It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I will have a spiritual experience with food. That first strawberry of the season picked perfectly ripe and still warm from the late spring sunshine can bring tears to my eyes. Or a sip of fresh goat milk that hasn’t even made it to my refrigerator because my neighbor has just finished her morning milking and is sharing the goods with us. Or better yet–tasting wine straight from the barrel well before it’s ready to be bottled and getting a sample taste of it on its journey to our wine rack. On these occasions something deep inside of me livens up. These ingredients taste different, they have a story to tell, and most important, they come from human hands.
I’ve been thinking about the word traceability a lot recently and it’s this concept of knowing where my ingredients are coming from that has led me to this challenge. 30 days, 200 miles, local food from local dirt. If you haven’t read my blog post about “The Local Thirty” you can go back and read about what sparked this idea in the first place.
In exactly two months the crew here at Tumbleweed Farm is going to embark on our month long journey of eating locally produced food for the entire 30 days of September. We’ve begun prepping for this experience and I’m excited to give you all all a little update on where we’re at in this journey.
First up– I finally dusted off my pressure canner. I was getting nervous that our garlic scape season was coming to an end and I really wanted to preserve them for September and beyond! We also want to eat ALL OF THE CHERRIES so we canned those too! I know that dedicating time to canning can sound daunting but if you grab a buddy, crank up the music, sip on some wine or a beer the time really flies. Also, there really is nothing better than dipping into a jar of pesto, or pickled beets, or fruit preserves in the middle of winter and tasting a hint of summer on a cold stormy night. It’s simply magical.
Another great thing that’s already happening (and September isn’t even here yet) is that we’re meeting so many wonderful people in our community who are producing staple ingredients that we don’t want to live without. We’ve found local vinegars, chickpeas, lentils, flour, nuts, dairy, wine, and even olive oil! Okay, so the olive oil isn’t 100 percent local. It’s made with half Oregon olives and half California olives. We actually went out to the olive mill (it’s 100 miles away from the farm) and it was a great trip to taste and see where the olive oil is made. However, since it isn’t 100 percent local I’m going to count it as one of my “cheats.” But in the spirit of supporting small producers I feel pretty good about this “cheat.”
Another thing that I love about eating from closer to my home is that I’m really simplifying my cooking. I’ve been scared that I’ll be sacrificing flavor without the comfort of my well stocked spice drawer or staples in my pantry that come from god knows where. But the thing is, good quality ingredients don’t need much doctoring. We grilled a whole chicken that we slathered in homemade butter and plenty of salt and fresh herbs and it was divine. We’re also keeping track of how much this will cost (is it more expensive to eat local?) So far we’re realizing that while some ingredients are more expensive most things are not. And when purchasing things like meat (which tends to be more expensive than grocery store meat) we’re getting so much out of it. Multiple meals and saving bones for bone broth.
We recently met a lovely couple who live just down the road from us who have milking goats. We’ve lived here for 6 years and never knew them (I’m totally ashamed by that fact.) Now we not only get to enjoy fresh goat milk every week, we’ve got two new friends in the neighborhood. I’m also thankful for the internet (we’ve found a lot of local producers from google searches) and asking around at the farmers market, small grocery stores and just putting the word out there about what we’re trying to do. It’s amazing how many folks are rallying around and supporting this challenge. I love it!
With all that being said, I know we’re not going to change the world by eating locally (and that’s not the goal) but what I’m hoping (and already discovering) is that if we immerse ourselves in the hear and now we’ll discover so much of what we CAN have and not dwell on what we can’t. The simple pleasure of sitting around the table and sharing a local meal is already opening up so many wonderful doors that I never knew existed. We’re making new friends, finding new and delicious ingredients and having fun along the way.
And hey, we may totally fail at this. And it may be something that in the end doesn’t work for us, but we’re going to give it our all and see what happens. I truly believe that we are nourished by foods that are grown with love and come from a place where things are connected. Maybe some of you will join in for the month. Maybe you can only join in for 1 meal a day. But just asking the questions and discovering what’s available close to home is what this is all about.
Stay tuned for more updates as we gear up for September. I haven’t quite figured out what my 10 cheats are yet, but I’ll post those once I nail them down. In the meantime, I hope you all get to enjoy a simple meal with good company.
Cheers from Tumbleweed Farm.
The above photos were taken by my girl Kate Schwager