Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Animal,Vegetable, Miracle - Inspiration!

I haven't had much time to get online and spend time typing this summer, because the garden has been keeping me on my toes. We had our most successful year, growing a steady supply of fresh, organic food, harvesting all of it, and freezing most of what we don't eat. I've chopped summer squash, blanched peas, beans, broccoli and cauliflower for freezing. I've baked many loaves of zucchini bread, eating some and freezing the rest. I've made batches of pesto, with more basil waiting to be transformed. I've started freezing chard, too. All of this will be welcome during winter months, and I hope it will help us reduce our grocery budget significantly, while providing us with high quality food that is sustainably produced.

Meanwhile, I picked up "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver from the library on cd. I've been putting it on while I work in the kitchen, bringing in bins of harvested food and either cooking or prepping it for preservation. I'm most of the way through it now, and it has been life-changing. When I started out listening, I thought I was already doing what she is writing about, growing our own organic food and making conscientious choices about how we supplement at the grocery store. She has given me a lot to reconsider regarding the purchase of organics foods from big box stores, and our occasional indulgence in meats of uncertain geographical origins. When we started eating homegrown turkey a few years ago, it was the beginning of a slippery slope. We now keep some Costco-bought ground turkey and turkey bacon on hand for inclusion in some meals. It is not organic or free-range, and we don't know anything about the conditions in which the turkeys were raised or how far the meat was transported. Not to mention the way the workers are treated in these "turkey factories" and the fact that it is packaged on styrofoam trays with plastic wrap. I really think this book is the most important one that I've read in many years, and I recommend it urgently to anyone who eats. I will be looking for local sources for many of the items I now buy from Costco or Trader Joes, like dairy and grains. In the meantime, the food-related tasks that can feel like drudgery, spending hours in the kitchen alone washing, cutting, blanching, peeling, packing - suddenly I feel a sense of triumph and purpose doing these things. I am proud of our life in the country and our amazing abundance, born out of hard work and sacrifice. We are intricately connected to our soil on our little piece of the Earth, as we feed it and it feeds us.

As for an update on our little homestead in September, the tomatoes are finally ripening, though we still don't have a door on the greenhouse, so the chickens are helping themselves to those juicy morsels within their reach. I've been harvesting the potatoes, and I think most are out of the ground now. I've pulled all of the garlic, pulled spent pea vines up to feed to the goats, and many of the bush beans are done producing. I found that the purple beans are going and going though. Zucchini is waning, but we are still getting some of the summer squashes. The chard continues to grow, and I wonder if it will ever stop. We are getting many carrots, but leaving most in the ground for now. We have pulled the last of the beets, which we use in morning smoothies. Next year, we need to grow many more of these. Now we are watching the winter squashes, all heirloom varieties. They are amazingly varied, some bright orange, some striped, some deep green, some smooth or ribbed or warty. Most amazing is the Serpente de Sicilia, a long, snakey squash that we are now harvesting, some of which are growing to 4 feet in length. I plan to cook one up tonight for the first time.

We've had serious issues with our turkeys and dogs. The turkeys are able to fly, unlike the domestic breed, so they often venture out of the enclosure to explore. We've had a dog break-out that resulted in two turkey injuries with recovery. We had one turkey disappearance without a trace. Two turkeys have been killed by our very small bishon-schitzu mix who can fit through gaps in our fencing. We are now down to 8 turkeys, with some committed to other people. We will be trading turkey for chicken, and giving one to friends who will butcher them for us. We plan to keep a tom and two hens for breeding, and hope to still have some for food. From listening to "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" I am also worried that breeding the turkeys will be a daunting task in and of itself, as it is something just not done any more. (Domestic turkeys cannot live more than a year and are physically unable to breed.)

While I no longer have to spend hours every day in the garden, we are still getting a lot of food and I'm struggling to get it all cooked or frozen. It is time-consuming, but well worthwhile for the amazing nutrition, money saved, biological diversity and fossil fuels preserved, and a child raised knowing where food really comes from.


  1. Nice blog, Jennifer. I'll be sure to keep a watch. This was my first year with a vegetable garden, probably half the size of yours, and yet, we still have had more vegies than we can eat. I am amazed at how much food one can grow in a small space. There is no reason anybody on this planet should be hungry!

  2. I love that book, too! I feel so much more inspired to be mindful about my food.