Crazy May Challenge: Eating from the Pantry/Freezer

Our family is trying something new for May. Eating the food that we have on hand. I took an inventory the other day and felt a little sheepish. My freezer was full of meats from our farm, produce that we had grown and put up, my shelves were full of jars that I had filled last summer and into the fall…and we had take out pizza for dinner. Again.  So I had another one of my “great ideas!” and after running it by my husband who was trying to stay awake(best time to pass new and off the wall ideas) it’s on.

What are my rules? Eat from what we already have in our kitchen. No take out meals, drive through coffees, running out to get “ingredients” at the last minute. Instead we’ll focus on using up what we have already bought or grown ourselves. Cool concept, huh?

But, being the fair minded person that I am, we have a couple of exceptions to those rules.

Sandwich bread.- yes, I know. I could make the bread myself. But honestly, my sandwich bread is pretty pathetic. I make a killer loaf bread, baguette bread, sour dough…but not a basic sandwich loaf. And since my son packs a lunch for school everyday, and since we are jumping in to something out of our normal realm, I ok’d the bread.

Fresh fruit for my son’s sack lunch. This one is probably cheating. I have all kinds of fruit that I canned into gorgeous pints and quarts. I’ll be using those up, just not in his school lunches.

The other exception- drive through coffee for my husband on his work nights. I will be giving up my habit of an Americano with cream because I can make a better one at home, and with actual real cream from my own cows. But my husband has a crazy work schedule, and if a drive through coffee keeps him awake and alive then that’s ok by me.

I’m hoping that this challenge will get our family into the routine of cooking home made meals, from scratch. I don’t want it to be an activity that makes everyone so miserable that it fails before we even launch. It will also help me clear out space for all of the food that we will be growing and harvesting this season.

It’s crazy that I have access to so much wonderful food simply because I am a farmer, but that I still eat out more meals than I make at home each month. I think I fell into a pattern of being so “busy” farming, that I didn’t leave enough time to prepare all of that wonderful food and actually eat it every day.  And, I actually love cooking. A shift in priorities is needed.

Challenges that we are going to face:

We love to celebrate milestones by going out to eat. This month we have several of those that are going to take some special planning. Our oldest daughter is graduating after four long years studying to become an RN. Normally we would let her choose a restaurant to celebrate. This time she gets to choose a special meal that we make from scratch, at home. Our other daughter is coming back home after her first year away at college. She missed her birthday with us and again, we would normally let her choose a restaurant to celebrate. Even trickier, this daughter is a vegetarian…that is going to take some extra special planning to pull together a special meal that falls under our May challenge, without running out to buy ingredients.  And finally, we have an uncle coming to visit for a week all the way from the East Coast. Poor guy. He had no idea.

So that’s it. My crazy May Challenge. Care to join me?

 

 

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Six Weeks and Counting Down

The calendar doesn’t lie. Six more weeks until our first CSA delivery for 2014. Looking out the window all I see is grey skies and pouring rain. It’s hard to imagine that in less than two months we’ll be on the cusp of summer and jumping back into the frenzy of early morning  harvesting, crate filling, delivering, early evening picking, weeding…but the calendar doesn’t lie. It’s waiting just around the corner.

And this farmer is ready to embrace it with open arms. On days like this one, where you just can’t get warm or stay dry I’m even more thankful for my seed room. It’s a little oasis waiting just for me. As soon as I step in the door the warm air wraps around me like a friendly hug. It smells like dark dirt and green life. It smells like hope and promises of good things to come.

By now all the benches are groaning under the weight of seed trays and pots. Some are freshly planted, not a sprout in site. The tiny seeds tucked under a blanket of soil. I pull back the covers and take a peak, looking carefully and longing to see a tip of green. Other trays are bursting with green fingers raised towards the light. I check the soil, and give just enough water so they don’t dry out. Rotating the trays so the plants grow strong and straight. And then there are the red solo cups. Hundreds and hundreds of red solo cups. Filled with tomato and pepper starts, each labeled carefully with the plant variety. It’s Tuesday, and that means each plant gets a drink of half strength fish fertilizer.

I check the board on the wall. Today more carrots will get seeded outside, another flat of kholrabi needs to be started, two more trays of romaine lettuce, I’d better get more snow peas in the ground…I look out the window to see if the rain has stopped. The sun is trying to shine and the rain is just a fine mist. I throw on a jacket, grab a bucket of peas and head out.

This will be my third planting of peas. The first planting was slow to start, even in the raised beds. Raised beds tend to warm up quicker and allow for an earlier planting. But the first planting was spotty so I went back through and planted again, just in case. Now the peas are making a dense green row and I’m thankful that I filled in the blanks. I plant what’s left in my pea bucket, taking time to pull any weeds that are sprouting along with the peas. I can work at a leisurely pace right now, but soon it will be more frenzied and it’s  always best to get the weeds when they first rear their heads.

As I pass by the rabbit hutches I take a minute to give the rabbits the contents of my weed bucket. They gobble the weeds down, turning the weeds into fertilizer that will eventually go back into our soil. We’ve staged rabbit hutches within all of our garden areas. The rabbits help clean up weeds and vegetables that don’t make it to the table. Their fertilizer provides a rich planting humus that encourages earth worms and provides us with a beautiful tilth for growing our fruits and vegetables. Eventually the rabbits provide meat for our farm and our patrons. Life on the farm is a circle of sorts. Nothing is wasted and everything has its place.

But now the sun is out and the rain has stopped. I quicken my pace- there is so much still left to do with six weeks to go and counting down. The calendar doesn’t lie and the clock doesn’t stop.

 

Today I don’t love my cow…

……and she doesn’t love me!
Everyone has been there- things are going great, the sun is shining, the mud is drying up, the cows are all polite and grateful…then there is the ONE. The ONE cow who has to bungle things up for everyone. It starts of pretty innocuous- she tilts her head at you when you call her in to milk. She hesitates just fleetingly before she comes in to the stall.

Then she sniffs at the bucket of treats…starts to back out of the stall. Then next thing you know, you’re presenting her with a tilted bucket before she crosses the threshold of the stall. Like a waiter at a fine restaurant.. “Would the lady like some dessert?” and “Does the grain please the lady today?”

But because the lady is a complete pig and throws grain all around the farm while she eats, you have to snatch the bucket away at the very last minute, capture her head in the head gate and hold off on treats until milking is over. And because the lady eats like a rabid dog she has to be the last one in the stand for milking.

But the lady isn’t just a glutton. No, she’s also clever. And after months and months of being tricked at the last minute she finally begins to put it together. She isn’t getting that bucket of treats when her owner tilts it her way. So she balks. She isn’t going to come in the stall no matter what. No offering is good enough. No sweet words can cajole her. She just chews and looks at you.

And she is a strategist. She knows that you can never cross that “pond” that separates the two of you. You will sink to your neck if you even try. So she sashays around and around and around the edge. And she chews and looks at you.

So you throw your hands up, clean up and lock up. You’re done. Until two hours later when you head out with your head lamp. And start all over again. “Does the lady care for some dessert? Does the grain please the lady?”

And again, a few hours later when you should be tucked into bed dreaming about the olden days when life was good and the cows were all polite and grateful. But instead you’re squaring off with the ONE.

So today, I don’t love my cow and I don’t think she loves me either. But, I did win. This time.