Today we’ll be giving away an assortment of heirloom seeds from Seed Savers Exchange to one of our lucky readers! Be sure to post your Real Food Challenge progress at the end of the post. We’ll use a random number generator to choose the winner – only one entry per household please!
Now that things have calmed down here, I have again been able to focus on the Real Food Challenge completely. I’ve felt that I haven’t been able to put my heart into it as much as I’ve wanted between having Mom stay with us for two weeks, then staying with her for a week. So, here at Unearthing this Life I’ve been back to making enough bread, baking pitas, cooking tortillas, beans, and soaking grains. We even got around to making yogurt cheese, which the Kid ate up in two days!
Since spring has officially arrived, we’ve been picking wild greens and blossoms including chickweed, dandelions, violets, and redbud blossoms. Hubby’s not too keen on the bitterness of some of the wild foods, but the Kid loves them. We just have to teach her to look before she picks and to avoid, um, animal potty spots! We’ve also had the first few asparagus spears pop up in addition to some leftover kale from winter’s garden.
Finally, we live less than five miles from an organic farm/CSA that allows us to choose how many veggies we want to purchase. I love that we’re not locked into a box of goods considering how much I garden. Thursday I picked up a bag of carrots that wintered over, some rutabagas, and some spinach. I’m loving the fresh veggies!
Here at Chiot’s Run the week has been hectic as usual. The weather was very nice at the beginning of the week and we were able to get out and start work on our new plot of land that will become a large vegetable plot. For me, early spring is a time when the excitement of eating fresh from the garden vegetables starts to grow. I dream of delicious fresh peas as I plant them around their supports. I think about juicy red tomatoes in August when I start sorting through my seeds. Eating healthy real food isn’t a challenge for me during these time, my body craves lots of fresh greens at the end of a long dark winter. This week we enjoyed a lot of freshly harvested weeds from the yard, mostly bitter cress and dandelion. Garlic mustard is just starting to emerge and will start to make up a large part of our salads. There’s something so wonderful about harvesting things you didn’t sow.
Since it’s citrus season we’ve been enjoying lots of it. One of my lovely blog readers sent me a box of beautiful lemons from his tree and we’ve been enjoying lemon scones, lemon bars and lemon pound cake. I also make some lemon sugar and lemon salt along with a some frozen lemon juice to preserve the taste for this coming summer. I plan on making a batch or two of lemon syrup that I can use to make lemonade during the long hot days working in the new garden this summer. We’re finishing off the last of the grapefruit from the huge box I purchased back in February and I have a few Meyer lemons hanging on in the basement pantry.
Our main focus of the Real Food Challenge was our pets and getting them on to Real Whole Food from local sources. The dog is loving her new diet, she gobbles up her portions readily every morning and evening. The outdoor cats are also loving their new diet of local chicken and vegetables, which they supplement with mice, chipmunks, birds, and other things they catch in the garden and the garage. Miss Mama has slimmed down considerably from the photo above after being put on Real Food. She’s one of our garage cats, a feral mama that moved her kittens into our garage this past summer. One of our indoor cats is enjoying the new diet, but our two oldest cats are still holding out. It’s been a few days since the kibble ran out and they haven’t eaten a thing (besides some dried catmint I sprinkled on the floor for them). One of these days they’ll get hungry enough to eat the new food, I’m just wondering how long it will be. All-in-all, our Real Food challenge has been going well.
Overall, the Real Food Challenge was more challenging for us this year than it was last year. For one thing, last year it was new, and was filling me with the soul of righteousness (Testify, Sister! Praise the Lord and Micheal Pollan, not necessarily in that order!) This year Real Food had become almost routine, and as with any routine, you tend to slip around it. So I found myself falling into the HFCS miasma via Hershey bars a little more often than I’d like.
The other difficulty was our insane March schedule. Between my musican-husband’s rehearsal and performance calendar, car-sharing with my daughter and my own late teaching nights, I found myself able to plan and cook only a couple of nights a week. My head is brimming with ideas for late-winter meals from the ever-diminishing larder, but my reality is leftovers.
But my main focus this year, on inspiring young adults to explore Real Food, has been inspiring to me as well. I taught my daughter Nga Jee a traditional family favorite. She’ll be here on Sunday to help with the garden, introduce me to her boyfriend, and cook a vegetarian lasagna (the boyfriend is here as forced labor– I need someone to help put up the rabbit fencing, and I figure he can’t refuse since he has to impress me!) I also got started on my summer Hipster Supported Agriculture projects; more about that in my regular post on Monday. But the best personal satisfaction I got was when Nga Jee, not a particularly politically-motivated individual, chose Real Food and sustainable agriculture as the topic for a college research paper. She’s been reading everything from USDA reports to literature from Weston A. Price, and is feeling a little bit of the righteousness herself. I think if I was not so committed to this, the topic would not have occurred to her.
Thus the small pebbles that each of us throws in the pond creates ripples that, I hope, change the world.
This week has been the most challenging yet for us at Tanglewood Farm. We began the week in Chicago, and I’m sure if we lived there we would be able to find resources for real food with no problems. Unfortunately, we aren’t very familiar with the area so we were eating out with friends and I was left trying to find foods that leaned towards real in restaurants that seemed to be completely unfamiliar with the concept. Ah well.
By Monday night we were back home and settled in to a week of busy preparation for several happenings scheduled throughout the week. We were able to enjoy flaxseed/raspberry yogurt smoothies for breakfasts, and a few mixed greens salads topped with a simple local goat cheese for lunches. Wednesday was a book signing for my comic-book-creating-husband, so we did eat out this week but when we did we were able to find simple, real foods from a local restaurant.
My greatest real-food endeavor this week was the horse show I ran. I coordinate at least five horse shows a year for the barn where I work. My husband runs concessions (what a guy!) while I run show office and while it makes for a stressful day it’s totally worth it to see my students, and the folks who trailer their horses in to the show, learning to show their horses in a fun and laid back environment. I don’t know whose idea it was to put me in charge of buying concessions to sell, but I have been working over the last two years or so to make the horse show menus as real-food-saturated as possible.
This weekend was the first show of the year so we were very disorganized, but we did manage to sell all natural, grassfed beef hot dogs with no nitrates on whole wheat buns (with no artificial sweeteners!), potato chips in which the ingredients were simply potatoes, sunflower oil and sea salt, little baggies of trail mix, free trade organic coffee with cane sugar and stevia as sweeteners and local cream rather than chemical creamer, bottled water in biodegradable bottles and canned soda with natural sugars. In addition to this we also sold big-name candy bars which is always a sticking point. Horse show attendees love to buy candy and sweets because their days are long, exhausting and stressful. In the future I hope to substitute the big-name candies with organic chocolate covered pretzels and other simple-to-make sweets that I can pull off a few days before the show without them going stale. It will be a challenge, but last year Michigan changed their food-sales laws and it is now legal to sell baked goods (and other “cottage foods”) to the public without procuring the use of a commercial kitchen, so despite the added stress of having to bake before a horse show, at least it won’t be illegal!
I admit that last night after the horse show we crashed both physically and morally into a dinner of carry out with nary a real food to be found. It’s relapses like these, and the adverse reactions afterward (“Ugh, I don’t feel good.”), that remind me how important real foods are to us on many levels. You just have to chip away bit-by-bit at old habits until you’re left with new habits, or even a new lifestyle!
How has your week of the Real Food Challenge been?
edit: we’ll hold the drawing on Wednesday, March 30th – so you’ll have until then to post your progress!
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