Monday, October 12, 2009

On Having Plenty

We had the best meal last night, and as happens so frequently these days, after we finished eating, I realized it was, not only, all local, but a good portion of it was grown right here.

The menu included:

Oven-roasted Chicken (stuffed with garlic and onions and rubbed with non-local olive oil, pepper, salt, garlic powder and cumin and local sage)

Greens sauteed in garlic butter (spinach from the farmer's market mixed with beet greens from my garden. Butter was Kate's and garlic was grown right here. I added a dash of Maine sea salt and served with the diced onion and garlic from the chicken).

Oven-roasted potatoes (drizzled with olive oil and salt).

It was so good. I can remember growing up knowing that greens were not good food, and I know, now, that my assumption was wrong. While I agree that there is not much in this world that is more vile tasting than canned spinach, when sauteed fresh with some butter, garlic, and a pinch of sea salt, and then drizzled with a little bit of balsamic vinegar, cooked spinach and beet greens are delicious. Even Deus Ex Machina, for whom all greens are vile, enjoyed them.

I'm reading the last chapter of Stinking Creek by John Fetterman. It's a fascinating book, especially for me, because my grandmother was originally from Stinking Creek, Kentucky, although by the time Mr. Fetterman visited to do the research for his book, half her kids (all born away from Knox County ... across the mountain in Harlan ;) were grown, and she'd been gone for more than three decades.

Being from the same genetic pool as the people Mr. Fetterman describes, I felt a strong sense of pride for my mountain lineage, and I am thankful that Mr. Fetterman was able to show the human side of the abject poverty that has plagued that region of this country for most of the last century - ever since coal was discovered there, the laws were formed in favor of the coal companies, and the land was raped and left polluted, scarred and barren.

What was sad for me, though, was the sense of defeat that so many suffered, and rather than living, they simply existed ... from one government check to the next. Mr. Fetterman described two types of people - the ones who subsisted without the help of the government and the ones who didn't. My grandparents were the former, and so even though I didn't grow up in Appalachia and I didn't live there until I was a teenager, I was raised with a strong sense of self-reliance.

Having seen that life and had a tiny taste of its bitter fruit, I recognize how very lucky I am to be here, on my quarter acre suburban lot, surrounded by such bounty, and so far, my life has followed a path that has allowed me to not have to make some of those very difficult decisions my kinfolk have to make. Food has never been an issue.

My mother-in-law lives on a tiny lot in town. Every year, she is plagued with acorns covering her yard. This year, at our request, instead of putting them in bags to take to the town compost dump, she put them in a 20 gal trash can and saved them for us.

We started sorting them last night. We figure we'll get about 10 gal of usable acorns when we're finished. I don't know how much acorn flour that will give us, but I think it will be a lot. Today, Deus Ex Machina found a recipe for Acorn cakes. The recipe calls for acorn flour, corn meal, and honey. Acorns are prolific around my house. There's an oak tree across the road that's been dropping its treasures, and the path back in the woods is littered with the power-packed nuggets, as well. When I figure out growing field corn and we get our bees, we could have an energy-dense food that was grown or foraged within 100 feet of our front door.

The more we learn about localizing our lives, the easier it becomes to contemplate satisfying our needs right here.

Of course, we made another very cool discovery yesterday, as well, and the legs will stay attached to the birds for a bit longer. When Deus Ex Machina went out to close up the chickens and ducks last night, he shone his flashlight under the house to be sure that all of the chickens were in the house before he let the ducks into the coop. He found a couple of eggs under there.

And then, Big Little Sister went out there to help him, and she found a few more.

This morning, Little Fire Faery took a look and found a few more.

When all was said and done, we found twenty-nine eggs.

At least one of the ducks has been laying for a while ... and hiding her eggs under the hen house.

We had scrambled eggs for the first time in about two months ... and I'm making pumpkin bread, using the pie pumpkins I bought for $1.75 each at the Farmer's Market.

Chicken, bread, eggs, acorns, greens, garlic, onions, and massive potatoes ...

... today I feel incredibly blessed and so thankful to have plenty.


  1. Hey! Are you going to soak your acorns before you grind them? If your buckskin wasn't soft you could always use the excess water (I would think since it's going to have the tannin) to soften it. (I was a'googlin' how to make acorn flour--I keep thinking about it on my walk thru the park at lunch and then read your post--and they mentioned the tannin and I immediately thought of your buckskins!)

  2. Yeah, do you soak the acorns before or after grinding? My husband cannot consume tannins, so I've wondered if I could soak enough tannin out of acorns to make this worthwhile. Of course, he also can't consume wheat, barley or rye (gluten intolerance) so it isn't as though he's worried about the type of flour we use for anyting since he never eats any flour-based foods anyway.

  3. The steps for processing acorns, as we learned them, are, roughly: gathering, drying, shelling, leaching, roasting, and grinding.

    So, yes. The acorns do need to be soaked, and the recommended method is to put them in running water for forty-eight hours after they've dried.

    My *teachers* put their acorns in a stream to leach out the tannins. I've also read of people who do the boiling water method, wherein they boil the acorns with several changes of water.

    Deus Ex Machina and I have two 55-gal rain barrels full of water that need to be emptied before the winter. Part of that water will be used to make lye for our soap-making ventures. The rest will be used to leach tannins out of our acorns.

  4. This is a great acorn cookbook a friend of mine pointed me to:
    The soaking in rain barrels is a good idea, I was thinking of that too. And all that acidic water: what else could we do with it?
    Katrien at MamaStories