Posts Tagged ‘ethical farming’

Bee-coming a Homestead

In the cold months of January, homesteaders around the country are cozied up inside, salivating over seed catalogs and planning for warmer months. We now join the throngs that dream of April chicks, putting up deer fencing and contacting local apiaries for supplies.

Today I took one step closer toward our homesteading goals and ordered our bee supplies. Our little garden hive box and all of the necessary clothing and necessary tools should arrive within 5-7 business days. Then, between April 16th and 30th, we’ll hopefully get a box in the mail that contains our bees and their queen. Whoa.

In some ways this is daunting to me. I’ve never been stung by a bee, and I’ve heard it’s not pleasant. However, I’ve also heard that beekeeping is one of the easiest homesteading activities that one can do, and the side benefit of having our own honey will just be divine. Between now and May we’ll have plenty of time to read our beekeeping books and become well acquainted with all of our equipment. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of really starting our life in the country…somehow this makes it more “real.” After all, not many of my Los Angeles friends have a backyard hive (although I hear it’s possible). Next up: fixing up the chicken coop. We’re ambitiously hoping to order pullets for April or May. We’ll see if we can do it in time.

To be honest, I’m just happy to have something on the horizon other than working on that darned bathroom. The end of our first homeowner’s project is in sight: the tile is laid, the bathtub installed, the walls painted. Now we just have to seal the grout, varnish the wood stuff, and hook up the plumbing. Small potatoes compared to what we’ve faced so far.

My heart continues to overflow with thankfulness. Every day I get to wake up to clean air, beautiful hills and kind people. Years ago I never would have dreamt  that this would be the life that nourishes my soul and gives me a zeal to wake up every morning. But here I am. And if it’s a dream, I hope I never wake up.

An Interesting Perspective

An interesting look at the food crisis. The main thing I notice they don’t address is one of the sticking points of the whole dispute, and that’s the use of GMO crops. On one hand, they can help solve the short-term crisis. On the other hand, they have far reaching effects that we can’t even comprehend when we first use them (how they might affect migration patterns, for example, or how resistant pests may spring up as a result). In any case, it’s something to think about. And I like the concept of a more collaborative, rather than combative, attitude. I just worry that the Almighty Dollar will always want to have the last word.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1IWkbU0SG4&feature=player_embedded

Farmer’s Market Morning

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Saturday morning is one of my favorite times of the week. Not because we sleep in extra late, or even because we have a special breakfast now and then. No, my favorite part of Saturday is always the Farmer’s Market Frenzy.

Rob and I have several farmer’s markets that we can go to around here. Heck, in LA, there’s between 2-5 every single day (except Monday) in the vicinity. But we definitely have our favorites. And the one that tops that list is the Saturday morning Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

It makes me laugh, now, that only a few years ago going to farmer’s markets intimidated me a little bit. There were no published prices, everyone seemed to sort of know what they were looking for, and the sheer amount of fruits and vegetables was overwhelming. Often I would see things and have no idea what I was even looking at. What’s kale? There’s such a thing as a purple carrot? You mean there’s an actual herb called “savory”?

Some of you may laugh, but I was a pop-it-in-the-microwave kind of girl. I didn’t make anything from scratch, and I thought that using a cake mix could be considered a “homemade” dessert. So seeing raw milk and goat cheese at the farmer’s market opened up a whole new way of thinking to me.

Nowadays, Rob and I have made it sort of a Saturday morning ritual. We’ll often wake up early, have our coffee and a little breakfast, and try to arrive just after everyone has set up so we can beat the crowd and have some time to talk to each of our farmers. Some of those relationships are growing; others are still in the early stages of getting to know produce, philosophies, and business practices. Of course we always buy from Kathy and Ken to get our bison. Then there’s the Ha family, whose apples are grown in beautiful Tehachapi and taste like candy. Victoria from Healthy Family Farms has given us some great pointers on how to use whey to preserve our homemade mayonaise (made from her eggs, of course). The Kennedy Farm is new to us, but they have a friendly lady who sells the best dang peaches ever. Munak Ranch sells heirloom tomatoes that can’t be beat–my favorite is the Cherokee Purple, and Rob loves the Green Zebra. And if you ever need the best melon you’ve ever tasted, just head over the the Weiser Family table. They’ll take good care of you.

The farmer’s market isn’t as intimidating as I once was; actually, it’s quite the contrary. Here we can actually build relationships with those who put the seeds of our food into the ground. Here we rebuild and heal the disconnect that has been woven into the habitual fabric of convenience in American culture. Here we form relationships–in fact, here we have made friends.

I encourage anyone who has yet to visit a farmer’s market to give it a shot…the summer produce is still good, and some farms are even beginning to get their fall squashes on the table. It supports the local economy and builds a stronger relationship between you and the living fuel that you eat. And if you are a farmer’s market regular, try getting to know your farmers by name. Tell them what you like about what they are providing. Give them feedback. It will feed more than your stomach, for sure.

Education, not disappointment

 

IMG_5086Rob and I continued our path of forming relationships with farmers last night through a 3-hour dinner with our bison farmers from the farmer’s market, Kathy and Ken Lindner.  There is a deep wisdom, accompanied by comfortable kindness, in this couple.  They make you feel at ease, and within moments of talking with them you are assured of their intent: the wellbeing of and right relationship with creation (specifically of and with bison).

There’s so much I could write about regarding this holy encounter, but for now I will focus on one phrase of Kathy’s that struck me. We had commented that so much of what they encountered when trying to sell their meat to grocers and restaurants (compared with their current model of selling directly to custumers at farmers markets) must have been extremely frustrating and disappointing.  Kathy’s reply was simple, but profound: “It was education, not disappointment.” She went on to explain how each part of the journey, even ones that didn’t end up fruitful, was part of their education toward what really needed to happen–for their own good, for the good of the customer, and for the good of the bison. Because their philosophy is not steered by making money, but rather by contributing to the Greater Good, it seemed to me that theywere able to put these “frustrations” in the proper perspective. Disappointment is a matter of expectation. Education is a matter of learning, of growth. The same circumstance can be seen either way: it’s our choice on how to perceive it.

I think this is such an important lesson in my own formation. It’s so easy to see setbacks or delays as disappointing. It’s so easy to be discouraged when people just don’t understand the importance of balanced food ethics, or their role in a culture of over-consumption, or the crucial element of conscious solidarity in an active faith life. It’s a temptation.

Yet I think it’s important for me to realize that passion can only take me so far in my faith life (and consequently my vocation). Zeal isn’t necessarily sustainable. It’s valuable, and certainly can be used for goodness, but it’s not sustainable. It’s what is needed for a sprint, but not a marathon. What I pray for today is the sustainable maturity of faith that Kathy and Ken showed us last night. They may not necessarily use those Christian terms, but this language speaks to what I need and pray for–grace to mature in my faith, to be content with the process, the lesson, the metaphor, the now.

The willingness to see the education rather than the disappointment.

Bison Business

A quick post, as I’m away from home this afternoon…

I talked a bit in a previous post about our bison lady from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market…the more I learn about this couple, the more I am impressed with their philosophy. It’s really right up the alley with our thoughts on sustainability, responsibility, building community, respect, and honoring the innate goodness of creation.

Yesterday I took some time to read more about their business, how they went about getting on their feet, and why they decided to go into bison. You can find more information about them, about responsible animal husbandry, and about their ranch at their website: www.lindnerbison.com. They’re also at the Wednesday and Saturday Farmer’s Markets in Santa Monica!

Sugar Rush

So the other day my husband and I were once again purchasing sugar from the store. We tend to go with a variety that claims to be vegan, but that’s not why we buy it. Rather, we buy it because it is one of the only bags of sugar that assures us of both organic and fair labor practices.

Still, every time we buy this particular brand of sugar, the person working at the checkout counter never fails to ask, “What makes it vegan? I didn’t even know sugar wasn’t vegan.” We had no idea either, so we’d usually shrug our shoulders and comment to each other that we’d need to look it up when we got home.

Now, I dabbled in veganism for a little while, and as you know from my previous posts, I’ve spent quite a few years as a committed vegetarian because of the horrors of big agribusiness. But I had no idea what could possibly be un-vegan about sugar. Until a couple days ago, when my husband and I finally remembered to look it up.

We found out that sugar in the US comes from two sources: cane and beet. Because of the way that it needs to be processed, cane sugar is often purified through a charcoal filtration made from bone char–charcoal made from animal bones. Beet sugar doesn’t need this process, and therefore bone char is never used to purify beet sugar. Now, cane sugar filtration doesn’t always use charcoal from bone char–it really depends on the sugar plant that it processing the sugar. But there’s really no way to know from the package. You have to do a little more digging to find out which companies use bone char and which do not. I found this website to be a thorough explanation: http://www.vegsource.com/jo/qa/qasugar.htm.

Now, some would say that this is taking things a little too far off the deep end in terms of awareness, but I’m not so sure. I think that there are a lot ways our current food system does a very good job of hiding human and animal exploitation. From the methods of processing to the damaging of local economies far far away, the way our food reaches our tables is not always as simple as we may like to believe.

I think the most important thing here is to simple become slowly more and more conscious of how things are made and how they get to us. You don’t have to go out and become an advocate for unfair labor practices or give up your favorite fast food place…just become aware. Take time to learn about how things work. Then, and only then, can we all have an educated and practical discussion about what we need to do about it–morally, economically, politically. But we can’t get anywhere if we continue to just take things at face value; unfortunately, food has become much more complicated than that.

Walking the Talk…As Well As We Can

I’ve gotten a few questions about the status of some of the things I’ve posted about, so here’s a quick update:

The Garden: The garden is doing great! We’ve been harvesting lettuce for our own salads and really loving it. We’ve let a couple of stalks bolt so they can go to seed–hopefully we’ll be able to try our hand at growing from our own seeds rather than seedlings next season. Our onions aren’t quite ready yet, but we’re willing to be patient. The thyme is fantastic; we used it just the other day for a risotto dish we made. The basil has begun to take over its container; even our Italian cooking can’t keep up with its growth! The strawberries are doing great; even though they haven’t produced fruit yet, the plants are healthy and sending out plenty of runners. I’ll try to post pictures of the garden soon.

The Fiddle: I am getting better and better. I wouldn’t call myself good, really–although I know two, very short songs quite well. I continue to work on my scales and am getting better at bow pressure and getting my fingers used to the positioning. In fact, sometimes I even find myself tapping my own foot when I play. Although this can be distracting and actually messes me up, so I have to be careful not to get too carried away. 🙂 Someday….! Here’s a picture of me playing at my sister-in-law’s house: IMG_4877

Life Without TV:  This hasn’t been easy, I’m not going to lie. Having never lived without TV, I find that it’s difficult not having it as an option. Admittedly, because I only gave up the cable boxes but not the ability to plug the cable directly into the TV (thus getting the network channels), I’m still not totally weaned. I would say at this point I’m still watching an average of 30 minutes a day on weekdays (none on weekends). But I’m slowly detaching myself from that habit, so hopefully within a month or so it will be down to nothing.

Life With One Car: We’re about one week into our one-month experiment and so far, so good. I’ve only used my car to move it off the street for street sweeping. There have definitely been moments when this was not convenient…but, I suppose that is part of the point. We’ve found a way to work with it, and none of our solutions have been earth shatteringly insightful; it’s just a matter of coordinated planning and a willingness to spend a little more time walking or biking. In a couple of cases, I’ve depended on other people to give me a ride because the car wasn’t available; in others, like today, I’ve walked. If I have to go out to Fuller I’ll take a bus and a train. So, like I said, careful coordination and planning. Certainly not impossible.  Throughout this week I’ve tried to remain mindful of those who don’t have the choice to limit their car use.

Quilting:   I am on to my second quilt! I finally got the proper foot for my sewing machine, a walking foot, and it works like a charm. I’m hoping to finish this quilt by Sunday so I can have it ready for my friend and her family–we’re celebrating the first birthday of her second child. I’ll post pics when its done.

That’s the quick update. I’ve been thinking about so many things lately–possibilities and opportunities. I’m excited to share the journey with all of you. Many blessings today!