Posts Tagged ‘food’

Bee Happy

Hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again when the beekeeper really starts rolling. We have an order arriving on Thursday which will contain two packages of bees and one extra queen, which will hopefully round out our small homestead apiary to four hives. Since I did such a poor job of updating you once my pregnancy hit me full force, here’s the rundown of our exciting bee-happenings from last year.

After we started making the honey, we realized we had a really good thing on our hands. We purchased a small hand crank honey extractor and harvested the surplus honey from our hive. All in all, we got almost 40 lbs. of surplus honey, plus plenty left over to feed the bees over the winter. Harvesting was sticky and fun, and through the generosity of our friends at Tangleweed Farm down the road we were able to sell some of our bounty. Here we are at the farm’s Open House selling our goods:

The sale of our honey was such a success that we had a whole email list full of customers. Our smaller, second harvest of the season was sold out before it even hit the shelves. This year, we’ve already had people asking about our honey, so we decided to make a go of expanding the business a bit.

In addition to the honey, I’ve started tinkering with beeswax products as well. So far I’ve made some basic lip balm and have just ordered some supplies to play with the recipe a bit. I also hope to try my hand at candles, soaps, and some healing salves–all using our girls’ honey or wax.

Of course, it’s tough to do this without mentors. There are no local beekeepers that we know of that can really show us how to do some more sophisticated maneuvers like rearing our own queens or collecting pollen to sell. So a lot of this is trial and error. But we’re reading everything we can get our hands on and luckily there is a large support system for small scale beekeepers on the internet. And we’re having a lot of fun.

Who would have ever thought, when we began dreaming of our own homestead, that I’d be a beekeeping gal who makes my own lip balm, collects eggs from the backyard coop each night, and gave birth in my own bedroom? Not me. But thank God for these blessings–I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The Power of Daily Choice

We have more power than we think when it comes to the food industry (although this can apply to so many of our cultural problems):

“The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences.”   -Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma

Check out Michael Pollan’s visit with Oprah and his important discussion about our food: www.oprah.com/showinfo/Food-101-with-Michael-Pollan

Blessings of Bounty

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I’ve talked before about getting food from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Here is some of our seasonal bounty, along with fresh baked rosemary potato bread. Shortly after we baked the bread, we spread some of our homemade butter over two (or three) steaming slices.

One of my favorite parts about getting food from a CSA is the challenge and surprise of seasonal eating. I love it. I probably would never have bought sunchokes or persimmons, and yet here I am eating them with delight.  Autumn is no longer the time for cucumbers or peppers (and certainly not asparagus!), although you’d never know it from walking into a supermarket.  It’s no wonder that eating seasonally isn’t a mainstream practice; it’s hard to even know what that means without being pointed in the right direction. All of the choice that is available to us in the grocery stores have actually stripped us from understanding the natural limitations of the seasons. We’re actually quite spoiled when it comes to our food choices, but we don’t know it–to most it’s just “normal.”

This is one of the beauties of eating seasonally–we become more attuned to the rhythms of the earth. No…we participate in the rhythms of the earth. We become part of it. We appreciate it.

And we are grateful.

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.

Getting Creative

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We are currently swimming in zucchini from our CSA. It’s to be expected; after all, when the point in summer arrives that zucchini is thriving, it’s also taking over the garden (or, in this case, the farm). And zucchini is surprisingly versitile in its uses: fried with garlic, chopped up into soup, put into a zucchini parmesan (a variation of eggplant parmesan), put into casseroles. It’s wonderful. But…there comes a time when it’s hard to eat it fast enough.

Enter our wonderful guide to seasonal eating, Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman. If you want to eat seasonally, this is the book for you. If you have kids and you don’t know how to get them to eat their vegetables, this book is for you. And if you like good food, this book is definitely for you.

Chesman has a wonderful recipe entitled “Zapplesauce Muffins.” It combines all the yummy flavors of apple spice muffins–cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and yes, butter–but instead of using apples, she uses 4 cups of zucchini. This certainly doesn’t make your ordinary zucchini bread. It’s fantastic. The true test was when I brought these muffins over to my friend’s house yesterday and her 3-year-old son at two of them on the spot. She asked if he liked them, and he couldn’t even tear his mouth away to form the words for his delight; all he could manage was a zealous thumbs-up.

As always, I find metaphor in this happy occasion to make muffins. Even though the bounty of zucchini is a blessing, it’s hard sometimes when we have too much of the same thing. It gets monotonous. It gets tiresome. We long for something new.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we need the new thing. It might just mean that we need a little imagination, a willingness to tap into our creative forces. Often our culture tempts us with the thought that we need to buy the brand new thingamajig or that our 2-year-old perfectly good cell phone is soooooo outdated. We are in a culture of buy-and-toss almost as soon as we get our new goods home. We aren’t willing to use what we have in bounty, because we are already eyeing something newer, flashier, fancier.

I think that sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing things in a different way. Exploring their potential. Thinking outside the box…so far outside the box that zucchini could be turned into zapplesauce.

This is another aspect of simplicity: using what we have in new and creative ways. Seeing what we have as adequate but not tossing aside our natural tendency to fashion something new. In this way, too, we can see what we have as gift, and see our gifts as beautiful potential.

Garden Party

Here are the long awaited pictures of our garden, planted on our anniversary.  My how it’s grown! No, the lettuce has not mutated into mini-trees; we’re letting two of the lettuce plants go to seed so we can use the seeds for next season. I couldn’t believe that lettuce could grow so tall! When it goes to seed, however, it becomes too bitter to eat, so we’re no longer harvesting off those two plants. The others, however, are still providing tasty salads.

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And here’s what the seed pods look like on top of the lettuce:

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Our strawberry patch is sending out tons of runners and looking just fine, but no strawberries yet:

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Finally, our basil has just flourished. It’s really exciting, considering basil needs a lot of sun and we were worried at first that we’d barely have enough sun for the shade-loving lettuce. This might mean that we could grow tomatoes here! If you look closely on the left side of the plant, you can see that we’re letting some seeds develop there, too…

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So there’s the garden update! We’re having so much fun with it; we’ve already considered building two more raised beds. I love tending the earth and being nourished from it at the same time. Perhaps it’s the mother in me…the creator…perhaps, for us gardeners, it taps into the parent in us all.