Supporting Local Farms (So You Want to Be a Homesteader Day 7)

It is a good idea to try and be self sufficient enough that you feel secure.  You have water in empty jars in case the water gets turned off.  You have candles, oil lamps, and matches.  You have food preserved and a bustling garden.  You have firewood.  You have some cash in a coffee can.  Going further, it is really satisfying to raise your own food, preserve all of your own food and drinks, and make steps to be more eco-friendly and simple.  We can get pretty darn self sufficient, but really it not likely to be completely self sufficient.  Mainly because we need people.  We also cannot possibly do everything ourselves.  Supporting small, local farms in your state- as close to you as possible- is a great way to build each other up, create community, eat well, ensure humane treatment of animals, and support a more environmentally friendly path.

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We don’t have too many flour mills here in Colorado (do we have any?), and I know no one is growing coffee and sugar, so I do need to buy those.  I can choose organic or small operations to purchase from.  I grow most of our vegetables for the summer and fall here on my urban farm, but it is always nice to head to the farmer’s market and buy some fruit or unique vegetables from the organic farmers there.  We talk about bugs, weather, family, recipes.  I can also get extra produce to preserve if I didn’t grow enough. The money stays in the community, amongst friends.

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Most of the homestead authors I enjoy reading started out as vegetarians.  Many of us have felt strongly about vegetarianism before.  Many of my farmer friends were vegetarians.  We care about the environment.  We care about animals.  So, once we see that tofu and bananas wreck the ozone as much as anything with all the fuel and deforestation required, and that GMO crops (the basis of many a veggie burger), and factory farming are what are destroying our health and our beautiful planet, it makes a farmgirl step back and reassess.

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There are lovely, caring farms and ranches, many around you, that lovingly grow animals for meat and gently send them off into the night.  A world away from the pain and stench of factory farming.  My meat chickens got lots of kisses and lots of sunshine and were dead in less time than it takes to blink.  No pain.

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The key to curing many of our environmental, social, and health problems can be found in our food choices.  By purchasing as much local as possible, from real people in your community, who don’t use pesticides and herbicides, who have bills to pay, and a smile to offer you, and authentic conversation, we can reverse disease, destruction, and separation.  Local is where our food should come from.  As close as possible.  Your back yard is even better.  It is possible to eat primarily local, it just takes some planning and networking on social media and at farmer’s markets to find everything you need.

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I despise the dairy industry and do not want to support them.  Yesterday I visited a small farm thirty minutes from mine where a gorgeous, tanned farmgirl showed me around.  She loves each and every one of the newly hatched chicks that ran by chirping, the bucks who got out and created a lot of babies this year, the old goats, the babies frolicking with their mothers, the pigs, the dogs, the land, that life.  I packed three gallons of delicious, fresh milk into my car.  Today I am making cheese and ice cream.

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Local is not more expensive.  Creating a good network of fellow farmers and ranchers is imperative to becoming a successful homesteader.

An Epiphany for Change (is there any real food out there anymore?)

An epiphany.  How many times do we hear things, read things, learn things before we finally GET IT?

“I’m so glad I’m not an addict,” I say to my husband, laughing, “I have zero self control!”  We were out again.  Out to eat even though we had food at home, we didn’t have the money to be eating out, and I knew damn well that I would feel terrible after eating at a restaurant.  And yet, every couple of days I get to craving something and give in.  Oh, it’s never fresh salad or anything like that.

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“What if,” I ventured, “all of the preservatives and chemicals and refined oils in the food are actually addictive and that is why we keep having to eat out even though we don’t really want to?”  I didn’t need an answer.  We already knew.  I am an addict.  And it started long before I ever heard of a GMO or MSG or chemical food.

I casually looked at the ingredients of the bag of organic, gluten free, healthy chips that I packed into Doug’s lunch.  And there, quietly hidden among the organic ingredients with asterisks by them, were two ingredients.  Natural flavors and citric acid.  Natural flavors is a chemical creation with derivatives of MSG and GMO ingredients.  Citric acid is GMO black mold grown on GMO corn.

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The epiphany and mild panic ensued and I realized that the reason that I cannot feel satiated with simple foods is because I have been fed chemical stuff my whole life!  Ever since the marketing folks convinced grandma and mama that convenience was their birthright, we have been subtly poisoned.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, or anything, and I certainly don’t want to scare you, but folks, we are being poisoned.  Snacks, treats, oils, restaurant foods, it’s in my chicken’s food…everywhere we are being given doses of chemicals created to keep us coming back.  You can’t go to your friend’s house for dinner or a coffee shop for a latte without consuming these things.  Consider the extreme rates of cancers and of all the other diseases out there, and well, it’s just no wonder.

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I worry most for my grandchildren and children who would have no idea how to give up these things.  How can most people afford to grow all of their own food or cook all of their own food?  How do you give up the societal pressures of food as pleasure and company?

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Obama wrote into law that Monsanto cannot be sued.  Then Dow quietly bought Monsanto, disassembled it and GMO’s masquerade everywhere without accountability.  History tells us that unsustainable entities cannot survive but who will die first, them or us?  No better time to be getting yourself some heirloom seeds, a pressure canner, a couple of chickens, and a how-to make your own bread book.  Because what is worse than ignorance?  Complacency.

 

The Romance and History of Seed Saving (now how the heck do I do it?)

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I have been listening to lectures and reading about seed saving.  It is something I have wanted to do, but then at the end of the season I either get lazy, run out of time, or run out of plants to save!  This idea appeals to me though and makes so much sense.

There are the practical reasons, of course.  When you patent something, you own it.  When you patent a seed, you own life.  Dow, Dupont, and Monsanto would very much like to own life.  These are mega corporations that seem to have no soul.  They are made up of people with well lined green pockets and their friends in politics benefit too.  Dow and Dupont create the most powerful pesticides and herbicides on the market made from leftovers of chemical warfare, slowly killing populations of species including people.  These require plants that can stand up to them.  Monsanto, with their genetically engineered seeds, are patenting all types of seeds.  They are open pollinated so if it drifts into your garden, they own your seeds too.  If one was to stop and think about it, it is all very terrifying that a large entity could own our life force, our food, and not just any food, poisonous food.  They are already poisoning millions of Americans every day with their GMO’s that are in practically every processed food and in more and more produce.

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I am blessed to live in an area that is not known for farming (lucky me, there is a reason for that!) but the benefit of that is that I have no drift from GMO crops.  I should be saving my seeds!  I would also save $600 a year on seeds that I starry eyed buy in January.

I am also struck by the romance and the history of saving seeds.  Our grandparents that came over from other countries with seeds in the lining of their jackets.  Our Native American ancestors saved seed to take from place to place.  There were no glossy seed catalogues for them to order from each year.  Seeds were a source of trade.  Seeds were gold.  Over 94% of all seeds are gone.  Forever.  We will never know many of the delicious foods that our ancestors ate.  Even from the 1940’s.

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We have selected hybrid seeds to choose from.  This is a great reason to choose a seed company like Seed Savers.  They have successfully saved hundreds of seeds from extinction.  To plant a seed that was brought over by covered wagon or a seed from corn that was used as cornmeal are all gifts from a past time.  Then save the seed.

A beautiful story I read in a magazine years ago has followed me in memory.  After the Vietnam war there were several refugees.  I believe this happened in Louisiana.  The Catholic ministries bought two apartment buildings to house these refugees.  These folks were missing their homeland and their families.  With them when they fled their war torn country were seeds.  The people started a garden at their new place and planted the seeds from their homes.  They created an oasis of foods of comfort that are not grown here.  Vegetables their mothers grew, recognizable and tactile pieces of home.

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I know how to save seeds from squashes and tomatoes, that type of plant.  I just need to do it.  I do not have a clue how to save things like collard greens or lettuce or radishes.  I left  some of them up and their flowers are beautiful waving daintily over the other plants.  Now what?  Will the seeds come after the flower?  Do I need to chop their heads off now?  Oh bother, I need a book and a teacher!

This year I will at least save seeds from pumpkins, from squash, from potatoes.  Start slow and work my way up to a collection.  Create my own chest of gold.

 

The Problem With Blanket Statements (making our own way)

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“The meat industry is the largest contributor to global warming and pollution.”  I knew it! said my vegan self years ago when I heard this statement.  That was before I moved to the country.  What the statements and news articles should have said was that the factory farms and huge dairy and meat operations were the cause of so much mass pollution and run off.  John’s fifty head of cattle or Deb’s humanely raised and killed beef are not really huge contributors to the world’s pollution problem.  In fact, by raising healthy, grass fed, humanely raised and processed meat they are actually saving the planet by providing local food.  Smaller footprint.

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“Milk is bad for you.”  Many articles are promoting this right now.  On the flip side the posters put out by the USDA in schools tout that “Milk is good for you!”  What?  My vegan self saw the first one and said, “I knew it.”  I know that conventional milk causes excess mucous, brain fog, and contributes to osteoporosis. (Pasteurized milk leaches calcium from the bones.  America has the highest population of dairy consumers and the highest rate of osteoporosis in the world.)  I was smug.

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A few years ago a student of mine, Liz, who works on a dairy farm in Fort Collins, sent me an email so not to cause an argument in class.  She said that I was wrong about my blanket statement.  There was a big difference between raw milk from a small dairy, humanely raised cows and goats, and the large conventional dairies and pasteurized milk.  I don’t know about that.  She went on to tell me how her allergies had been decreased and she felt better after drinking raw milk.

Liz was friends with Nancy.  Nancy shortly after brought me a pint of raw goat’s milk.  “You don’t have to drink it,” she said.  We were gluttons, looking for more milk.  One taste and something in our bodies begged for more.  Chocolate milk became our vice and we felt great.  So, we started eating other dairy too, conventional dairy.  The same problems we experienced before we went vegan (stomach problems, weight gain) happened again.  Raw goat cheese and raw milk do not have that effect on us.  Goat’s milk used to be used as formula replacement if a mommy couldn’t nurse.  It is packed with nutrients and vitamins and is so easy to digest.  It is very similar to human breast milk.

Now that we have our own goats, we are even closer to the source and can control daily kisses and hugs, what they eat, and provide a local source of milk and cheese.  Smaller footprint.

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“All gluten is bad for you.”  I know a lot of people that will repeat this.  But, it is a blanket statement.  A diagnosis that a doctor will give if they do not know what is wrong.  Yes, processed flour products and non-organic flour are pretty bad.  They have a lot of additives and non-organic flour was hybridized to increase gluten content to extend shelf life so it is harder to digest.  It is also a highly sprayed crop.  Fertilizers and pesticides do affect how we feel.  Processed gluten-free alternatives are probably not much better.  Organic grains, especially whole grains, provide needed energy, nutrients, and anti-oxidants.  They contain anti-cancer properties as well.  Bring on the homemade wheat baguette!

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“All vegetables are created the same.”  Please be aware that if it isn’t organic in the store than it probably has been sprayed with pesticides and may be a genetically modified crop.  If you don’t know about GMO’s yet, please research them!  Stay far, far away from non-organic soy, canola, and corn.  If you see a few and far between article on their safety, see who is benefitting from the “research”.  Monsanto?  They are the attempted killer of the farmer that you know and love.  Also remember that just because the store has a clever marketing slogan (Sprout’s Farmer’s Market) or if it is at a real farmer’s market, that doesn’t mean that it is organic.

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Then there are the blanket statements that change, yet we listen all the same.  One glass of wine is good for the heart, two causes breast cancer.  You must only have this much salt (sodium in processed foods is not the same as the use of sea salt in your own home)…oh wait, now you can have more sodium.  This is the perfect number for blood pressure.  That number was recently changed.  Brown eggs are better.  Wait, brown eggs are the same as white eggs, people.  Eggs are bad.  Eggs are good!  We are constantly at the mercy of USDA food pyramids, the medical community, and research put out by whoever will benefit.  Our government and large companies are paid ridiculously large sums in order to keep us a consumer, keep us in fear of not being healthy, fear of this ailment or that. (They will have a medicine for you though.) Enough relying on everyone else telling us what to do.  No wonder Americans are so stressed about everything!

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Does that food make you feel good?  Was it locally produced?  Did you produce it?  We can trust ourselves to see what is causing harm to our environment, what foods are healthy for us, what our bodies should feel like and function like.  We can grow our own food, we can milk our own goats, we can make our own medicine.  We can have a second glass of wine!

We can make our own statements.