban, rectangle of lawn into a cottage garden with 4 small raised beds for mainly fruit n vegetables, herbs and old fashioned English ‘cottage’ flowers and also to convert the bog monsters dog run (which she never uses) into an area for a few small bantams, fingers crossed but the response has been not totally negative. Like I said your piece has reflected what I’m trying to achieve over here, just glad that we’re not the only ones thinking like this. Oh and by the way pork chop cooked in mushroom soup? I’ve just go to try that!
Best regards,

Kimberlee said...

I really love this post as well. I admire your thoughts and LOVE the way you write! Some of your sentences are just so much fun to read. This one made me laugh out loud!

"I just want to know that it had a good life before it became Shake N Bake."

Thanks for sharing. Can't wait to see photos of all your projects!

twistie said...

Had to come check out your blog, great post. I think we are two peas in a pod! Have you read this book? it's wonderful! Too bad you didn't live closer to me, we have all sorts of happy animals that will become 'shake 'n bake'. our two pigs were so hot today I made them a pool! very happy pigs and have pics (that I'll post later) to prove it!