Archive for February, 2011

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” -Conrad Hilton, hotel executive

Seeds arrived!

As I said a bit earlier, Dan and I ordered our garden seeds from rareseeds.com, a website that sells a wide variety of heirloom seeds. We carefully read descriptions, compared original climates to our own midwestern one (many were born in the late 1800’s in France and Italy), and labored over which would grow the best together according to the companionship gardening book “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Louise Riotte.

And today, after much anticipation, our babies were finally delivered.

Future veggies
Future veggies
Precoce D’Argenteuil Asparagus
Contender Valentine Bush Beans
Beurre De Rocquencourt Wax Beans
Old Homestead (Kentucky Wonder) Pole Beans
Rapini Broccoli
Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage
Berlicum 2 Carrot
Zwolsche Krul Celery
Marketmore 76 Cucumber
Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber
Florida Market Eggplant
European Mesclun Grees Mix
Blue Curled Scotch Kale
Crimson Forest Bunch Onion
Jaune Paille Des Vertus (Bulb) Onion
California Wonder Green Pepper
Jimmy Nardello Italian Sweet Red Pepper
Early Prolific Straightneck Squash
Zucchini Lungo Bianco
Butternut Waltham Squash
Roma Tomato
St Pierre Tomato
Stupice Tomato
Tonadose des Conones Cherry Tomato 
Seeds 002
The daffodils are just to remind us that spring is oh, so close.

Project for this weekend? Planting in seedling pots, of course.



“The point of eating one course at a time… seems to be the opportunity to concentrate one’s attention on each flavor, each perfect ingredient, one uncluttered recipe at a time.” – Kingsolver

To meat, or not to meat?

“‘When you kill a beast, say to him in your heart:
By the same power that slays you, I too am slain, and I too shall be consumed.
For the law that delivers you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.
Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.’ ” –Kahlil Gibran

I recently read this poem in the book,  Animal Vegetable Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. It is included in a chapter that tells of “harvest day” at her small Appalachian farm, where  family and friends gather and slaughter several chickens and turkeys they had raised from eggs. A grand affair, executed humanely, and ending in a feast of rotisserie rooster that had “met the day’s dawn by crowing.”

I like roasted chicken. And there’s nothing quite like a  hamburger, fresh off the grill in the middle of summer. But when I think about animals being killed, I usually lose my appetite.

In an essay entitled Food with a Face, journalist Eric Schlosser emphasizes that “The industrialization — and dehumanization — of American animal farming is a relatively new phenomenon: no other country raises and slaughters its food animals as intensively or as brutally as we do.”

Because of such uncomfortable realities, before becoming farmers, Kingsolver and her family swore off factory-raised meat from CAFO‘s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Eating cows that had spent the last half of their lives confined mostly indoors, shoulder to shoulder, knee-deep in their own excrement, and waiting for their daily serving of intestine-destroying grain was simply not an option. But in the US in the mid ’90’s, the family’s decision left them eating a lot of tofu.

Admittedly, the mistreatment of animals is the reason why I get this annoying guilty feeling every time I salivate at the smell of sizzling steak, wafting down the street on the 4th of July. But in my suburban neighborhood, raising my own livestock simply isn’t an option (not even chickens; trust me, I’ve tried). So does that leave me destined for tofu and veggie burgers?

Here’s a hard fact:

If we draw the okay-to-kill line between “animal and “plant,” and thus exclude meat, fowl, and fish from our diet on moral grounds, we still must live with the fact that every sack of flour and every soybean-based block of tofu came from a field where countless winged and furry lives were extinguished in the plowing, cultivating, and harvesting. An estimated 67 million birds die each year from pesticide exposure on US farms… to believe we can live without taking life is delusional. –Kingsolver

Even more than that, many ecosystems require grazing for plant production, and anyway you look at it, managed-grazing is a much more fuel-efficient way of handling slopping, grassy hills. Many seeds need to pass through an animals stomach to germinate, and so the natural circle of animal to vegetable goes on and on. They need each other, and human animals need them both.

But where does all this leave those of us who can’t just pick up and move to Appalachia and raise our own meat? And what if we can’t afford to buy free-range, or grass-finished organic meat?

I wish I had a good answer. I admit that I struggle with this problem  regularly. For now, I play it safe by ordering vegetarian at restaurants, and keep it cheap by eating the deer that my sister accidentally killed with her car last year. (You can’t get more free-range or organic than that.) For Thanksgiving, I cooked up a heritage turkey from a near-by farm (http://www.cavenyfarm.com/). And I eat a lot of vegetables…

Until Elgin zoning permits chicken coops in back yards, I guess I’ll continue to walk this line. And in on warm August evenings when only a burger will fix my summertime craving, maybe I’ll splurge on Gloria’s Meats (sold at the Elgin Harvest Market in season, and at Heritage Prairie Market in Elburn the rest of the year) and pick up some expensive but guilt-free beef.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.Those who profess to favor freedom yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder or lightning.”

First things first.

It’s only February 18, but that’s close enough to spring to get starter seeds in the ground (inside, of course).

Yesterday, Dan and I ordered 25 different types of heirloom vegetable seeds from this fantastic website: http://rareseeds.com/ and started figuring where they would all find a home in our yard. It’ll be a feat of landscaping acrobatics since our old neighborhood in a Chicago suburb doesn’t necessarily lend itself to this scale of food production, but I think we have a good plan. More on that later…

It is sunny and in the high 40’s outside right now. February is such a tease!