Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keeping It Fresh & Frugal

I find we're living closer and closer to the earth and the community the more we aim to keep it simple, healthy, fresh and frugal around here.

Last week, Mom and I decided to sign up with a produce co-op that delivers boxes of fruit and veggies to a neighboring town every two weeks. $15 a box. Even if I need to get 2 boxes to keep up with our family of 6, that's still quite a bit less than what I'm paying at our national brand grocery store for produce runs. You don't know what you're going to get in advance with the co-op, but the people I've talked to say they've been completely satisfied with the quality and freshness of the produce, with one gal telling me her lettuce kept nearly two weeks. As much as I want to support local businesses - and I do, in as many ways as I can - I have been increasingly disappointed in the quality of some of the produce available at our local grocery store.

In the gap between now and when our garden is producing, I hope the co-op will be a good alternative. My aim is to build a small greenhouse or hoop houses so I can begin growing produce year-round for our family and not be faced with this quandary in years to come.

Today, I sent a message to a family that has a milk cow to see if they're selling milk. I'd love to begin making our butter and yogurt, and Mike would like a little more milk fat in his glass. I hope to learn that 1) they are selling, and 2) that they're raising the cow without hormones and on feed that is all natural and organic.

I also sent a message to my friend who owns the local flower shop with her Mom, to see if she's still selling eggs. Since I'll be picking up new chicks that won't be laying until late summer, I'm back to buying eggs. Again, I'd rather buy from a local source, and thankfully, we have a few from which to choose. (Oh, how I just wanted to say, "to choose from," but I know it's poor grammar. Problem is, the correct way just sounds so darn formal. As much as I love words, at times I loathe grammar. It makes me nervous. At other times, I love grammar. I'm a bit perplexing.)


I'm also going to ask a neighbor if she has extra goat milk to spare that she'd be interested in selling. I've heard from far too many folks about how easy it is to make goat cheeses, and I think it's time to learn. After hearing from a produce worker at Safeway that they were told to expect 50% increases in grocery prices, the more I can make from scratch, the better. Plus, we love feta and goat cheese, so why not make it ourselves? It's bound to be amazing, as homemade usually is. (For those who are wondering, Gertie isn't a milk goat. We'd have to breed her, let her have the babies, let her nurse the babies, and fight the babies for the milk. Even if we didn't have to fight the babies for the milk, we'd have to convince Gertie to let us milk her. As quickly as ring-side seats might sell for that event, I simply don't have the constitution to take her on.)

As we finalize plans to butcher our pigs, I'm looking forward to filling our freezers, our larder and our parents' freezers with hormone-free, antibiotic-free pork. Good, clean food. With our son Tanner's kidney disease, I've become keenly aware of what we're asking our bodies to filter from our systems, and I just want everything that we're taking in to be as clean as possible.

With that in mind, today I fished out the last of the pre-packaged pasta and rice dishes that have been hanging around in the pantry to mix up and give to the dogs because we're out of dog food and I won't make it to the feed store until tomorrow. Not that I think the dogs deserve preservatives, because I don't, but it was nice to see that there is nothing left in the larder that is packed full of mystery ingredients. Plus, the dogs will likely love this rare, warm treat. They get the same old food, day in and day out. I've read with interest lately about how these folks are making home made food for their dogs and I wonder if there isn't some wisdom to that. Since I'm buying quality but not top-of-the-line dog food, I'm not at all convinced they're getting the best of nutrition, which I'm not comfortable with ("...with which I am not comfortable," she said regally, while gesturing to the butler, Jeeves, to refill her wine glass.)

Seriously though, we have stewardship over these creatures in our care, and I want to treat them well.

Speaking of cooking dog food, there was a funny moment today while I prepared the pups' food. I decided to add a couple of eggs to the noodles and rice to give the pups some protein. I found that, for some reason, the eggs had frozen in the fridge. I cracked them, pinched the slushy frozen oval masses from the shells and they plopped into the pot, egg shape intact. When I went back to stir a little later, I was surprised to find the eggs bobbing around the pot, now appearing to be nothing more than peeled, boiled eggs. I thought for sure those eggs would warm up and lose their shape before cooking through. It was an amusing little occurrence. Little white Weebles wobbling across the pot.

OK, I'm obviously just chatting here, so I better wrap it up. Suffice it to say, I'm enjoying choosing local, clean, quality and from scratch. It's good for our health, our community and our pocket book. When I get to start working in my garden, it'll be even better for the soul.

Love from the farm,

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