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.

Beef Bourguignon (homestead style)

Even though we are homesteaders (and make a bit over twenty grand a year) we love really good food.  It’s not just for the rich.  We eat fresh vegetables from the garden, home canned vegetables in the winter, humanely raised and organically and grass fed animals raised by friends or nearby farmers.  We love good, strong coffee (fair trade), and delicious teas.  We love good olive oil and spices.  When you don’t spend money on processed food, you have enough left over to buy (or grow) great food.

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I was anxious to make the Julia Child classic Beef Bourguignon.  After years and years of making the recipe with veggie meat, I was ready to make the real deal with sirloin I had purchased from my friends, Margaret and Krista.  Krista actually goes and visits with her cows every day.  They are well loved and well fed animals.  I looked over the recipe from Julia Child and one from Ina Garten.  I did not have all the ingredients.  The nearest store is thirty minutes away and budget is tight right now (we need to get wood!) so I streamlined the recipe to what I had and it turned out mouthwateringly good.  You don’t have to follow recipes exactly.  You can add or subtract what you like and don’t like.  Add more of something.  Be creative.  I didn’t have any bacon, but I bet that would be great in the stew.  I didn’t want to put in all that onion.  I had dried mushrooms.  It all worked out.  And I had a happy, well fed homesteading hubby.  A glass of rich, red wine goes beautifully with this dish.  Also add a loaf of homemade bread.

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Homesteader’s Beef Bourguignon

2 Tb of olive oil

1 lb. of sirloin cut into inch cubes.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.  Sear on all sides then transfer to a crock pot or a Dutch oven to set on the wood cook stove.

In same pan, scrape off bits of meat and add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil

Over medium heat sauté a diced onion and a sliced carrot along with 2 cloves of diced garlic for about ten minutes until fragrant and onion is translucent and just browning.  Add to meat.

To meat mixture add 2 cups of marinara sauce, 2 cups of red wine (good wine, no cooking wine), and 1 1/2 cups of broth.  Throw in a bay leaf and 2 Tablespoons of fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried), plus 1 cup of sliced mushrooms.

Cook in crock pot on low or on wood cook stove for 6 hours.

Combine 3 heaping tablespoons of flour to doubled the water and whisk.  Stir into stew and cook (on high if using crock pot, no heat change on wood stove) for 30 minutes until a little thicker.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bon Appetite!

 

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.