Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5 Blogs and Webites that Inspire Me!

Creating this blog has been a means of self-expression for me. I wanted to put down in words my thoughts and ideas of why eating locally grown food is so important to me without sounding preachy or judgemental. My goal was to enlighten others that there is a different way to feed ourselves and society. One just needs to think out of the box a bit. Little did I know that I would receive feedback from my readers that they indeed have heard my message and are also inspired. To say that I am surprised as well as flattered is an understatement!
Inspiration didn't come out of thin air. I knew there had to be a different way, and thanks to the internet it isn't hard to find like-minded people. I'd like to introduce you to some blogs and websites that have inspired me to begin this journey. Food can identify a culture, but the way the food is acquired and enjoyed defines it. Take a look at these sites, maybe you'll understand how I have been influenced.

  1. http://www.slowfoodusa.org/-This is a site that puts into words what eating "slow foods" is all about. Think of it as the antithesis of "fast food". Probably the most all encompassing of all the sites.
  2. http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/-This site is huge and can be a bit confusing with all it's twists and turns, but you'll get the idea. There is also a Youtube video that I'd recommend you watch. Their ideas may be considered a bit radical, especially for the average "joe",but you can take away knowledge that you can apply to your own life.
  3. http://eatclosetohome.wordpress.com/-This blog is written by my friend Emily. She is from Ann Arbor, she definitely knows her stuff! Look for inspiration to eating what is growing NOW in Michigan. She inspired me to have a totally local Thanksgiving last November where everything (OK, most everything) I served was from a local source. Look for a link to http://preservingtraditions.wordpress.com/ where she talks and teaches of disappearing food preparation and preserving practices.
  4. http://childreninthecorn.blogspot.com/-Another Michigan farmer who actually shows how to butcher chickens. I'm not sure where my chicken ownership will lead me...I just wanted them for the eggs. However,if my mind changes and I'd like to use them for meat I can just open up my laptop and use her step-by-step guide.
  5. http://a-homesteading-neophyte.blogspot.com/-This gal is a homesteader who doesn't gloss over any of the details or hardships for that matter. I also like the picture at the top of her blog...kind of explains the life I aspire to.
I'm interested to know which sites you liked and what you learned from them. Please don't hesitate to leave me a comment. Take care everyone! Happy Spring!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Michigan Spinach!

This was dinner tonight
Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and anchovies
Michigan spinach steamed in lemon juice/olive oil and water
Homemade "no-knead" bread with butter

A wonderful meal, albeit one reeks of garlic for the next few days. So be it! At least I won't have to worry about any vampires wanting to kiss me!

A Month With Chickens...Things I've Learned

When I had ordered my 6 chicks last December I had no idea what I was in for as a chicken owner. All I knew was that as a locavore I wanted to make sure that I was receiving the freshest eggs possible. I also wanted to make sure my eggs came from happy chickens living the way a chicken was meant to live. No battery hen eggs for me! I had read book after book, article after article, but I knew that none of this information would mean anything unless I had actually applied it in real life and, horrors of horrors, made some mistakes!
First: Chickens are very easy to raise! I mean you need to provide adequate shelter to keep them safe from the elements and predators, but other than that, there is very little upkeep. Every morning I let them out of their coop with a cheerful "Good Morning, Girls!" and a bowlful of feed and a dispenser full of fresh water for the day. They will be content all day until they return to their coop for bedtime. I just close and lock the coop and they are fine until morning.
Another thing is that chickens poop. A lot. Everywhere. However, this was one of the reasons I wanted them in the first place. Chicken manure is a vital component for rich garden soil. It must be composted first as it's too "hot" to be put directly on your plants. Anyway, there is no shortage to finding chicken poop, because they do it everywhere...in their own food, in their water bowl,in their sleeping area, on the roof of the coop...it just sort of falls out of them wherever they are. But it's a good thing! When I add the composted manure to my plants it will provide the necessary nutrients of nitrogen, potassium and potash for good plant health as well as organic matter that helps to rebuild the soil...something commercial fertilizers can't do.
Chickens are wonderful natural pest controllers. My lawn in plagued by grubs, hence I have moles and skunks who dig at my lawn (which will one day be replaced with growing vegetables). But, grubs are on the chickens menu of delicacies. When I free-range my chickens they can pick an area free of offending grubs just by their scratching and rooting for those juicy morsels. As the seasons progresses there will be other pests that the chickens will send packing.
Owning chickens has also contributed to building self-esteem in my children. My two boys love to take care of the chickens and when my daughter comes home from college I know she will too. In addition to building responsibility,owning chickens can contribute to one's "cool factor". I have noticed on various occasions the boys bragging about owning chickens and the wonders said ownership provides. They have become the talk of the neighborhood and occasionally I find a schoolmate in the backyard looking in on the chickens in their pen, enthralled with being close to an animal not usually seen in the suburbs.
It's an ongoing process and I am still very new to it, having chickens has proven to be not only easy, but rewarding as well. We are still in our "honeymoon" phase of chicken ownership, and know that there will times that provide challenges or difficult decisions will be made. But that is down the road a bit..right now I'll just say that owning chickens has been one of the smartest things I've ever done in a while!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Four Ways To Become A "Locavore"

    Locavore: n A person who attempts to eat only food that is grown locally.

  1. Tear Up Your Lawn-Manicured lawns evolved out of the Industrial Revolution. They were status symbols implying that the owner of the estate had money to spare. Lawns can be expensive and time consuming to maintain through fertilizing, watering and mowing. Why not grow something that can be just as beautiful, but will sustain you and your family as well?
  2. Shop Beyond The Supermarket-If you aren't up to growing your own then think of buying from the farmer's market, joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) or frequenting a local farm where you pick your own produce. Your money is kept in the local economy thereby making it stronger. You will have piece of mind because you will know where your food originated. Carbon emissions are greatly reduced because food miles are nearly non-existent, thus it's good for the environment.
  3. Break Bread-A forgotten tradition of a leisurely and relaxing meal together can be key to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with our families and neighbors. Take time. Perpetuate the enjoyment of a coveted family recipe. Make it from scratch. Use real plates, glasses and silverware. Use cloth napkins. Have meaningful conversations. Consider mealtime as a ritual. Your digestive system and possibly your waistline will thank you!
  4. Learn Old Time Cooking Skills-Do you know how to can, freeze and dry the excess bounty for enjoyment when it isn't in season or readily available? Do you know how to make homemade bread or yogurt? What about maintaining a root cellar? How about foraging? The next time the power goes out and everyone is flooding the local supermarket in a panic, you'll be glad you do!
If you can pick just one of these locavore-minded ways to adapt into your lifestyle your family, community and environment will benefit greatly! Additionally your health will improve and your sense of empowerment will be immeasurable for you are in control of how you sustain yourself and your loved ones. Isn't that enough of a motivation? Come on. Give it a try!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

When $10 Leads to $37 Million

As a proponent of supporting Michigan's economy as well as buying local produce, it's encouraging to hear of others who feel the same way. Mary-Jelisse Bonello, compiled a list of Michigan -made products and then e-mailed the list to everyone she knew. The motivation for doing this was to encourage others to support Michigan's economy. She had read that if every household spends just $10 of their groceries weekly from Michigan sources it would result in $36 million dollars being recirculated through Michigan's economy.

"That was powerful to me. Every day I hear people bemoan the state of Michigan's economy and here was a simple and impactful thing that each of us could do to help.

"I contacted a woman named Jeanne Lipe at the Michigan Agritourist Department who confirmed that the numbers were correct (actually they claim $37 million per week), and gave me some leads to get started on what has turned into this email today.

I wanted an easy to use list of Michigan products that I could find at my local grocery store. I have attached a copy of that list to this email. It is in no way complete, but it will get you off to a good start if you should choose to help out.

Some things I learned along the way: There are a lot of Michigan owned grocery stores that are supporting other Michigan businesses on their shelves. Spartan stores are a cooperative; this means that if you buy a Michigan made product from a Spartan affiliated grocery store, you are getting a "triple dip". The product is made in Michigan, the grocery store is independently owned by a Michigan family, and the Spartan Stores headquarters is located in Grand Rapids. Other independently owned stores are a "double dip". This includes stores like Randazzo's and Westborn markets. Meijer is based in Grand Rapids, so also counts as a double dip.

I also found a whole bunch of products that are not mass distributed, but are available online and in some specialty food shops. I have added them on a second sheet. There are some great treats and gift items there.

I am not one to send bulk emails or encourage you to send them on, but I am making an exception to that rule today. If you think this idea is a good one, and you have friends and family throughout the state who might help out, please forward this email with the lists attached on to them. $36 Million per week could go a long way!

By putting it that way, it makes it seem rather easy. So I have attached her list. Note: This list is by no means complete. This is just a starting point."

The lists are below. Forward the list to everyone you know who would like to help Michigan's economy. Then, clip out the list, post it on your refrigerator and the next time you shop, challenge yourself to use a product from our home state, Michigan! You'll be glad you did.