Tuesday, March 15, 2011

That Book I'm Readng

Finally, the post about the book I'm reading!!  I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  In truth, I am working on / have read more than one book in the last month or so, but this is the one to which I have referred.  More on other books later.

But first, a picture, a sneak preview for the March Photo Scavenger Hunt.  Chives!  I said it before, they're the first thing up in the garden each year. 

Now back to the book.  A wise, elder friend who grew up in a farming community gave me this book.  She does not share my interest in gardening, but happens to be an expert on nutrition.  I tried to read it directly, but I had a hard time getting past the first chapter, and finally put it down.  That was at least a year ago!  Somehow, perhaps in anticipation of a new garden, I came back around to this book and picked it up again.  Since I had pretty much read the first chapter, I skimmed it again and then moved on to the second chapter.  Little by little I have been engrossed by this book and the word that comes to mind when I think of this book is 'savor.'  It has a lot of deep reaching information, it's not a page turner in that sense, although I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  So I haven't finished it but I wanted to go ahead and share it with you anyway.  

One passage I read recently that gave me pause was in the chapter entitled Slow Food Nations where she talks about a farming friend who has two pieces of land.  One has been farmed organically, forever.  The other has been farmed without chemicals by this farmer but was "conventionally farmed" by the previous tenant.  She writes, "Now David treated both sides identically, but even after a decade, the corn on the forever-organic side stood taller and greener."  Ten years!  It takes more than ten years to restore... this is making me think long and hard about what gets sprayed around my garden nevermind in it. 

Okay, that makes it sound like this book is about organic gardening.  I guess it is, but the primary point of this book is eating local, and taking some control over where and who your food comes from.  Defining local might be somewhat ambiguous, but for this family, they decided to "eat local" for one year, and for them that meant "within their county."  Might depend on your county!  This also means eating things in season, instead of tropical fruit shipped across many miles, or strawberries in winter.  I actually live in a somewhat rural county, with several farms, but I think for me local is going to be within the Denver metro area, and hopefully lots from my own backyard and family and friends.  We got some beef last year from one of my parents' neighbors.  That was not local to us, but we see my parents regularly, so didn't really have to go out of our way just for the meat.  My mother-in-law keeps raving about her local, organic pork, so maybe sometime this summer we'll get some of that when we're visiting.  I don't know if ranching has a "season."  I haven't committed to eating completely locally, but here's how this book / concept has affected me:

  • I am now buying "cage free" eggs produced at a local farm.
  • I am rethinking my garden for this year - what will I get the most use out of for my square footage?  Pumpkins are going the wrong direction - too much space taken up for a few fruits we can't eat.  I think I will put them in an iffy patch of the yard, and if they thrive, bonus, but the Garden will be for edible plants that share the sun better. 
  • This also goes for the zucchini plant.  Although it is edible, it shaded out most of the peppers and herbs nearby, and will be relegated to a far corner of the lawn.  I expect this will not offend it much, zucchinis are very hardy around here. 
  • I'm giving more thought to where I buy my seeds from.
  • I'm considering saving some seeds next year; definitely planning to will affect what I plant.
  • I'm considering making cheese!  Although I don't like cheese at all.  My thoughts are, perhaps I will like it a bit more if I appreciate the effort it takes to make it, and the ingredients, and if not, other people in the house will enjoy it.  It may be nice in dishes that I already eat, where it is not the spotlight, i.e. pizza.
  • I made bread!  And plan to make more. 
  • I'm hoping to buy ladybugs and praying mantis this year.
  • I'm planning to grow something I've never had before, perhaps swiss chard.
  • Not buying fruit out of season, i.e. strawberries from Chile.
  • Savoring the cherries when they're in season - one of the few items not available in our local grocery store year round.. 
There's got to be more, but I'll end with
  • I'm working now to find recipes for canning and freezing.  Today, we opened our last jar of homemade preserves.  That means that for the last seven months, my kids' PBJs have been made with only homemade Js - and most of that was organic!  The only exception may be that I did buy some apples from the store, and I can't remember if they were organic.  We do still have some plum conserve in the basement.  I don't feel I made good use of the plums, but I did not find any plum jam recipes on the internet.  I don't want that to happen again.  If you know of a good plum recip, please help us all out and leave a link in the comments.   
In line with this book, I saw a special edition of Birds & Blooms magazine on the newsstand called Grow It, Eat It.  This magazine, still available as of today, has several things I needed, like more than one recipe for a given garden veggie, growing information for the same veggies, and information on blanching and freezing. 

Okay, time to make dinner.  Happy garden planning, or just happy day if you're not a gardener!


Thimbleanna said...

I've always had a hard time understanding the eat local concept. I'm thinking if we were to eat local, there'd be a TON of corn in our diet and almost no fruit. And Dec - at least April, our diet would consist of snow ice cream. I'm thinking a move to southern California is in order!

Miss Jean said...

Perhaps you can send me the names of the farms you get your produce from. I'm in Denver now visiting my son and he might be interested in visiting them.

By the way, thank you for the wonderful weather for my visit!!

Shawn said...

Happy gardening to you too Karen. We started a strawberry bed for the first time last year, can't wait to taste them and hopefully have a lot to freeze!! Have a great weekend.

cheryl said...

Our book club read that book a few years ago. I too only buy cage free eggs after reading it. Also only organic milk and try to get organic poultry when on sale. It changes how you look at food for sure.

audreypawdrey said...

I love this book! Where are you getting your eggs from? We buy organic milk for our daughter, and I am trying to only buy organic meat now, too.