Well it turns out that our little Chick n Chicken are overachievers. The breed starts laying at 16 weeks rather than the 24 that I'd read online. We got our first egg on Thursday. A tiny one with a dual yolk, very fun. The second egg was even smaller and I haven't cracked that one open yet. The first egg was delicious. The yolks were a dark gold color reminding me of saffron. The eggs tasted just like I remembered from child hood. GOOD! Lately the ladies have been having treats of plums which have just started ripening on our tree and they love cabbage leaves.
They've been dumping their outside water and we were trying to figure out why. They would dump it, squack for us to come refill it and then dump it again. Reminded me of a child with a sippy cup. Turns out the bugs were congregating beneath it and our smart girls would wait for the bugs to come and then dump the water out of the way to get at them. I'm so proud :)
What are you willing to pay for your food? Are you willing to pay for less chemicals, better quality, better flavor, good wages and healthy work conditions for the people who create your food? We've been conditioned to look for cheap, but cheap and good in my experience never seem to go together. I've been reconditioning my "cheap" brain and the interesting thing is I am not going to the poor house.
The premise of these changes is this, I don't want to pay for the impacts of my cheap choices down the road. I don't want to pay the added healthcare costs for eating crap and poor working conditions, the added welfare costs of people not being able to make a fair wage, the added cost of clean ups of destroyed, chemical laden lands.
Here are some things we've changed and while they on the surface seemed more expensive, in the long run they have not been so.
1. We joined a CSA - Two small farms and get a box of produce each week which comes out to about $20 a week. It's more than enough produce for the two of us. For example this week we got Lettuce, summer squash, red potatoes, parsley, strawberries, kale and avocados.
The best part of the CSA is getting those things that I would never try such as Fava beans, my new favorite, or things that I would never buy which are really good for me and tasty like Kale. The other benefit to this produce is it is picked the day it is delivered and it is picked ripe, so not only does it last longer than produce from the grocery store but it is better tasting. I waste less. I never get moldy berries and I rarely throw something away because it doesn't taste good. I also don't get produce that's been shipped, trucked or airlifted from far away so my purchase doesn't contribute to the extensive cost we are all going to be paying for the destruction of our living spaces. In addition the farms are stewards of an open space water shed and are actually improving the land they farm on.
2. We purchase a split half of grass fed beef each year. The beef comes out to about $6.40 per lb. This is an average over all of the cuts which makes it sound more expensive, but I contend that it is not since we get cuts of filet, and rib eye, in fact all cuts that you could imagine. Again the flavor is superior, it has a much smaller percentage of fat, and the fat that it does have is healthy fat. The cattle are healthy, the land is healthy and the workers are healthy. I like supporting that. Check out Morris Ranch to see what I am talking about.
3. We have lessened our consumerism. Thinking about our purchases, buying recycled things at thrift stores and garage sales...and asking ourselves do I really need that new blouse, new chair, can I refinish, refurbish the old instead of buying new?
I'm not perfect by any means, my cheap brain comes out often and I have to talk it down but I hope I am making a difference and I think I am feeling less "cheapened" by my choices.
I just got home from work walked out to the side yard and picked some raspberries, one strawberry and a handful of cherries. Now this may not seem like something to get excited over, but after reading yesterdays news about ADHD being linked to pesticides I am excited to get chemical free produce where I can.
The last couple of weeks our CSA box has come with strawberries which don't last long. That night and maybe a handful in the morning. I could eat strawberries for breakfast lunch and dinner but Raspberries are few and far between at our house. I try every once in awhile to buy some organic ones but inevitably I have a melt down when my $5 berries are moldy before it seems I've even gotten them home. So discovering the raspberry bush in the side yard is darn close to nirvana for me, an urban Californian.
I didn't used to be so far from good berries. As a high school student my summer job was picking blueberries and raspberries for a local friend who owned a small u pick it farm. He would give me $0.25 a pint if I am remembering correctly but what I didn't get paid in cash I got paid in berries.
I then moved up to the position of bucket weigher during the u pick it months. What a sweet job that was, I would sit in the little bucket shack and read a book, waiting for the next pickers to show up, so I could weigh their buckets and show them the best spot to pick. At the end of the night, I'd add to my pay by picking clean the bushes that they had barely touched only for the easiest to reach berries. Amateurs. The owner of the farm would leave me lunch on the counter, beer bread with peanut butter and jelly. Sweet.
I think that may have just been the best job I ever had and the best berries I ever had. I don't think that's the story at the corporate berry farms and maybe that's the problem. I remember one week during one summer, we picked the mummy berries. Not my favorite job, these were berries that had a fungus and were not edible and looked pretty gross. Instead of flooding the fields with chemicals, we picked each bush clean and disposed of the "mummys" allowing a new crop to come, fresh bright berries. There is a way to grow good healthy food without chemicals. It just takes some time and care and common sense. I for one would rather care than not.
It's called Orach, and it's the best part of the box. Not the Orach itself but the veggies we get that I have never seen before. I grew up on a small farm, we had a big garden so I am not a novice but apparently there are lots of veggie varieties I have yet to even see or hear of. This particular green(or purple) has been compared to spinach. I'll have to tell you how it tastes later, but it looks like something out of Dr Seuss. Purple Leaves!
Our CSA box started two weeks ago and already I feel healthier. I know we are getting strawberries tomorrow so today when I saw delicious rhubarb in the store I grabbed a few stalks. Yum! So far I've made two lovely Fennel salads, a leek and pine nut rice pilaf, and two big salads. We haven't started our compost project yet, but we did aquire two baby chickens who are now at 6 weeks eating up our stalks and ends of all sorts of things. They particularly liked the strawberry tops and butternut squash ends.
Our CSA box comes from Two Small Farms. I started with them three years ago and then moved off onto a farm that offered a smaller share and more fruit. It's called Farm Fresh to You. I was very dissapointed in their quality and have now moved back to TSF. I am so glad I moved, the quality is as good as I remember and then some. The first batch of strawberries we got we ate over the sink with a fresh made bowl of homemade whipped cream. There is nothing better than that!