Not just for the food

Braised Beef Shortribs Every time we eat something absolutely fabulous, a vegetable from the garden or eggs from the chickens or pork or lamb, I keep having that Alton Brown line run through my head … I’m just in it for the food. It almost feels that way, sometimes. We are eating better than we ever have, both of us, in our entire lives. Better by every definition of better that you can think of. Healthier, to be sure. Balanced. Tastier. Fresher. More. (Like Elaine says, when you run a sawmill, you can eat anything you want.)

Lunch Food has always been my job. I cook. I love to cook, but even when I didn’t feel like cooking, it was still my job to get everyone fed. With a vegetarian daughter and a son who could eat us out of house and home, keeping us all fed when the kids were growing up was a significant portion of my day everyday. In those days, I did the sort of mindless shopping that I sometimes miss. We were often broke, and quite busy, so just getting everyone fed was enough. We ate at home all the time, though. Dinner time together was an everyday thing. I always tried for as balanced a meal I could do — protein, starch, veg, dessert.

Breakfast, on Shamrock Fiestaware Now, though, it’s just Frank and myself, and we are attempting to raise as much of our own food as we can, for a whole variety of reasons. I made the mistake years ago of really starting to read labels. Do we really want all that crap in our bodies? We have the time, now, to pay attention to that. The kids are gone, I’m not traveling for work anymore. We have our garden and our critters.

Our grocery bill is so different. All our meat comes from our farm, or beef from Pitcher Mountain Farm. Our milk comes from a different farm, Flying Cloud Dairy, and I hope to have cows of our own next year. What veg we didn’t grow, we got from local farms whenever possible. I’ve put up tons of canned goods this year. I make all our own bread, tortillas, crackers. I make ice cream, cheese, creamed cheese. Stocks — chicken, lamb, pork, beef, mushroom. So we get things at the store like cooking oils, flours, cleaning products.

We are in the best shape of our lives. We are both at the thinnest we’ve ever been, but we are also really strong, too. I’ve never been muscular before, but throwing around bales of hay will do that to you. I go up and down the stairs in our house probably a hundred times a day, and it doesn’t phase me a bit.

Jealous Polly, brave Lily So being in it for the food has all of these other benefits. Not only do we eat well, we feel well. We love being here with the critters. When we first rebuilt after the fire, we innocently started with a couple of bee hives. Look where we’ve gone in only seven years! We now have sheep, a llama, three horses, two pigs, many chickens. Spending the day out with them is just the funnest ever. Sure, I get really frustrated when the sheep get out. (Minx, I’m looking at you. Also, Misty.) My poor garden! Next year we will have better fences. But the joy of knowing all of these personalities is just so cool. Who knew they were all so individual, so neat?

Sue, my studly herdsire The parasite problems are maddening, of course. I find it just heartbreaking to lose a critter. This year was particularly tough, and though the vet says everyone around here had the same kind of year, I don’t find that comforting. We’ve got to figure out a way to select for parasite resistance. We can spot, now, the family lines that just do so much better than the others. Sue is a great herdsire. His kids are far more resistant than the new ones we’ve brought in.

Sunset over our swamp So, anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not just in it for the food. The food is great, though! But I think I’m in it for the utter happiness we have living here. Even as we are changing the land, the space, by cutting down so many trees, it’s still home. It’s beautiful, and we are working hard to take care of it well. The land is treating us so well, nourishing us, body and soul. We’ve been back full time almost a year now, and wow am I glad we took this path.

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