This year my family has been practicing the Red Queen principle from Through the Looking Glass: “In this place it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.” Barbara Kingsolver speaks of this principle used by evolutionary ecologists to explain how plants and animals can stay ahead of the game from disease pathogens and predators. I think this principle can also be applied to the human race trying to stay ahead of slowing down global warming, ironically though, brought on by themselves. My family of five challenged itself by practicing what we preach, which took a lot of running to stay in the same place, but we did it.
We took on eating locally, making our house and our habits energy efficient, consumed less, recycled, decreased our driving by biking and combining errands. I took on a new job as a farmer’s assistant at our local CSA, Willow Pond. We grew a much larger vegetable garden, worked towards making room for food storage, and took classes on canning and preserving food.
We erected a fence around our 25×60 foot garden, to insure that our resident ground hog would not be sharing our vegetable loot. We rehauled our dilapidated greenhouse that came attached to our money pit house we bought 3 years ago, to help keep our tiny seedlings warm. We also had grand plans for a root cellar in our basement, but one large lesson we learned, was, “Wow! you really have to grow a LOT to save for everything for the winter.” But that did not discourage us, we are proud of our butternut, red kuri and spagetti squash that is 20 deep each that take up a small space next to the 20.3 cubic foot freezer we purchased. The 50lbs of yukon gold potatoes we grew were so absolutely delicious, we ate them all already. At least we have about 40lbs of French fingerlings left.
Our freezer is filled. Upon opening the door, you see red, mixed with orange, and the occasional green. The jars of homemade jam from strawberries, raspberries and peaches, stand coldly next to pesto of all kinds including, lime basil and garlic scape. It’s got local meat, such as bacon (“we treat it like gold”, says farmer Kate from Willow Pond) from Kellie Brook farm, ground lamb (to go with the Kusa grown in my garden to be eaten with the secret Kusa recipe, please see previous posts) from Riverslea Farm, and free range chickens from Lasting Legacy farm, all sitting aside of homemade chicken stock. And don’t forget the veggies. We have many bags of summer squash, corn, green beans, peppers, and green tomatoes. Yes, mostly green, because our tomatoes and Willow Pond’s did not escape the extreme weather conditions this summer that had tomato plants wilting with humid happy diseases.
We have also been busy making extra large dishes of locally prepared foods and freezing entire ready to eat meals, such as chicken, green tomato, and serrano pepper chili for a cold winter’s day when the kids are screaming and time is short.
In the spirit of community, we decided to share all this with another family. We split our gardens, the connections we made, and most importantly the mishaps. We learned oh so much through the mishaps… the planting of 100 seedling tomatoes and then realizing only 15 each would actually fit in our gardens (they are so tiny and cute when they are young). The challenging weather then caused those poor tomato plants to yellow and rot, but not before the alien monster tomato hornworm grew to at least 3 inches long (I swear) devouring them. The eating of all the potatoes in hash browns, mashed potatoes and potato salad long before the leeks were ready to be added for soup, also will effect how I plan my garden for next year.
My family has come a long way this past year in the changing of our habits. We hope all around it’s good for us, good for the environment, and good for others, because we love to share a wonderful meal with company we enjoy.