Getting closer to my food

I’ve been on a journey for the last few years.  It’s not a journey that I expressly chose to start out on; it’s one that I just sort of fell into: a journey to get closer to what I and my family eat.  It started many years ago, before we moved out to our farm, when I planted a few tomato plants in the back yard in the subdivision.  Flash forward a few years and now we’re living on 22 acres.  I plant a 1/10th of an acre garden every year.  This past year I really went all out and tried new methods (raised beds really do work and growing starting plants from seed is just plain cool) and lots of new plants.
But I’ve done more than just expand my garden this past year. I started looking for more ways to use the vegetables I was producing.  This took me down various roads, from finding recipes that can use up a few cantaloupes (they all ripen at once) and some spare peaches (cantaloupe / peach conserve is awesome on English muffins!) to buying a vacuum sealer (blanching and freezing green beans is a great way to have ‘fresh’ beans all year) to going all the way and buying a pressure canner (I must have put up 50 quarts of beans, carrots, beef stew, pickles and various jams).  I even started a compost bin to find a use for the stuff that just went one day to long before I could find something to use it in or preserve it for later.
However its not all just vegetables, freezing and canning.  I’ve also gotten closer to our protein sources.  Last winter we joined a cow share co-op.  I own one share of a cow on a local farm (aout 1/6 of the cow) and as my dividend for owning that cow I get one gallon of milk per week (yes it’s raw milk.  yes I know what’s in it.  yes it tastes wonderful.  no I won’t ever drink anything but raw milk if I am given the choice.  no no one in my family has ever gotten sick from drinking it – in fact I think its made us better able to fend off some of the bugs that have gone around).
In the spring, I built a chicken house, put in a small yard and acquired 6 pullets (young female chickens).  I got another older ‘pretty chicken’ at my wife’s request a few weeks later.  One escape and subsequent demise via fox and a few ‘free chickens that lay strange colored eggs’ from my father in law later and the flock stands at 8 today.  We have been enjoying fresh eggs since September at a rate of about 2 dozen a week.  We don’t always eat that many, so there’s some to share with the neighbors.
Its not all ‘no-kill’ protein either.  In May, we went in with our neighbors to purchase a slaughtered hog.  We each ended up with about 200 lbs of various pork products (Ham, bacon, sausage, pork chops, shoulder, ribs, etc) for about $1/lb.  It has been some of the best sausage and bacon I have ever had.  And while we didn’t actually meet ‘our pig’ before the deed was done, I did feel some responsibility for its death since I placed the order (queue the Godfather Waltz in the background).
A couple weeks ago I made good on a promise made last year to one of my wife’s long time friends from High School.  She raises beef cattle, but always sells them early in their lives to be raised and processed by someone else.  She offered to split the proceeds from one of her steers that had kept if we would ‘take care of getting him to the point he was wrapped in white paper’.  So two weeks ago I hitched the horse trailer to the truck, headed out to her farm and picked up our beef (I learned that’s what you call them when they are headed for white paper…a little more detached than cow or steer).  The ‘beef’ was at our house for a couple days and then off to the slaughter house.  Let me say this: everyone who makes a conscious decision to eat meat should visit a slaughter house at least once in their lives.  I am convinced there will be one of two outcomes: you will either reconsider your choice or you will know that you have made the right one and that there something natural about man’s desire to eat meat.  Getting your meat in nice cuts wrapped in plastic with blood sponges underneath from the grocery is a dis-service to the animal that died to feed you and isolates you from an experience that makes you more grateful for what you have.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an experience I particularly enjoyed – but it was something I am glad I did.  Yesterday, the beef came home in little white packages and now I have a freezer full (even half a beef is nearly 300 lbs) of t-bones, sirloins, roasts and hamburger.
So what’s next on this journey?  I am giving serious thought to giving a go at turkey and deer hunting this season.  The first turkey season in Kentucky started over the weekend and runs through Friday.  If I get up the nerve, I will buy a license and give it a shot (literally) on Friday morning before I go to work.  Deer season starts soon (for rifle anyway…black powder is already over) and I may try my hand at that as well, although I don’t really have a suitable deer rifle (unless the deer comes wearing urban camo with ninja swords and hand grenades ;-)) so I may have to pass this time around (or try it with a shotgun and slugs…or buy a new rifle ;-)).
I want to stress this hasn’t been an intentional thing. But like some of the other most rewarding things in life I have ended up hear through a series of seemingly unrelated choices, opportunities and circumstances.  And think about this the next time you sit down to eat a quick snack, a simple lunch or a big dinner: do you know where your food came from?






3 responses to “Getting closer to my food”

  1. John Avatar

    Good post. I recently read a book that you may really like. Barbara Kingsolver…the novelist moved to a farm and spent a year eating only what she could grow or get within a few miles of her house: It's called Animal Vegetable Miracle

    1. aakelley Avatar

      Yep, have heard that lady on NPR a few months back. That's the one were they each got one 'outside' food and I think she picked coffee, right?

  2. Lisa Avatar

    We city folk have to rely on farmer's markets and "local" choices at Bigg's. I could fit maybe one chicken in our backyard, but the feral cats would eat it.

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