Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

The goat lady – my new party trick. February 28, 2011

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Politics — realfoodmama @ 12:39 pm
Tags: , ,

Got goat?

There are days when I am pretty sure I don’t get out enough, but this weekend I was able to sneak away from my maternal and farm related responsibilities and attend the 30th birthday party of a close friend of mine. I love her parties because there is always great food and interesting conversation, however I seem to be the recently elected expert on all things goat. In fact, at the most recent event the host literally dragged me over to a complete stranger and announced that I “had goats too, you two should talk.”

I don’t really mind talking about my livestock, and given that many of the folks at these parties are hardened foodies who are highly concerned about food politics, local sourcing and re-connecting with our food it seems only natural that they would want to know more about my goats and how it is that I am able to have the animals in the city limits. The really great thing is that there were some other folks at the party who also have goats and we were able to discuss the upcoming kidding season and whether or not my goat is actually pregnant – which I am not sure she is, honestly…but that is another post.

The wonderful thing is that when I am with the food community here I feel as though they are receptive to information about my urban homestead. They want to know what my goats are like and they think it is awesome that I have chickens too. I suppose if I had an audience that was slightly less receptive I might be less comfortable talking about it. I mean, no one wants to be known as “that crazy goat lady”. In fact one of the things I like so much about Santa Fe is that it is incredibly receptive to backyard livestock and in fact, sees it as the norm. Perhaps it is the Hispanic population component or the fact that Santa Fe is a 400 year old settlement, or maybe it really is just due to the fact that it is the City Different. In either case, I am not complaining. I love that I can have my animals without worrying about the legalities or getting permits or having neighbors think I am crazy. I am hopeful that with the urban homesteading movement and with the desire to get back to real food that more places around the country will adopt the same lenient policies as Santa Fe.

Until then, however, I think it is important to work with our neighbors and legislators in order to make them understand that backyard chickens really are the best thing for everyone *wink wink*.

Happy Eating!

 

The Urban Homestead February 21, 2011

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Food Activism — realfoodmama @ 10:42 am
Tags: , ,

Don’t you just love controversy?

This week in the urban homesteading community there was a fairly egregious act perpetrated on the rest of us by one family. The phrase Urban Homestead was trademarked by the Dervaes family in an effort to keep others from using the term, even though the term has been used in multiple publications prior to the trademark and is frequently used to describe what people like myself are doing. And while I consistently refer to my little operation as the urban farm, this move on the part of what I can only assume is a family more interested in fame and fortune than in the proliferation of the urban homesteading movement, has made me reconsider that.

The family has tried to deny that they are actively pursuing bloggers and other internet uses of the phrase Urban Homestead, but this post by Jamie, author of the urbanhomesteadx.com blog was sent a letter by the family informing her of the trademark and asking her to respect their “legally protected intellectual property” by ceasing use of the phrase Urban Homestead. Seriously?

I like to think that those of us interested in real food, self sustainability, urban farming, and all the glorious things that go with it such as canning and chickens, are in this together. I like to think that those of us who are doing these things are doing them in an attempt to take back our food from the corporations and the highly processed machinations of modern food production. But when one of the high profile members of this community actively works to suppress and discourage the rest of us, I can only throw up my hands with frustration and wonder if there is really any progress being made at all.

I sincerely hope that this trademark is overturned and that the Dervaes family is unable to push through any litigation against those of us who are simply trying to fight for healthy food and self sufficiency. However until then, I will proudly stand up and say I am an urban homesteader with an Urban Homestead. And you can’t do anything about it!

Happy Eating and Gardening and Homesteading!

 

Why home made pasta is better May 5, 2010

Filed under: Home Made — realfoodmama @ 11:36 am
Tags: ,

I love pasta. I like macaroni and cheese, fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti and marinara…you get the picture!

And I love fresh pasta. I like how its all soft. It smells good to me. And generally speaking it tastes better. But the thing I like most about fresh pasta is the art of making it. It’s like a meditation.

I started making pasta a few years ago and struggled with the stubborn, elastic dough to the point where I didn’t want to ever do it again. See, pasta dough and a rolling pin require a huge amount of upper body strength that I just don’t have. Or wish to have, frankly.

However, last year I got a hand cranked pasta roller and suddenly my love affair with noodles really took off. And since then, boy have I gotten good!

Pasta making for me is almost like a meditation. You have to work with the dough and add extra water or olive oil depending on the ambient humidity, the size of the eggs you use or the mood of the flour. You have to work it just enough so that it doesn’t become tough, but instead is a nice soft, silky consistency. In short, it is like art. It is a skill I have cultivated because I love my noodles. And frankly, so does my son. He even helps crank the roller from time to time!

The thing about making fresh pasta that I love the most though is that it really connects me to my food. Yes it is tastey and yes it is fun, but mostly I love that it allows me the space and time to really get down and make something. I don’t get the same sense of meditative time when making bread, mostly because I find bread stressful still. I am always worrying about the density, the rising, the cooking time. It doesn’t focus and calm me the way pasta making does. Maybe its my Italian heritage coming through, who knows?

In either case, I suggest that everyone find something food related that makes you feel the same way. Whether its pie crust, or bread making, or hollandaise sauce. Once you connect with a food process, you’ll never be the same again!

Happy Eating!

 

Locally Grown Grass-Fed Beef and the Problem with Eating Meat. February 26, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Fight Back Fridays — realfoodmama @ 1:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

This last winter we bought about 50 pounds of grass-fed beef to store in our freezer. It lasted us about 3 months and while we didn’t get a lot of variety, we did get some fabulous meals out of it.

It was such a success that we have decided we really want to buy more this year and as luck would have it, there is a local ranch doing a special in May. For $600 you can buy a cow, and then take it to the butcher for a pre-negotiated price. I am incredibly excited about this for a few reasons. First, I can request some very specific things from the butcher such as suet and organ meats. Secondly, it has given me the opportunity to meet a local butcher. This will come in incredibly handy in the event we ever want to process any of our livestock for meat. Lastly, I love the idea of meeting the animal beforehand. The whole point of the special this ranch is promoting is that you actually go there and pick out your steer. And this is where the whole thing fell apart when I was explaining it to my partner.

My son’s father is more tenderhearted than he cares to admit. He won’t hunt, he doesn’t like the idea of eating any male chickens we end up with, and he absolutely refuses to let us raise our male goats for meat. The idea of going to a ranch and coming face to face with his Rib Eye steak literally made him get up and leave the room. He just can’t help but personify his animals, and that makes it hard for him to eat them if he thinks about it.

Now I have a totally different take on the situation, of course. I think that coming face to face with your food really forces you to realize how important food is for life. I like the idea of coming to terms with the sacrifice, so to speak. I think that the biggest problem modern food production has is the unwillingness to look into the eyes of our food and recognize that the animal before us is giving its life to feed us. I personally am incredibly grateful to all the birds and cows I’ve eaten. However, I can understand that people don’t always see it that way.

However, I think it would be easier to support eating animals that have had a nice life rather than the de-humanized industrial existence that most of them get. The irony is my partner doesn’t like grass-fed beef. He prefers the grain fed variety in terms of flavor and texture. Whats a girl to do?

Well, this girl is going to leave the baby daddy at home, drive 100 miles to pick out a happy cow (no, not like the ones from California) and then quietly serve her partner a Rib Eye steak without pointing out how cute said steak once was, and leave it at that.

Life requires sacrifice, and that’s just the way it is. The only reason why people don’t cry over vegetables when we harvest them is because they don’t have faces. I bet if a rutabaga looked like a bunny rabbit, people would have a harder time rationalizing vegetarianism as a cruelty free way to eat. I personally think the ability to thank your animal in person for his or her flesh will make every meal taste better. However I appear to be alone on this one.

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.

 

Goat trauma January 23, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry — realfoodmama @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , ,

So I woke up this morning and made my daily pilgrimage down to the goat pen in order to warm up the girls’ water only to discover a horrible scene of carnage. My poor Eek managed to find a weak point in the metal siding of her barn and sliced open her hoof, leaving a bloody mess and causing her tenderhearted caretaker (me) to pretty much burst into tears.

Hobbling up on three hooves, I brought her into the house (we have a solarium that doubles as a veterinary clinic when necessary) and proceeded to ascertain exactly what had happened. Aside from the aforementioned bloody mess, her hoof suffered a clean slice from a loose piece of siding (which has since been fixed). After rinsing with warm water and wrapping with clean gauze and other first aid supplies, she is back in her cozy barn hopefully recovering well.

The reason I am relating this tale is two fold. Firstly, as a woman new to the world of livestock, I am constantly amazed at how much work it takes to care for these animals. It isn’t like having a dog or a cat, at least so far. They are larger, they do not live with me, meaning their environment is constantly suspect simple because I am not in it, and it is rather difficult to throw one in a carrier, put it in the car and rush off to a vet. Although it should be noted, I have a wonderful vet who will come to me if necessary.

Secondly, I find that even though the above things come into play and these animals are basically a food source, my concern for them is no less than my concern for my companion animals. In fact in some ways it is heightened because I do not live intimately with them. They are outside, exposed to the elements and without my company for extended periods of the day. Which inclines me to worry more, not less.

All this is simply an elaborate way of sharing my concerns about my animal husbandry career. I am not the kind of person who can simply write my goats off as being “just livestock” and proceed to treat them as such. I worry about them hurting, I worry they are cold, I am concerned at this point that I have not adequately anticipated the safety of their environment, and I hate the thought of anything else bad happening.

The reason this is relevant to this blog is that it really makes me wonder how people, particularly those people involved in big ag, can treat the animals with such insensitivity and lack of compassion. How can you not thank your animals for providing for you? How can you have such a lack of respect for yourself and your food? It boggles my mind.

I may be a basket case come kidding time, and god help me if and when my animals get really sick and eventually pass away, but at least I respect them and strive to treat them well. I am thankful for every quart of milk my goats give me and I want them to know it. And that is why I will no doubt wander down to the pen this evening after I put my son to sleep, just to make sure my girl is okay.

 

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle January 8, 2010

Filed under: Book Review,Fight Back Fridays — realfoodmama @ 12:12 pm
Tags: , ,

Animal, Vegetable, MiracleIt has been a while since I have read a book that makes me laugh out loud, but this one by Barbara Kingsolver has caused me to laugh hysterically, alarming my family more than once.

The book is basically a memoir, retelling the tale of a year spent by Kingsolver and her family sustaining themselves with home grown food. It starts off with the whole family uprooting themselves from a Tucson home and moving east, to 40 acres in Appalachia. They then proceed to do all the work required to feed a family of four with their own bare hands, including raising poultry for slaughter.

Kingsolver relays these tales with a self-depricating sense of humor and a realism that makes not only the book imminently relatable, but also inspires a sense of confidence in the reader. It makes me think that I too could grow all my own vegetables and bake all of my own bread. Perhaps I felt this way while reading because I am already moving in that direction – owning dairy goats, learning to garden, planting fruit trees and contemplating buying my own chickens this spring, but I like to think that it has as much to do with the authors sense of ease and her willingness to share her own failures and successes.

The book also contains brief additions written by Kingsolver’s husband and eldest daughter which include information on legislation, food trends and recipes. Each chapter in the book contains one or more of these short essays and I feel the communal nature of the writing helps engage the reader and makes one feel included in the project set forth at the beginning of the book – a year of self-subsistence.

All in all I feel that this book is a fabulous introduction to the ideas and realities of eating local, sustainable food. A much better introduction to the lifestyle and the philosophy than something like “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Pollan, mostly because it presents the ideas of Slow Food in a day to day, down home manner, rather than as a terrifying look into the horrors of food production in the country. As Kingsolver’s own daughter relates in the book, people tend to dislike being preached to and when she tried to share her new found knowledge about industrial farms, people often resented being made to feel guilty about their food choices. For this reason alone I believe that “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a great book to recommend to those people who may be curious about changing their food habits, but need a gentle introduction to the lifestyle and the benefits of SOLE food.

This post is my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday blog carnival.

 

Fall musings November 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 2:45 pm
Tags:

So I have been so distracted by a variety of things that I haven’t written in weeks! First, my computer broke and was in the shop for two weeks, then my goat’s hoof was badly injured. This was followed by my request to host two parties and finally that brings us to this week. Things have just been crazy and sadly my blog has suffered as a result.

That being said however, I have some fabulous posts in the wings which I will be working on this week! Several new recipes, including some using my raw goats milk, as well as some interesting holiday ideas and discussions.

Tomorrow, look for my post about home made gnocchi, using potatoes from our garden! My favorite pasta, and while it is labor intensive, the results are totally worth it.

Until then, Happy Eating!