Monday, August 25, 2014

Five Mile Diet ... Mostly

We have tried to stay within the five mile parameters, although we probably made it too easy on ourselves by exempting drinks. Coffee and tea are exempted, which means I still, also, get to enjoy sugar and cream.

With a couple of exceptions this week, we did stay within the five miles every day. One day last week, we had a particularly busy day, and while I should have just buckled down and cooked dinner (my friend, Melonie, would ask, What Would Ma Engles Do, and she definitely would NOT have gone for Thai take-out, just because the day was busy and late). Anything would have been better - not necessarily better tasting, but certainly better than succumbing to the temptation. I was weak.

Saturday ended up being another one of those kinds of days, with our girls involved in dance/community service events, and we just decided to take the easy way out.

Otherwise, however, we did manage to eat close to home.

My consolation is that there were more successful days than not. My favorite meal has been to brown ground beef, season it like I would for tacos, and then add zucchini, squash, tomatoes, green beans ... whatever vegetables I have. The first time I made it, Deus Ex Machina kept commenting on how good it was, and so it has been a repeat. The bonus is that it has proven a good way to get everyone to eat things like zucchini, summer squash and green beans. We've also had chicken for a couple of meals. Usually our chicken is stretched two or three meals. This week, we had it roasted on Day 1 and in a casserole in Day 2. Deus Ex Machina took chicken to lunch on a couple of days.

Breakfast is still hash browned potatoes and an egg.

I've stopped snacking as much as I used to, but for whatever reason, I think I'm actually gaining weight instead of losing. I joke that Deus Ex Machina is losing weight ... I'm finding it. Maybe I'm just drinking more sweet, creamy coffee or sweet tea.

We're still eating only foraged foods on Sunday, and this Sunday was actually an incredible day. We had braised groundhog (we saved the legs from last week's road kill), which was really, really good! And with it we had applesauce from the apples foraged in our neighborhood. The funny part is that, not only have we eaten every Sunday since we started foraged only Sundays, but we have enough extra stuff left from the last few Sundays to make another meal - some apples, a few milkweed pods and some mushrooms.

We're on the last week of the challenge, and I don't know whether to say it's been a success or a failure. We haven't been completely faithful to the five miles on a couple of occasions, but mostly, we have eaten only what is available locally. We could have been more creative, and there are a lot of resources that we didn't even tap into that we could have made use of.

I did make both cheese and yogurt (skills I'd already learned). Both are delicious, and we've enjoyed having them.

The real test will be September, to see how much and/or how quickly we slide back into not always paying attention.

We're having a portion of our house rebuilt, starting today, and when they were doing the demo, they found a lot of rot and some ants. We've been trying to get this work started since March, and truth be told, we've been sketching and planning this sort of work for almost a decade. It was finally started today, and we realized that we really did wait too long. Mold, rot, and an ant infestation might make the job a lot more involved than it would have been if we had gotten to things earlier. Guess we'll see if there is a price for procrastination. Either way, we're in this house for the long-haul, and we're very hopeful that this renovation will make our house work better for us.

P.S. Zucchini pickles fermented with whey. Yes!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Road Kill - It's What's For Dinner

Every year, Deus Ex Machina gets his hunting license, but as a bow hunter, the act of hunting is a bit more of a challenge than those who use guns will experience. First, he has to be much closer to his quarry, and second, he has to be very sure of his shot. Maybe he shoots the animal, but if he doesn't do it right, the animal will run, perhaps bleed to death, and there's a very good possibility that he won't find it.

The worst thing in the world for a hunter is to believe that he's injured the animal that will die a very slow, very painful death, and that death will be for naught ... well, except maybe to feed an opportunistic coyote.

He teases me about hunting groundhog, and while I have no particular love of ground hog, or squirrel, or wild rabbit, most of those animals are only one meal - unlike a deer would be. We raise meat rabbits in the back yard, and to me, to kill a wild animal to eat when we have an equivalent already is borderline unscrupulous. It would be different if we were actually starving and needed that animal, but to consciously choose to kill a groundhog just so that we could eat, when we have no real need of that meat ... well, just say that I have strongly discouraged the idea, and Deus Ex Machina has always acquiesced to my resistance.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also say that my resistance has nothing to do with not wanting to eat groundhog, as I have no qualms, whatsoever, about consuming the meat. I am a meat eater, and I'll try most things - once. I do have my limits, which include most carnivores (the thought of eating something that kill me for food is a little unsettling, and I haven't been able to get beyond it - so any canine or feline is pretty much off my food list, at least for the time being), but I have eaten some small, wild animals, including squirrel and beaver, and the meat was palatable.

Sunday is Foraging Sundays, which means that Deus Ex Machina and I have challenged ourselves to eat only foraged foods for the day. It's been quite an experience, and there have been a few Sundays when our meals were thin soup with a few greens that I was able to forage from the yard.

We've also enjoyed wild caught fish from friends and family who've gifted them to us, but we've always known we couldn't depend on others to fill our bellies. One week we had periwinkles. Yes, I, now, know without a doubt, that I can, easily, eat escargot, and I would completely enjoy the experience! If nothing else, this challenge has taught me to be absolutely not squeamish about my food choices.

Sunday was an incredibly bountiful day. Big Little Sister, Little Fire Faery, and Precious picked several pounds of apples on Saturday from a feral apple tree in our neighborhood. So, for breakfast, we had applesauce. Ignore the worm trails in the apples. Protein, right?

Deus Ex Machina cut the apples into pieces, and then, using the awesome food mill that my very good friend from Florida (Hi, Judy - waving enthusiastically!) sent to us many years ago, he sifted out the skins and cores. It was a lot smoother than we usually make our applesauce, but delicious! Oh, yes!

Big Little Sister and Little Fire Faery had planned to work at the yard sale their dance school is having, and so Deus Ex Machina drove them out there while I worked. In addition, he had a few other local errands to run, and while he was out on the road, he figured he might stop a couple of places we know where the foraging might be good.

On his way to the dance school, he called.

"So, how would you feel if I brought home whistle pig?" He asked, after I'd picked up the phone.

I paused.

"How fresh is it?" I asked.

When I was a kid, I lived in this wonderful suburb that was truly on the fringes of a newly expanding city. The closest shops were, at least, two miles away, and the subdivision was built just beyond, but not connected to, a country club. We lived four miles or so from the by-pass. We were a fifteen minute drive from the schools and a half hour drive from the military base where my father worked.

We used to walk up to the country club during the summer to use the pool, which after having been originally a private club for the well-to-do set, suffered financially during the 1970s economic collapse and oil crisis, and finally opened to the public. It was mile from my house, and I spent, at least, two entire summers there as a 'tween.

The walk to the pool was along a road that was bookended by woods on either side. It was still a fairly "country" area, and the road dead-ended at our subdivision. There wasn't a lot of traffic, and indeed, there weren't even any lines painted on the road to delineate lanes.

Once, as we walked along, we smelled this sickly sweet odor, and then, we saw this bloated carcass, teeming with little white larvae. The smell and the maggots made me gag, and while my friends wanted to explore the dead thing, I just wanted to get out of there. One of my friends threw a rock into it and it burst, and I almost emptied my lunch right there on the tarred road.

When someone says "road kill" to me, that's what I usually think.

But Michael Douglas, the owner and head instructor of the Maine Primitive Skills School explained during his appearance on the Doomsday Prepper television program a few years ago, that roadkill can be perfectly safe, and the fact is that Deus Ex Machina and I have enjoyed a road kill in the past. Our son-in-law witnessed a deer being hit, and the driver of the car who hit the deer did not want it, and so our son-in-law took it and brought it to us. It was about 60 lbs of free venison, and we enjoyed every morsel.

This seemed a bit different, however, as Deus Ex Machina neither hit the ground hog himself, nor witnessed it being hit.

"I don't know, but wasn't here yesterday when we passed, and it's here today. So, it's been less than twenty-four hours?" He said.

According to Michael Douglas, to test for freshness when encountering road kill, one must pull the hairs on the back of the animal's neck. If they come loose, it's not fresh.

"Smell it," I advised him, after I told him the freshness test.

He assured me he would.

"I'm telling you that you need to really smell it, because if it smells the least bit bad, I won't eat it." I emphasized.

An hour or so later, he was home and butchering it on the picnic table in the yard. He brought it in when it was cleaned, and I took a sniff. It smelled fine.

He cut off the considerable fat stores, which I rendered, giving the cracklins to the dogs and cats, and pouring the fat into a jelly jar to use later.

He cut off the legs, which we stored in a plastic baggy in the freezer for another day.

The rest of the carcass, I boiled - half went into soup, which we ate for dinner. The other half was shredded and put into a pint jar in the refrigerator. We're planning to make it into a chipped-beef kind of gravy to go over mashed potatoes, which we can't have for foraged Sundays, but we can have as a part of our eating from the homestead challenge.

When we started this challenge, I told Deus Ex Machina that I didn't want him to go hunting for a whistle pig, which are always "in season" here in Maine. It just seemed a little unconscionable to kill an animal - like that - just so that we could have meat on Sunday - when we have rabbits in the backyard. I wouldn't want him to kill a crow or a seagull or a turkey, either, just for this challenge (although he did shoot a turkey a few years ago, which we ate for Thanksgiving, but it's not turkey season right now, and we couldn't have a turkey - now - even if we wanted one).

I guess it felt different than fishing, which he and Big Little Sister have been doing - mostly because he already knows how to hunt, and the fishing has been an attempt to learn a new skill. It felt different, also, because we don't raise fish - yet.

But when he called to let me know that he had a road kill ground hog, I figured, we could try it, as long as it was fresh.

I know that a lot of people can relate to my story above of when I encountered road kill for the first time I can remember, and most people probably think of that - a bloated, wriggly carcass that smells sickly sweet and a little stomach-turning. That's not what we had.

But I'll probably be a little careful about where, in my real life, I share the story of our road kill supper.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Eating from the Homestead Week 2: Eat Local Challenge 2014

The thing about challenges is that they are ... challenging, and I have, actually, been surprised at how much of a challenge this challenge has been. It's not that we don't have enough food to eat, even limiting ourselves the way we have, but rather that, in our culture, we have access to so much food, so much of which is not local, and constantly having to remind myself of what is okay to eat and what is verboten has been rather taxing.

Unfortunately, last weekend, we decided not to follow our Foraged Sunday rules, because Deus Ex Machina was not able to forage, but we did keep it local with dinner consisting of chicken and local vegetables. The Nurse Practitioner told Deus Ex Machina to stay home for a few days, which he (reluctantly) did, and we had soup for dinner on Monday night, with lots of garlic (from our garden) to help him build his immune system while his body fought off the allergic reaction to the poison sumac.

Tuesday and Wednesday we tapped into our beef stash for steak and roast. I also made use of some of the frozen tomatoes from last year's garden in the pot roast. It was a rainy, chilly day - perfect for a hearty, heavy meal. Thursday, we, again had beef, and I, again, looked toward our stored foods. The field corn I've been growing, harvesting and storing for a while now, has come in really handy. This week, Precious and I ground a few cups of it, and I made a, kind of, corn tortilla.

I'm looking at recipes for making grits with some of the corn - just to see if I can.

I've never been one to eat three meals per day, anyway. I start my days slow, often not eating my first meal until almost lunch time on most days. In my attempts to eat from the homestead, brunch has been potatoes grated and fried with an egg on the side. I love this time of year, when I can add tomatoes, vine-ripened and delicious, to the meal. The only thing that would make that kind of meal more perfect is a slice of mozzarella cheese.

Alas, there isn't a creamery close enough to my house that I could use their cheese this month in my challenge, but ... the good news is that I can have cheese - if I make it, and that's exactly what I did on Saturday night.

I made ricotta, and we still have enough milk to make either a batch of mozzarella or some yogurt. And we can always head back over to the farm for more milk, if we run out. I'm looking forward to zucchini lasagna with my homemade ricotta for dinner on Monday night.

And I have a lot of whey to use. Looks like it's time to start fermenting. Zucchini pickles anyone?


Melonie at Wandering Quail Road is participating in the challenge to eat local for the month, and not only is she eating food, mostly, from her local food shed, but she's also been foraging! A woman after my own heart.

And yay for berry season!

Give Melonie a shout-out, and if you're participating in the challenge to eat, at least, one local meal per week for the month of August, leave a comment and let us know how it's going. What are your greatest challenges? How do you deal with cravings for non-local foods? What, if anything, have you learned?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Eating From the Homestead - Eat Local Challenge 2014

I had mixed feelings about actually doing this challenge. I've been contemplating it for years, but I have always been afraid that we would eat all of the food I grew and then, we wouldn't have anything stored for winter and we'd starve. I know, silly, right? But the reality is that we grow some portion of our food, but our diet is heavily (more heavily than I like to admit ... in public) subsidized by food we buy. I know this, but I like to pretend it isn't always true.

So, I procrastinated in doing the challenge.

Then, Deus Ex Machina started his Foraged Sundays challenge, and I posed the idea to him that we combine our two challenges in August and still forage on Sunday, but eat from our homestead for the rest of the week. He was game, and we started the challenge.

It hasn't been difficult, exactly. The hardest part has been realizing how much I tend to grab-and-go. That is, I realized that I eat a lot of nuts and foods like that when I'm waiting for my daughters at their various activities, and this past week, not being able to do so was actually kind of tough. One day of the challenge, when I was feeling particularly peckish, I remembered that I grew popcorn. It was still hanging in the dining room, looking more ornamental than edible.

It's completely edible and took the edge off my hunger.

It's been an interesting week, and we haven't been completely successful in keeping our food intake to within the requisite five mile radius, but there have been extenuating circumstances. This week we had to choose between being strict about adhering to our very rigid personal food standards, or being thankful that we had friends and family who cared enough to wish for our company and accept invitations for community and camaraderie. We choose the latter. It's all well and good to have personal standards (and we still opted out of anything with gluten, including the mass-market National brand beer, which I wouldn't drink - even if I weren't avoiding gluten ;)), but sometimes life is better with people we love, even if they don't agree with or fully understand why we do what we do.

So, last Saturday and this past Friday, we ended up at social gatherings filling our bellies with food that was, decidedly, not local (except the homemade pickled beets at last Friday's gathering that were grown at a local farm and canned less than 2 miles from my house - local and delicious ... and, hey, Gar, we would love more, if you have them :)).

The rest of the week, however, was spent enjoying the abundance of our local food shed. Deus Ex Machina even managed to make a lunch each day that was (mostly) from our homestead (the first couple of days of the week he said he was cleaning out the leftovers, and he may have taken some leftover rice for lunch).

I didn't take any pictures or record what we had eaten. I ate a lot of hash browned potatoes with eggs during the day. It's actually one of my favorite fast meals. We enjoyed some steaks, hamburg, and stir-fry, compliments of Corky the cow who previously lived at the dairy farm up the road. We also had chicken, which we raised on our farm.

This week was a long lesson in doing without. The Tortilla soup (which is another of those quick, simple dishes I make frequently, especially in cool or rainy weather) wasn't nearly as satisfying without the tortilla chips, shredded cheese and the yogurt I usually add. I still haven't made yogurt or cheese, and it's still on the "to do" list, and either I'll get around to it, or we'll spend a month bemoaning all of the things we can not have.

Still, I'm not hungry, and so far, between what we grow here and what we are able to purchase at the farm stand, we've had plenty to eat.


Melonie, over at Wandering Quail Road has also decided to join the challenge, which she has combined with her own challenge "What Would Ma Ingalls Do?" She had an incredibly tasty week that included local foods from her CSA, some bounty from her own garden, and some wild caught blackberries. I'm impressed and inspired by Melonie to work harder at my own challenge, and I love her WWMID challenge. Too fun!

Be sure to check out Melonie's blog about her week of local eating.

And if you're joining the challenge, leave a comment and let me know how it's gone. I'll post a link to your local meal in my weekly Challenge Update blog post.

The most fun in doing these challenges, for me - at least early in my locavore days -, has been sharing my story with other people. It was always fun to see what other folks were eating where they were. I will always be a bit jealous of the Californians who can avocados and olives, but as I recall, there were some people who envied my meals of fresh-caught lobster. So, it all balances out, right?


In the interest of full disclosure, I should also let those of you who read my blog, but aren't on Facebook, know that Deus Ex Machina and I failed in our Foraged Foods only Sunday this week and had to fall back on just eating local (dinner was grilled chicken, corn from the farm stand, and some garden vegetables sliced and eaten raw - a real homestead meal, actually).

Last week, while cutting some vines growing near the road, Deus Ex Machina met a new neighbor. Apparently, and unbeknownst to us, we have poison sumac growing among the bittersweet vines. What started out as just a very irritating rash turned into a pretty serious case of contact dermatitis with some possible cellulitis.

We had to visit the Quick Care this weekend. The nurse practitioner was deeply surprised - almost to the point of awe - by his condition. The rash covered his entire right side (both extremities and his chest under his arm). It was bright red (like a very, very bad sunburn) with weepy pustules. He probably wouldn't have gone to the clinic for just the rash, but when his hand and foot swelled to twice their usual size, we figured he should probably get checked out, in case it was cellulitis. Unfortunately, because he could barely walk, he did not go foraging on Sunday, and so we cheated and had chicken and local vegetables instead.

He'll be fine, but it's a good lesson in building awareness, in the difficulty of balancing natural remedies and modern busyness, and in the need to balance our health concerns with our work lives.

Edible Gardens Can Also Be Pretty

It's always exciting when the Johnny Seed catalog arrives sometime in January. I take stock of the seeds I have leftover, and I decide what I think I might direct sow, whether or not I want to give the greenhouse another chance, and what I might just decide to purchase as plants from a local nursery.

This year at seed ordering time, I had plenty of vegetable seeds from years past and/or that we had saved. Instead of being distracted by all of the pretty colors and the veggie porn, I decided that I wasn't ordering any vegetable seeds (well, except for the ones for sprouts, and those are an important part of our diet - especially during the winter). Instead, I decided that I wanted color and beauty in my garden this year.

So, I ordered several varieties of edible flowers. When the seeds arrived, I was disappointed that I would have to wait to plant them, but when it finally started getting warm enough, I put the seeds in a seed starting mix and tucked them into the greenhouse. I (not) carefully (enough) watered them and nurtured them, and then ... nothing. I don't think any of them actually sprouted. I'm sure it's my lack of skill and not that the seeds were bad. Pretty sure, anyway.

I was bummed.

I was sure my hopes for a colorful, all edible (or medicinal) garden were dashed.

Fate conspired for me, this time, and I've ended up with a beautiful, bountiful garden with lots of flowers and fruits - with a special huge thanks to my friend, Brent, who talked me into giving the grape vine one more chance. Hopefully, we'll actually harvest some grapes this year.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Repurpose Stuff

One day, a few weeks ago, my youngest was commenting on her inability to sleep well in her bed. We've always had a family bed. Deus Ex Machina and I sleep-shared with all of our three youngest daughters. It was convenient, especially when they were very small and nursing.

Eventually, they've all made their way out of our bed and into their own, at their own pace, in their own time ... all except for the youngest. She has her own bed, but, for whatever reason, ours - a California King with lots of fluffy pillows and a huge, fluffy, down comforter (which is especially nice in the winter) - is just more comfortable than hers.

We've tried different things over the years to make her bed more comfortable. She has a down mattress topper and a big fluffy comforter of her own with a flannel duvet cover and flannel sheets - in her favorite color. She has her pillows and her stuffed animals. She's had different sorts of night lights and music. We've tried regular bedtimes, and we've tried letting her go to sleep when she's ready. She always starts the night in her own bed, but most mornings, Deus Ex Machina and I wake up, and there she is, having made her way into our room at some point during the night.

She brought it up the sleep situation, and so we discussed some options. Her older sister suggested a full body pillow. Then, through the course of the conversation, we decided that, maybe, we could make her a life-sized doll.

And, so, we did. Using some old clothes and a wig that was purchased as part of a dance routine, we made "Nicky."

She loves her doll, and even if it doesn't keep her in her bed, it was fun to make. She already has plans for repurposing other clothes to make similar dolls for friends and family members.

I like the way she thinks.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


I feel like I missed a month of summer. It just feels like it slipped by me while I was busy focusing on something else.

We harvested the garlic bed today. It feels early, probably because I feel like I missed a month somewhere. I was looking at a farm blog friend of mine here in Maine. They've harvested their garlic. So, I guess I'm on time.

Little Fire Faery planted broccoli, lettuce and radishes where the garlic was. We've been doing a lot of successive plantings (more than ever before). I'm looking forward to a bountiful fall crop.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Eat Local Challenge, Redux

I've been enjoying my looks back into the past for Throwback Thursday. We really have come a very long way. When we moved into this house, the yard was completely devoid of any landscaping at all. There were a few maturish trees - mostly swamp maple - and thin patches of mixed grass and weeds. Over time, we were gifted all sorts of plants that I just put someplace in the yard, usually without any real plan as to how to integrate them into the whole.

Eventually, though, I started to really take some time to look at my yard and figure out what might be best grown where. It's ever-chaging, my yard, and in particular because, as the years have worn, I've watched the news and learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about the fragility of the systems on which our modern culture is wholly dependent. One misstep and we fall into the abyss.

At that point, making my yard as productive as possible with regard to feeding my family became somewhat of an obsession, and it really did cause some tension, particularly between me and Deus Ex Machina. He didn't understand why I was so determined to grow all of our food, and I didn't understand why he was so laissez-faire about the prospect of empty grocery shelves followed by slow starvation.

What I didn't understand is that he wasn't disagreeing about the possibility of a very hungry future, but rather than he didn't believe we needed to grow everything. He noted that nature provided a veritable smorgasbord.

We finally heard what we were each saying, pretty much the same topic with just a different approach, and to that end, recently, Deus Ex Machina and I have embarked on what our daughters call "Starving Sundays." We're not starving, not by any stretch, but neither are we always getting the number of daily calories to which we are accustomed. We are limited by a lot of factors over which we don't have a great deal of control and a couple over which we have some control, but can't easily change.

The first issue is the fact that we are limited by laws (with which we, mostly, agree) that dictate what, where, how much and what size of animals we can take from the wild. If we were able to be true hunter/gatherers, those smaller fish would have been soup, but we completely agree that they should be throw back in and given the chance to get bigger and make babies.

We are also limited by our lack of knowledge. We know a lot of plants to forage, but many of them don't provide a lot of calories. While we've been pretty well educated in the seasonality of food, we've learned even more over the past few weeks about how real it is when one is wholly dependent on what one can find growing wild. We've come nose to nose with the reality that things really don't last forever, and those wonderful, tender, young, sautéed Japanese knotweed stalks are now stringy and gangly. We didn't eat enough when they were available, and we definitely didn't harvest enough to save. We saved only one serving in the freezer for later. If we get hungry enough, later may be sooner.

We keep learning though, and so the lack of knowledge boulder is slowly being whittled away.

The last stumbling block to our really being successful in our once-a-week-wild-foods-day is a lack of time. Anecdotally, in hunter/gatherer societies, they would spend about two hours per day searching for food, and then, the rest of day was free. At least, that's what we tell ourselves. I don't disagree with the two hours per day procuring food part, but there's a second part to that scenario that we just never considered. Some wild foods take a long time to process - like acorns - and while I can gather a lot of food in two hours, it might take another four hours (or more) to process that food to a point where I can eat it.

For the past six weeks, we have been very busy in the stuff that fills our modern lives. I say, all of the time, that we live in the suburbs, and I don't say that as a way of revealing anything in particular about our house location or design, but to remind people that we are, at the very heart of our lifestyle, still just the average suburbanite. We have jobs. Our daughters are busy with extra-curricular pursuits. We have all of the time-sucking activities that other suburbanites experience.

Last week was the closing weekend for our local community theatre's production of The Full Monty. Deus Ex Machina was in the play. The first three weeks of our project, he was busy with play rehearsals and for the last three weeks, he has been performing in the play on Sundays. It hasn't left a lot of time for foraging for and preparing our meals.

My daughters and I were out of State for one of the Sundays for a dance competition, which means I missed that Sunday, but also that I missed a week of work (and as a self-employed, sole proprietor, I don't have someone to do my job for me when I'm gone - and since my pay is based on a finished product, I don't get paid if the work isn't done), and I've been struggling to catch-up ever since. Oh, and then, my printer had to be replaced. First world problems, right?

We are learning a lot with our Sunday challenge, and we will definitely be sharing more on that as the project continues.

I think one of the biggest lessons, though, is probably what drove man toward an agrarian lifestyle in the first place, and that lesson is that, while nature really does provide, sometimes it's not a bad idea to help things along.

Humans started as hunter/gatherers, but at some point, we figured out that we liked certain foods better than others, we started catching the seeds and planting them somewhere else, or we cut away or burned away the foliage around our favorite berry bushes to ensure that they didn't need to compete for light or nutrients. Our efforts were rewarded with bigger berries or more lush greens.

This part of human culinary history is the horticulture period during which man was part hunger/gatherer and part farmer.

That's where Deus Ex Machina and I are striving to put ourselves, but as mentioned above, we will still be limited by the fact that we live in the world we live in, and we have things like jobs that need to be completed so that we can earn a little money to pay for things like dance costumes and printers.

We are planning to continue starving ... er, foraging on Sundays, but for the month of August, we're planning to revive our goal of eating local with a few challenging twists, and we would like to invite anyone who is interested to play along with us.

I had a very long, and kind of uncomfortable, conversation recently about water rights. We have these very large corporations - mostly foreign-owned - who have purchased the right to pump quantities of water from natural springs and aquifers and bottle that water for resale. It's good for waterless areas of the world, because they get potable water and don't die of dehydration or waterborne pathogens. It's bad, because in many of these places (some of which are not as far away as we might think), people pay more for water than they pay for food, and that can be difficult for someone who is already food insecure.

Some of the people who run these companies, reportedly, believe that water is a commodity and not a right, which leads me to the suspicion that, in spite of a community's best efforts to ensure that they have done due diligence in writing contracts with these companies regarding the taking of their water, at some point they will be disappointed. When one gets into the bed with the devil, one must accept that one will get burned.

For me, it became not as much about *just* water, but about the really profound need to be able to live, wholly and well, where I am. For me, so much of what's happening in the world is exacerbated by the fact that we are trying to live globally.

Invasive, non-native species destroying whole forests.

Diseases that are spread because we are such a mobile society.

Human trafficking for slave labor to ensure that prices on consumer goods stay low-low.

I guess I've come to believe that half of the horrors we have in our modern times are a direct result of the fact that we don't live where we are. Our lives are not local.

For many years, I have been trying to move my family to living more locally. We're definitely not there, yet, but the one area where we have learned to live a lot more local is our diet.

For the month of August, I have challenged myself and Deus Ex Machina to a local-only diet, and we've decided to cinch the noose a bit tighter than we have in the past.

Several years ago, Novella Carpenter, whom I adore as a writer (and I've met her, and she's a very sweet person, too) and spearhead of the urban farming revival, challenged herself to eat only what she produced on her property. I've thought, for years, that I would like to recreate her experiment here on my property.

But then, my situation is a little different from Novella's. She is one farmer surrounded by a food desert. There aren't other people in her local area that are, necessarily, dependent on her business for their own livelihood. Or at least from her writing, it doesn't seem to be so.

The other day, we received our long-awaited call from our local dairy farmer. We're on the list for a cow-share and have been waiting for many months for the call that "our" cow (which means the next one that goes in, and not one that has been specifically ear-marked for us) was at Ken's. While I was on the phone with the farmer, he reminded me that their farm stand was open, and that if there was anything that I wanted that I didn't see, to be sure and ask.

Over the years, the farm has gone though many transitions, the most recent being that they've partnered with a local fresh produce wholesaler and devoted some portion of their 500 acres to vegetable production.

I've been a long-time milk customer, receive a cow-share (usually half) once a year, and have been an avid supporter and patron of their farm stand since its inception.

My few hundred dollars per year probably wouldn't make or break this farmer, and certainly withdrawing my business for just a month isn't going to send him into bankruptcy, but we've developed a relationship - one that I would like to maintain.

So, instead of limiting ourselves to just what's in our yard and what we can forage, we've decided to expand our challenge to include only food within a comfortable walking distance, or food that is grown within a 5 mile radius of our house. As with the Foraging Sundays challenge, drinks and some spices will be excepted, with the caveat that I won't use a store-bought spice if I have an alternative growing in my yard.

In summary the rules of our August Challenge are:
  • For the month of August, we will eat only foods that have been grown or produced within a 5 mile radius of our house.
  • Drinks are excepted.
  • Spices are excepted - unless I have a local alternative.
  • Sundays will remain foraged only foods.

I invite you to join my challenge, and if you don't feel comfortable that you can find enough food for every meal for the whole month, I challenge you to eat only local foods (within 100 mile radius is the usual accepted radius) for at least one meal per week.

If you're interested in joining us, please leave a comment on this post with your blog address. Post your local meal or a recap of your week on your blog by Friday, and I will share a summary of your meal and your blog address here each Sunday.

In an extreme survival situation, shelter is still the most important, but when we already have a place to live, the most important thing becomes sustenance, which I will call both food and water. If we are going to hope for the survival of our species as our world gets more crazy, more polluted, more violent, and less stable, we will need to live smaller.

Knowing what there is to eat where we live will be a valuable tool in an uncertain future.

Learning to eat those foods as a regular part of one's daily diet will be paramount.

When a Country Defaults

Last night, after dinner, Deus Ex Machina and I were chatting, and world events entered the conversation he asked, "Did you see that the stock market fell?"

I hadn't.

He said, "Yeah, Argentina apparently defaulted on their debt."

"But their economy already collapsed!?" I exclaimed, naively, erroneously believing it was a once in a lifetime event.

"Well, I guess it did it again."

This morning, I went to visit my friend, Fernando "FerFAL" Aguirre, who has been enlightening the Prepper world for many years, giving us information and insight into how to live after the collapse from his experiences of surviving Argentina's economic collapse in 2001. Some of his anecdotes have helped me form my own plans for when the US (finally) collapses (because, at least from his perspective and the belief of a good many forward thinkers here in the US, collapse will happen here in the US, probably not too far into the future). So far, our government has been very good at robbing Peter to pay Paul, but eventually, we will have to pay them both.

On his blog, Fernando explains what happened, and why Argentina defaulted this time. He also explains what he and his fellow countrymen will experience over the next few years as a result of this debt default, and in his words, pretty much more of the same. He says, most of them, have just grown accustomed to living very poor, and it's pretty much, same shit, different day.

As the old Chinese proverb declares, we definitely live in interesting times.