100-Mile Food Journey, Uncategorized

A Harvest-Time Confession

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I do realize that it’s been over two months since I’ve posted anything. Meaning, in the course of our one-year journey towards local eating, almost a quarter of the year has been swallowed up in the black hole, mind-numbing abyss called harvest time. What started as an idealistic, Utopian induced “adventure” has quickly spiraled into a full-time job.

Harvest time is not for the faint of heart. I spend most of my days blanching, freezing, peeling, dehydrating, slicing, canning, fermenting, and wistfully daydreaming of white snowy landscapes devoid of any form of work-inducing vegetation. It’s true. I’m pining for winter, my full pantry and the hours that I’ll be able to devote to anything but harvesting. So, please forgive me that the last thing I want to do after blanching, freezing, canning and fermenting is recording my endeavors in blanching, freezing, canning and fermenting.

However, I do realize that, whether I like it or not, I should record some snippets of the past couple of months. Even if just to remind my future self that if I ever have lofty notions of spending a year eating only foraged food, for instance or of only wearing hand-knitted garments, I should look back on these posts and realize a year of extremes is…well, extreme.

Also, I have a confession to make. And perhaps this is the biggest reason why I’ve been procrastinating writing this post. We’ve been “cheating.” And by cheating, I mean we’ve been re-introducing one non-local ingredient or item (albeit sourced as ethically and locally as possible) each month since August. (Which, if you consider that we only began this journey in July, that means we barely made it one month eating an entirely local diet. Oh, the shame!) This decision I blame squarely on my sourdough bread.

Bread envy is a thing. I fed, coddled, and stirred my sourdough starter to the point that it had become an obsession. Every morning started with feeding my starter. Each afternoon started with checking on the rising of my starter. And each evening ended with observing the falling of my starter. I was sourdough obsessed. Unfortunately, my sourdough starter success ended there. Every time I devoted a whole day* to making a sourdough loaf, I was met with grave disappointment as I hauled yet another tacky, tooth-tearing brick out of the oven. My family (bless their hearts) would be so excited to try my bread and would smile bravely through lock-jaw as they swamped their bread bricks in honey. Anything to make it palatable. I knew that I had reached an all-time low when we were gifted a loaf of Wonder bread and the girls asked to have a slice for dessert.

So I tentatively suggested to Jeff that perhaps introducing yeast back into our diet would be helpful. School was just beginning and I was feeling the pressure to perfect this sourdough thing so that the girls could actually have sandwiches in their lunch. Besides, I didn’t want the girls to be the weird kids with the weird lunches. Heaven forbid if they experience the social strain of witnessing all the other kids unwrapping dessert-like Wonder bread sandwiches while they were chipping teeth on the equivalent of sourdough hockey pucks. If only I could have a jar of yeast, my bread-making woes would be over and the girls’ social standing would remain somewhat in tact.**And so began the discussion of re-introducing one non-local food item each month.

Yeast was our obvious first choice. Followed by coffee. Let’s be real…I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, human being if I start each day with a cup of coffee. And so began the discussion of re-introducing coffee, provided that it was sourced ethically and roasted locally.

Now we are planted squarely in October and we’re hoping to re-introduce oats this month. Interestingly enough, oats are not grown within our 100-mile radius. They are either grown out west or quite a few hours north of us. But is there anything better than a bowl of steaming oats for breakfast once the weather starts turning cooler? Or the oat topping for apple crisp? Or overnight oats soaked in homemade yogurt? Or simply as a binder in homemade meatballs? Not to mention the added bonus of being budget-friendly, nutritious and our girls love them.

So yes, part of me is somewhat ashamed that we have technically already “failed” to eat 100% locally. Yet another part of me now looks forward to the beginning of each month with child-like anticipation. What will November hold? The re-introduction of cinnamon? December will it be olive oil? Will January promise us snow with a chance of bananas? The possibilities really are endless.

So there you have it – a true harvest-time confession. Perhaps now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest I’ll be able to find the time to communicate a little more freely on here. Although that is unlikely…while it may be getting chillier out, apparently there are certain veggies in my garden that are best harvested after the first few frosts. So much for looking forward to the cold months and putting my feet up. Kale, brussel sprouts and rutabagas have truly made sure that there is no rest for the wicked. Or the cheaters.

 

* Yes, sourdough bread-making does require a full day, usually starting the night before. If you do attempt to make sourdough bread, plan on staying home for a full 24-hours so that you can successfully implement all the steps. Don’t take it from me, though. I’m certainly no expert.

**We’re a month and a bit into school now and despite my best efforts, the girls are definitely the “crunchy” kids with the weird lunches. Surprise, surprise, not many kids bring beeswax-wrapped homemade bread sandwiches I guess. In self-defense, though, my kids also are the ones who asked me to pack edible flowers as a snack in their lunch. So, Miss Scott, Mrs. Grootenboer – if you’re reading this and have witnessed Elsie and Zoe literally munching on bright orange flowers, do not be alarmed. They’re called nasturtiums and they taste like peppers.

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