Gonna Be Good

April 16, 2014 § 22 Comments

Hurry up and grow, will ya?

Hurry up and grow, will ya?

April is when this whole eating-off-our-land gig gets a little tiresome. This is particularly true this year, since we had some germination issues in the big greenhouse last fall, so our winter greens rations were especially skimpy. Furthermore, the crops that didn’t produce last fall aren’t regrowing now. If I have to choke down another lacto-fermented green bean or serving of kimchi, I’m gonna track down ole Sandor Katz and give him a good thumping. Which will be difficult, because Sandor’s a nice guy. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

I can’t tell you how long it’s been since we had fresh greens. I got a salad a while back when my mom took me out to dinner, and it was some good, let me tell you. But other than that… whoa. Oh, sure, we’ve had plenty of veggies – we have oodles of frozen green beans and broccoli, and all the aforementioned ferments and of course root crops galore – but a nice fresh salad, with maybe a little cheese crumbled up and enough dressing that when the kids aren’t looking (or maybe even when they are), you lick the plate clean? Oh, man.

The stuff we do have is holding up right nice. We still have good onions, firm potatoes, plenty of garlic. We still have beef (steaks, even!), pork (bacon, even!), venison, chickens, and lamb. We still have gobs of blueberries and strawberries. We could probably eat a quart of berries every day until fresh berries start popping and not run out. We’ve got new syrup and dried chanterelles and dried tomatoes and frozen pesto and I don’t even know what all. We have enough liver pate – beef, chicken, pork, and beaver – to last us until the early part of the next century. Lard. Lots of lard.

We’re out of butter, though, and we haven’t had milk for over a month. That’s a sad state of affairs, to be sure, but we’ve got three cows due in June, so we’ll make up for it then. I’m thinking there’s gonna be an awful lot of ice cream consumed this summer. You know what we put in ice cream? Cream, syrup, egg yolks and whatever berries are fresh. Or maybe a few chopped up sprigs of mint. That’s it. Makes a hell of a breakfast, lemme tell you. Makes a hell of a dinner, come to think of it.

Out of simple curiosity, we’ve been keeping track of what money we spend on food. Over the past two months, we’ve spent $120, which means $15 per week, or about $4/week per person.  Of course, that doesn’t include the hay and minerals we feed the cows and sheeps. It doesn’t include the grain that goes to the layers (oh yeah: Eggs. We’re drowning). But still and all. Not bad. I suspect it’s even less come summer, though we’ve never tracked it in summer, so I can’t say for certain. If I think of it, and if we keep on keeping track, I’ll let you know.

We didn’t make a lot of money last year and actually would have qualified for food benefits, which struck us as pretty funny. I have to admit that for about a day, I was smitten by an image of myself in line at the local food co-op, arms laden with all the fancy cheeses and organic micro greens we could afford if we took the benefits. I also have to admit that I actually figured out what our benefit would be: $350-ish/month. Three hundred and fifty dollars per month. Can you imagine? I know that out there in the real world, where most folks are removed from the land and the skills necessary to fill their own freezers, $350/month for a family of four is hardly enough. It probably isn’t enough. But to us… whoa. We’d be eating cheese on our cheese. We’d have boughten butter coming out our ears.

Anyway. I don’t know what got me thinking about all this. Yet another breakfast of eggs, bacon, and kimchi, probably. Another lunch of venison and roots and frozen green bean stew. Dinner… who knows. Not salad, I know that much. Not cheese. Not ice cream. But all those things are coming. And when they get here, they’re gonna be good.


§ 22 Responses to Gonna Be Good

  • Kent says:

    I must have missed something: what happened to your cows?

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      They’re still here, but you have to dry them off for a couple months before calving. They need the rest.

      • Kent says:

        Thanks for educating this ignorant “city slicker!” (In my next life I really want to live on a farm.)

  • ellen korak says:

    Hey Ben,- the plural of sheep is sheep.

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Can’t be. The plural of cow is cows, the plural of goat is goats, the plural of pig is pigs, and I know for damn sure the plural of deer is deers.

      So I’m sticking with sheeps!

  • Michelle says:

    I admire you and your family. Wow.

  • Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    You do realize you can’t buy just anything with food stamps? I know the program (now called SNAP, I think?) has changed a bit since I was on it ten years ago. Couldn’t buy meat (beans -yes), definitely not organic (but gallons and gallons of antibiotic/hormone laden milk -yes), no fresh produce either (but sugary Fruit Loops – yes!)

    And the friendly staff at the county agency – wow, they just loved their underpaid jobs, let me tellya.

    If more underemployed families had the time and knowledge and skills and the space to grow their own foods, well, I guess food programs wouldn’t be so necessary.

    But if we’re all eating organic home-growns – who’s gonnna eat the Fruit Loops?

    • Dirk Anderson says:

      I don’t know when you were last on food stamps, but you can buy all that stuff now. As long as it’s not booze, ciggies, or hot food, anything is fair game. You can buy organic if you want. In Vermont, many farmers markets accept the EBT cards you get as issued as a part of 3Squares (VT’s version of SNAP). In terms of administration, the program is a lot more progressive than it used to be. The one thing it still doesn’t do, unfortunately, is come close to actually providing a family in poverty with enough money to eat.

      • Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

        Interesting how much has changed for the better… but I wonder if the Fruit Loops are still eligible? (It still makes me angry, obviously)

  • vpfarming says:

    Well, I have a family of 11. So I’m gonna stop reading your blog and start working 3x as hard as you do…

  • Vonnie says:

    Hey Ben, We were butter and ice cream free around Christmas season when our milk supplier dried off their cow…but right now…well, let me tell ya! I made some cinnamon ice cream for a dinner party a few weeks ago. I actually heard moans of pleasure out of more than one of my guests, it was amazing stuff. (I’m happy to share the recipe with you if you’re interested, but not sure how much cinnamon you buy, it’s so worth it, though). And I’ve been doing some maple yogurt, which has also been a big hit here. Greens are a comin’ and they’ve been a long time at it. We’re working on our makeshift hoop house and hopefully my hubby gets that done this weekend so we can get some greens underway, too. Though, we did manage some snow last night, 80 degrees on Monday, snow and 20’s last night. Go figure.

    And food stamps / SNAP can be used at Farmer’s Markets now with the farmers who will take them, which is a huge step in the right direction for those who need the leg up. Cheers! ~Vonnie

  • sarah says:

    not to offer more fermentation to your life, but pickled eggs are some good..we have an overload as well, and besides doing that and selling or trading with friends..it sure is a good excuse to bake desserts with all those eggs..oh no not another cake!..wait what?

  • These days I’m somewhat obsessed with sugar. It’s a real challenge to keep my kid from eating too much now that he shares my penchant for popping over to the market for a cookie. It’s got me wishing that we lived a less of this city lifestyle. Every life has it’s checks and balances, we all have to pay attention in some shape or form.

  • Karen R says:

    Love the juxtaposition of your seed starts against the snow covered hills.

  • skysled says:

    Just curious why you don’t sprout in the winter? In the winters living on a trapline North of the arctic circle, sprouts were a welcome addition to months of meat and dry goods.

  • Amy says:

    A little jealous of all those berries . . . we made jars and jars of homemade grape juice last year, and we are tiring a bit of that. And I’m not sure what to do with all that cucumber relish that we made, and what (exactly) I was thinking when I made so much of it. Do you grow grapes? And next year I’ll make corn relish with the corn, instead of freezing it. We’re getting tired of that, too. But the corn relish–mixed with black beans and a few other things–makes a really tasty bean salad. I sure do admire the way you live. But heck–go buy a bit of cheese!

  • ncfarmchick says:

    We had to dismantle our large garden at the end of last season due to sudden and heavy deer pressure so we’re anxious to get it all going again. Reading this post just makes my mouth water thinking about fresh greens. So many things never even make it into our kitchen as we eat them right there in the garden. That’s what I call “fast food”:)
    SNAP is also accepted at farmers markets here in NC as some readers mention above though I’ve not looked into whether or not my family qualifies. I’m curious whether or not you would/will utilize such assistance in the future. I have known people who qualified but would not use it due to pride (I guess, for lack of a better word) and I’m just curious about your feelings on the matter beyond what you describe here.
    My Dad is originally from Wisconsin and has cheese running though his veins. Kinda thought the same would be true for Vermont natives. Are you even allowed to not eat cheese and still live there?:)

  • […] If you happen to be eligible for food stamps but you’re able to feed yourself you should take the benefit anyway and […]

  • Love the picture of your seedlings sprouting and bringing their promise of green when outside it’s still all black and white. We don’t get snow here (well a few flakes which never quite hit the ground) so I love your clear cut and distinct seasons.
    As for greens, I read this post on an Aussie blog the other day and simply had to share. Might help out that green deficiency. :) http://milkwood.net/2014/04/14/windowsill-farming-with-microgreens/ :D

  • Peter H says:

    “Whoa” is Ben when considering the mass of men, eating fries of silent processed-nation.

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