It is impossible to homestead in any way without becoming kind of obsessive about food. Though I have always been a self-proclaimed nutrition-geek and chef, my day now revolves around food as never before. First thing in the morning, before I even put on the coffee (now that’s love!) there are animals to be fed and watered. And in the evening, everyone needs to be fed again. The scraps go into the compost which the chickens are happily picking through and some tasty morsels get saved out for the goats who daintily nibble the best bits before dropping the rest on the ground and peeing on it.
The plants need to be taken care of so they will become more food. The trees babied so they will bear fruit; the vegetables watered. Trying to create some kind of a cycle that makes sense so that things ripen and progress in a sequence, rather than all at once. Preserving the things that can be preserved while they are in abundance. There are always slices of fruit or bunches of herbs drying. There are pickles and sauces being made.
There are jars of things fermenting quietly, tucked away out of the sun. Kombucha brewing, sourdough bubbling, sauerkraut stewing in briny juice.
And of course, those animals that you are taking care of, adding into the food cycle as there are eggs and milk to be collected. Everything, moving in a cycle of feeding and providing in a constant rhythm, that which we nurture nurturing us in return.
This is the way it has been for all of human history until the middle of the 20th century. In North America, it is relatively easy to not think about food cycles. While many are concerned about how much there is on the table or how to make the income needed to provide it, that’s not the same as trying to figure out when something needs to be planted in order to harvest or how to care for living creatures well. So this lifestyle that my family has recently acquired feels contradictory. In some ways, it is much simpler than our old one. No schedule or deadline is inflicted upon us, no traffic, no demands from others. But in this other way it is so complex as food, the building blocks of our lives, becomes a focal point for the day.
And we are still in the early stages of this. The vast majority of our food is purchased at the market as we wait for trees to mature and soil to improve.
So why do I bring this up – this food obsessed schedule of mine? Not because I believe that everyone should move to the tropics and raise goats, but because bringing attention to what we consume and how we consume it is a powerful act. This lifestyle forces me to think about what I want for dinner, not at 5:00 when I look in the fridge, but early that morning when I put dough out to rise, or the night before when soaking beans, or months before when planting food. It is making my teenagers more aware of the fact that the vast piles of food they consume have to come from somewhere and that energy and work is required to grow/harvest/prepare it. And my preschooler is acquiring a respect for nature and the amazing fact that food will appear in the yard under the right circumstances.
While I feel strange sometimes still that I often don’t get any “real work” done in a day, all I do is work with food, those days are becoming fewer and farther between.
What do you think; is it possible to try to grow your own food and not become weirdly enmeshed in it?