Saturday, June 19, 2010

Grocery shopping, homestead style

It just occurred to me that when most people shop for groceries, they go to the local store and buy whatever they need or want. But when I want meat, it means planning months in advance. At the moment, I'm thinking of buying some day-old cockerels to raise for meat. My chicken experiment yielded us five live mutant chickens, and of the eight heritage chicks I purchased, only two are roosters. We do have plenty of stew hens in the freezer, but there are some recipes where young chickens are needed. If we get chicks now, we'll have chicken in three to four months.

This past spring, I was talking about trying a new breed of pig -- Gloucester Old Spots. I am perfectly happy with the Tamworths that we raise, but I thought it would be fun to try a different breed. From weaning to processing pigs, you're looking at six to eight months. The GOS are more expensive than Tamworths, and unfortunately, I took a little too long thinking about it, and the piglets were all sold.

In January, I decided what vegetables we wanted to grow this year. Some were started in my basement and transplanted, and others were direct-seeded into the garden. We are still planting seeds, in fact. Just yesterday, I had the first fresh peas, which are heaven to the taste buds. I always hated those mushy things in cans, but peas fresh from the pod -- eaten right there in the garden -- are one of my favorite foods. And they're more special because they're only available this time of year. This morning, I was reading on another blog about mindful eating, and I think one of the things that makes me more mindful about eating is that we eat seasonally. When you haven't had a favorite food for six months or 11 months, you are completely present when you finally get to eat it!

Although this type of "grocery shopping" might seem like a lot of work -- and why bother? -- it makes life simpler. It is easier to eat healthy. Rather than having to think about our food a lot when we're ready to eat it -- is it organic; how many calories; how much fat -- we think about it ahead of time. In addition to knowing that the meat was raised in a healthy environment, we are also not tempted to over-indulge. Since a pig only produces about 12-15 pounds of bacon, that's all the bacon we have for a year. We're not eating it every day. It's one of those special occasion foods, usually reserved for birthdays or other breakfast celebrations. Our freezers are full of all sorts of meat, fruit, and vegetables, so when we're ready to fix dinner, we have what we need readily available. Big food corporations have deluded us into thinking that they've made our lives easier. But have they really? Yes, we can eat whenever and whatever we want, but unless we put a lot of thought into the consumption, we can wind up paying for that convenience with our health.


Chef E said...

Great post. Now that I am losing weight and working out, I do not eat meat but once a week. All veggies the rest of the time, and low carbs. I cook all my food from scratch, but having a farm might have kept me in better shape!

I really enjoy your blog!

LindaG said...

I am looking forward to the day that we do our planning the same way. And a little concerned that having been raised in the city, and always having the 'store' frame of mind, that we won't succeed; but I hope we do. :)

You mention something that I have never learned - but need to. How do I know if a recipe needs young chickens? And is, say, the difference between a broiler and a roaster just the age of a chicken or is sex involved too?
Can you recommend a good book? I read Backyard Chickens every month and have a few blogs here I read, hoping your knowledge will soak in. :)

We want to try pigs, too. Sorry you missed the breed you wanted to try, but good luck next year!

Mama Pea said...

Health is the topmost reason to raise your own food. (Supposedly your body accepts and utilizes food raised right in your own small geographical region better than food trucked from hundreds [thousands?!] of miles away.) 'Course, security figures in there, too. When a storm of any kind is forecast and we are cautioned to lay in a supply of food for two or three days, I have to laugh. (And we are said to be an "advanced" society?)

Love your blog, keep postin'.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Thanks, Chef E! They say that the more you cook, the less trouble you're likely to have with your weight.

LindaG, if I can do it, anyone can! If you can find cookbooks written in the 70s or earlier, they all specify the type of chicken required for the recipe. But basically, the rule of thumb is that the older the bird is, the lower the heat and the longer the cooking. So, a young chicken (less than 4 months) can be fried or grilled; up to about six or seven months, you can roast it. After that age, you need to cook it in a pot of water simmering over a low heat for a few hours. I just keep cooking until I can pull the meat off the bone with a fork. And that's the meat you use for chicken salad, casseroles, etc. And you have the most amazing, delicious broth imaginable!

MamaPea, that is another benefit of raising your own food -- we don't worry when there is a storm coming or anything like that, because we always have plenty of food.

LindaG said...

Thanks so much for the information, Deborah. Much appreciated! :)


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