Tennesseetransitions


Eating Locally

On this snowy day, I’m recalling some recent conversations with friends asking what exactly am I eating that is fresh and local in this kind of weather? So, I made a list. I consider food that I grew last summer and preserved in some way fair game when making such a list but italicized them below so  you can tell what’s ‘fresh’ and what’s ‘preserved’. All grown or available right.here. 

Here’s what we’re eating these days: corn and corn meal, cilantro, tomatoes-yes, we’re still enjoying fresh Longkeeper tomatoes harvested in October-cabbage, broccoli, beets, parsnips, white potatoes and sweet potatoes, green beans, kale, parsley, herbs, butternut and spaghetti squash, pesto, salsa, dried beans, jams, V-8 and grape juices, peas, edamame, jams and jellies, honey, teas, hot sauces, salsa, flour and corn tortillas, corn bread and yeast bread, apple sauce, carrots, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, onions and garlic, molasses, and peppers and occasionally eggs, goat’s milk or goat cheese are given to me by friends. We also had fresh lettuce until just recently but the cold finally did it in, mostly due to our failure to protect it well. We enjoy stir fries, soups, pasta sauces, and one pot meals most of the time, occasionally splurging on a pizza from Main Street Pizza since they grow their own toppings on their nearby farm. There are lots of other local foods available that we occasionally enjoy but don’t grow ourselves-from  wheat for grinding into flour, to pumpkins, meats, cheeses, apples, pears and other fruits. I suppose most any food you might want can be found locally at some time of the year anyway! (OK, oranges and seafood excluded, but certainly some kinds of fish are available.) Rice, olive oil and spices are my main import exceptions, although rice is being grown in South Carolina now and I hope to buy from there this year. How far does ‘local’ go? That’s for you to define. Some say 100 miles, others feel 250 is still local. And why does eating local foods matter so much to me?

  1. Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
  2. Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
  3. Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.
  4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
  5. More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore, loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.
  6. New and better flavors: When you commit to buy more local food, you’ll discover interesting new foods, tasty new ways to prepare food and a new appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
  7. Good for the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture—single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.
  8. Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism—farmers’ markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
  9. Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
  10. Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers.

So, I’ve told  you what I’m eating these days and why. Now I’ll leave you with a little pictorial  of what we’ve been enjoying at my house…are  you eating any local foods that aren’t pictured here? Am I missing anything? 

 

 

 

 



Gardening As If Our Lives Depended On It

As if I didn’t already have enough to tend, now I’ve planted watermelons and lima beans too. Some unexpected space opened up at the Peace Gardens for me, and I was eager to plant seeds I’d saved but didn’t have room to grow again.  BUT, they’re not just any ol’ melons and beans. These are ‘Moon and Stars’ heirloom seeds that my Grandmama and Mary, our family-maid-turned-surrogate mother-to-me, used to grow, and the beans are Hopi Orange Limas which beat green Limas all to hell for taste and beauty. See nature’s works of art for  yourself:

hopi beans

As a girl, the moons and stars on the watermelons fascinated me and I remember once lining them up in the grass like the solar system in the sky. These are definitely seed-spittin’ melons, but since I’m the only one growing them in the community garden this year, I’m going to be saving some of those spittin’ seeds for the future. The Hopi Limas aren’t new to my garden, but I can’t grow them when other types of Limas are being grown nearby for fear the two will cross and ‘contaminate’ my seed for the future. But this year, no other Limas are in the immediate vicinity, and because I’ve almost run out of my supply of dried Hopis, it seemed the perfect time to grow them again. They can be eaten fresh or dried, and when cooked with butter, salt and pepper and maybe even a tiny piece of salt pork, they are what the Hopi Indians might call “Heap Good” 😉  

 I’ve also planted some ‘Turkey Craw’ beans that were originally given to me by a man that grows them for Baker Creek Seed Company. An heirloom from the southern states of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, the original seed is said to come from a turkey’s craw brought home by a hunter who is thought to have been an African American slave in the 1800s. I’ve grown these pole beans and saved my own seeds several times, and enjoy the beans fresh or dried. I love the idea that two centuries later I’m growing some of the same beans that people- and turkeys- have been eating in this tiny part of our world for all those years.

Turkey Craw Bean

To further round out my personal survival food supply, I’ll be growing Hopi Blue Dent Corn again. It can be eaten fresh but I prefer modern super sweet hybrids for that and instead intend to save the dried kernels for making corn meal. One of the first ‘major appliances’ Michael and I invested in when we got married was an electric grain mill and we’ve never regretted it. Not only does this corn make the bluest corn bread around, it is sweet and nutty, just like we love it! So, when the zombies arrive, we’ll have “Heap Good Cornbread” too.

My personal quest for self reliance in uncertain times begins in my garden. It’s my security blanket. It’s a true food ‘bank’ for me, with carefully saved seeds being like money in that bank. You’d think I’d grown up poverty stricken and hungry but happily I was neither. These heirloom varieties I’m growing could not only offer personal survival during hard times, but along with some potatoes, long keeper squash and eggs, yes, eggs! and greens, we could actually thrive, even if it’s all we had. I hope I never have to test that theory, but it is what I’ve distilled from reading a lot of “hard times” gardening advice over the years.

The good news is that these so-called survival  foods can promote health and happiness in good times and bad. Not only can they help us achieve greater control over our personal food supply, they’re also good tasting and able to adapt to endless ways of preparing them. They’re easy to store and offer a gardener the opportunity to never have to buy seeds again, which really is the key to self sufficiency.

If all this talk of hard times and survival gardening bothers you, realize that survival gardening really is a way of life that has been accepted since man first began planting seeds. It was quickly recognized that growing food made it far easier to feed oneself than the methods that hunter-gatherers had to endure in order to survive. Our more modern ancestors, perhaps your grandparents, or even your parents, may have depended on their gardens during wars or the Great Depression; I’ve always heard that Victory Gardens provided the US with 40% of the fresh vegetables that Americans ate during both World Wars. So, survival gardens are nothing new friends.  A line in the tune ‘The Garden Song’, written just 17 years ago, goes like this: “I feel the need to grow my own, ’cause the time is close at hand”. I’m gardening as if my life depended on it and looking at this old war poster, my beans would’ve been welcome during those hard times.



Vegucation: A Vegetable Growing Primer

Growing food is THE best way that I know of to create a resilient and prosperous household. We all eat, most of us three times a day. And we all know by now that the bulk of our calories should come from fruits and veggies. So why not improve your health and  your wealth, while learning what I call a valuable ‘life skill’? It’s a real vegucation!

I thought it might be helpful to if I passed on some new things I’ve learned about growing spring vegetables. So, for what it’s worth:

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2. Remember the cold snap that I tried to prepare for over the weekend? I covered half my cabbages with overturned coffee cans, and when they ran out, I covered the other half with a tarp. The cans clearly did a better job of protecting them.

Before Freeze:

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After freeze:

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The bok choy on the left was the section covered with a tarp. See how badly it got bit by the cold? The ones on the right are fine!

3. Don’t plant things too close together, especially if your soil is deficient in nutrition…

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4. Learn to identify things you don’t understand. That’s why God made the Internet after all. In this picture, I kinda figured the root on this tomato I pulled out last year didn’t look quite ‘right’…

20141015_133838I sent this image to a state extension agent late last fall, and then forgot about it as we moved into winter. I got a recent email from him telling me it was ‘root knot nematodes’. Some organic control methods include increased sanitation and fertilization, solarization of the soil, increase of organic matter, letting the bed lie fallow for a season and planting resistant varieties. I’ve been gardening for many years and had never seen this in my beds but I pass it on to you as simply a part of your own vegucation.

5. EAT WHAT YOU HARVEST (or, in some cases, eat whatever comes in your CSA!)  PLAN YOUR MEALS AROUND IT AND LEARN TO USE IT IN MULTIPLE WAYS! Some day, I’m going to write that seasonal cookbook I’ve been dreaming about for several years. That didn’t happen today, but I did try a Hungarian-inspired recipe that used up some ‘seen better days’ potatoes, cellar-stored beets, cabbage, carrots, beans and more. I piled it all in my solar cooker this morning and the veggies were tender in 6 hours, giving me plenty of time to work in the garden, run errands and write this post.  I love the caraway flavor in this stew! Can I grow caraway in my herb bed? I don’t know, but I think I’ll increase my ‘vegucation’ to find out.

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(Solar Reflections of Hungarian Stew)



Frugal Friday- January 23, 2015
January 23, 2015, 11:14 AM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a rough week in my household..family members with health issues, middle of winter blahs, and nothing much to look forward to except spring. Even so, I feel blessed each and every day that I’m healthy and that I have ‘enough’. Enough money, food, clothes, love, stuff. I could use a few more homemade chocolate chip cookies in my life, but I’ll live.

Regardless of what goes on in our daily lives, learning to live well with less is a saving grace that will see you through good times and bad. Ask me how I know.

And so, this week was no different in terms of “using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without.” The old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping” is sooo 80’s! Malls are standing empty all over America, and I’m hoping that they’ll all eventually be converted into indoor garden spaces with all those glass ceilings and atriums being put to good use at long last. But that’s another topic for another day. Today’s topic is frugality, not malls.

Monday: I finally made it to our town’s new Aldi’s grocery store AND used the $5 off $30 coupon they offered. I forgot to take a picture of the coupon before I used it, so I went looking online for one. I didn’t find the actual coupon, but I like the pic I found instead:

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“Truth #1: When deciding between eating well and saving money, always choose both”

Tuesday: I stopped by the ‘discount’ grocery store that’s about 8 miles away because I was in that area for other errands. I was  hoping to find some more of the veggie burgers there that I’d gotten before. No luck with that, but I did find 3 boxes of Gulf Wax for $2.99 each! I use this mostly for making Buckeye candies for gift-giving at Christmas;  just last month I’d run out and had to pay full price for a box, costing me $7.99. Ugh. I bought all 3 boxes they had on the shelf, saving $5  per box over the regular price. The last time I was able to stock up was years ago, when I’d found it for 25 cents a box at a yard sale, and had bought all 6 boxes the lady had, so this deal wasn’t ‘all that’, but the pain of paying full price for that one box made me certain this buy was about as good as I could hope for now. This is what I’m talking about when I advise you to “plan ahead” and to be on the lookout for your future needs. And in the case of this wax, it never goes out of date. I used to use it seal jars of jelly, until I started using reusable Tattler canning lids. Even then, I’d wash it once I opened the jars, and remelt it again for the next jars I filled. My Tattler supply is limited though, so I may go back to pouring that 1/8″ disk of melted wax again, now that I have ample supplies. Total Savings: $15.00.

Wednesday: After a brief hiatus of using antibiotic soaps and cleaners while Michael was going through chemo and radiation treatments, I’m back to using the natural cleaners I’ve used for over ten years. And this time, I found exactly what I was looking for… 20150110_161016 AND it was 74 cents cheaper per bottle than Heinz White Distilled Vinegar, while being 6% acidic vs 5% for the ‘regular’ white! The higher acidity cleans better too, in my opinion.

Thursday: We made a trip to the ‘Mennonite Bulk Food Store’. We only make it there about once a year, and we ended up spending $60.00. However, about half of that was spent on a 50 lb bag of rolled oats. We eat oatmeal for breakfast every single morning and never, ever tire of it for some reason. Not only do we not tire of it, we ENJOY it with cinnamon, raisins, apples, or honey added. We figure the bags last 6 months so the oatmeal costs us 15 to 20 cents a bowl, depending on what we add to it. Buying the extras at this bulk food store saves a lot if we shop carefully. We noticed that prices on many items today were higher than when we were last there. But the price of the oats remained exactly the same: $29.00!

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 Friday:  I’m doing a lot of cooking from scratch this week, trying to use lots of fresh stuff like kale, cabbage and broccoli from the garden, mushrooms and avocados bought at Aldi’s for 49 cents, and storage crops like apples, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash. We’ve enjoyed a Monday stir fry, a spicy Tuesday Jambalaya, a Wednesday au gratin of potatoes/kale/mushrooms, and a Thursday Curry. Bowls of rice pudding made with added raisins and ‘storage’ apples, and sweet sweet tangelos that were a Christmas gift make good snacks for us.

Tonight, friends are coming over to play music with us, so we’ll have burritos made with refried pintos and rice, topped with grated cabbage and chunks of FRESH Longkeeper tomatoes (will they last until Valentine’s Day?)  summer-canned salsa, and some black olives, grated cheese and sour cream that were left-over from a previous get-together we had. The flour tortillas were bought for $1.00 at the discount store, making them 10 cents each. (Heating them briefly in the microwave, with damp paper towels placed between each one, makes them taste completely fresh after I’ve frozen them.)

We’ve just finished the third full week of January, and haven’t spent but about $100 on food this month, including the bulk items we purchased yesterday. But with just a little advance planning, we’re eating delicious, frugal and healthy meals every day in this ‘Winter of Wellness’. Savings? well, you know… priceless!



Jimmy started all of this…
August 27, 2014, 9:51 PM
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Canning, Resilience | Tags: , ,

What got me to thinking about Jimmy Carter was hearing that this weekend he’s going to be a keynote speaker at a Muslim convention in Detroit. The man deserved his Nobel is all I can say! Now back to the topic at hand…

I’ll admit it. My zest for canning, drying, freezing and fermenting has changed over the years from a casual experiment  into a  complete lifestyle change. The first time I slipped hot green beans into a sterilized jar, screwed a metal lid and band on it, and then ate those late summer beans months later at Christmas, my now-40-year old daughter was a newborn, and I was hooked on canning!

Three years later Jimmy Carter became President and just two weeks into his new presidency he began hosting his ‘Fireside Chats’ while wearing a Mr. Rogers cardigan sweater, as he sat by the fireplace in the West Wing of the White House. Those chats encouraged us Americans to use less energy, and told us how important it was to have an energy policy that focused on conserving the nation’s natural resources.

carter I liked and admired President Carter very much but his message, along with an inflation rate of 20% (!) and a stock market that lost 40% of its’ value in 18 months time was pretty damn scary to me. So, what does a young mother of four little girls do when faced with the war in Vietnam that was in its’ 19th year, Russians standing in long, long lines to get extremely scarce toilet paper, ( I don’t remember why), all while living 600 miles from her nearest relative? Besides stocking up on toilet paper, I began growing food. And canning it. It gave me a sense of self-sufficiency and control over that scary world. Some things never change I guess. 37 years later, we still don’t have that national energy policy, and I’m still keeping our scary world at bay by keeping plenty of TP and beans on hand.

Studies show that people focus more on material things when they feel insecure, and I was certainly insecure as a too-young mom. I’m happy to say that I feel more secure at this stage of my life than I ever have, but I still continue to grow and preserve as much as I can. I’m certain there are still security issues hidden in there somewhere, but by this time, I consider it normal. We all have our ‘issues’ I guess, but if growing food, having a fully stocked pantry, and living by the belief that ‘we are what we eat’ is an ‘issue’ for me, I think it’s a good one to have. Michael was exposed to Listeria earlier this summer due to peaches that were later recalled-oops! and that experience, along with his colon cancer, has certainly made both of us more conscious than ever of how important food is to our health, both mental and physical. Jimmy Carter must be doing something right too-he’ll be 90 years old on October 1st and he’s still building habitats, growing peanuts, and teaching peace. God love him.

why-do-we-can-so-much

 



What’s for Supper?
July 24, 2014, 9:09 PM
Filed under: Local Food, Seasonal Eating | Tags: , , ,

taters

I really enjoyed the rainy weather here in NE Tennessee last weekend! It got me OUT of the garden and IN-to the kitchen. I finished canning the last of the green beans and cooked a pot for supper, along with those little, teeny, tiny Yukon gold potatoes that you just have to wash- the skins are so thin that no peeling or cutting is even necessary. Most people don’t bother to harvest those babies→ but I gather them all up when we dig our crop, right along with the big ones.  I throw ’em right in the pot with the beans, chopped onions and a dash of bacon grease. The beans and baby taters, along with our very first ears of Kandy Korn from the corn plot down at the community garden, fat slices of  heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes and grilled garlic bread along with a sliver or two of the leftover rotisserie chicken I splurged on earlier this week make a frugal, dee-li-shus supper with very little prep time.

I also used eggs from my friend’s backyard flock to make deviled eggs  as well as bowls of potato salad and cole slaw that made good use of our home-grown cabbage, carrots, potatoes, red onions and herbs. We enjoyed the salads with our salmon/cucumber sandwiches for lunch today and have enough left for several more meals. Good golly Miss Molly, we’re eatin’ good these days!

supper

 

So, what’s for supper at YOUR house? Do you find  yourself eating more local and seasonal foods these days? Got any recipes you want to share? Comment below ↓

 



Adapting to the Heat is Kinda Cool!
July 11, 2014, 8:03 AM
Filed under: Adapting to Change | Tags: , , ,

This blog hasn’t been very active lately, even though I think about it a lot. (that counts doesn’t it?) It occurred to me today that part of the reason I’ve been quiet is because I’m back into that summer time groove of gardening and “puttin’ food by”. It’s such a natural and routine part of my life that I guess I considered it rather, well,  too routine and not interesting enough to write about. So, I tried to look at my daily activities through your eyes, hoping to see some ‘transitioning patterns’ or ideas that I might share with you. 

Transitioning to a way of life that involves using less fossil fuels and adapting to a warming climate can cover a lot of activities, from adapting our daily routines to the vagaries of the weather to eating cooler, lighter foods in summer than those we eat during the colder months. I’ve found that working in the heat of the day makes me pretty miserable so I’m waking earlier and earlier to beat the heat. Right after breakfast I walk to the community garden to inspect the live traps we set each night for the raccoon mama and her teenage son (or daughter) that are waiting, right along with us, for the corn to ripen. So far, we’ve only caught two smallish rats, but regardless of what live animal gets tricked into going into traps, I don’t want them to suffer, like I do, in the heat of the day, so I go early to check, and then to get my days’ gardening chores completed. I finish just as the sweat begins to drip off my chin. After a brief rest at home, I take my daily walk with the dog because I worry about her burning her paws on the asphalt or overheating in her black fur coat. Days are spent in front of the fan, snapping, slicing, dicing-and drinking sweet apple mint tea 😉

This week I’ve been…

canning beans…

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drying zucchini slices…

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and chopping peppers for drying…

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We harvested the onions this week, so I’m taking advantage of the sun to cure them for a few days…

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while cooking our supper too!

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We aren’t doing any baking these days because heating the oven is simply not worth it. My west-facing kitchen windows can really allow a lot of heat in in the late afternoons, even with the shades drawn, so if I’m not using the solar cooker, I cook my evening meal before that happens, generally right after lunch. That leaves me all afternoon and evening to pursue other projects. Last night I cut down a small tree to make way for a greenhouse that’s going to be put in its’ place. Tonight I moved all the rockers and crap things off the front porch and scrubbed the accumulated road dirt and dust off the siding and floor, all while enjoying the shady side of the house in the barefoot comfort of cool hose water. Tomorrow evening I plan to attend the opening reception of a new art exhibit at a nearby downtown gallery called “Lens on the Larder: Food Ways of Appalachia”; I’m already looking forward to walking there in the cool of the evening and enjoying some local foods, photography and stories. Who says transitioning to this way of life is somehow difficult or hard? It often just requires some simple adjustments to our schedules, menus or clothing.

Before the days of central heating and air, everyone worked and slept by the rising and setting of the sun. Farmers and field workers often enjoyed their main meal, or ‘dinner’, at noon, giving them an opportunity to fully refuel after a morning’s work outside, while also offering them a respite until later in the afternoon when the sun wasn’t as high. Front porches served as the warmer-months living rooms, and summer kitchens were screened affairs where the days’ cooking, eating and canning took place. Corn was shucked and beans were broken while sitting under the shade of a tree. Folks were completely tuned in to the sun, the rain and the seasons. I’m trying to adapt to that way of life as well, and though I enjoy turning on the AC at times, I’m happiest with the windows open. Thinking back, I attended an un-air conditioned school and lived in a house without it, all while growing up in central Alabama. We didn’t suffer, it was just part of summer!

I recently covered my upstairs skylight with newspaper to prevent the sun from shining in so brightly, and it really did help with the heat buildup up there! Each evening, when the outside temperature drops to a lower point than the inside air, I turn on the window fans up there to further cool things off. We sleep on the first floor of our home, which is naturally cooler, and have gotten so used to the ‘white noise’ that the fan provides that it’s become like a sleeping pill for us. One summer while I lived in California, the state was experiencing ‘rolling brownouts’ where the electrical usage was cut during the hottest parts of the day. During those times our office ‘adapted’ by allowing us to wear shorts and sandals, changing lunch break times and doing those tasks that didn’t require electricity: filing, phone calls, and data entry on our battery operated lap tops got us through. Our own electric company is working towards a similar setup here in NE TN, where we can voluntarily sign up for ‘time of day’ usage rates, which will be lower than regular rates. It saves them power and us money, but it’s all about adapting any way you look at it.  For me, adapting to the heat just means doing my work in the cooler hours, eating meals on the porch, and napping or reading in the heat of the day. I enjoy a greater sense of resiliency by changing with the seasons and find it’s kinda cool actually!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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