Saturday, November 19, 2011

'Tis the season for . . .

 We harvested lots of winter squash this year!
photo by Lynn Stone
From the first year that we moved to Antiquity Oaks in 2002, we began to live in rhythm with nature, benefiting from our own labors, and feeling the consequences of labor lost. Of course, we weren't able to grow a lot of our own food the first few years, but as each year passed, we have learned to grow more and more. Today the main things we buy at the store are staples like flour, vinegar, sugar, salt, coffee, and cocoa. Sometimes I'll pick up something special like avocados or bananas that we don't grow, but the fact is that we grow so much of our own food now that we really don't have to buy much. It seems frivolous to buy anything when we have plenty of food at home to feed ourselves delicious and healthy meals.

We eat seasonally, which means tons of fresh fruits and vegetables through the growing season, including greens in our winter garden. I actually enjoy it because we eat so much when something is in season that we are pretty happy when the season is over. Then we start to crave it over the months when it is not available, and we are once again ecstatic when it is in season again.

Unfortunately there are some years when we wind up without a favorite food because of a crop failure or because of our own failure to actually plant the crop. That was the case with peas and okra this year. We never managed to find the time to get either one planted. You can be assured they'll be on the top of the planting list next year because I really miss my fried okra and my raw peas.

When we first moved out here, we were vegetarians, but even after we started eating meat, it was a pretty rare event because we only butchered extra roosters or rams or old stew hens. As we've added more meat animals to the farm though, and as our flocks and herds have increased, we are finding ourselves with more meat, and like the vegetables and fruits, the variety changes from year to year. Last year we had lots of pork and chicken. This year we have lots of turkey, lamb, and goat.

I can see where some people in our modern world would not like this because Big Biz has done such a good job of convincing us that not only can we have what we want, when we want it, but we should have everything we want, when we want it. Over the years I've begun to see the flaw in that logic, and not simply because so many people wind up in debt based upon that attitude.

When something is always available, we lose the concept of gratitude. When was the last time you got really excited at the grocery store? On the contrary, most of us find it a boring chore. You always know what's going to be there. You expect it. You depend upon it. You take it for granted. On the other hand, I get excited and am immensely grateful every February when our chickens start to lay eggs again because we've usually been without them for a couple of months. In fact, I get excited and grateful about every food when it comes into season. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

You also learn to live with the rewards and consequences of your actions or inaction.  As another wise person once said, you harvest what you sow. The funny thing about these adages is that today we've lost touch with their origins. If you fail to plant something (or weed and water), you won't be harvesting it.

Variety is the spice of life, as someone else once said, yet most of us can easily fall into a routine, doing and eating the same things day after day. Being presented with a variety of foodstuff makes me use my noggin and get creative. This year, I am learning to cook with goat meat. I used to think that I'd never do that, but that was before our does blessed us with 29 bucklings! We usually castrate most of the boys and sell them as pets, but there simply are not that many people who want pet goats.

When it comes to eating meat, I'm pretty sure that nature is giving us what we need in the right proportions. I get a little worried about people who think they should be eating bacon on a daily basis or liver ever week. If you are eating whole animals, you can't do either of those things because there isn't that much bacon or liver in an animal. When we butcher a whole pig, the bacon is only a small part of it, so if we spread out our bacon consumption, we're eating a pound of bacon for about every ten pounds of other pork. I suspect that if we decided to only consume our own lard and butter, rather than buying sunflower oil, we'd probably all lose another five pounds because our consumption of fried food would go down.

It's amazing how much we've learned since moving out here. I didn't know any of this a decade ago. I only knew that I wanted to eat more organic food, and I assumed that exercise would be a natural benefit of growing our own food. I had never even heard of the concept of eating seasonally. Today, however, I can see a lot of wisdom in this natural lifestyle.


Tombstone Livestock said...

Funny how some people ask how you can eat your "pets" my reply is you have to do something with all those rams / billies. Hard to get attached to 29 billies let alone think up enough names for them.

I cooked a boned goat leg recently in my crock pot, I put 2 onions sliced in the bottom, added the leg and then poured a can of Campbell's French Onion Soup over all of it. Delicious.

Planted my brocolli plants few weeks ago, need to plant lettuce, peas, chard. Local news was saying bagged lettuce is being recalled again due to e-coli, really need to get lettuce in. I gave up on chickens several years ago but after hearing about problem with McDonald's egg supplier I may go get some more chickens. Food bought in a grocery store should be guaranteed to be safe.

SkippyMom said...

This is how we grew up eating at my grandparents. I missed it when fresh tomato and corn season ended - although we canned, it just wasn't the same.

And boy did we eat a lot of poultry. :)

I wish I could do this for my family too, but location and my health will keep that dream from realization. Nice to read about your successes tho'.

Carolyn Renee said...

My...that's a large wheelbarrow of squash!! Our winter squash did well this year also. We're not quite burned out on it yet, but we'll be missing it before next summer comes around.

Patty said...

This is a lovely post. Very encouraging to those of us who are trying to get closer to the point you're at. Thank you for all the writing you do, and being so incredibly accessible to all of us who have so much yet to learn. :)

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Tombstone -- I had not heard about the latest lettuce recall, but it no longer surprises me. :(

SkippyMom -- Fresh salsa is the thing we miss the most when tomato season ends! There is no substitute!

Carolyn -- We actually filled up that wheelbarrow with winter squash twice! That's the best we've ever done with winter squash.

Patty -- Thank you, and you're welcome! I like to share my life's lessons with people so they don't have to make the same mistakes we did. Our culture has lost so much valuable information in the past 50 to 100 years. I hope we can relearn a lot of it before it's too late.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Deborah, we too have had to learn to eat seasonally. As we move towards 100% self sufficiency, we have learned to move away from the grocery store. It is our goal to visit stores just two or three times a year, instead of the national average of two or three times per week. We just wish we had started all of this about 30 years ago!


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