I’m a 30 year old black man who grew up in the some of the rougher “hoods” of NYC. On any corner you can find, a liquor store, a Mc Donalds, a Kansas Fried Chicken fast food spot and a “corner store” that makes most of its profit from sodas and juice, as well as cigars used to wrap “blunts” or marijuana cigarettes.
I knew nothing about natural anything. I had no idea what organic was, what buying local meant, or what I would do with the fresh foods I passed at the Union Square farmers market. I never heard of homesteading, or sustainability. All I knew was death through processed foods and hard liquor and slavery to a system that only cares about profiting from us.
I am now aware there is another way and I thirst for it. I am intimidated by what I have learned. Change can be scary but I thirst for it now. I need to learn more and more.
I really appreciate this blog as well as this post in particular. I’m sorry for the long-winded comment but I am simply excited to be on this journey.
I see a lot of you making comments already make foods from scratch. A lot of you already garden and grow your own organic fruits vegetables and herbs. I also know some of you already know how to, can, bottle and pickle your foods….
….My question is how does someone like myself learn to live this life? Is it a matter of searching one recipe at a time on the internet? Is it a matter of going to a school like http://www.iuhoakland.com/ to learn these skills? What are your suggestions? from facethelove
When I read this comment I thought it deserved a dedicated post. I’m sure there are many of you are wondering the same thing. How do you get started down the road of homesteading, growing food, canning, pickling, making things from scratch, etc?
My first main piece of advice is to START SLOWLY!
When we first read a book, see a movie, or hear something that makes us want to make big changes to our lifestyle it’s easy to get a little overzealous. We want to clear our pantry of all processed foods and start making everything from scratch. We want to avoid pesticide and irradiated produce from the grocery store so we decide we need to grow it all ourselves. We decide that storing food in plastic is killing us so we need to spend hundreds replacing all of our plastic containers. We no longer feel comfortable eating meat from the grocery store and want to make sure the cow was allowed to eat grass and the chicken was allowed to peck for bugs. We decide we need to buy a big chest freezer and a half a cow, and we needed to do it all yesterday! But this can be a HUGE mistake! There’s nothing worse than making changes that you can’t stick to, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, or the changes will most likely not stick. You may end up back where you started, hundreds of dollars wasted and feeling guilty. That is why I recommend starting small, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your family (because if you have a spouse or kids, they’ll be making these changes along with you).
Here are a few of my recommendations if you want to turn around your life:
1) Give yourself time, it took a lifetime to learn you current bad habits, give yourself time to change. Be patient, it may take a while to find local sources for things you want, or to find a recipe that works for your family and it may take you a while to learn how to make the perfect bread.
2) Start small. I recommend trying to source eggs and meat locally as you’re your first venture. It’s actually fairly easy to find eggs that a neighbor or local farmer is producing that are much better quality. Meat and poultry is also fairly easy to source. If you live in a city, you may have to take a Saturday and drive outside of town to find a farm, but take the family long, talk to the farmer, tour the farm, it’s of great educational value not just to your children but to yourself as well. If you want to start growing your own food, start with a small 4×10 garden, grow things that can be harvested rather quickly and that are fairly easy to grow: lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber…
3) Decide how often you can feasibly incorporate new foods, through learning to cook them, buying them, sourcing them locally, or growing them yourself. I’d recommend maybe one per week. Head to the farmers market and pick out something you’ve never tried before, if you have children, let them choose, they’re more likely to be excited about the new venture if they’re involved in making the decisions. That gives you time to learn to cook each thing.
4) Try to find others around you, friends or neighbors, that are already doing a few of these things and connect with them, they can be an invaluable resource of knowledge. You can ask gardening advice, they might even give you seeds or plants. They can help you with your first batch of canning. Most of us who are living this kind of lifestyle already are thrilled when others want to join and are more than willing to share what we know. Build a support network of local folks, these people will be an invaluable resource for you, and who knows what kinds of relationships will spring from this journey. You may find a spouse, a future best friends, or get to know one of your neighbors.
5) Be patient and persevere. It will take a LONG time to feel like you’ve mastered something. You may not like bok choi the first or the second time you cook it, but keep trying. You may find you never like it, but trying it and learning to appreciate things you don’t love is an important part of this journey. You may fail at making bread so many times, but don’t feel bad about feeding your compost pile as you try. One day you’ll make the perfect bread and it will all be worth it.
6) Learning to appreciate food for it’s nourishing qualities instead of it’s taste is something we could all spend some time on. Food should be good, but sometimes the things we make to replace store bought items don’t quite cut it, we eat them anyway because we don’t want to waste food. It’s an important lesson to learn, especially for children, while you eat your simple, not super great meal, talk about all the people in the world that don’t have a choice, those that don’t have food or don’t have good food.
Any questions from newbies or great advice from our seasoned veterans in this area?