So about 2 years ago I started a long term goal of mine: to gradually grow most of my food on my own. Today I am taking a huge step, I am adding animals! I just picked up 6 Rhode Island Reds baby chicks! I have built a coop for them when they get a bit older, but for now here is a quick video in their new home.
I choose this breed of chickens because they are known for laying large eggs frequently, which is what I primarily want them for. They don’t get broody, generally quieter, aren’t too jumpy. The other upside is that they do pretty well as a meat chicken in the event that I have to do so. This is kinda a big step in the process that I am working on and I hope I am doing it right! Anyway, there is more to come on the chicks in the coming weeks.
Being that it is Tuesday and on Tuesday I talk about gardening I have a rather disturbing story to tell. Last weekend I went to the farmers market to get veggies etcetera for this weeks meals. I stopped off at my favorite hole-in-the-wall breakfast place and off I went.
I make my way down to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market, located off Yorkmount road in Charlotte NC. I love this one, it one of the bigger farmers markets in the city and it is certainly the most popular. As I walk around I see all shades of green. Bok choy, asparagus, collard greens, beans and so on.
As I make my way down the rows, navigating the crowd I see out of the corner of my eye. There it was, a vendor taking strawberries out of mass packed plastic containers and dumping them into these green cardboard buckets. They then took these and placed them in their stall labeled “LOCAL NORTH CAROLINA PRODUCE”.
The way it is setup you can walk behind the stalls so I walked over and took a peek at these plastic containers. “product of Mexico, packaged in the USA”. Local washing is where you brand items as local produced when it is not.
As I walked around I found this to be the case for so many and not just strawberries, it was practically everything. I found one guy who grew asparagus in his garden in Charlotte and I gladly handed him my four dollars.
I began to think about how this came to be or why this came to be. I realized that smaller farmers simply cannot produce enough to meet the demands and the variety that people want. This is why I think they have to buy mass produced items and sell them. But I find that they lie and brand them as local is objectionable
What do you all think about this practice? Do you see this at your local farmers market?
Get an island or custom-built extra counter — Even if you you have just two square feet of “spare” space, do whatever you can to find a table or counter that can be customized for it. Heck, I have even seen counters that fold out from the wall, like a Murphy Bed! If you can find a way to create some storage space underneath it, even better.
Don’t actually keep anything on it — I am nuts about having my single counter in the kitchen clear. The idea of sacrificing even a corner of my precious counter space to a mixer or toaster or other occasionally used appliance seems crazy–these are the types of things you can put in shelves underneath.
You probably don’t need half the things in your kitchen — Okay, obviously what I think you don’t need and what you think you don’t need are different, which is why I am loathe to make such a list. Let’s say that you, like Laurie Colwin in Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, decide that you can live without everything but a deep-fat fryer. You go get yourself a deep-fat fryer. But when space is key, you might consider doing away with things like that knife block, when drawer knife holders or wall magnet strips will help keep your counter clear. You don’t need a double boiler; use a bowl over a pot instead. You don’t need a sifter when a mesh strainer can sift and, you know, and also strain. Pyrex 8-cup measuring cups can double as mixing bowls. Stuff like that
Learn to cook neatly — Picture a restaurant kitchen–do you think each of those line cooks have four counters to work on? No, they learned a long time ago how to maximize their use of any station they were given, by prepping everything they need before they start cooking, keeping their counter clean and keeping what they can within arm’s reach. Learn to cook like this, and you can cook anywhere.
It can totally be done — People, I don’t mean to go the martyr route here–especially because I think we know I enjoyed the process so–but I baked a wedding cake in my little kitchen, in its 3/4-size oven. I know too many people who say they can’t entertain or have dinner parties or cook the dinners they crave because they say they don’t have the space. But people cook all over the world with less space–and fewer gadgets (though I think I will sob if my Microplane ever breaks up with me) than we do everyday. With a little extra thought, I am sure you can pull off whatever crazy kitchen feat you had in mind. Even if you have to put your dishes in the tub when you’re done.
I was flipping through Good.com the last night and in their post they talked about if students should learn to farm? It’s an interesting question and I can see so many arguments for and against it. Growing up I was fortunate enough to take 2 year of shop class and 2 year home economics. This is quite rare for even my age, in an time of fast food, I literally have no friends who know how to cook, sew, build something from wood. At one point the fact that none of my friends cooked struck me quite hard when I had to show my girlfriend at the time how to boil pasta! Life skills such as these are so important for men and women, young and old; I mean you gotta eat right?
One thing that I did not get was how to grow food, obviously in line with such tasks of cooking, woodworking, welding, sewing and child care. This is a true gap in my knowledge, up until my grandparents, almost everyone gardened to some degree, but today very few do now. What is interesting that now as an adult and growing in my pursuit of self sufficiency and environmentally consciousness, I find myself lacking a green thumb. What is missing is the cultural knowledge of how to grow, to make our own food with our bare hands. Back 2-3 generations everyone knew a little about it, if you needed advice, you could ask your neighbor. Better yet, you could ask the farmer himself, because he was local.
All of these reasons are certainly defensible, but at the same time I know we also need to be hunkering down on the core subjects of academia. Working in the non-profit sector, I am working within the schools to solve issues that impact the bottom line. We are in need of a change, of a plan that will take our schools to the next level to achieve a high quality education for all students, does gardening have a place in our schools?
I found this guy in California who has converted his front lawn into a big raised bed garden. He has some really interesting fruits and vegetables, some I have never heard of. Check out the below video and see more at the link at the bottom.