Friday, September 7, 2007

Brown-Thumbed Girl Tries To Grow Things

It should be known by all that I am a plant killer. I'm good at many things, but growing or even maintaining any sort of plant life is not one of those things. I've tried over and over again - some herbs in the kitchen window, a potted plant on my desk, tomatoes in the backyard - and have more often than not failed miserably. (I did have reasonable success with the tomatoes - it was a high-wind storm that took them out.)

Recently, my better half and I agreed that we would plant a vegetable garden. (He's not a plant killer, per se, but has virtually no experience with plants to speak of.) This was my idea. Yes, mine. I'd love to be able to plead temporary insanity. I'd love to be able to say that I just enjoy wasting time and money. The fact is, though, I want this garden because I want to know that I could feed myself if I had to. I want the feeling of accomplishment (and security?) that comes from planting a seed, tending the plant, harvesting the food from it, preparing it and eating it. All. By. My. Self. Also appealing to me is the idea that I would know exactly where this particular bit of food came from, since I personally brought it forth. Finally, it just seems like a naturally human thing to do. Perhaps not "modern, 21st century human", but then that sort of living doesn't feel very natural to me anyway. I want to remind myself that the priviledge of eating requires work on someone's part, and it may as well be mine.

There are lots of things I'd like to do along these lines. I'm taking up canning so I can have farmers market produce in the winter. I want to learn to make cheese, pickles and vinegar. I might like to grow a fruit tree, or keep a stock pond. I want to learn to make a proper outdoor cooking fire (a skill I've begun to learn but need to practice). And believe me, I'd be raising laying hens in the backyard were it not for the city ordinance standing in my way. Part of me wants to be like Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountan - kooky, sure, but tough and capable.

It's a bit hard to explain why this is so important to me. I think I just don't like a lot of what the retail world has to offer, and I'd like to think that I'm not totally, utterly dependent on it. I think that the myriad "conveniences" of modern life have taught us to un-learn things. So many Americans no longer know how to cook, sew, balance a checkbook, commit things to memory or perform longhand arithmetic just to name a few. Instead, they feel helpless if their phone loses its charge and are unable to entertain themselves in the absense of televison and iPods. I simply refuse to accept that lifestyle for myself.

Only time will tell if I can, in fact, provide for me and mine and make a silk purse out of the sow's ear that is our yard. Despite my prior failures, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm going forth with confidence, because I really want my efforts to be successful. Ironically, this is where my disdain for modern conveniences runs up against my need for them. I want my garden to flourish, but I don't need it to, do I? There's always the supermarket, after all.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Last night I cooked the first item from my pastured meat delivery. I chose the chicken, since it's Texas and still very hot, even though it's now September, and beef seemed a bit heavy.

For starters, it looked very good right out of the package. It's a bit hard to explain, but it looked very gently handled compared to a supermarket bird. Once roasted, it was deemed the best chicken we've possibly ever eaten, and certainly the best one I've ever cooked. It was juicy and flavorful, with excellent texture. Above all, it tasted very clean and very chicken-ey. In fact, we got so carried away that I completely forgot to take a photo of it for this post! We were totally preoccupied with eating the thing! I already regret only buying one.

I made some really excellent stock from the bones, and the stock and leftover meat made for a really stellar batch of jambalaya. Note to self: stock up on chickens!

A ground beef dish will be next, although I'm not sure yet what we'll be making with it. I'm holding off on the roasts until slightly cooler weather sets in.