Tag Archives: food source

From Farm to Table

Years ago, when I taught Biology on the high school level, I was often reminded that our society of city dwellers are so far removed from the production of our food, that most of my students had no idea that their food was grown by people, harvested and processed into the canned and frozen products on the grocery shelves.  The idea that their meat had been a living animal and that someone had to raise, feed, and have it slaughtered and butchered to be put on the styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic in the meat case was so foreign to them that they would argue with me over it. Truly a sad state of affairs.

Though they visited farms in Florida, I think it has been a good experience for my grand children to see that the chickens that I raise produce our eggs.  That the chicken we put on the table was grown here on the farm, killed, cleaned and prepared here.  The plants in the garden produce the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, squash, popcorn, peas and beans that they eat. They like helping out in the garden and pulling weeds to feed the chickens.  To see the chicks hatch and know that they are being raised to produce the chicken and eggs we eat.

It is wonderful that there are cities that have started community gardens and schools that have gardens to teach children about food production and nutrition, but it needs to go farther.  Watching chicks hatch in an incubator in a second grade classroom doesn’t really tell them from where their eggs and chicken come.

N and her mom went with me to an alpaca sheering and she sees me spinning yarn and knitting them hats, mittens, and sweaters from yarn, so she also has some realization that clothing doesn’t just come from a store.

Though I haven’t convinced them that homemade bread is better than factory produced balloon bread, they do love my corn bread, biscuits, scones, and made from scratch pancakes.

This has been a week of illness at our house.  N was sick on Sunday, ok on Monday, sick again on Tuesday, ok on Wednesday and sick again yesterday.  Today she seems ok again and started eating again last night.  Daughter is in her first week of her new job and she has the stuffies, maybe from pollen that is increasing each day. One evening, I felt the virus that N had, but fortunately it was very short lived, only the one afternoon and evening, never like N.

Last night, two of my spinning friends came to our house to learn to make soap.  In the frenzy of giving them the hands on experience, each making a batch with the other looking on and me on the sidelines coaching, I failed to take a single picture.  They each left with a full mold of soap they made, one 3 pound batch of Lavender Rose and one of Bergamot Lemongrass and some palm oil to help them get started on their own.  The only photo are the little muffin tins of overflow.

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Both of these ladies are fiber artists, animal raisers, spinners, knitters and I was gifted with fiber to spin and knit in thanks, a great gift.  What a great feeling to help others learn a skill and send them home with some of what they need to get started.

These two friends attend the spinning retreat that I attend, and one of them mentioned that she was selling her Strauch Petit Drum Carder to get a mechanized one. Once home, I talked with Jim about it and last night, she brought it to me as I decided to purchase it from her.  I am excited.  I will be able to blend fibers and fiber colors now. If I finally get brave enough to attempt to dye the fibers myself, I will increase my fun some more.

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With Easter coming up this weekend, I was asked by K to hard cook some eggs for the kiddos to dye before Sunday.

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Farm fresh eggs won’t peel if boiled, so I learned after starting to raise my own eggs, to steam them for 20 minutes.  They cook perfectly, no green ring around the yolk and peel like a charm.  This is the batch I did second, when the first batch had three cracked eggs in it and I knew not to let them dye them.  I’m not a fan of the commercial dyes, but they are easiest and most child friendly, so they will dye the dozen eggs with their Mom and Dad tonight or tomorrow.

I didn’t want to be left out of the natural dye method this year, so while their eggs were steaming, I did three with yellow onion skins, three in beets, and one each of my Americaunas’ eggs as one lays blue eggs and the other green.

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Later I am going to do a few with red cabbage, both brown eggs and Americaunas to see what shades of blue I get.  The beet dyed ones surprised me, instead of the pink I expected, it turned the brown eggs more yellow.  I know that these won’t be peel-able for deviled eggs as they had to be boiled with the natural dyes to get their color, but for breakfast or egg salad, they will be fine.  Since 4 of the 20 eggs cracked during cooking, I enjoyed a couple for my breakfast.  The kids were fascinated with the natural dyed eggs, but it just wouldn’t be as much fun for them as once you put them on the stove to boil with their dye, they just cook. They will have their fun later.

I love the rich brown of the onion skin dyed eggs.  Maybe I should start saving more of the skins and see what color it dyes yarn.

 

 

Changes

My childhood was spent in a semi rural area that is now suburbs of Virginia Beach. I was typical of a child of that era that was not raised on a farm. Produce came in cans or fresh during farmers market season, meat was wrapped in butcher paper or plastic from the meat case at the grocery. There was no thought as to how it was raised, where it came from, or how it got to the grocery.
At some point, my Dad and I did start a small garden, but not too successfully at first.
After I finished college and was out on my own, I began to become more aware of what was in our food, concern about packaging waste and harm and the treatment of animals for food. I bulk shopped for beans, rice, and grains from a local food coop, using my own jars and canvas bags. I quit eating meat, but living in the city at this point, still bought eggs from commercial markets.
My husband was raised in a city with a similar food upbringing, but he is an ardent meat and starch man. I reintroduced meat into my diet because I didn’t want to prepare two different meals and because we started a family and I didn’t feel well versed enough on nutrition balance to think I could raise children without animal protein, though we ate smaller portions often added to stews, goulash, pasta sauce with beans or vegetables making up the main part of the meal.
As a working Mom, convenience food sometimes slipped in our diet but was usually short lived as I returned to preparing food from scratch, generally baking our bread as well.
Never in my wildest dreams could I see myself where I am now. As we approached retirement, we discussed having a mountain home on 5 to10 acres. Mostly woods with space for a garden. We found ourselves instead on a 30 acre farm with a pole barn and no house. The house was built, the large garden started by Son #1 and family during their part in construction continued to be used and providing a good portion of our produce. I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and became even more committed to eating locally, eliminating more and more items that are processed or trucked in to the grocer. My concern about the treatment of animals raised for meat, milk, and eggs drove me to buy only meat from local farmers, humanely raised on grass not grain, eggs from local farmers that often free range their hens, and milk products from a local dairy. As I was paying $4 a dozen for eggs and $20-25 for a humanely raised chicken and having 30 acres of land of mostly pasture being mowed for hay for other local farmers, I ventured into raising a few chickens. Like most new chicken raisers, I bought what was cute or laid pretty eggs. The flock has evolved to a dozen heritage Buff Orpington hens and a rooster with the goal of the flock becoming self sustaining. Son#1 asked if I would raise some meat chickens, that he would “do the deed,” though I was a Biology major/teacher before becoming a school counselor, I didn’t think I wanted to participate in this process. Then I watched him process a deer, helped package it for freezing and decided that I could become involved. The first meat chicks were all of the cockrells and hens that weren’t fulfilling their end of the deal. The first batch we did, I spent most of my time in the kitchen doing finish plucking, packaging, and freezing. The entire process revolted me and I couldn’t eat any of them.  In fact, I returned to eating much less meat, eating only the sides and salads that I was preparing for our meals, but enjoying our eggs and local cheeses. The next batch, I could more fully participate in the process. Now I could do most of the steps in taking a bird from the coop to the table but I might make as mess of the inside cleaning as I haven’t done one. I know where these chickens were raised, what supplemental feed they are fed. I know how much coop space they have and how it is kept. I know how much free range, true free range time they get, and I know they are raised well and humanely killed. I still don’t eat much meat, but when I do, I feel better about where and how it was raised and treated. If and when Son#1 returns to our area to live, we will raise our own pigs and cows too. And they will be treated kindly during their lives as well.

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