Addition to original post: I am not trying to be an alarmist, but I do want to be encouraging. We haven’t forgot all these skills in just a few years and we won’t re-learn them in that time frame either. But, while I long for the good ‘ol days once in awhile I like the times we live in too. Innovate and try new things, and ways to do them. I love MiG grazing with electric fencing, which is healing our land faster than my forebears could do with the tools available to them, so relish the good of modern times and change the bad if you are able, and do it at a pace that is comfortable for you. And thanks for all the great comments and dialogue!
I am in a position to grow almost all the food we eat, but I know many people are not. And it isn’t because I grew up on a farm or inherited farmland, my sisters did too, and they hardly grow anything they eat. It is a conscious choice my husband and I have made to live this way, and eschew the trappings of modern, consumer life. So how do we take charge of our food supply when we have entrusted this integral part of life to others for so long? It isn’t easy, but what I have discovered in my personal life is that something worth having or doing won’t be easy, and there will be bumps along the road.
But with food safety and supply becoming an issue these days, I am not going to advocate baby steps and sugar coat this post. I think you should probably not run, but walk swiftly in the other direction.
I think enough generations have passed now, that too many people really don’t have a clue to what it takes to get the food they eat to their table. And really, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves, if we didn’t buy into the convenience and cheap factor, “they” wouldn’t be able to sell it. We live in a free country, and we do pretty much what we want to with our time and money. So we have sacrificed a lot for actually a little. But enough ranting on my part – it’s back to school for all of us.
I think it is time for the consumer to step up and be responsible for what is put in their mouth. Everyone has fed a baby and watched them turn away from a spoon of gluck offered to them. I had to turn away from the gluck, (I am no stranger to a bag of Doritos or a can of Dr. Pepper to swill said Doritos down with) because my body can no longer take the preservatives and dyes in junk food. I love the taste, and hate the hangover it gives me. It just isn’t worth it anymore. If I eat processed food now, I am looking at a hour long nap at least, and then I am groggy for several more hours.
So what to do? I cook from scratch with unadulterated ingredients. But just finding the unadulterated ingredients can be hard. If you grow a garden or orchard, you know that the fruits of your labors will not all be uniform and keep forever. But when you go to the store, what do you see? Uniformity and sell by dates that are way beyond what a reasonable person would expect. So while it is great that the cream cheese will keep for 2 + years. Is that really what you want to be eating? So we as consumers need to educate ourselves. If we make our own cream cheese at home will it keep for two years? The answer is no. We need to go back in time, and relearn what we have lost. Our grandmothers knew this and now we don’t. And we have people who are scared of food. Scared of real food that spoils, because all that is available in the store is perfect, plastic looking food. Since I live with my food all the time, I am skeptical of food that keeps too long. I expect my raw milk to sour, and apples to go bad. I am my own produce manager, I have to clear out the soft fruit, and cut away the bad spots, and rotate my freezer and canning stores.
But, besides all that, people have to become more generalized and not so specialized when it comes to food production. We need to learn how crops are grown industrially to know if we want to buy them, and keep perpetuating an agricultural form that we all bitch and complain about at the water cooler or soiree, and then turn around and purchase something produced out of season doused with who knows what chemicals. I know everyone is enamored with Michael Pollan these days, but he really turned me off when I saw a segment on Martha Stewart where he was promoting his book, In Defense of Food. I did not expect much from Martha, since when she wants something she gets it, but I did expect more from Pollan. After extolling the virtues of eating local, organic, blah, blah, blah, they cooked up a meal of Copper River Salmon (Alaska) and baked some kale chips. Oh gee, A+ on the dried out kale, but expensive non-local salmon flown to New York! F-! And that F means flunked. Organic and wild should not be for the elite, and famous only, it should be for everybody or at least regionally - but everybody needs to stand up for themselves and demand it. But you have to know what you are demanding. So learn how crops are grown, do you really think a perennial like asparagus will grow in a 100 acre field with no weeds? Does anything in your garden grow like that? Probably not. In my garden, I want the weeds to look healthy too, that tells me what is going on in the soil. The same with bugs – a bite here and there is OK, an infestation means something is wrong. Poor soil, not enough water… . It isn’t normal in nature for infestations or abnormal growth to occur. And cancer is an abnormal growth. Healthy plants resist attack from pests and disease. It works the same for humans and livestock too. If we kill all the bugs when we see them, we never see the truth about why they are there in the first place.
I know I am either preaching to the choir or am making someone mad, but really when I look back at my blog and see photos of 50+ swallows on our barn last summer, and this year I see 10 – 15. I make the connection, their trip through sunny California wasn’t so safe. Those swallows are insect eaters, if they eat too many insects that have been sprayed with poison after awhile they will die or not be able to reproduce. I read blogs about farming that isn’t organic, because I can learn from them. Not what I want to put into practice, but what I don’t want to bring into my house. Recently on a blog that I read, one of the family members was diagnosed with cancer, the chemical farming went on while this family member underwent more chemical treatment. To no avail, gone, dead, leaving memories. Profession? Chemical salesman to farmers – probably visiting the farms on a regular basis, week after week getting a higher dose of what he was selling. They don’t make the connection. It makes me sad.
So if you make the connection – learn all you can. Decide for yourself if that weed, or the bug bite on your produce is really that important to eradicate. Read farm magazines, organic and conventional. Inform yourself, so you know. If you buy at a farmers market, don’t just go for the prettiest produce, get to know the farmers and find farmers that have values that mirror your own.
Our bodies have to filter out all the toxins that our modern world throws at us – it is up to all of us to decide which ones are worth it. For more reading on the subject of taking charge of your food supply, read the entries on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s. You will be sure to find something there that will pique your interest!