Sunday, September 28, 2008
Today, Sunday 9/28/08, on NPR's "In Tune by 10" Dar Williams referred to herself as a stay at homesteader.
On all accounts, this is the best explanation yet of what I am working at.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Two nights ago I watched a Night Line special called "into the wild" where they found and documented lost tribes of the Amazon. It touched me so deeply that these kind simple people are being driven to the point of extinction because of the motivations of big business. I am talking about the literal destruction of entire civilizations - the genome left to 6 elderly members - because one government is in pursuit of greater ranching lands or trees to cut down. Other civilizations still thrive, but face the imminent threat of extinction if the Amazon river is dammed - the fishing will cease and the people will die. Period. These people want nothing to do with larger society. They want the freedom to live as they have for thousands upon thousands of years.
This really got me thinking about how different life would be if we lived in a way that was closer to the land, with less focus on money, and more focus on family community. I think back on how from colonial times to the early 1900's we still lived in an agrarian society, with respect for the small farmer and a greater connection to those around us. I reflect on how I have never been drawn towards big business and how infuriating the current Wall Street bail out feels to me. I've never felt the need to pursue money, make a lot of it, or gather possessions. I want to teach or grow or help. That's all I have ever wanted.
Last year I started volunteering again. It felt wonderful to help - to find a group that needed help. The thanks I received was touching but more so embarrassing or unnecessary. This is after all what I have always wanted to do. I am philanthropic by nature, I donate services, time or effort to support a charitable cause. My life goal is to promote good and improve the human quality of life while having no interest in the finances of it all. I have learned to give myself to others and help others in need. I care deeply for those around me, the earth, and everything on it. I have nothing but the best intentions.
This fall, the league I volunteer for has merged with a larger league. In the past month, I have felt the sense of joy I get from helping slip through my fingers. What once was a nice charitable organization is now becoming a big business. I have been misunderstood and then called out in emails inappropriately, when a simple phone called would have cleared up misunderstandings, and allowed for clarifying questions. I have missed meetings only to then been told what to do without any choice. I have asked for things to be done, and then had the president dismiss my requests and state the direct opposite to the rest of the board. I feel uncomfortable in the meetings, I don't feel like I am having fun anymore. I feel constricted, micro managed, misunderstood and disliked.
Now clearly, I can stop what I am doing, I can cease to help and have a bit more time to myself. But this brings me to a sense that I am a stranger in a strange land. I don't like big business. I don't like hierarchies. I don't like teaching in public schools. I don't believe in cookie cutter teaching, cookie cutter housing, for that matter cookie cutter presidents. I believe in individuality, compassion, and sensitivity.
I don't think there is anything wrong with this. I just feel alone, horribly alone at times. I feel sometimes like I am so different from the majority that I stand out like a sore thumb even though I look like just about everyone else. I want to find the right fit. I miss the sense of community I once had. I miss the school I used to teach in. I miss the school my eldest was raised in.
I cried myself to sleep last night. I cried because I feel so different at time, and so alone. I cried for worry that we as a species are moving in a horribly wrong direction. I cried for my husband who loves me for who I am, wouldn't change a thing, and agrees that he too feels like the odd man out at time. He's just got a thicker skin and can play the game. I'm just not interested in playing the game. I'd rather walk away and enjoy my peace and quiet on my small piece of earth and dream of a better day when we all care to live in a more sustainable way.
I am in search of a fit and a greater sense of community. I have a deep need in my heart to know that we as a nation, we as a people, are headed in the right direction. I need to figure out a way how to navigate through my fear, my anxiety, and my sense of dread. On a more imperative level, I feel the need to belong to something, outside of my family, that needs and wants my contribution. I don't want to feel like a stranger in a strange land anymore.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I some times wonder if I am missing the intended premise of eating locally by searching out locally processed, manufactured, or distributed products which may in fact be made from ingredients that originate from a far distant place. It makes me think of what Michael Pollan went through to answer or resolve his dilemma as an omnivore.
Is eating locally more about raw or slow foods, or can I find everything I need to stock house and pantry from companies created, employed by, and using all New England residents and ingredients?
Am I creating lazy local living for my family?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The Common Ground Country Fair is the annual harvest celebration hosted by MOFGA (Maine Organic Growers and Farmers Association). It is a really wonderful experience that celebrates rural living and farming and recharges me annually. The Common Ground is help the weekend of or after the autumnal equinox (my anniversary).
It is more than a celebration of the harvest. It reveres the local farmers, growers and crafters, those that are so often invisible in the touch and go of daily life. We can know where are food comes from. We can also know where any product we use comes from.
Some of my essential questions right now could easily be answered this weekend. If it's not found locally, can we live without it? Can I heat my house without fossil fuels? Without putting myself into the poor house? (note to self, research geothermal houses on the market)
I always feel at CG like I am given a second chance and therefore encouraged that Maine is full of great, active, like minded people; something easily forgotten in my ebb and flow of daily life.
This year I sense a huge opportunity for making connections. I am looking forward to this year because I have not been in 2 years, but also I sense the connections I am about to make.I want to start a home based, locally centered agricultural and crafting business. The last time I was there I did not have that motivation.
I also will be moving soon, so maybe it is also time for me to make friends with some of the breeders and sellers of live fowl. I will have some of those soon and it excites me.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Here on my blog, I am sharing many of the quotes I have taken out of the book and the conversation it generated with these other Moms. it felt imperative to me to extend this educational book with some of our nations greatest food consumers - mothers. We are what we eat, and it is about time for us to take a look at what we really are buying at the super market and fast food chains. We need to try to know, where our food comes from, and what it is made of. I am astonished at how far reaching Frankenfoods have gone. Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic and if I recall correctly diabetes is also reaching an all time high.
The very premise of Pollan's book is, "in response to the up rise of "carbophobia" as a result of Atkins etc. that the author describes as a violent change in a nations eating habits... "
"So violent a change in a culture's eating habits is surely a sign of a national eating disorder. Certainly it would never have happened in a culture in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating. But then, such a culture would not feel the need for it's most august legislative body to ever deliberate the nation's 'dietary goals' - or, for that matter, to wage political battle every few years over the precise design of an official government graphic called the 'food pyramid'. A country with a stable culture of food would not shell out millions for the quackery (or common sense) of a new diet book every January. It would not be susceptible to the pendulum swings of food scares or fads, to the apotheosis every few years of one newly discovered nutrient and the demonization of another. It would not be apt to confuse protein bars and food supplements with meals or breakfast bars and food supplements with meals or breakfast cereals with medicines. It probably would not eat a fifth of its meals in cars or feed fully a third of its children at a fast-food outlet every day. And it surely would not be nearly so fat. "
"Another theme, or premise really, is that the way we eat represent our most profound engagement with the natural world. Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds. Agriculture has done more to reshape the natural world than anything else we humans do, both its landscapes and the composition of flora and fauna. Our eating also constitutes a relationship with dozens of other species - plants, animals, and fungi - with which we have co-evolved to the point where our fates are deeply entwined. Many of the species have evolved expressly to gratify our desires, in the intricate dance of domestication that has allowed us and them to prosper together as we could never have prospered apart. ... Eating puts us in touch with all that we share with other animals, and all that sets is apart. It defines us."
Corn has become the corner stone of America's industrialized food industry. Corn and all its by products are used to feed not only us but the livestock we eat - which is not what they are supposed to eat. It is a plant that has become ubiquitous in our diet. It's abundance is morphed into all things that we used to get naturally, and we now lack the benefits of the things corn has now taken the place of. Here is a list of all the corn byproducts in our food system. So without further ado, here's my newest installation from The Omnivore's Dilemma :
"The great edifice of variety and choice that is an American supermarket turns out to rest on a remarkably narrow biological foundation comprised of a ... single species: Zea Mays, the giant tropical grass most Americans know as corn.
Corn feeds the steer that becomes steak. Corn feeds the chicken and the pic, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and the tilapia, and increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farms are re-engineering to tolerate corn. The eggs are made of corn. The milk and cheese and yogurt, which once came from dairy cows that grazed on grass, now typically come from Holsteins that spend their working lived indoors tethered to machines, eating corn.
A chicken nugget for example, piles corn upon corn: what chicken it contains exists of corn...including the modified corn starch that glues it all together, the corn flour that coats it... the corn oil its fried in...Much less obviously is the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nuggets "fresh" can all be derived from corn.
Since the 1980's virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold int he supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) - after water, corn sweetener is their principal ingredient. grab a beer for your beverage instead, and you'd still be drinking corn, in the form of alcohol fermented from glucose refined from corn. For modified or unmodified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and HFCS, for MSG and polyols, for the caramel color and xantham gum, read: CORN. Corn is in the coffee whitener and Cheez whiz, the frozen yogurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes, the frosting and gravy and waffles, the syrups and hot sauces, the mayonnaise and mustard, the hot dogs and bologna, the margarine and shortening, the salad dressings and the relishes and even the vitamins.
There are some forty-five thousand items in the average American supermarket and more than a quarter of them contain corn.
...Compared to us, Mexicans today consume a far more varied diet... the animals they eat still feed on grass... much of their protein comes from legumes; and they still sweeten their beverages with cane sugar.
So, that's us - processed corn, walking. "
In the chapter about corn, the author goes to Iowa to learn about a farm and the family that has lived there for many generations. In the line of the degredation of the family farm and the BOOM of corn industry he learns more and more about the morph of the farms and industry...
"Beginning in the fifties and sixties, the flood tide of cheap corn made it profitable to fatten cattle on feedlots instead of on grass, and to raise chickens in giant factories rather than in farmyards. Iowa livestock farmers couldn't compete with the factory-farmed animals their own cheap corn had helped spawn, so the chickens and cattle disappeared from the farm, and with them the pastures and hay fields and fences. In their place the farmers planted more of the one crop they could grow more of then anything else: corn. And whenever the price of corn slipped they planted a little more of it, to cover their expenses and stay even. By the 1980s the diversified family farm was history in Iowa, and corn was king. "
AND THIS is what we have all grown up on....
Maybe it really is time to take a look at what we are doing to our children, beginning with the food that they eat.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Some of these ideas would even make some great Christmas presents.
I talked to my husband the other day about making our gifts and supporting the local farmers and crafters ONLY this year! He's all on board.
For any other stay at home Moms out there, check out this site:
I am still chuckling.
I think I just found my mecca.
Never before has a website, in name alone, been so enticing!
Better yet this is the kind of thing I want to with a home business.
It sounds quite a lot like me!
Is your carbon footprint the size of an Ugg boot when it could be a Manolo? You're in the right place: EcoStiletto features green picks in Fashion, Beauty and the Good Life and explains, in real-girl terms, how eco-friendly choices can help turn your carbon footprint from a ginormous Ugg into an oh-so-slender Manolo. ...
... I'm leaving out the part that explains carbon footprint...
...We're not about guilt, we're about information. We're not about forcing you to change, we're about giving you alternatives. Because everyone wants to make a difference, but no one wants to give up the little things that we love. Making a difference doesn't have to mean making a huge change in your lifestyle. Sometimes it just means considering the alternatives."
Friday, September 12, 2008
When we move and get a farm there will be live stock.
Chickens, to goats, to cattle.
I would like to learn to make cheese.
Finding this tonight made me smile.
I signed into Local Harvest (http://www.localharvest.org/) and the first farm to pop up was one of my favorites for local milks, creams and even my favorite cheese! Rosemary's Waltz - the perfect lunch cheese for a salad. I've enclosed the link. whatever that means - but here's stuff from the site.
But on further examination this is the PLACE! It is not only
Silvery Moon Creamery at Smiling Hill Farm
Smiling Hill Farm(Westbrook, Maine)
A historic New England dairy farm that produces and process it's own products. Fluid milks including skim, whole, 2% and creamline as well as creams and flavored milks. Milk is bottled in returnable, reusable glass bottles. Smiling Hill Farm makes ice cream, butter and other cultured products. On-site farm market sells directly to the public. Family owned and operated since 1720.
Cows are raised and grazed on the 500 acre farm. No pesticides, no chemical fertilizers, no feed-lot, no artificial hormones, All animals are humanely treated. Farm is open to the public and offers cross country skiing in winter.
Smiling Hill Farm is also the home of Silvery Moon Creamery a producer of award winning artisanal cheeses.
(This listing was last updated on Jan 6, 2008)
781 County Road
Schedule and Location:
Schedule and Location:
naturally grown, grass fed/pastured
Click on the icon for recipes! ("WSSF" Stands for Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall.)
Chocolate. It is a part of my life. That's a product of Pennsylvania, so I must devour it soon. I can not find a New England replacement for chocolate. I have been intentionally eating a bar a day - yes every evening this week I have eaten a 43 g or 1.55 ounce bar of Hershey's milk chocolate. And why would I have, in one rapid session, eaten 230 calories - 120 of which are from the 13 g of fat; 10 mg of cholesterol, 25 grams of carbohydrates, and a whopping 3 g of protein in one luscious bar of chocolate???
Because I quit smoking one week ago.
Yup, a week ago today, I finally stopped beating on my beloved Drum lungs.
P.S. Oh my, where are marshmallows made? Oh.... cane sugar... I guess I have to rid that from the pantry too eh?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I am in search of small bags for my seed saving projects. There are some interesting websites you stumble upon when Googleing small bags. Of course my intention is sustainable bag choices. I really liked this website.
"Brown Paper Bag: Recycle This
Occasionally you go into a store and buy a little something. A really little something. You know all the smart boutiques where they don’t waste money having logos and store names printed on small bags, they simply hand you that one-of-a-kind bamboo bracelet in a discreet, unassuming brown paper bag. Here are ten great ways to make re-use of that bag:
1. Pack your lunch to-go. There was a time when this bag was the go-to staple for packing kids’ school lunches. Now we’re not so wasteful! But when you come along one, you might as well use it for the old standby. Pack that PB&J, throw in an apple and you’re on your way!
2. Use it to prevent dust from forming on your drying herbs. Simply poke a hole in the bottom of the bag, use string to gather your herbs, tying the string off and pulling it through the hole in the bag. Attach the string to a hanger or tie it directly to whatever you are hanging the drying herbs from. See our post on how to dry herbs.
3. Decorate them and use them for gift bags. This is especially fun for gift exchanges between kids. If you are taking your child to a birthday party, let her decorate the bag for her friend. This is a great way to personalize the gift and teach your child about the purpose of “giving.” When done with love, even a paper bag can be a treasure. Awww…
4. While grocery-sized bags make better book covers for large books, you can still use small brown paper bags to cover smaller books whose covers you want to preserve.
5. Make luminaries, little candle lanterns made from small paper bags that line a walkway or driveway. Find directions on how to make luminaries on eHow.com.
6. Paper bag puppets are an easy fun craft any parent can do (even those parents who claim no crafty gene). Pick from frogs, lions, giraffes and more. If your child has a favorite animal, learn how to make that animal into the paper bag puppet of his dreams!
7. Cut shapes from the bag, decorate them and use them as gift tags.
8. Ripen tomatoes and bananas. If you buy or pick your fruit before it’s ripe, put the tomatoes or bananas in a paper bag. Roll down the top and place them in a cool, dry area. Be sure to check them every couple days. Within a week, the tomatoes will turn bright red and will have ripened, the bananas will have gone from green to yellow.
9. If you want to save seeds from this year’s vegetable garden, allow your chosen veggies to flower and set seed. Harvest seed on a mild, dry day when the seed is fully ripe. If seed is slightly damp then dry overnight at room temperature. Store seeds in small paper bags contained in a larger plastic bag in the refrigerator and sow the following spring (depending on what species it is). Seed will keep in the fridge for several years.
10. Make popcorn: Put one quarter cup popcorn in a brown paper bag, roll the top down, and place it in a low wattage microwave. Make sure the bag doesn't touch the sides of the microwave. Cook for two and a half minutes, or until popping stops."
So here is a list of websites I keep finding along the way that are helping me discover the best way to lead a local and sustainable life:
I know the purpose is to reduce fossil fuel emmissions, but isn't is also to support the local economy? So like King Arthur's flour, if the fish come further than 100 miles away, but are processed locally I am still supporting the local economy. I am perplexed as if I need to choose between the lesser of two evils, or else go without. It looks like I am not alone in finding the answer, so as to quote James and Allissa from their blog (http://100milediet.org/):
" Eating locally pushes you to think about the questions that come up. Why does all the processing and distribution have to be centralized? How do we weigh the benefits of that centralization against the costs? (Our coast is littered with ghost towns and “cannery rows” from the era when much of the processing and distribution was local.) Does the current trend toward ever-bigger cities make sense, or do we need to keep our communities closer to the carrying capacities of the landscapes we live in? Shouldn’t we be working harder to restore the local stocks that can no longer feed us? And what about more distant fish stocks? Is it even possible to fish them sustainably? (I’m reminded of the fact that the East Coast offshore fishing fleet was once powered entirely by sail–the legendary Bluenose was one of the boats–and that the sail fishers warned that power boats would spell the end of the stocks.)
Ultimately, though, I still haven’t answered the question, What is ‘local’ seafood?"
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
My plan was to deposit checks at the bank and then investigate local meat at the natural food store on my way home. But as I approached the back, a fast flying clue phone hit me in the back of the head. I found my Butcherman - he'd moved to the next town and had not dissappeared after all! He had all my answers about finding local meats. He gave me his card as I left.
I know he can hook me up with what I want, even if grass fed beef is a little trickier. If we eat beef it should be grass fed for my dear husbands poor cholesterol counts. Now it just comes down to costs. I love having a large freezer in the basement and have always wanted to fill it with the remains of a cow. That's a pretty shocking thing coming a 30 something ex-vegetarian of 15 years. I digress...
My spreadsheet is growing as I catalog and research local sources. One I stumbled upon was a New England Flour company, King Arthur Flour located in Vermont. As I perused the website, plotting a day trip over to enjoy lunch from their restaurant, I found their philosophy of flour. I quote their website: (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/flour/philosophy.html)
In addition to our ongoing commitment to providing consumers with all-natural, organic, and whole-grain products, we have become a member of The Whole Grains Council
As usual I am also left with questions.
If this flour is milled in Vermont, where does the wheat come from?
With anything that has been produced, manufactured, even distributed - how do I follow it back to it's source. How far do I need to go?
Will companies actually answer this question for me?
Saturday, September 6, 2008
In the over roasting are our 2 year old carrots - the same carrots I am harvesting seeds from to save and give away in the New Year. The same carrots that were surprised by an late autumn snow fall last year - the first snow that never went away. These were the funckiest looking things to clean, peel, and cut. Many had last years withered knot below the greens followed by a neon orange root from this growing year. Gnarly orange root stocks with catfish whisker like appendages. In a roasting pan ccompanying these nether world roots is the remainder of this years beets and three, yes only three were ready, provider bush beans. I was shocked to see those buggers still flowering to boot! On the stove I am simmering a stir fry using our own scallions, red and white onions, green peppers, and broccoli.
The only things in dinner not from our garden is the chicken, oil, and marinade. The chicken is not local but it is from the nearest Hannaford and I can only hope the chicken came from the nearest processing plant possible. To my surprise after digging it out of the depths of the jelly cabinet, the cashew ginger marinade is from Grey Maine! As for the oil, that is one of my questions and things to research - cooking oil. It is needed and I also need to make careful choices with it because cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes run in our collective families.
Which of the best choices of oil come from the most local sources? I am pretty darn sure olives don't grow in New England.
Tomato sauce is ready for the food mill this evening. More tomatoes are awaiting their simmering finale. I have no guage of how much tomato sauce our family can consume in one winter. I am sure there is still not enough to sustain us until next summer. I wonder if I should try to dehydrate some. Hmm... I need to go add Barbara Kafka to my bibiography - she's our goddess of high temperature roasting.
Since when are farms single season service?
If I call them would they work out a plan for a local family, who dreams of a farm of their own, who wishes to receive eggs and free range chicken to feed their family through the winter. It was ideal for me - I could walk to get my eggs and meat! What to do now... I need to rethink my plan.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Andruss, Vann, et al; Home! A Bioregional Reader.
Burnett, Bruce; Herb Wise - growing, cooking, well being
Coleman, Eliot; Four Season Harvest
Denckla, Tanya; The Organic Gardeners Home Reference
Derby, Blanche; My Wild Friends
Dominguez, Joe; Your Money or Your Life
Hauser, Susan; Sugartime
Hawke, David Freeman; Everyday Life in Early America.
Jeavons, John and Cox, Carol; The Sustainable Vegetable Garden
Kingsolver, Barbara; Animal Vegetable Miracle
Louv, Richard; Last Child in the Woods
Nabhan, Gary Paul; Coming Home to Eat
Pollan, Michael; The Omnivore's Dilemma - A Natural History of Four Meals
Smith, Alisa; The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating
Smith, Alisa; Plenty
Wiser, Marita; Hikes in and Around Maine's Lake Region
This move will also fall within 100 miles from Portland, but I think it is a MUCH smaller radius that we will be looking when we move. I think we only want to be north and east of Portland by then. I don't think we will want to live west of the highway corridor.
We're looking for some really great communities, with good schools for the kids, and enough of a rural life where we can find a small family farm.
How does one research potential communities from afar?
Any one have any hands on experience with mid-coastal Maine?
I know most of my fresh foods I could get - produce, breads, dairy.
There certainly is no petroleum originating within 100 miles of Portland.
How hard would it be to live locally?
This is one of the things I will try to do but would like to take it beyond the recent incarnation of the "localvore". There is no way to entirely suceed either. I also need to get the baby OUT of his diapers.
As it turns out, this is going to be a lot harder than I thought. The local markets do not stock the year round local lettuces. I can get baby carrots from as close as New Jersey, and there is no cheese closer than Vermont. Clearly there is some work to be done.
Monday, September 1, 2008
This blog is about questions and the answers I try to find.
This blog is to help me - I may vent, I may complain, and I may share joy as well - but I have a vision of where I am heading, and I want to share it with you.
This blog is to help network.
This blog is for anyone, particularly North Americans, especially those from New England.
This blog is for people with or without children, as long as they understand that I have kids and will share my joy and sorrows about them.