July 4, 2011

Independence Day Update for the last 2 weeks

DSC_5817 We participate in Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge.  I’m getting the idea that Sharon won’t be posting these updates anymore.  I’m changing the format slightly.  Since these were inspired by her work, I’m still going to call it my weekly “Independence Days Update”.

It was  a dry week here overall, and today we had a short afternoon shower that gave the garden a little drink.  I think that cucumber beetles are the culprit in my lack of cucumbers this year, and I foresee a trip to the farmers market for a few armloads so that I have pickles in the fridge this year. 

What did I plant this week?—I planted some more cucumbers—one can hope!  I also planted another wave of pole beans.

Planted to date in 2011--

Super Sugar Snap Peas, 7 tomatoes (brandywine, grape, Early Girl, Better Boy), Choko Baby bok choy, One Kilo Chinese cabbage, 4 eggplant, Blue Lake Pole Beans, Christmas Lima Beans, Kestral Baby Beets, Touchstone Gold Beets, Chioggia Beets, Bull’s Blood Beets, Waltham 29 Broccoli, Rouge d’Hiver Romaine Lettuce, Matina Sweet Butterhead Lettuce, Galia Melon, Gooligan White Baby Pumpkin, Gourmet Rainbow Radish Mix, Gigante Inverno Spinach, Cavili Zucchini Squash, Milano Black Zucchini Squash, Supersett Yellow Crookneck squash, Sweet Beauty Watermelon, Marketmore cucumber, Genovese Basil, dill, flat leaf parsley, Jenny Lind melons, Butternut Squash, Garlic (planted in the fall), yellow and red onions, 8 bell peppers, 6 jalapeno peppers, 4 cabbage plants, 4 broccoli plants, daylilies, surprise lilies, sedum, 4 o’clocks, hollyhocks, red cockscomb, moonflower, zinnias, sunflower mix, marigold, butterfly flower garden seed mix, thyme, chives, carrots, coriander, horseradish, garlic chives, Peace Vine tomato, another type of basil (friend gave it to me), Sweet Million Tomatoes.

What did I harvest this week?—Because I wanted to make slaw for our guests, I picked all 4 of the cabbages I had planted.  They were pretty small and the slugs had attacked a bit of it, but they tasted great.  They were so moist, and I think they would have made great sauerkraut.  Next year.  Also picked—carrots, onions of all sorts, picked all of the garlic and hung it to dry, herbs, flowers for arranging, tomatoes, bell peppers, blueberries—lots of them, Cavili zucchini and yellow squash.  I also picked the 1, yes you read that correctly, plum that survived all of the birds and windy weather.  It was delicious and I wanted to cry as I ate it.  Will we ever have a plum harvest?  I’m not sure, but I’m not going to give up without a fight. 

What did I preserve this week?—Nothing.  Can’t believe I haven’t preserved hardly anything yet this year.  Will need to get on top of that ASAP.

How did I work to reduce waste and live more simply?— We didn’t do too well.  When we have guests, our utility usage spikes.   We didn’t use paper plates or plastic forks—we used real.  We ran the dishwasher instead of cleaning them by hand, and it ran almost nonstop over the weekend.  Am I sorry?  Absolutely not.  We would much rather have a slightly higher bill and have seen our family rather than not. 

How did I work at building and strengthening community food systems?—My nephews are cutie pies.  They are a little shy, but as I would be in the kitchen cooking, I noticed the eldest wandering through and eyeing what I was doing.  On day three I told the kiddos that I needed some kitchen helpers.  We sautéed some zucchini.  The older of the two learned how to properly use a knife, the pros and cons of sautéing, how to fold instead of stir, and the science behind searing.  The youngest learned about steam and why it is helpful in cooking, why you wait until the oil is hot before adding the food, and how to clean the squash.  You’ve never seen kids happier to eat squash than those!  The next day we made biscuits and scrambled eggs.  They learned about leavening agents, how to mix biscuits so that they aren’t tough, how to make a buttermilk substitute, why you grease the biscuit pan and flour the board, how to crack and egg one handed, and how much fun a handheld old fashioned egg beater can be. 

I’ve always believed that one of the most important parts of building food security is learning how to prepare food for your family.  I’m not talking about how to reheat something in the microwave or make something out of a box.  I’m talking about taking something in its rawest form and turning it into a meal.  The slaw for instance took a lot longer than any slaw would have if prepared from a bag.  Cleaning and cutting and salting and draining the cabbage took about an hour, but it was wonderful.  I loved serving people close to use something homemade.  The children becoming more interested in the food preparation is a testament to how it was received.  People notice when you do something special for them. 

If I in some small way contributed to my nephews being able to prepare meals for their families one day, I believe I did them a service.  Those small steps are a part of a much bigger picture.  They add up over a lifetime and result in a person having more choices available to him or her.  Food activists are often encouraging people to grow their own foods at home.  That is great, but then what?  If you don’t know what to do with that food, then only part of the equation is solved.  Yes, I could have popped biscuits out of a can.  It would have taken a lot less time to scramble the eggs or sauté the squash myself.  Had I used a bag of Cole slaw mix, I would have spent a lot less time in the kitchen.  However, the knowledge that I have a choice is important to me.  I can bake homemade biscuits.  I know how to grow cabbage and how to turn it into slaw.  It is only because many people over the course of my lifetime took that time with me that I have that knowhow.  Sure, there are plenty of days when I don’t have the luxury of spending an hour or more in the kitchen and those premade items are helpful, but I don’t have to be dependent upon them.  There is a very big difference there.

Why am I bringing this up?  I hope you’ll look around you and see how you might be able to teach someone else an important skill.  I’m not suggesting that you force it on anyone.  I could tell that my nephews wanted to learn.  Look around and see who has that same curiosity and desire to learn.  In your life, it might be a child, a co-worker, a class at the local community center, or something else.  Don’t just become a lifelong learner, that buzz-word in today’s media, become a lifelong teacher as well. 

Did I try any new recipes or were there any special meals at our table?— You can see by the recipes that I posted on Sunday that we had a lovely brunch.  I highly recommend trying the cinnamon coffee if you don’t try any of the others.  It is so simple and very yummy.  This weekend, I made the following homemade: pasta salad, Cole slaw, green beans and potatoes, deviled eggs, popovers, biscuits, cheesy grits, flag toasts, and a flag cake.  My dad brought over brisket, pork and chicken that he smoked.  One night we had all natural hot dogs with the side dishes.  We enjoyed fresh corn from the farmers market, a watermelon that my dad brought over, and some fresh berries from our garden.   It was a weekend of eating, and I think I’ve gained a ton.  It was delicious, though!

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