Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Food Politics and Homesteading

This would be a post probably best written by the lady of the house, but she is unfortunately sicker than I am so here we go.

One of the things that has been coming up somewhat regularly in this blog is food politics in one form and another, and I wanted to talk about why food politics matters on a homesteading blog. The big obvious answer is, homesteading is about food. There is more to it than that of course, but at the base it is true. Homesteading is about food, and because of that food politics is relevant to homesteading and this blog. In fact, in the USA at least, and I suspect in any nominally democratic country, by homesteading you are involved in food politics.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Discussion: Why Homesteading?

The lady of the house and I were talking about homesteading and how it was a great conversation starter. There seem to be quite a significant number of people who want to homestead, dream of doing it, or are at least conscious of it and interested. I was wondering why homesteading was such a broad ranging idea. I've been thinking about a few reasons I'm guessing it is and would love to hear what you all have to say.

* The American Pastoral Myth: The myth of the pastoral America seems like a big one to me. The myth of the pastoral America is something I should leave to the lady of the house to properly go in to, but it's prevalent.

* Increasing awareness of our failing resources: As this century continues, it is becoming more and more clear that without active conservation we will just not have the resources to live, much less prosper and I think awareness of that pushes people towards the self reliance Homesteading seems to offer.

* The cycle of simplicity: Children from rural towns move to the city to pursue their dreams where things are faster, brighter, and less simple. Children who have grown up in the complex city life with the overwhelming sounds and sights find their solace and homes where things have different complications and beauty. This wouldn't be a factor for everyone, but I'd be willing to bet it is for a good few.

* Ethics: For the lady of the house and I this is a big one. As we learn about the abuses associated with our food and luxuries we have wanted to move away from these excesses and live a life we are ethically comfortable with.

We've talked on this blog about why we do it, but why do you do it or want to?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Food Spoilage

So, there are lots of benefits to growing your own food, and a lot of difficulties to it. One of the big ones is that if you don't have the correct way to preserve your food, it spoils. This comes to mind because the lady of the house and I spent about $50 to make a pot of food that was going to be a staple for about 2 weeks of dinners and lunches. We'd figured by the way we'd made it we should be able to get about 24 servings out of it bringing it to, with the starch to round it out an approximately $3.00 meal per serving with everything included. Not bad at all. So, we let it cool from the stove, had a bit of it, put the pot in the fridge, the second day we get some out of the pot, put it back in the fridge and cook it separately. Then life happens and we don't put the food into freezer containers for 3 more days. Shouldn't be a problem, this particular dish should be fine in the fridge for a bit over a week and a half. And yet, we come back, having had a total of 6 servings out of it, and there's mold on the surface.  One dead pot of food, now coming out to $9 a meal given how much we got out of it. This was rather upsetting, and sobering. Preservation of the food that comes out of our animals and the ground is damn important since we can't eat it all at once.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vermiculture, aka Worm Composting

One of the things that one wants to do if one is to have a garden, is have compost. There are lots of reasons to want to compost beyond just having wonderful soil for your garden as well, such as reducing waste going to land fills. The lady of the house suggested we start composting when we were still living in a small apartment with other people. Traditional composting wasn't really an option so I ended up saying that it wasn't feasible at the time. She on the other hand instead of immediately saying it wouldn't work, did some research and found out about worm bins. That is using red worms to compost vegetable trash in a small contained area. Having heard about the research, I admitted I was wrong, and we set about arranging a worm bin.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Realities of Percipitation

So, one of the things that I mentioned early on about the place we are living was that we did some research, and on average our area gets 4-8" more precipitation per month than the river valley we work in. I'm not sure how much of our experiences this year are an anomaly, but the reality of this has been insane. There is a running not quite joke that any prediction of snow we just add 12 inches to to get a reasonable guess on how much we will really be getting. It's taking quite a bit of getting used to, especially with the tractor we purchased with the house broken from delivery, and our inability to get a beater plow truck.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quick Hit: Why You Should Pay Attention To Your Injury

When the lady of the house first suggested this blog post I sort of scoffed at the idea of it being something relevant to Homesteading. As I've limped around and iced my knee this evening, it occurred to me that, as is often the case, she is right. In this case the post was inspired by the dog crashing into me and knocking me over so my knee hit the corner of a huge rock. That said, it's not the first time, nor will it be the last time that I get hurt in day to day life. So why am I focusing on paying attention when you are injured?

In short, if you don't, you're going to end up with permanent injuries. I speak from experience from having tried to push through a back injury and being nearly immobile for a long time, and the lady of the house has tendonitis from ignoring the pain as she was knitting. When we were working on cage preparation for some of our rats, the lady of the house and I both ended up with tendonitis flare ups for weeks that made school hard. The moral of the story, if you hurt yourself, treat it or you will make your life harder in the long run, and you may cause permanent injuries that prevent you from living the life you want to.

Now I'm not saying go to the hospital any time you are hurt. I'm saying know your bodies limits. You fall and bang up your knee, do what you can to keep the swelling down. Cuts, scrapes, bruises, all of these are part of life for a homesteader. Know basic first aid, and when you can just bandage it and go on, and when it's broken and it's time for professional help.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Planning: Fruit Trees

Coureton here again, many thanks to the lady of the house for her assistance keeping the blog up while I was a bit overwhelmed. Something we've thought would be nice, but hadn't put as much thought into as we might have before recently is the necessity and utility of fruit trees for a good homestead. Given the time constraints on fruit trees, they are something that need to be considered early on in homesteading. I started thinking about it early on reading homesteading books all of which include fruit trees, and preserves making. I let that particular portion of a homestead slip my mind until recently when the Arbor Day Foundation sent me a survey.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Truthiness in Advertising

(Michelle again, back with a new post.Coureton's just started a new job and was busier than planned, so asked me to fill in again. He'd been asking me to write up some posts about food politics for a while now so here goes my first real one...To our international readers, please forgive my American-centric post, when I look at food politics, it's typically from where I live rather than world-wide. To our regular readers, we'll have updates regarding homesteading again soon)

The Label Lies

Organic. All Natural. Free Range. Trans-fat-free. Sustainable. Local.

The problem with these labels is that in many cases the definition does not match consumer expectations. To someone who hasn't taken the time to read the standard, the label often has a very different definition in practice than the word to describe it.

Unfortunately the pattern often goes like this--a group of well-intentioned people create a movement to improve how food is produced, whether for health or environmental reasons. They invent a term to separate their products from conventional food. The term becomes popular as more people become educated and decide to be choosier about what they eat. Soon, even the big guys start to notice and want to find a way to join in on this new trend. To protect the word from becoming meaningless, standards are drawn.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Spark of Information Can Start a Fire

Hello, I'm Michelle, the lady of the house here.  Coureton will return for the next post =)  He asked me to write about what got me interested in food politics--and therefore homesteading--in the first place.

I had a rather unusual awakening in my first year of college.  I accidentally chose animal science as a major because my high-school councilor thought it was the same thing as zoology.  For the uninitiated, it's not--it's an agricultural major in which you learn everything there is to know about livestock.  Though I immediately switched my major to Biology, I was so interested in the course descriptions that I overloaded on credits to take them anyways--and did not regret that decision at all.