Wednesday, October 1, 2008
This summer, I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and because I love Barbara, I was willing to believe it is possible for a family in America in the 21st century to live off the land. Although I know that I don't have the time or persistence to do it myself, I began to believe that I could least live a little bit closer to the land. I was inspired to start a garden, which has produced little but been a source of much inspiration. We'll get it together next year, and hopefully I'll keep us in tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and beans. Then I read Plenty and realized that I can still make smarter choices in the grocery store even if I am not ready to commit to slaughtering my own turkeys and growing 11 kinds of tomatoes. Both books hammered home the point that the average food item that we put on a plate in America has traveled at least 1500 miles to get there...and at these gas prices? Astonishing. Let's just say that again for the shock value...1500 miles. The average food item on our dinner plate has traveled 1500 miles. What is wrong with that picture? What is RIGHT with that picture. Many of us (dare I say most?) are eating produce that is picked unripe, loaded onto trucks, and shipped across the country to arrive bland and pricey. In fact, we have nearly bred the life out of American produce to mold it into this system.
I tried to buy more locally grown produce. To be honest, this is the one area in which I have failed in my attempts to live greener. For several weeks, we visited the farmers' market as well as Daisi Hill farm and bought as much locally grown produce as we could, but our life makes it difficult to add yet another errand to our week. Our garden hasn't produced anything worthwhile except herbs and the odd carrot here and there. There's a cute little Halloween pumpkin, already orange, about 5 inches in diameter. We also have a couple of bigger ones but not exactly the SLAUGHTERING of pumpkins I was anticipating. The cucumbers that threatened take over simply stopped growing, and some small animals ate the tiniest baby pumpkins. I DO look at the origins of my food more closely now. I'm happy when the broccoli comes from Maine instead of California. I buy vegetables that are in season because they are more environmentally friendly and taste better. Asparagus is never in season, and I love it, but I can live without it having such a long commute. On the other hand, we LOVED the vegetables we bought from Daisi Hill, and next summer I'll make them a part of our field trips with Duncan. I try to buy as much unprocessed food as I can, choosing baked potatoes over frozen fries, home baked cookies over store bought, and fresh vegetables whenever possible. We picked two pecks of apples so far and have made two batches of apple sauce. I think when we go to the pumpkin patch, I might actually cook one. It's certainly not sustainable living, but we will only continue to improve.
I need to post this now so that Dawn will stop nagging me, but stay tune for the next installment of my attempts at greener living. Food was our least successful area, but I'm pretty pleased so far with the other changes we have made. Read Barbara's book if you haven't already. I can't recommend it more highly.