Getting a Closer Connection to My Food

Gardening, foraging, gleaning, making things from scratch.

Frittata
This morning’s breakast: a frittata with home grown onions and broccoli, homemade cheese, and eggs from my neighbor’s chickens.

This morning, for breakfast, I had a frittata I made with onions and broccoli from my garden, eggs from my neighbor’s chickens, and Chaource cheese I made myself three weeks ago. (The only reason the eggs came from neighbors is because my 17 chickens aren’t laying yet.) I could have added chanterelle or gypsy mushrooms I foraged for and froze last autumn or morel mushrooms I forged for on Friday. (That would have been a waste of the morels.) Or I could have made blueberry muffins from scratch, using blueberries I picked and froze last summer and sweetened with honey from my bees. Or a smoothie made with those same blueberries, two strawberries from my garden (only two are ready right now), and yogurt I made myself.

It’s only recently that I’ve realized how much of my food comes from my own sources or resources. Last night, I made a batch of pickled broccoli stems with more of that garden broccoli and dill from my garden. The tomato sauce and pickled green beans I canned last winter are still forming the basis of pasta meals or snacks and hors d’oeuvres for dinner guests. The cherries I gleaned last summer are still in the fridge in the form of cherry chutney that goes very well with roast or grilled pork, turkey, or chicken. I’ve got five kinds of homemade cheese in various stages of ripening in my wine-fridge-turned-cheese-cave or refrigerator. I’ve got mead made from honey from my bees fermenting in my pantry closet. In my garden, the broccoli and onions are ready for harvest and I pick them right before I eat them. Soon I’ll also have tomatoes, peppers, green beans, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, corn, melons, zucchini, and potatoes, not to mention marion berries, ligon berries, and black-capped raspberries. And it I get back into the forest for a hike at just the right time, I can pick thimbleberries right off the bushes.

Chickens Eat Weeds
My chickens love to eat weeds. They’ll be making eggs in about 2-3 months.

I’ve discovered that I can turn weeds into eggs by feeding them to chickens and coffee filters into vegetables by composting them into a rich garden soil.

I spent literally hours traipsing through forest floors tangled with the debris of fires a year or more ago, looking for the morel mushrooms only found this time of year. Although I found a few — enough for a small side dish or pizza topping — I was competing with people who had a lot more experience than me and consider myself lucky to find ones they obviously missed.

It also takes a long time and makes a big kitchen mess to make cheese from scratch.

And gleaning cherries after harvest? Do you know how frustrating it is to see a perfect one just out of reach up in a tree and not be able to close your fingers around its stem?

Which is why people ask me why I bother. Why not just go to the supermarket and buy whatever’s there?

The only thing I can come up with is the feeling of satisfaction I get from knowing where my food comes from or what’s in it, and having a very active role in obtaining it, putting it on the table, and serving it to my guests.

Foraging for mushrooms, which I hope to blog about later in the week, is especially rewarding. When I say I spent hours searching, I’m not exaggerating. I went out into three different forest areas on four different days and came back with just five mushrooms, one of which is tiny. Yet the excitement I felt when I saw the biggest one cannot be overstated.

There’s something about having this closer connection to my food that I really like.

Next spring’s challenge: tracking down the wild asparagus that supposedly grows in the Chelan area.

What do you think? How involved are you in obtaining and preparing the food you eat?

Why I’m Not Blogging about Politics

A post in which I proceed to blog about politics.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m very involved there with politics. But if you follow this blog, you know that I very seldom blog about it.

I’ll make my position clear here just once: I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he’s a conman who isn’t sincere about anything he promised his base during the campaign. I think his only goal as president is to make himself and his family richer by playing the system any way he can. I think that the only reason he’s a [supposed] billionaire is because he started life with millions he got from his father, consistently cuts project costs by not paying his contractors what he owes them, and has been bailed out after more than a few bad business decisions. For Pete’s sake, the guy has six bankruptcies under his belt — doesn’t that speak volumes? How people can trust and believe in a conman like this is beyond me.

I think he’s semi-literate, a guy with a tiny vocabulary who can’t be bothered to prepare for meetings or speeches because he thinks he can bluff his way through them — and everyone lowers their standards to make sure he does.

I also think he’s a crazy narcissist who needs constant ego stroking, a true man-child who can only focus on things that affect him personally. I think he’s delusional in the sense that he rewrites events in his own mind to fit the narrative he wants to tell about himself and then actually believes the new story. Simply said, he believes his own lies.

I think members of his staff likely did collude with Russia during the election — and maybe he did, too — and that Putin definitely has enough dirt on him to make him march to his tune. I think he’s hiding far more than he’s revealing and I’m sure that what he’s hiding is plenty to be ashamed of.

And no, I don’t want to debate it. So save your pro-Trump comments for some other blog.

And yes, I would like to see him removed from office. Impeachment would be nice. So would a resignation. Heck, I’d probably celebrate if he just dropped dead of a heart attack.

(Not that I think Pence is good for this country, but that’s a whole other story.)

But that doesn’t mean I’m one of the rabid left wing anti-Trump kooks that are making fools of themselves by believing every single Trump conspiracy theory thrown at them.

And I’m outraged by the people cooking up these theories and pushing them. While it’s possible that these people actually believe the nonsense they’re spouting, I think it’s a lot more likely that they’re trying to secure a position for themselves on the far left like Alex Jones’s position on the far right: offensive nut jobs who can turn a buck by building a following of gullible people on the left who are desperate for any hope that Trump will be removed from office in shame.

And I’m fed up with people who tweet and retweet these theories and then get upset with me when I advise them not to believe anything until it’s published by a credible news source. As if I’m somehow “the enemy” because I’m not as gullible and desperate as they are.

Seriously?

I recently changed the tweet pinned to the top of my Twitter profile page in an effort to advise people who are going nuts these days over what they’re seeing and reading and believing. Will it help? Probably not. But it’s my new mantra when it comes to politics: “PAY ATTENTION, everyone. Think before you react. Check before you believe. And, for pete’s sake, CALM DOWN!”

While there are similarities and differences between our current state of political affairs and the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon, I have full confidence that the legal system will do the right thing when it comes to dealing with Trump.

Eventually.

Until then, I see no reason to blog about politics anymore. I have more interesting — and positive — things to write about.

Want to comment on this post? Comments are open — for now. But there are a few strings attached.

First, read the Comment Policy. You’ll find a very informative comic there about “free speech” that perfectly illustrates my thoughts on the matter. If your comment violates this policy in any way, it will be deleted before it even appears. Even I won’t read it.

Second, if your comment mentions Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (or emails or Benghazi, etc.) as a reason for supporting Trump now, today, after all the shit that’s come down since the election, I will delete your comment. If you can’t make a 2017 argument for supporting Trump, you obviously haven’t thought much about what’s going on and have nothing worth sharing here. Go back to your Fox News bubble and leave the rest of us who actually care about the future of our country alone.

Third, don’t expect me to debate with you on the merits of Donald Trump. I won’t. No matter how nicely you present your argument, thus getting it past moderation, I will not reply. I’ve said everything I have to say above and you cannot convince me that I’m wrong about any of it.

If you want to respond to someone who has commented, keep that comment policy in mind. And keep it civil. If I don’t spend all of my time moderating this post’s comments, the comments will stay open. But if moderation becomes a chore, I’ll shut it down.

Seriously, I have better things to do with my time than deal with MAGA trolls.

Paying It Forward: Retro Dinette Edition

When a Craig’s List sale isn’t exactly a “sale.”

Years ago, when I lived in Arizona and was nearing the peak of my writing career, I had a lot of disposable income. Before I began dumping it into aviation and what would become my third career as a helicopter pilot, I invested that extra cash in real estate. One year, I bought a condo in town to use as a rental. The following year I got more ambitious and bought a property with a two bedroom, two bath house and a four unit apartment building on it.

The apartments, which were studios, were functional and cute. They were all furnished; the previous owner had lived in the house with her grown son and rented the apartments out to an assortment of low income folks and winter visitors. The furniture was the kind of stuff you’d find at a garage sale. In fact, that’s where most of it ended up since I wound up refurnishing every unit with southwest style lodgepole furniture made on order by a small company in Phoenix. I was trying to make the place a little more upscale, hoping to attract a different sort of tenant. (For the record, I count that as one of my failures.)

Retro Dinette
The table and chairs pose for a Craig’s List photo against my garage door. One chair was in perfect condition while the other had some upholstery issues. And yes, they are kind of ugly.

I did keep a few items, including a drop-leaf formica table and two vinyl-covered chairs. I don’t know why I kept them; maybe they reminded me of my childhood? They were certainly from that era — the 1960s or maybe even earlier — and well-made. They eventually wound up in my Wickenburg hangar where the table became a stand for my small hangar fridge and the microwave I kept on top of it. The chairs didn’t get much use.

When I moved out of my Wickenburg hangar in September 2013, the table and chairs were packed into the moving truck along with boxes of household items and other better furniture. They were unpacked into a hangar in East Wenatchee, where they sat with my other furniture until June 2014. That’s when they moved again, this time into my new home in Malaga. And it might come as no surprise that my little fridge wound up on top of the table again in my big garage.

As anyone who has been in my garage can tell you, I have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff, in fact. I’m one of those people who holds onto things if I think they might have any use at all in the future. (This also explains why I still own the Jeep Wrangler I bought new in 1999, the Honda S2000 I bought new in 2003, and the Yamaha Seca II I bought new in 1993; heck, I do use them all. It also explains why I have such a big garage.) Little by little, I’ve been selling off the stuff I no longer need/use/want. When I bought a nice rolling media cart at a school sale last year and the little fridge went on top of that, I no longer had any use at all for the table. So I listed it on Craig’s List.

I should mention that I tried to sell it last year, too. The table is probably considered an “antique” and it likely has some real value. I think I listed it for $80 last year but didn’t get a single call.

This year, I listed it for $40. It’s not as if I needed the money. It’s just that when you list something with any value for free on Craig’s List, you get all kinds of weird characters competing to claim it. I didn’t want to deal with all that.

I got a call from a girl who was interested but unable to come see it. She said she’d call back but I didn’t hear from her again.

Then I got a call from a guy in Seattle — a 3+ hour drive from here — who was very eager to come. He called at 3 PM on a Sunday and asked if he could come that night. I suspect he realized that the table had some value; maybe he even knew where he could sell it to turn a quick buck on the west side. I said, “You want to drive all the way out here for a $40 table?” He hesitated and then said, “I like retro furniture.” But I guess I’d planted a seed in his head. Was it really worth six to eight hours of a day to scoop up this bargain? What would gas cost? And what if the condition of the table wasn’t as good as he expected? He told me he’d call back. I never heard from him again.

I renewed the listing on Craig’s list. Another girl called. In all honesty, it could be the first girl. She lived in Chelan and could come Monday after work. She got out at 5 PM and would be here by 6. I didn’t tell her that it would take more than an hour to get here from Chelan.

She showed up at 6:45, still dressed for work, full of apologies. By that time, I had the garage door open for her. As we walked to where I’d stowed it in the back of the garage, a small pickup truck with a cap pulled up. She told me her parents had come in case she couldn’t get it in her car. That meant two vehicles had made the hour+ drive from Chelan. Soon we were all in the garage looking at the table.

I struggled to figure out how the supports for the drop leafs worked and finally succeeded in raising one side. It was a cool mechanism that I had completely forgotten about — the legs of the table actually slid out on a wooden track. (Seriously: they don’t make stuff like this anymore.) Her mom sat in one of the chairs. We chatted. I asked her if it was for her first apartment and she said it was.

I thought back to my first apartment. I was 20 years old and right out of college. It was a big studio with a separate kitchen in a not-too-savory part of Hempstead, NY. From my 6th floor window, I could see my old college dorm just a few miles away. I’d struggled a bit to furnish it with a combination of used and cheap new furniture, none of which I still own. I remembered the excitement of those days, of starting a new life away from home and school, of earning a living for myself. Every day was an adventure or challenge. I seldom had more than $20 in my pocket and liked to hold onto it as long as I could.

So when she handed me the $40, I told her to keep it.

She was surprised and asked if I was sure. I told her I was and that it was my housewarming gift to her. I told her that when she was ready to replace it, maybe she could sell it for $100 and put that towards the new set.

Her dad loaded the table into the truck and I carried over one of the chairs while she took the other one. They slipped it inside and closed the cap on the truck. We chatted for a while about the winery down the street and I urged them to come back there for a tasting one weekend. And then I shook her hand and wished her good luck.

Gotta pay it forward.

The funniest thing to me about the whole exchange? None of them so much as mentioned the elephant in the room: the helicopter parked in my garage.