Day 20: Progress Makes Perfect

Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.

~Elizabeth Berry

 

We’ve made it to day 20 without much distress. I realized today that nearly all of the trees and flowers were beginning to bloom, which in turn reminded me that we were that much closer to an abundant garden. (Which in turn made me long for a day off to sit in the sun).

We’ve had great success at the Portland Farmer’s Market and have ventured up for the last 3 weeks. There seems to be a bigger selection of produce in Portland than at the Kennebunk Market, but we’re patiently (and anxiously waiting) for Kennebunk to kick into high gear. Neither of us like to travel to Portland (seems to defeat the purpose just a little bit) but when every meal depends on it, well, lets just say it’s a necessity at this point. Aside from one trip to Whole Foods to source local Maine-made foods (depressingly small showing), I have not stepped foot in a grocery store over these 20 days and I have to say, it feels REALLY good. I don’t know about you but grocery stores stress me out. Too many colors, too many smells, too many lights, too many people and two crazy kids wreaking havoc down the aisles combined with not enough time, not enough money, not enough patience… it always made me tired. Now, depending on the local produce from the farmers market farmers, Harris farm (milk/eggs/butter) and our own cooking resources is actually quite fulfilling.

The garden is taking off. Although a few things seem to have been hit a little bit, everything is growing and greening up. Our lettuces are all sprouting and our radishes are taking off.  We’re waiting to put the tomatoes in (9 heirloom varieties!) as well as the cucumbers, melons and squash. The garden is truly a work in progress and sometimes I feel like the we’re the blind leading the blind, but it’s a fun project and one that the whole family is in on. The girls take turns watering (and then we follow behind them touching up the spots they missed) and fighting over who gets to pull weeds (seriously girls, they’ll be plenty more where those came from).

 

 

 

 

We finally got our yogurt maker. Attempt number one produced a slimy and not so appealing      yogurt that Nate attempted to eat (only because he eats everything) and I dumped down the drain (bye-bye 16 ounces of milk). The second attempt, however turned out much better and I learned that when they say “boil the milk”, they mean “boil the milk”. A little raspberry jam from Pineland Farms and the yogurt was delicious. And after a little prepping that it wasn’t going to be like eating the 10 grams of sugar Go-Gurts (more than soda!), the girls enjoyed it two days in a row at school.

 

 

 

 We’ve gotten creative with dinners (it truly is a use-whats-available-mentality) and they’ve ended up being entirely delicious. Nothing crazy, but 100% Maine…

Bacon, Spinach, Tomato, Egg & Feta Salad

Homemade Pizza Crust with Pineland Farm Sauce and Cheese with  Tomatoes
& Basil from Olivia’s Garden

Potato Salad, Salad Greens and Bar-B-Q chicken breasts

Mini-Burgers with homemade Buns (!!!), Dill Pickle
& Salad Greens with cucumber, tomato and feta

When it comes to dinner, ain’t no one going hungry…

Homemade Pasta with our fancy new Cuisinart Machine (brilliant. you should get one.)
We will concede that we did use white flour on these (non-Maine) but only since it was our first go at it,
we were starving and the thought of it not working or breaking our new machine was enough to make me cry.

 

Finally, Nate (The King of all-things “lets-try-it-and-see-what-happens) decided he would learn how to make Dandelion Wine. Today. On his day off with the baby. Needless to say, thought I didn’t witness it first hand, I have no doubt it was an adventure.

The Beet Goes On…

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I would never see it again?””

- Rachel Carson

The very fact that I can write this post means that we survived our first week. The angst and lost-sleep proved to be more worry than fact and I have to say, we did quite well. I will, however, admit the following things (please allow a moment for my quasi-confession):

  • I may have purchased two cups of coffee this week. The first, out of sheer habit. The second, sheer defiance.
  • I may have accepted many gifts of easter chocolates from various co-workers (which has now resulted in the rule of “We-Welcome- Gifts-Because-It-Would-Be-Rude-To-Say-No”.
  • I may have gone without lunch a few days this week because I failed to prepare my own lunch, however, everyone else in my house did just fine.

Okay, I feel better. But seriously, we did great. Our delicious kick-off Chowder Fest was followed by Easter Weekend with the in-law family. Again, following our rule “When-at-someone-elses-home-partake-in-whatever-meal-is-served (because-it-would-be-rude-to-pass-up-the-famous-chocolate-cake), we eased into the diet, though the main course of Ham was purchased locally from Farmer’s Gate Market (and it was delicious!).

Sunday night, Nate and I engaged our inner-middle-eastern and baked pita-pockets (recipe to follow) for lunches. I’ve never had so much fun staring through the window of the stove squealing “Mine’s puffing up more than yours!”

Successful Lunch #1: Homemade Pita & Egg Salad with Spinich…all from Maine

Nate has mastered a bread recipe that is to die-for (and right after I stop playing catch-up with the blog, I’ll post both the Pita and Bread recipes) and we’ve enjoyed both a blueberry loaf and a dill-loaf.  We’ve also made pizza dough and dinner rolls and my next attempt will be english muffins (though I’ve been told they work best with on a counter top griddle ,which I don’t have).

Dinners have been delightful and for good and for better, we’ve cornered the market on locating greens (ps, why did no one TELL me about the Portland Winter Farmer’s Market?!) Last week was the last Winter Market, which we made it to and this past Saturday was the first Portland Outdoor Market of the Season. We’ve found some great new Maine-made items from these:

Swallowtail Farms, Coopers Mills, Maine.
Not only does it LOOK amazing but it tastes even better (Feta & mozzarella this week!)

WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR & ROLLED OATS  from Aurora Mills

Tomatoes/Basil/Green’s/Pesto
Olivia’s Garden, New Gloucester Maine

Kennebunk’s Farmer’s Market opens next weekend (!!), May 7, 2011 and we just can’t wait. Be sure to visit downtown for a day-filled with fun, as they will also be celebrating May Day that Saturday.

Last but not least, we spent the day working on the garden (okay, Nate spent the day. Roxy and I attempted to assist but eating dirt proved to be more fun than planting, so we bailed a little earlier). Today’s work was well worth it (with a sunburn to prove) as we got in the first round of greens- lettuces, swiss chard and kale- onions, brussels, broccoli, carrots, peas, radishes and strawberries. Bring it on, summer. Bring. It. On.

Oh, and PS. We’ve been working the math, and as it stands, we’re spending about $1.50 on each of our homemade loaves of bread. Local, mostly organic and fresh. Eat your heart out (for $5 bucks less).

The Green Minute

Aside from being the best little school there ever was, the local elementary school that girls attend is committed to engaging in and creating opportunities for “Going Green”. From an outdoor learning center and solar panels to reusable silverware at lunch, each month the school highlights a “Green” fact or activity. On April 29th, our family was invited to share our Maine-Food Project with the school. We worked together to create a script (they wrote 90% of it) and the girls read the whole thing. It was too cute not to share!

FINLEY: On Earth Day- April 22, 2011, our Family started our year-long project of eating food only grown from Maine. For one year, we will eat and cook ONLY with things from Maine- Hamburgers and Hotdogs to Spaghetti and meatballs Everything we eat will use only Maine ingredients!

 PARKER: Our Family thinks this project of eating locally and “going green” is important for many reasons and for the Green Minute today, we wanted to share with you a little bit about this project!

 FINLEY: Eating locally helps us to know where our meat and food comes from. We can pick farmers that treat their animals and the Earth with respect. The Earth is a very special place and we worry that if we don’t think about what and how much we use from it, there won’t be enough for our children’s children.

Eating locally saves energy, fuel and money and helps reduce and prevent pollution.

Eating locally helps kids and parents try to eat new and healthy foods like broccoli, carrots and zucchini.

 PARKER:As a family, we are learning to make bread, pasta, ice cream and yogurt and we will be learning how to can & freeze food for the winter.

We will work together to create and keep a garden full of veggies and herbs that will feed us through the summer and beyond.

We will learn to forage- from fishing to hunting for mushrooms. We will go to Farmers Markets and local farms and meet the people who work there to produce and grow the food we eat. We will take field trips to farms and local companies will share our experiences and what we learn with everyone on our blog!

 FINLEY: Here are some interesting facts we have learned.

Did you know that most bananas travel almost 2,000 miles just to get from the tree it grew on to our table? To do this, they must be picked before they are ripe and flown and driven across the country using lots of gasoline, which hurts the earth

 PARKER: Have you ever wondered where your dinner comes from? The meat and vegetables on your plate come from someone’s garden or farm but do you know where? Have you ever met your farmer? In Maine there are over 8,000 farms with 582 of them certified as organic.

 FINLEY: Did you know there are over 60 farmers markets in Maine 7 right here in York County! Kennebunk’s Market opens on Saturday May 7, 2011!

What can you do to help the earth by going green and eating locally?

Know where you food comes from. Ask someone how far your food has traveled!

 PARKER: Eat locally. Buy food from local farms and support them through CSA’s or Community Supported Agriculture- groups that work together to make food easy to buy. Visit the Kennebunk Farmer’s Market on May 7th and every Saturday through the Summer.

My favorite part of our project so far is our family working together to make dinner and learn how to do different things.

 FINLEY: My favorite thing so far is learning how to make bread and ice cream

By eating locally you can help the Earth. Go Green and Eat food from Maine! It tastes great and makes a big difference!

…Now, if we could just start that school-grown garden!

And So It Begins…The First Supper

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.
Marshall McLuhan

 

It’s here. Earth Day, 2011. An otherwise ordinary, sunny-but-breezy, not-quite-spring-day. The 41st Earth Day and the start of our one year Maine-only Diet. I’ll admit I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. I’ll blame it on oversleeping my alarm, but if im honest, I didn’t sleep much last night. I’m really not trying to be over dramatic or a whiny complainer, but I’ve seriously been stressing out wondering if this is the right thing to be doing. The worry that gets me the most? What (on this great, green Earth) will I pack the girls for lunch? I’ve already put the kibosh on school lunches so I really must rely on food from home. No more Nutri-Grain bars. No more cheese-sticks. No grapes or goldfish or bananas with peanut butter.  I spent the majority of the early morning hours, tossing and turning, brainstorming foods fit for a 3rd graders lunch box, sadly wondering if anyone would want to trade their Blue Raspberry Fruit-By-The-Foot for Parkers heirloom carrot sticks or Tempeh Trailmix.

After grumping at Nate (for no good reason) this morning, I drank my faux-coffee and nibbled some homemade bread with maine butter and homemade strawberry jelly. Not so bad. A tad bit of guilt as I poured the girls orange juice (I swear I won’t buy anymore)  and they too, were happy with toast and jam. Lunch came and went and I was blissfully saved by a busy day which failed to allow me time to eat. However, but noontime, I was still unsure of what to make to celebrate our kick-off dinner. By 2, I had convinced myself I could locate the ingredients and whip-up a homemade seafood chowder, which for the record, turned out brilliantly (if i do say so myself. Just don’t ask Finley, who decided that she HATED clams and wanted NOTHING to do with the fish or shrimp or potatoes). Salad greens from Sunset Farm Organics with beets, tomatoes and cheese from Maine and my favorite, a bottle of Lavender Mead from Maine Mead Works. With the help of my bread maker, I threw together (literally) dough, which I then made into dinner rolls (also fabulous!) with wheat flour from Harris Farm, Honey from Tony’s honey and butter from Kates of Maine.

Gigi and Grandpa Joey (otherwise known as The Wise Old Owl, aka TWOO) joined us to celebrate and dinner was filled with laughter, explanations of just WHY we were doing this (crazy) project and a reminder that family and food are two of my favorite things. It’s a great process of learning how to put into words the many feelings and esoteric philosophies we have about the reasons for this project. Most simply- help the earth, help our health, help the economy and help our neighbors. Make conscious choices about the food we purchase, eat and grow and think locally about our money and who it supports.

We can’t thank everyone for their words of support and encouragement. We hope this is as fun for you as it is for our family. Hopefully, we’ll come out no-worse-the-ware on the other side, but until then, stick by us. We’ll need all the local go-green love we can get.

FOOD! (Maine food that will keep us alive over the next year. No big.)

“A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handy man with a sense of humus.”

- E.B. White

 

Research has never been so fun! (or stressful). Here are some staples that we’ve found! Sometimes it takes a bit of looking, but Maine food products are really out there! Really!

Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour
Harris Farm
Dayton, Maine

Tony’s Honey
Bucksfield, Maine
(delicious! but we’ll be looking for something closer)

Kate’s Homemade Butter
Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Pineland Farms
Yarmouth, Maine

Fiddler’s Green Farm
Belfast, Maine

Ricker Hill Orchards
Turner, Maine

Wyman’s of Maine
Cherryfield, Maine
(until we can get our little paws on some fresh picked ones!)

Beyond Coffee
Jefferson, Maine
(I tried it. I loved it. I might never go back. Well, atleast for a year.)

Maine Natural Oils
Presque Isle, Maine

Maine Sea Salt
Marshfield, Maine

A little of this/A little of that: Sap, Cows and The Garden Begins

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

- Rachel Carson

 

I have been most delinquent with my responsibility of the blog. I’ve thought about it. I’ve jotted notes. I’ve even taken pictures thinking “This would look great on the blog!” but alas, it’s been many weeks. And even though there has been so much going on family wise, we haven’t forgotten that there are 3 DAYS left until EARTH DAY and our official kick off. Eek!

Let me fill you in on what you missed.

MAINE MAPLE SUNDAY:
March 27, 2011

Having never braved the lines (or cold) before, Nate and I thought it would be appropriate to make an effort this year, so off we went to Harris Farm. Even at 8:45, the line for pancakes strung around the corner and as the wind found its ways in through out jackets, we decided to try the sugar house instead.

By some small miracle, there was barely a line and we quickly scooted inside to watch and learn about maple sugar. The system of making maple syrup is far more complicated than I thought. Tap the tree, out comes syrup, right? Silly me.  Basically, after tapping the tree and collecting all of the sap (on the right day after the right temperatures), it must be boiled down in multiple stages. Harris Farm has quite the system of sap stage boiling and it was fascinating to see the different steps.

Traditional Tree Tapping

Frozen Sap

Steamy Sap Boiling Goodness

And although we didn’t get any syrup, I ate the best maple sugar donut I’ve ever had. As a matter of fact, I’m still dreaming about it.

FARMERS GATE MARKET
April 2, 2011

A major part of our preparation has been working hard to locate local sources of food, and in our research, we were led to a brilliant little butcher shop in Leeds, Maine. Farmer’s Gate Market is a small, but well-connected local butcher shop committed to the ethical, human and sustainable production and consumption of meat. Owner Ben Slayton could not have been more welcoming and so up we went, family of 5, in the little red Yaris to Leeds, Maine. The unassuming building is set off from the road and we were shocked when we realized we had driven past it many times and not noticed it was there. Ben welcomed our family in, even to the back butchering room, and showed us around. With a Masters in Environmental Policy, Ben then traveled to Italy where he apprenticed with a Butcher. Returning to Maine, he found a small butcher shop owned by Leon Emery (retiring butcher of Farmers Gate Market) and the two began to work in collaboration. Ben spoke thoughtfully and carefully about his families choice to settle in Leeds and transform the shop into a proverbial gateway to local meat sources. Working side by side with farmers, FGM is committed to only working with farms and farmers who meet their specific standards…”(1) pasture-based farming; (2) humane treatment of animals; (3) environmentally sustainable farming practices; and (4) good and honest people.” Ben has also been allowed to visit the only slaughter-house in Maine to ensure that the animals are treated safely and ethically through the slaughtering process. The meat is then brought back to FGM where it is carefully and deliberately cut, packaged and sold.

I have to say, the experience of stepping into the walk-in-cooler and standing next to a hanging side of beef with the two big girls beside me was pretty amazing and Ben was fabulous, as he pointed out the different cuts of meat. Later, both girls agreed that it was the “grossest and coolest thing, all at the same time”.

We plan on ordering the majority of our meat from Farmers Gate Market and Ben is willing, as with all of his customers, to cut, package and freeze according to our needs. It’s a worth-while experience to visit and eat from FGM… the bacon was simply delicious and the hamburgers were as fresh as they come.

THE GARDEN!

We’ve gone back and forth on how to make the garden (raised bed? English style?), where to make the garden (containers? down the road on family property?) and when to make the garden (what do you mean you WAIT until May to plant?). After weeks of perusing the seed website of Johnny’s Seeds (which I strongly encourage you to visit!) we finally decided on a small order of about $100 dollars worth of seeds. (So much for that small first-year garden).

Within a few days our carefully sowed seeds began to look like this! (At this point, my previously described anxiety of not being able to feed my family slowly started to dissipate!)

At the same time, we decided to transform what was once a 14’x24′ granite lined, crushed gravel filled project that was never used by the phone companies on my mothers land into a 14’x24′ granite lined, 18″dug, quasi-raised bed garden. Please take note of the amount of crushed gravel!

So, doing what our family does best, we all pitched into make our garden…

 

Raking with a sleeping 7 month old. Hardcore…

2 hours later, winded and tired, we realized we hadn’t accomplished much.  (one corner of said 14’x24′ granite lined, crushed gravel filled soon to be garden).

So we decided to take the easier route and hired a local guy with a backhoe to dig it out for us.

Now, we’re getting ready to fill said dug garden with beautiful loam/compost mix from Blackrock Farm and hopefully begin planting and transplanting over the next few weeks.

I can’t forget to show the progress on our mushrooms. This is sort of Nate’s project but the bottom line is this– if it works out as planned, we’ll have Shiitakes, Pearl Oyster and  Phoenix Oyster mushrooms throughout the summer season. Holes were drilled and plugs were hammered in (with help from the girls!). Now we wait and see. (He’s also got some other crazy plan of growing mushrooms in coffee grounds- research based of course. I’ll keep you posted. I’m hoping those happen as fast as he says so that we can remove the buckets of coffee grounds from all over our kitchen!)

 

Inch by Inch

“A patent on seeds is a patent on freedom.”
– Ka Memong Patayan 

It never ceases to amaze me how often the world seems to come full circle. Or maybe how my life and the world often feel closer than 6-degrees of separation. Maybe it’s just ironic that my life and the circumstances in the world are feeling so parallel…or maybe not.

Less than a week ago, 22 agricultural associations, 12 seed businesses and 26 farms and farmers from around the United States filed a legal suit against Monsanto, a US-based agricultural biotech corporation. Monsanto, best know for its Round-Up resistant (yes, Round Up the Herbicide which has been banned in many countries for its impact on all creatures great and small) patented soy beans, corn and cotton seeds, has effectively and efficiently created a monopoly on genetically modified (GM) seeds. With this patent, other farms and farmers not using these seeds run the risk of being sued if the seed is found on their land, even if it was carried via wind, soil or bird poop and it is not beyond Monsanto to sue, threaten or harass small farmers right out of business should this happen. Their claim? Copyright infringement, seed stealing, etc,. This suit, which challenges Monsanto’s rights, would prohibit Monsanto from suing these small farms and seed companies, should they’re land/product/seed become cross-contaminated.  (visit http://www.percyschmeiser.com/ for more information on a real life example of the disastrous effects of this reality).

At the same time as all of this is transpiring, I am watching (with joy) as the  tiny seeds we planted last weekend have begun to unfurl. The heirloom tomato seeds…the pickling cucumbers…the lemongrass…all at various stages of bloom. Seed to dirt, water, sun, a little heat, some gentle coaxing and voila (!), my fears of failing my family begin to melt away. Such little effort and the fruits of our labor seem so close, I can nearly feel the sweat on my brow as I can a years supply of heirloom tomato sauce.  And though I have to believe that my tiny backyard garden will never be affected by seed-bullies like Monsanto, I struggle to understand what this really means for these farmers, the future of agriculture and food production as we know it.

The more and more I read and subsequently, the more and more I learn, I cannot help by feel discouraged by the direction our world is headed in . Naively, I thought I “got it” before we started this project, but I sheepishly must admit, I had no idea the scope or impact of what I would find. And though I feel ‘late for the game’, as it goes to talking about food production and sustainability, I have to say, I think the real conversations have only just begun. Leave it to me to equate singing songs to the tiny seeds on my windowsill with the impact of genetically modified seeds in rural Nebraska, but damn, I’ve gone and done it. And now you, well you’ve got to read about it. What’s your “6-degrees” or parallel process? What does food production mean to your family? And how does the proverbial “we” ensure that Round-Up resistant seeds don’t make it on to our kitchen tables, and into the bellies of our children, because right now, im pretty sure it’s closer than I want it to be. What’s on your table?

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