After the Flood

It has been a while since I’ve been here. I could say it’s the busy time of year, but for me, all times of the year are busy.  I write, I run a household, I raise and preserve a good deal of my own food, and I have friends and family to whom I willingly give some time.

I could blame all I have to do, but it would be a lie.  What it is, is the weather.  Just past the halfway mark, we’ve already had a years’ worth of rain.

I prefer rain to drought because I live on high ground and I’m terrified of wildfires.  And war. Politics and weather!  It’s all enough to make one feel anxious.

One night a couple of weeks ago, we got seven inches of rain here, and two more inches in the two days following.  Now, I’m not going to complain.  I’m one of the lucky ones.  The creek behind my house didn’t overflow onto my garden.  My chickens survived the deluge.  It seems selfish to say that all I suffered was anxiety.

I had no television reception or WiFi, but by the back window I had a Hotspot.  My eyes were glued to videos of houses slipping off their eroded banks into the Cimarron River, of barges loose on the Arkansas and crashing into the dam downstream.  All this misery!  But humans are nothing if not resilient…and dangerous.  How much of this have we brought on ourselves?

Following every rain since, I’ve had to go out into the garden and scoop dirt on exposed potatoes, but they are lovely potatoes, and they will be dug in their good time.

I’ve discarded old tomato cages that loosen their Earth Staple moorings and fall over when the ground gets soft.  Now I use deep stakes, nothing fancy.  It works, and I’ve harvested my first Mexican Midget tomatoes and Jimmy Nardello peppers.

Life is as good as you make it.  Being anxious doesn’t help, even if you can’t help being anxious.  But there’s a remedy.  Go out to the garden.  Count your chickens and gather eggs.  Make a meal for someone.  Give some of your fresh produce away.  Breathe deeply.  Love.

Buying Local

I buy as much of my produce at the farmers’ market…actually at two or three farmers’ markets in my area…as I possibly can.  I’m not doing it to be kind, although it is a good thing to buy from local producers.  I buy local to insure that local farmers can earn something for their work, so they don’t give up farming. I need them!

For several years, I placed a monthly order with the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  It was an Oklahoma treasure–grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, cheese and yogurt from grass-fed cows, freshly made peanut butter, locally grown and ground corn meal and flour.  And that is an abbreviated list.  I placed my last order near the end of 2018, laying in a store of staples that last month.  I miss the cooperative.

Most of the cooperative’s producers are still working, still showing up at farmers’ markets.  Most of them are too far from my home for me to enroll in their CSAs.  But they are out there.  If you are near them, give them your business.  And I will give my business to the farmers within driving distance of my home.

As the climate continues to change, and as agri-businesses corner markets, and as our president gets into trade wars and alienates neighbors who grow a lot of the produce we eat, it will be up to us to feed ourselves and our families.  Am I being gloomy?  I feel gloomy.  But my neighbors and I plant our small gardens.  I have a new asparagus bed, and the old one just produced its first stalk of the season.  Potatoes and onions are raising their green heads out of the dirt.

We raise chickens and goats and pigs and turkeys.  And some of us are experimenting with winter gardening.  We can’t control the weather, the geo-political climate, or the price of land, but we keep trying.

Where did all this come from?  Thanks, Rick Reiley, for passing on the piece from Two Sparrows Farm.  I don’t know if I agree with everything the author says, but there is plenty of food for thought here.  And, yes, we need that kind of food, too.

The End of the Road

 

Twenty-First-Century Skills

Evidently it has become a problem that so few people like to cook, about 10% of us according to one survey.  Wait!  What about all those cooking shows on television?  Is that just wishful thinking, like someone saying, “Someday I’d like to write a book.”?

I prepare food every single day.  I have my fast-food options: scrambled eggs, salad, tuna or sardines, apples and peanut butter.  I don’t bother with too many fancy recipes.  A lot of meals are simply a steamer filled with what’s available at the time, including potatoes, carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, whatever is in season.  Put it on the table with butter, seasonings, and cheese or beans and you have a meal.

We aren’t vegetarians.  I make a pot of beef soup some weeks.  Other weeks I make a beef and pork meatloaf.  A whole chicken lasts a week—fried leg quarters and wings one evening, chicken breasts and vegetables another.  I boil the carcass, removing any meat left on the bones, and make soup. The dog gets gristle, fat, and anything that’s left except the bones.

In my freezer are locally sourced chickens, whole-hog sausage, ground beef from grass-fed cows, and ground lamb.  I raise chickens for meat and eggs, and what I don’t grow in my garden I pick up at the farmers’ market, from gardening friends, and from Oklahoma Food Coop. That includes my Oklahoma peanut butter, Oklahoma lard, and yogurt from grass-fed cows.

What do I buy at the grocery store?  Sardines and tuna, frozen salmon, almonds, avocados, and coffee.  Oranges in their season.  Jar rims and lids.  Apple cider vinegar, although I have made my own.  Chocolate.  And some cheese, although much of that also comes from Oklahoma producers.

When foods are available, I can, freeze, and dehydrate.  In August, my pantry is filling, but I need a lot more green beans, more jars of tomatoes and tomato sauce, and apples.  If they’re available along the roadside when Dale returns from his art shows in Colorado, I’d like another bushel of peaches.

What I thought of, when I heard the piece on NPR bemoaning the loss of cooking skills, was this: what’s missing are time and education.  If you work all day away from home, how do you make time to preserve food?  Without training, how sure can you be that your home-canned foods are safe?  We need to address these issues.  People need to know how to grow and preserve.  As climate change progresses, this education may be what saves us.

Yes, I’m often worn to a nubbin, as my mother would say, during canning season.  But in the winter, when I serve a meal from my freezer or my pantry, I’m grateful that I know how to feed my family.  And I’m proud that I’m passing this education on. The ability to grow and preserve may be more in need in the coming century than even tech skills.  The only thing more important, if things continue to go downhill, may be the ability to find water and dig a well.