July 7, 2009

Ruminating

Grazing animals are called ruminants.  They’re known for their unhurried perusal of a landscape, slowly munching their way along, and I imagine all that chewing gives them a lot of time to think.  I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing lately — taking a lot in, taking my time, processing.

So I read The End of Food, and then I read In Defense of Food, and now I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I just feel like I’ve reached that tipping point where the arguments in favor of certain lifestyle changes are just so strong, the evidence so persuasive, that I can no longer continue along in my same passive vein.  Something has gradually changed inside me, and things I took for granted as harmless before, are things I can no longer quite bring myself to do.

For one, I am done with feedlot beef.  Just freakin’ DONE.  I can’t get my head around it, I just cannot justify it, not one more purchase, no more “oh they don’t have any organic ground beef today, oh well, won’t kill me…” nope.  Can’t do it.  It may be months before anyone in my family even notices this conscious choice, however.  I buy beef maybe… once every two weeks?  Three?  And thankfully now there ARE organic, grass-fed options.  So this may not change my diet all that much, it just makes restaurant, and especially fast-food, eating a little trickier.  No more Whoppers for me, I’m afraid.  I’ll miss them, actually, in a way… but then again, I won’t.  Because with the knowledge in my head right now, I don’t think I could eat one and have it taste the way  they used to when I could eat them in blissful ignorance.  So, maybe it’s all for the best.

For two, high-fructose corn syrup is just about gone from my diet.  I say “just about” because we are still using up a few ingredients in the house that contain it (crackers and whatnot), and I did have a drizzle of “fake” maple syrup the other day when natural was not available.  But no more soda.  None at all, actually, because I’m off aspartame completely as well.  When we go to Chipotle (a place I can still eat, hallelujah!), I’ve been getting unsweetened iced tea.  It’s pretty good, actually.

Part of this is health reasons (I’m trying to follow an “anti-inflammation diet” to combat several auto-immune issues I have), part of it is ethical.  And part of it is simply aesthetic… once you start eating real, whole foods, you just kind of lose your appetite for Twinkies.  And believe me, I used to *love* Twinkies.  And Cheetos, and all kinds of other foods that barely even get to be called “food.”  But they just don’t appeal to me anymore.  So this change in eating isn’t really about virtue and deprivation.  It’s more about discovering things that are more delicious AND more healthy, and deciding to stop shoving crap in my mouth that I don’t even really want.

Meanwhile, I’ve been spending a lot of mental time planning our future farm.  I definitely want chickens, of course, that’s a given.  And a good place to start, it seems.  But it is *possible* that we may eventually branch out to sheep… maybe a goat?  Geese?  Turkeys?  The possibilities are endless.  And a huge, huge vegetable garden, where I can actually grow more than just ONE zucchini plant, ONE tomato plant… although, even with a really big garden, I may still stick to just one pumpkin plant, man those things are huge…..  Anyway.  Big garden.  Oh, and an orchard!  So the ultimate property, of course, would already have an established orchard, since these things take a long time to get going.

I suppose there are people in the world who lust after cars, or big fancy mansions with swimming pools, really big TV’s that hang on the wall.  You know, whatever floats your boat.  But oh, how I daydream about a piece of land, with an old farmhouse with a big porch, a big red barn, an acre or two of pasture… sigh.  Someday.  I know it’s out there for me.  In some ways, I think I’ve always known it was out there.  Since I was a teenager, I’ve had this vision in my head of myself as an old lady, long gray hair flying in the wind, driving down a dirt road in a pickup truck with dogs in the back.  Maybe with a little luck, I can get there *before* my hair goes completely gray.

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January 21, 2009
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November 12, 2008

A mom-envy moment

There’s a mom I see once a week, whose daughter is in a ballet class with Susie. The first few times I saw her, I noticed that she always had her school-aged son with her (maybe 9 years old?) but I didn’t put two and two together. Eventually I realized, Duh, they’re homeschooling!

Yesterday I watched the mom and son as they cooled their heels waiting for the hour-long ballet class to be over. They were sitting in their minivan, and during the course of the hour, I watched as the boy did some pages in a workbook, the mom read aloud, they talked, and all while the mom was also taking care of a baby. What struck me was how UN-frazzled the mom seemed. She seemed serene, calm and cheerful through the backseat diaper changes, the explanations, etc.

I don’t know yet what balance of home and school is going to be right for my kids. But I do know that I want to strive to be that unhurried with my children, whatever we’re doing.

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October 2, 2008
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September 30, 2008
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September 19, 2008
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September 18, 2008
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August 19, 2008

Back from a week in the heartland

After spending a week in Wisconsin, I am once again shocked to realize how much prejudice was ingrained into me by my upbringing.  I mean, I thought my family was pretty progressive, and there was certainly never any negativity directed at people from other countries, religions, or cultures.  Yet somehow, I grew up with a vague disdain for the Midwest.  Which is weird, because my parents are from Pittsburgh, which is pretty borderline Midwestern itself.  But anyhow, I grew up with a firm East Coast sensibility, and not a whole lot of imagination for what might be of interest between, say, Pittsburgh and Denver.  How totally lame.

I now spend at least a week in Wisconsin every year, thanks to my husband and his family traditions, and it is always so refreshing.  I know where they get the expression “Minnesota nice.”  And why does that have to mean boring, or to somehow imply naivete on the part of those who are nice?  Why can’t nice just be… nice??  Plus, the landscape… all those farms, all the hard work and human industry that went into building them — it is a sight every East Coast kid should be exposed to.  No kid should think corn comes from the grocery store.  

And then we came back home, and I was struck by the traffic and the density of people and the banality of the suburban landscape.  Sure, I’m pleased as punch to be back home and to not have the baby sleeping in our room, and to be able to speak above a whisper after the kids have gone to bed.  But, we just spent a week with six people sharing one bathroom, and it was fine.  We’ve gotten used to luxuries that are nevertheless still luxuries.

Food for thought.  More food for thought: we need to go to the library and find some books on meteors and meteorites.  This seems to be the topic of interest this week, and I’ve exhausted my personal knowledge base.  

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August 4, 2008
Aren’t they gorgeous?

Aren’t they gorgeous?

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August 3, 2008

A lesson in the counting of chickens

Today we had a picnic at a local park that is also a working farm.  We got to see the goats, the sheep, the cows (so much bigger in real life than they are in the imagination!), and of course, the chickens.  Susie kept wanting to go back to the chickens and visit with them some more.  They were beautiful heirloom breeds, and the roosters were spectacular.  Susie informed us that she wants to be a farmer when she grows up.  Being at the park, Dave and I were both struck by the quiet.  I know it’s a cliche, but that kind of pastoral landscape is just so peaceful.  Of course, I’m sure it feels much different if you’re the one who has the responsibility for all those beautiful animals.  

But it was a lovely antidote to the difficult and somber evening before.  We had been planning to make a change — not as major as moving-to-the-country-and-homeschooling-the-kids, but a change for the better in our day-to-day life.  We knew we might have to scrimp and save to make it work, but we figured it was worth the sacrifice.  But last night we sat down and crunched the numbers… and crunched and crunched, and we just could not get them to add up.  It’s just not going to happen, not now.  We had been so excited, but it’s that damn counting of the chickens prior to the hatching thing again.  Gets us every time.

At least we know where we can go to count chickens safely.  Susie will happily lead the way.

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