There’s an international movement afoot, called Slow Food. It aims to be everything fast food is not. Slow Food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It is part of a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members in over 150 countries, which links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. There are chapters in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis. Oh yeah, and right here in my garden, in my kitchen and at my table. I was thinking about this today as I watered, weeded, mulched and harvested out in the garden, then again as I washed, cut up and cooked the freshest food money can’t buy. It doesn’t get much slower than seed to table but Michael and I have grown so accustomed to growing, preserving and cooking this way that fast food simply doesn’t appeal to us anymore!
This morning I piled straw around the growing potato plants-we’ve found this so much easier than the recommended hilling up of dirt around them, and-this is the best part-it seems to confuse the ‘tater bugs so we’ve never ever had a problem with them. As a bonus, that straw breaks down and simply decomposes right into the soil, adding much needed plant matter to our clay soil.
The local farmer we buy our rye straw from tells us he doesn’t use chemical herbicides or pesticides on the growing plants, so we feel safe using it in our organic garden. At least it hasn’t produced the dreaded ‘killer compost’ that I’ve read several scary reports about. This farmer also happens to be our neighbor and he’s a good steward of the land. He tells us farming will no longer support his family, so he’s taken an outside job as a firefighter. When we bought our bales from him earlier this week, he sat on the tailgate of our old farm truck, dirty and exhausted, telling us about the problems he’s facing with higher-MUCH higher- costs of everything connected with his operation of beef, sheep, and their food and bedding. He said even the baling twine for the straw bales has gone sky high, not to mention corn seed, diesel fuel for his tractor, and the liquid fertilizer that he buys by the tanker load. He also bemoaned the latest Farm Aid bill that simply ignores the little guy like himself, as well as new regulations that make it ‘illegal’ to hire seasonal help of anyone under 18 years old. He’s used local teens as seasonal help for many years, and now he can’t do that, and the teens of course will lose the income (which probably also helps their parents with some of the many expenses that teens have and severs their exposure to the actual experience of raising food!) He told us that the federal government is also fazing out 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America) and that there are new regulations against the showing of animals at the county fair that are over 6 months old. Even with all these mounting odds against him, he said he loves the farming life and will keep on until he simply can’t any longer. I’m pretty sure our farmer friend is promoting slow food in his own way. Slow food is not just cooking in a crock pot, it’s a lifestyle, and Chris certainly embodies that lifestyle!
Anyway, I digress. As I mulched the Chieftan Reds and Yukon Golds this morning, Michael set out heat resistant lettuce seedlings in a new bed, and fed some of the older stuff to the chickens…
We’ll have great salads again in a couple weeks, just about the time the lettuce and arugula growing in the greenhouse has bolted. I think part of the appeal of growing our food is the anticipation. It’s often hard to keep sowing successively every 10 days, to eliminate breaks in the favorite food supply. But it’s those very breaks that can make it so desirable. If we had salad every single day I don’t think it would be as special as it, having it in spurts like we do. I guess the closest we come to fast food these days is picking something fresh from the garden and eating it right where we stand- we’re both guilty of that pleasure. Growing organically can sometimes test our patience; none of the organic sprays or home remedies are nearly as fast-acting as conventional methods, but knowing that our slow food only requires a quick water spray before we eat it, makes it worth the wait. Can you see all that garlic growing in the picture above? Talk about slow food! We planted that last fall, and it won’t be ready for harvest til June, but it will keep us supplied for an entire year. That’s a LOT of garlic, because we use it almost daily. But once it’s planted and is then mulched for the winter, it’s carefree.
We’re going to be making a couple of longer trips in the next couple of weeks, so I decided to wash the van and vacuum it. (Junie’s ‘nose art’ had become a bit of a blur on all the windows.) As I went through the process of that infrequent chore, it occurred to me that I could’ve taken the van through the car wash. But the day was perfect, the birds were truly singing their hearts out, and I simply relaxed into the process and enjoyed it. While I had the hose out, I watered the slow growing celery that is growing right here in this first bed beside the driveway:
Celery is notorious for being finicky to grow, and you guessed it, being sllloowwww. But this bed will provide us with enough celery to eat fresh for many weeks and then enough dried to last the remainder of the year too. Worth the wait, considering a bunch of organic celery is going for $4-$5 each! And now we know why. I’ve always said that we couldn’t afford to eat as well as we do if we had to buy all this organic food. But this blog post isn’t so much about growing food as it is about the sensual pleasures and importance of our food choices in general; this movement seems to me to also be about a slower, simpler way of life that I’ve been talking and writing about for over a decade now. Slow Food is part of that too. It’s an idea, a way of living and a way of eating that’s good, clean and fair to everyone involved. And that’s worth slowing down for.
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