The day after my 35th birthday I somehow convinced my husband, brother, sister-in-law and even my parents to commit to eating ingredients sourced within a 200 mile radius of our homes for the 30 days of September. I still can’t believe it but they all jumped on board. And so did some of you!
It was day one of the Local Thirty around noon when my parents arrived at our farmers market booth looking like starving children desperate for food. They’d been less than 6 hours into the challenge and they were nervous. They drove over an hour from their home to come stock up on some local bounty but they were clueless as to how to pull this off. My mom was afraid she’d only be eating carrot sticks and lettuce for a month and my dad was still convinced that if a hotdog came from a local restaurant that it counted as “local”. They weren’t quite prepared but damn, their hearts were in it and after sharing our first official local thirty dinner together–roasted chicken with root veggies, a kale salad, and even grilled sourdough bread with local butter– they started to feel less panicked. We even got to indulge in local wine so that helped take the edge off things for sure!
Our month long journey brought Taylor and me out to Sherman County where we shared burgers and beers with our favorite ranching family. We even stopped at the Sherman County fair on our way out to the ranch so we could check out what the locals where up to. We got a roping lesson from pros, watched the teenagers ride the mechanical bull, saw all the kiddos with their 4-H animals that they were so proud of (and funny enough many were named after rappers– Ice-T, Salt-N-Pepper, J-Z and even Snoop Dog.) Sherman County is really different than Parkdale and it was awesome to get a glimpse into this part of my region that I’m really unfamiliar with.
A week after kicking cow manure off my boots I found myself 60 miles off shore in the Pacific Ocean reeling in tuna on a small commercial fishing boat with three strangers. It was terrifying, exciting, and will go down as one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
It was about 1 week into this journey where my “why” started to shift. It wasn’t so much about the 200 mile radius anymore, it was about all these folks that we were meeting and getting to see tiny glimpses into their lives.
Our challenge brought us to a local dairy farm where we got to meet the farmers, partake in chores and sip fresh milk while sitting on hay bales chatting all things dairy farming. The Local Thirty encouraged us to head into the deep, dark woods of Washington were we foraged for mushrooms with an experienced forager. We even got an “after hours” crash course lesson in the art of sourdough baking with local ingredients. Dear friends, tasty wine and playing with dough–it just doesn’t get much better.
It was a cool, brisk and early morning in late September when I ventured out to Syncline Winery. I got to help harvest Syrah grapes, crush grapes with my bare feet, and talk about the not often discusses “blue collar” side of wine making with the head wine maker James who just so happens to be a farmer as well.
This month of eating local has done something big for me, it’s forced me out of my comfort zone, put me in new and sometimes scary situations, and more important, made me more curious than ever about where the ingredients I love really come from. There’s a journey from the dirt, the sea, the pasture, and the vineyard that I never was quite as in tune with as I am right now. For the entire month of September, everything from the oil we cooked our food in, to the meat we grilled, and the wine we sipped, we knew the face behind that ingredient. That was powerful for me.
It was in the middle of the month that our dear friend and fellow farmer Michael came out and helped us slaughter our pigs. We actually bought our pigs from Michael when they were just 10 weeks old and it was really special to have him–someone we know and trust– come and help us do something very difficult. Micheal does what he does because he loves animals and good quality meat. His animal husbandry was more honorable than I ever thought possible. The girls left this earth in a peaceful, non traumatic way and it was amazing to witness it all. They will continue to be a part of Tumbleweed Farm all winter long when our vegetables are no longer producing and we get our nourishment from them.
October 1st came. We woke up and ate a locally sourced breakfast. Lunch wasn’t much different and (because we felt like we needed to do something different!) we went out to dinner for the first time in 30 days. It was awesome to socialize again and eating out will continue to be a treat. However, what we learned in this month of local food is that it’s not that difficult to do once you know your producers. We even saved money even though certain ingredients where more expensive (oil, meat, butter, wine). But we treated these ingredients differently and are more mindful of how we use them. We’re still out meeting producers and I’m excited to share our Local Thirty documentary that will be released in December. We’re still learning so much about our region and the growers and producers that make up our tiny corner of the world. I can’t wait to see what else we discover in the next few weeks of filming but I’m excited to meet more folks, share more meals, and clink glasses with new friends.