Monday, February 15, 2010

homemade and homegrown small change

A dream of mine is to grow a significant portion of my family's food.  I really wanted to grow more of our food this fall/winter, but I really got a late start on that.  I have some carrots and endive ready in a cold frame waiting for more sun and warmth to grow into early spring harvests, and we ate a lot of kale, celery, swiss chard from the garden this fall, but winter is tough.  I am in the planning stages now to grow a lot of root crops that will get us through next winter and more diversity to make our growing and eating more enticing. So this month's one small change is really the next step and a big change (for us) to rely on our land and our hands to meet our family's food needs.

There was a time in our life that we would stop at the grocery store on our way home from work each day to buy whatever we needed.  Slowly, over many years we have transitioned to relying on local sources for our food.   But we are not perfect, this winter I have reluctantly bought conventionally grown produce in our grocery store to get us by.  There is also the fact that neither one of us works outside of our home anymore.  We have a limited budget, and it is hard to justify driving into town to get stuff.  Often I have to weigh the choices of spending the money and time to drive to local markets that are 35-45 miles away, a large grocery store that has a decent selection of exotically grown organics 25 miles away, or our local grocery store that offers only organic carrots, celery, and broccoli which is 10 miles away.  Even in the heart of the growing season, I still have to drive 20 miles to pick up my CSA order and visit a closer local grower's market.  So it is time to step up and grow...our own food.

This month I've bought Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest, which I got through interlibrary loan this summer...too late to really get things going for this year...but oh so inspiring.  I also ordered his latest book, Winter Harvest Handbook.  Oddly enough, about 18 years ago, I read his book Organic Grower and was seriously interested in becoming one...seems I am finally coming full circle.

I also placed my seed order and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my seeds.  This week we are getting started with some cold weather crops like kale, mache, and other greens...yes, greens!  There is 2 feet of snow on the ground right now and another 6 inches on the way we are still at the dreaming/planning phase.  I've been gardening for years, so that part isn't new.  It is just being more intentional about what and how much I grow and why I am growing it.  So it is an intention more than an actual change.  But that's what seeds are too...tiny intentions that can grow into big things.

Finally, to properly wrap up January's small change.  We did a really good job exploring the idea of different cultured foods.  The cultured veggies seemed to be the easiest to assimilate into our lives at this point.  Although, I struggled to get Jude to eat much.  Did anyone else have luck with their kiddos eating cultured veggies?  Kombucha brewing was a dismal failure...I think our house is too cold this time of year.  I'll try again in the summer.  And I am going to get kefir grains soon to begin making our own kefir from raw milk that we get from Erma.

Finally to share what turned out to be my favorite winter salad far:

Celebration Salad

what you need:
1/2 head savoy cabbage
2 carrots
3 T of cultured beets
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

what you need to do:
1. slice the savoy cabbage into thin slices
2. grate the carrot and mix in
3. mix in the cultured beets
4. drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over and toss


  1. we're hoping to get growing this year too! and preserving! i'll be watching what you're doing and taking notes. : )

    our little guy loves sauerkraut - maybe because we started real early? ever tried carrots & ginger? same basic deal, add a little salt. they're sweeter, so maybe jude would like them?

  2. It's fun to read about all your garden plans! I get so ambitious every year but I'm trying not to overdo it this time.

  3. What a wonderful food and garden post! Four Season Harvest is one of our favorite gardening books.
    My girls both like sauerkraut, we want to try carrots soon, and beets too. I am going to go read your cultured veggie post again... I really need to get started doing it. I want to make your salad too... thanks!

  4. sorry about the kombucha - we had the same problem over here - i tried it in the winter months and it was just too cold in my kitchen. kefir is soooo much easier! good luck!

  5. i love the name of your salad; food is a celebration. especially in these cold months.

  6. I've been meaning to pick up that book. We had our first winter with a coldframe this year. I have to admit it's a wonderful thing to take care of, and pick, your own food when the temperatures drop below freezing. If anything, that coldframe has kept me out of the winter slump this year.

  7. Oh that looks so yummy! I love Four Season Harvest, and I will have to get his other book on winter harvesting. I have to go ahead and place my seed order today. Very excited!

  8. We too are hoping to get enough from the garden this year to sustain us through winter. I am going to look into those books. Thanks for sharing. That salad looks amazing!

  9. Best wishes with this! That is something we have been gradually working on... with more being grown and preserved each year.
    Only thing I would say is don't expect too much of yourself to start, make manageable goals and add more each season.
    Warm wishes,

  10. i really like that photo for some reason. i am so excited to begin planting seeds! i hope you are having a good day, elizabeth. and i thought it was funny that you pointed out that i have scooby doo to thank for my precious photo! so true, but i hadn't thought about it like that. you are funny. love ....h

  11. That salad sounds so very yummy! And we are FAR behind you on growing food. We've been in this house for nearing 4 years, and although we are in town (and have a ton of food shopping choices), we have a 1/4 acre lot on which to grow. There's plenty of room for much more than we need, but two babies born since we moved in here have kept me from breaking ground on a garden. I'm itching for the end of the snow and frozen ground; I can't wait to break ground on some raised beds!

    As an aside, we are planning on making composting one of our one small changes. I've read a bit about it, but never done it. Any advice? Any links or books I should read before I begin?

  12. I sure would love to grow more of our family's food too! We doubled our garden space last year and I'm hoping to increase it even more this year. I really appreciate you mentioning the book "Four Season Harvest." Gardening in cooler weather is something my husband and I would like to learn more about and then try. I was just outside "turning" some soil in one of our gardens today... I can't wait to begin planting! (Very inspiring photo of your gardening books & note-taking! I'm looking forward to sitting down and doing some planning too!)

  13. elizabeth, thank you so much for this post. i am at this same point in our food journey, only i don't really have huge excuses, because we live in mild northern california. i haven't heard of these books and appreciate the recommendations!

  14. Isn't it sometimes hard juggling the decisions of do I go to the local grocer to save on gas and time or do I travel using more gas and more time. Sometimes it feels like you can't win:-) Small steps are good though. Look forward to seeing how you handle it:-)

  15. mmmm....good use of winter veggies. My kids might even eat this! thanks

  16. oops, I hit "post comment" too early. I hear you, with you intentions foir this year. We too want to grow even more of our own food. Seem like sometime in late summer I let some of the plants go, not tending to them as I should. I love OCleman's books, too! And the fact that he lives in Maine gives hope that we, too, can grown in the winter! yay! Exciting...your seed order :)

  17. ...last comment, I promise. Looks like I hit "post comment" too early again, forgetting a proof read! heh.

  18. I really enjoyed this post. Great "food" for thought. I have the same desire to grow a lot of our own food, but I also know that it is going to take me a long time to learn how to do it. I plan to take baby steps.

  19. I have the same dream. Doing more and more every year.

  20. Oh yes...I hear you about the growing/local shopping/grocery store dilemma. I just moved to the city after living in a rural/suburban area that had a strong local food community for basically my entire life. I'm finding it much harder to make food connections, and seeing that I would have to drive much farther for markets...especially in the winter.

    Our space is very limited, since we are in an apartment, but I am thinking of making a garden table, a sort of raised bed, off of the ground. We'll see if I get to it!

  21. This is so great! It's going to be a while until I get to this point, but inspiring for sure!

  22. Inspiring!
    My daughter is a fool for homemade cultured veggies. My son thinks they're poisonous.

    I love that Eliot Coleman book; good luck!


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