My Journey to Vegetables

If you’ve been to my blog before, you’ve probably read about my CSA boxes of vegetables.  Well, today I’m going to tell you about my long trip to attain this much sought after box of vegetables. 

The pick-up for my veggies is on Thursday, between 4:15 and 5:15.  Yes, you read correctly.  I have exactly one hour to pick my vegetables up.  Usually I can make this happen because my jobs are so flexible.  But sometimes, I don’t want to turn down a good day’s work just so I can pick them up.  Such was the case in this instance.  I had to work all day on Thursday, morning and night. 

In the past, I had a friend who was in the same CSA group, so I could just have her pick up mine as well with very little inconvenience to her.  However, now I am doing a winter CSA with a different farm as the other one ended, and she chose not to participate.  So, it’s all me.  When considering my options for what to do, I thought about asking a friend to go get them for me.  I have a couple who live not too far from the pick-up location.  However, the time window is so small…with my summer CSA, I had 3 hours.  I hate to make anyone who is just getting off of work drive extra during rush hour, possibly having to hurry in order to get there before the pick-up ends.  Besides, the two friends who live closest and I feel comfortable asking are the two friends that I somehow always end up asking favors of.  Although I’m sure they would not want me to feel this way, I feel like I am favored out.  And so, I opted to contact the farm and ask if I could do some sort of alternate pick-up arrnangement rather than chance inconveniencing a friend.

The lady from the farm said they had a pick-up today (which was Tuesday) in ________, TN or I could just come to the farm and pick it up there.  After I told her where I lived, she said the farm was probably closer and so she commenced with directions. 

I knew it wasn’t close, but when I got off the phone and did my yahoo map search (mapquest is consistently incorrect), I discovered that this was going to take me [approximately] 1 hr. and 21 minutes.  Hmmm.  Not really what I wanted to do with my day off – spend 3 hours (round trip) picking up vegetables, you know.  However, I had already arranged it, and they were doing me a favor by offering the option and I hated to call back and change what I had just set up.  I resigned myself to it, and upon realizing I was going to be driving on the Natchez Trace (official scenic drive, no trucks allowed, mostly 40 mph speed limit) for 30 miles, I decided I would just enjoy it like I was purposefully taking a scenic drive. 

I drove and drove through the hillside, and finally was somewhere around one mile from the farm, according to what I understood of the directions, anyway, when I received a phone call.  From the farm lady.  There was a problem with my box.  It got sent with her husband to __________, TN by mistake.  Oops!

At this point, I not only have to go further than the farm would have initially been anyway, but I have gone about 30 miles out of the way.  I wasn’t mad…I mean, I caused the confusion by changing the routine up in the first place.  That’s what I get for being difficult.  And attempting to be self-sufficient. 

And so, the directions commence again.  Farm lady’s directions the first time were sketchy.  For example: “Go to _________, TN and take Hwy ______.” ____________, TN was a town to which I have never been.  And also, “Take every possible right after that turn until you see a big red barn.”  Does this include driveways?  I was confused already and I hadn’t even started driving.  Hence, the reason I went to yahoo maps.  Only now I am [approximately] 1 hour and 21 minutes from my house.  No yahoo maps here. 

I listen to farm lady’s new directions.  Follow this road until you turn right on nameless highway.  When you get into ___________, TN, turn right on the “main road”.  When you get to the street “where you would turn left if you were going to the square,” [Oh, the square in said town where I have never been!] turn right instead.  Then, of course, there is the obligatory church where you turn.  This is understood in the South.  All directions must include turning somewhere at some church.  I’m pretty sure it’s a rule.  It might even be in the Bible.

I have been pretty hard on farm lady.  I say this because, amazingly, I had absolutely no trouble whatsoever finding the pick-up location in __________, TN.  Thanks, farm lady.  I’m sorry I doubted you. 

I also should tell you that by this point, I have been driving for about 2 hours and I have REALLY got to pee.  So, I’m thinking I’m going to run up the the vehicle, get my veggies and then go to the nearest store that looks like it might have a bathroom.  I turn in to the parking lot, and see my farm guy.  And then I see the news camera.  And the reporter.  They’re in the middle of an interview with him.  I pull in and watch the interview taking place in my rearview mirror.  Besides the fact that it seemed rude to run up in the middle of their interview with the camera rolling, I spent the first part of my day staining the unfinished wood trim in my bathroom.  And I looked like I spent the first part of my day staining the unfinished wood trim in my bathroom.  And I possibly looked like I had spent every day of my life staining the unfinished wood trim in my bathroom.  It wasn’t pretty.  There was no way I was going to risk appearing on any newscast anywhere. 

I waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

Oh, all right, it was only 10 minutes.  But have you ever had to watch a farmer get interviewed when you had to pee super-bad and you just thought you were going to get to pee within the next 5 minutes? 

I didn’t think so.  Moving on…

That’s really about the end of the saga.  Without further incident, I picked up my vegetables, went to a gas station which turned out to have working restrooms although both restroom doors had “Out of Order” signs on them, and “bought” my restroom visit with a bag of chips.  (Am I the only person who feels it necessary to do this?  I can’t just go in to use the restroom; I feel like I am taking advantage.  So, I ‘buy’ my bathroom trips by purchasing something cheap that I really do not want.) 

Picking up my vegetables turned out to be a four hour venture.  I don’t think that I would have said to myself, “Self, I think it’s the best idea in the world for you to spend four hours of your day picking up your vegetables.”  But then you would not have gotten to read my lovely story.  And I wouldn’t have gotten to take a nice drive in the country.  And I wouldn’t have learned to trust farm lady.  Not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t have gotten my vegetables. 

That said, to the friends of whom I spoke when I said I felt like I was favored out, expect a phone call next time I cannot make it to pick up my vegetables, favored out or not.  Hey, you can always say no, right?

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Nothing???

I just finished writing one post, but I think that the gap in my postings to prior to that has made me especially verbose today.  I was sitting here continually thinking of other things I wanted to say.  However, none of them really made sense in the context of my first post of the day (which was already jumbled enough), so I decided that for the first time ever, you get 2 posts in one day.  Are you excited yet?  It’s like winning the lottery, right?  OK, well, maybe not, but just humor me.

In my first post, I stated that I was hoping a day of “nothing” would recharge my immune system because I felt like I was fighting off a cold or something.  In retrospect, “nothing” is not at all a word that I think I can use for what I did today.  I was quite productive actually. 

I looked at jobs on-line for a while.  I do this every so often, just to see if I am missing any exciting work opportunities.  Alway open to a change you know. 

Then, I decided I was going to do some cooking.  I have had ideas of what I wanted to cook with my CSA box of vegetables this week brewing since I picked them up on Thursday, so I researched the particular vegetables I had, got some recipes, and went to it.  It’s good for me to cook a lot when I have a day off so that I can have the leftovers to take with me to work.  I try to only eat my own (organic) food, and I am more successful at this if I don’t have to rush to think of something I can make with tomatoes and bell peppers at 7 in the morning.  I can immediately feel a physical difference if I start eating other food now that I have basically been off of it for a while.  I start feeling worse almost immediately.  Thanks to God for impressing me to go all organic. 

Well, I had lofty plans with my cooking today, and it all turned out wonderfully.  I didn’t really mean to when I started, but it ended up being like the meal to see how many vegetables I could use at once.  Here’s the inventory of what I used:

Two butternut squash, two delicata squash, one spaghetti squash, nine tomatoes, four bell peppers, one eggplant, two onions and two cloves of garlic.  Of course, I used other things…that’s just the vegetable list.  I made a delectable Delicata Squash & Bell Pepper Casserole, a superb Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Tomato Sauce and then for dessert – a brilliant Butternut Squash Meringue Pie with homemade crust.  Yes, you read correctly.  Think pumpkin…it’s really OK.  I was confused at first when presented with the idea, myself.  But a pumpkin is really just a big squash.  My Butternut Squash Meringue Pie is quite delicious.  I don’t even like Pumpkin Pie…it’s better than that. 

And I have to tell you, if you’ve never had spaghetti squash, it is a thing you should try.  I had never cooked it before last month, and it’s pretty amazing stuff.  If you don’t know the scoop on it, you cook it, and then scrape out the insides with a fork.  It comes out in strands, and you use it exactly like you would use spaghetti noodles.  It’s very tasty. 

So, for lunch, I had a main dish (delicata squash) with a “pasta” side (spaghetti squash) and a dessert (butternut squash).  Squash, squash and squash for lunch?  All I have to say is that I marvel the versatility of vegetables.  I really never imagined how interesting they can be before this year.  There was not the hint of monotony in my meal. 

After lunch, I spent a while hunting places to live on the internet, and contacting the possibilities.  Yes, I am going to be moving here pretty soon.  I even went to view one place today, but it was a no-go, I think. 

And now I am writing this.  So, that was my day of nothing. 

My Farming Adventures and Change

I wrote a while back about perhaps taking on a little work at an organic farm.  This I have done.  This is my fourth or fifth week there, I can’t remember.  I’ve been working 1-2 days a week in between my other duties.  I’ve stuck with the second one I tried.  The first one was a larger 60+ acre farm, and seeing as how I was wanting to do this so I could learn how to garden organically for myself, well, it just wasn’t gardening the way I would have to be gardening in my back yard.  If I ever get a back yard, you know.  No, that farm had tractors and many other types of farm equipment which I cannot begin to name.  I didn’t think I would learn as much because the work would be so much more spread out…I would get left out of a lot of the steps in the process.

So, I moved on to this approximately 1.5 acre farm, with 2 big plots and 3 greenhouses (or hoop houses, as my boss there calls them).  This is more back yard speed, although it cannot be called a back yard operation by any means.  This lady makes her whole living off of an acre and a half.  Pretty impressive to me!  She does the local farmer’s markets and supplies a few things to some local restaurants.  But it’s all by hand, you know, hoes and things.  She also has chickens and bees.  I think she does the chickens and bees herself as we’ve never had to mess with them yet. 

Well, I’m learning things, and I picked a great time to decide to do this as we are just at the hottest part of the year.  Fortunately, I don’t mind the heat nearly as much as most, but it still wears you down after a while!  I like to learn things, although one of the things I’ve learned is that I am allergic to tomato plants.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I didn’t even know you could be allergic to tomato plants, but, let me tell you, you can.  The first couple of times we picked them, I just got a bit itchy.  Last time we picked them, I got an unbearably itchy rash.  Thankfully, it went away after a couple of hours.  This marks the beginning of long-sleeved tomato picking. 

I also have learned that I think this would be much more rewarding if it was, indeed, my own garden in my own back yard where I was growing things for my own dinner table.  No big surprise there really.  The point is that it has not cured my growing restlessness and need for some CHANGE!!! 

I think people get nervous when I start talking like this…I can hear the whispers, “Uh, oh.  What’s she going to do?  Is she going to quit her job before she gets another one…again?”  No, ladies and gentlemen, I am not known for my stick-to-it-iveness.  Mostly in the area of jobs.  Not exclusively, but we’ll leave it at that for now.  I don’t think (I repeat think) that it is because of a lack of ability to persevere.  I just have not ever felt that any of my jobs were important enough to me to persevere through them if I started disliking them that much.  And, unfortunately, I can’t think of a job that I would feel that way about.  Refer back to my Ambition post if you need more explanation for my complete lack of that quality. 

So, does anyone have any ideas about jobs that would be exciting and/or interesting enough to hold the attention of this non-degreed (therefore mostly unqualified), yet very versatile (if I may say so myself) individual?  I like to hear people’s thoughts.

I promise I’ll get back to being intellectual one day.  Right now I’m trying to figure out my life.

Last random thought for the day: if they only grow vegetables, can I call it a farm?  Because when I say farm, everyone thinks I mean cows and stuff.  But saying garden just doesn’t seem right….

Now with 15x’s More Garlic!

My apologies to anyone who is expecting deep thoughts here in my posts lately.  I think my intellect is taking a sabbatical.  I have, however, been very busy in my kitchen, which seems to be my default subject when nothing is going on upstairs.  I’m like in “do” overdrive, but “think” seems to have flown out the window.  This happens periodically. 

Also, I usually type my posts in Word and then move them to the WordPress site because I don’t know how to increase the font size otherwise, and I know this is miniscule.  However, it also screws up the format, and I have to re-work everything and I don’t feel like doing that today, so get out your reading glasses.

At least the follow-up on my preserving experience is pretty amusing…. I don’t know what I was thinking while I was making my pickles and salsa.  Perhaps I was focusing on the details of the things I didn’t know so things I did know did not have room to make their way to the forefront.  I’m not really sure.  All I know, is that three days after I made them, I was suddenly hit with a thought…”Wait a minute….”  This thought was followed by google searches which only confirmed what I already knew.  The recipes for the pickles and the salsa both called for cloves of garlic.  A clove, as most of you are aware, is ONE of the little pieces that will come off of a bulb of garlic when you break it up.  They are pre-separated in to wonderful sections.  Sections called cloves.  This is important.  And for some reason, my brain chose to ignore this tiny little detail.  I broke up the bulbs of garlic and everything, but instead of putting 6 cloves in my salsa, I put 6 BULBS of garlic in my salsa.  All beautifully peeled and chopped.  It actually took quite a long time because I was chopping it all by hand.  You would think I would have realized it during this long process.  But I didn’t, and so the result was pickles and salsa with roughly 15x’s the amount of garlic called for.  I’m not sure that’s a selling point.  “Now with 15 times more garlic!”  Hmmm.  The amazing thing is that everything was still beautifully edible.  The pickles are strong pickles, like movie theatre pickles if you’ve ever had those, but amazingly, not overwhelmingly “garlicky.”  The salsa, although definitely a little heavier on the garlic than I prefer with just plain chips and salsa, is possibly the best salsa I have ever had on tacos because it is so flavorful. 

But, alas, this discovery meant that even my one tentatively cabinet safe jar was not to be stored.  See, the flavors grow stronger the longer a preserved item sits.  If the garlic is strong now, I can’t imagine how strong it would have been in a couple of months.  And so, my first batch of preserved food cannot be preserved after all.  But it is yummy, and so not a terrible loss.  And again, definitely a learning experience. 

I did try again this past Sunday, and now have one newly preserved, and presumably safe jar of salsa in my pantry.  The process was also not nearly as daunting the second time around.  I took the luxury time in between waiting for the water to boil and things to also make candied carrots  (I don’t like carrots, so I had to make them a way I would eat them) and chicks-in-a-blanket.  That’s chicken sausage, and I rolled it up in homemade dough, and it was delicious.  I have found a crust/dough recipe that is the best…it’s made with sour cream and butter instead of shortening, and I would think better for you than shortening crust.  From what I understand of crust making, it’s also easier to get a successful one.  I’ve never tried other crust, so I don’t know.  I just happened to not have shortening, so I was looking for a recipe with some other thing and I’m sure glad I stumbled onto it.  I don’t think I would ever try another one.

Then, well, you know how I hate to waste things, right?  Making salsa requires that you get all of the liquid and seeds out of the tomatoes and only use the “meat” of them for the salsa.  So, from making salsa last week and this week, I had a decent amount of tomato juice that I did not want to just throw out.  I started to make tomato soup, and I added lots of soup-type ingredients to it, and put it in a crockpot.  Although it smelled really good, every time I tasted it, I thought, “I don’t want to eat this by itself.”  And then I remembered that I don’t like tomato soup.  Why would I make it if I don’t like it?!  So, I chopped up some squash, threw it in the crockpot with it, and ran to the store to grab some more ingredients to make some squash lasagna.  I used the “tomato soup” with squash thrown in it as my “meat”/tomato sauce layers in the lasagna, and it was delicious.  (Still is delicious as we haven’t finished it yet.)  My boyfriend said, “It couldn’t have been any better if it had meat in it.”  Success!  I didn’t waste all of that wonderfully nutritious organic tomato juice AND I made something seriously tasty.

So, along with the squash lasagna, we can now add squash tacos, squash soup and squash chips to my Squash repertoire.  I figured out it works very well in any recipe if you just treat it like the meat.  Season it like the meat, do whatever you would do to the meat, and it is great.

Connie’s Creek-Bottom Pickles

You know how I said I liked Gettin’ Down to the Roots of things?  Well, yesterday I had my first experience with getting to the roots of food preservation.  Commonly known as canning.  Even though you’re putting it in a jar.  I have trouble calling it “canning” because, as far as I know, unless you’re a factory, there are no cans.  Why not “jarring”?  So, I’ve been calling it “preserving,” but everyone I mention it to inevitably says, “Canning?”  *sigh*  Yes, canning.   

I’ve been thinking about figuring out how to do this because of the ginormous box of vegetables I get from my CSA every week.  I pick up my boxes on Thursdays, and I find that every Wednesday I go on a cooking frenzy of sorts to use up the overwhelming amount of vegetables I have not yet managed to eat.  I know that you can freeze some vegetables, but all I have is a regular refrigerator-freezer and if I just started stuffing it with the vegetables I haven’t finished, it would be packed in two weeks tops.  I was thinking that learning to preserve would be a little better stewardship than baking multiple vegetable-laden casseroles, soups & salads and eating them for the next 4 days straight.  You know, spread out the love so that come the end of my vegetable-train, I can still have yummy and good-for-me things to eat without going broke. 

If you’ve never preserved anything before, and you start looking at the instructions on line, it kind of knocks the enthusiasm out of you.  I wanted to make pickles and salsa.  It seems that each different item you want to preserve has different requirements: the amount of acid necessary to make sure you don’t get botulism (encouraging), the length of time you boil the filled jar based on altitude (oh, the details), or the kind of pot you have to use in the case of boiling vinegar for pickling (it seems that non-metal pots are required???, or Teflon lined pots with no scratches in them…do you know ANYONE who has a Teflon lined pot without scratches??  I ended up using a stainless steel saucepan.  I figure stainless steel doesn’t react to anything.)  The instructions were daunting to say the least.  Not to mention the fact that there a billion different recipes for pickles, and testimonies of all kinds of people saying that this recipe is gross, this one makes the pickles mushy, and a myriad of other things, basically, “I will never use this recipe again because __________ .”  Insert any reason you like into that blank.  Who knew there could be so many different things wrong with pickles?   

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the fact that it took my lovely giant pot three hours to boil.  This pot is big enough to cover quart-sized jars standing right side up, and considering the fact that I have an electric stove top, and my only large burner is broken, I’m not really surprised.  I expected it to take a while, so I, thankfully, started it when I knew I still had to research pickle and salsa recipes and go to the grocery store.   

I will try to spare you all the rest of the minute details; I’m sure you already heard more than you wanted to.  I will say that you come up with questions you did not think of while you are in the middle of the most important part, filling the jars, lidding them and then dunking them back in the giant pot of boiling water in order to seal.  There’s not really opportunity at that step to call your mom and ask if this is OK, so you just keep going, and hope.  Or at least that’s what I did.  Only to learn later that it’s probably not OK, and at least 2 of the three jars I completed will have to be refrigerated and eaten like regular refrigerated food.  So, I could’ve just stuck my pickles and almost half of my salsa in jars without all of the other rigamarole.  However, I wouldn’t have learned anything, and it seems that at least one of my jars of salsa could survive the pantry shelf for a while.  We will, of course, find out later…you know, if I don’t get botulism and die.   

I actually tasted my salsa before jarring it, and it was pretty good.  It looks more like relish, but tastes all right, so I don’t really care what it looks like.  I’ll let you know how the pickles taste within the next week or so…gotta let ‘em turn into pickles first.   

And now for explaining the title of this particular post: my boyfriend dubbed my pickles, “Connie’s Creek Bottom Pickles” because of how they look.  See, you put fresh garlic cloves in the bottom of the jar, then you put the cut cucumbers in, then you pack fresh dill around them and throw in a few peppercorns, followed by pouring the boiling vinegar in.  Here is the result:       

 pickles-smaller.jpg …hence the title.  My boyfriend said it looks like I took a jar, scooped up the creek bed and put a lid on it.  Complete with fish, pebbles and seaweed.  Lovely.  I only hope it tastes good.  Here’s a picture of all of my beautiful semi-preserved jars from yesterday…a momentous occasion.  pickles-and-salsa-smaller.jpgpickles-and-salsa-smaller.jpgpickles-and-salsa-smaller.jpgpickles-and-salsa-smaller.jpg

Gettin’ Down to the Roots

I was thinking about my job history today, and realizing that I sort of go backwards into more and more basic jobs…or at least the jobs I have sought out and felt compelled to take fit this category.  Apparently, I like getting to the origins of things – down to the roots.  There were some silly behind the desk jobs mixed in there and a restaurant management gig, but as time went on I just fell into more simple things.  I worked for a carpenter for almost two years, as I mentioned in my Squash posting.  I got a basic (very basic) knowledge of carpentry from this.  I could probably build you something that would stand up and function as it was meant to (at least, something simple…not a house or anything).  That is not to say that I would build it very quickly or that it would be very pretty without my receiving more in depth instruction.  Although, I did get up to building about a fireplace mantel a day on my own from start to finish, and they looked good enough to put in people’s houses.  So, with practice, I could be all right, is where I’m going with this.  I think I would use this skill much more often in my current life if I had any tools.  That makes it harder.  I did build a picture frame for one of my paintings, but that’s the extent of it since I quit this job.  Making this frame taught me that building things without electric saws would be much more difficult, as I purchased a manual box mitre saw to cut the angles.  Yikes. 

Right now I work for a caterer.  With this job, I have gotten a much better understanding of food and how to use it.  I have turned into one of those cooks who cannot exactly give you the recipe because I just throw things into it.  I was not one of those cooks prior to working this job.  I remember, in the not so distant past, my fascination at learning that you could actually make your own salad dressing and also grasping the concept that herbs were actual growing things that you could get fresh, or even, (who would have guessed?), grow them yourself.  I don’t know how old I was before I actually made this connection.  Before working this job, I used canned soups for casseroles and bought crusts for baking.  Now, I’ve moved back a couple of steps, and actually attempt to make things myself.  I make my own soup and my own crust; I buy whole chickens and cut them up so I can boil the carcasses (MMMmmm) and make something yummy with the broth.  I find it pretty entertaining, and sort of like an adventure.   

I also work part time for a nanny service.  A nanny service, you say?  Yes, a nanny service.  Just like a dating service, only for nannies.  I get hooked up w/ families who need babysitters.  Some nannies get permanent placements, but me, I’m afraid of commitment.  I don’t want a relationship…I’m a one-night stand babysitter.  A few of my clients have been so great that I ended up having a relationship with them anyway, but there are no hard feelings as needs and availability changes for either party.  My point is that it is childcare…also very basic.  And I have learned a lot about kids since I started doing it almost 2 years ago.  I learned things I would and would not do if I had my own kids or ever do have my own kids.  I learned that I actually like kids more when I’m around them more.  They’re funny. 

So, here’s my point: building, food, childcare…basic needs.  I have no career goals (see my post on Ambition), so when I get tired of something, I change it.  Well, I’m getting tired of catering.  I’ve reached my peak, if you will.  Lofty, I know…the pinnacle of catering.  But I’ve been considering what to try next.  This has led me to analyzing my past jobs, which has led me to this insight of my increasing turn back to the basics.  So, I was thinking, “What is more basic?  What is the next step backwards?”  Odd, the way I look at things.  OK, so we have three categories to think backwards in.   

Building: I would actually be interested in taking this road, learning how to build, say, my own log cabin from trees on my land.  (I mean, if I had land, you know.)  However, I don’t know of anyone who’s doing this.  Do you?  I’m sure I could find a company who builds log houses or something, but I bet they don’t go cut their own logs down and do whatever the heck you have to do to them.  Meaning, I want to start from scratch.  Maybe I’m skipping a step, I’m not sure.  Maybe I should learn how to build a log cabin first, and then learn how to prep the materials.  It seems all too intertwined to me, though.  I’d like to start at the beginning, and even if I did know someone who was building their own log cabin, those kinds of people are not usually paying people to come help them, and although I like to fantasize about it, I cannot live on nothing. 

Childcare: the only way I can think of going backwards in this is having my own or becoming a midwife.  I’m definitely not about to have my own, and midwifery requires school, so that’s out.  Someday I will have to elaborate on my views of the educational system.   

I know some of you are probably really shaking your head and scrunching up your face trying to figure me out.  I’m sure I sound like a weirdo.  I don’t like the idea of education (at least not the standard kind), have no career goals, and am trying to go backwards instead of advancing up the ladder of success.  I think that our society is mostly backwards – that education is rarely what we get in our schools and universities, and that ambition is divisive and unnecessary.  I think that most jobs are peripheral rather than strategic.  Who is it you’re going to want in a crisis?  Someone who can grow your dinner or someone who can program your computer?  The jobs left to the country folk, are the most essential, in many respects.  We’ve created the need for other jobs, and without those, I’m aware that society could not function as we know it, but without the people who grow our food and build our shelters, etc., it could not function at all.  Which is more important? 

Returning to where I was going with this, what we have left out of my categories is food.  And reversing that train takes me to farming – the root of all food.  Ahh, farming.  It sounds so homely and comforting and HARD.  Haha.  However, this is what I have attempted to look into.  I just thought of it this morning, and e-mailed a few local organic farms that I found online.  (I’m a firm believer in organic food.)  Anyway, we’ll see if anything comes of it. 

Squash

So, I have gotten my CSA  vegetables for the last three weeks, and it is just as exciting as I imagined.  I really must be an adult to be so thrilled every week about a gigantic box of vegetables.  And I mean gigantic.  I signed up for a half share, which is supposed to be a quarter bushel, but every week I go and pick up my vegetables, which are jam-packed full in a half bushel box…for those of you with poor math skills, that’s TWICE as many vegetables as I thought I was going to get.  Apparently, these guys are really generous.  I’m not complaining.  (I did ask to make sure I didn’t mistakenly get signed up for a full share so I wouldn’t feel dishonest.) 

Well, one has to get pretty creative in order to figure out the usage of a half a bushel of vegetables every week when one is not married or living with a family.  I find this to be a magnificent challenge.  This past week was a little easier because my boyfriend and I actually went on a vacation (hence the lack of posts), so I had someone else to help eat them.  However, it was also harder in a sense because we were camping, so I had to find ways to eat them fast enough for them not to spoil with no electricity.  I did bring a cooler with these great ice packs that keep stuff cold for approximately 3 days, but beyond that it was a race to eat the most perishable things fast enough.  I should tell you that I am sort of a crazy person about not wasting things.  I am not a pack rat about stuff, but when it comes to things you can use up, I will use it ALL up to the very last drop before I begin a new something else.  Leftovers beware. 

A great example of this was when I worked for a carpenter friend of mine…he needed brain surgery and was having a little trouble with his driving in the meantime, so I became a sort of carpenter chauffer, but he figured out I was not so bad at building fireplace mantels either, so I got put to work.  We were almost out of the standard screws we used for almost everything at one point, and he had bought another case.  Well, I unloaded it and brought it into his workshop.  I looked at the old box with some yet unused screws, and looked at the new box with its brand new ones, and crazy kicked in (just wait, you’ll see).  About a week later, my carpenter boss looked into the new, full box of screws and said, “Why is this Ziploc bag of screws in here?”  I immediately burst out laughing and could not even tell him I was laughing so hard because I knew it was completely ridiculous.  Finally, I managed to get out that I had put the screws from the old box in the Ziploc bag because I wanted to use them first.  It was the old Chick-fil-A philosophy coming out in me…I was indoctrinated with FIFO (First In, First Out) for those of you who have never worked in any food service capacity.  You should have seen my boss’ face when I said that.  He looked at me crazy, and immediately emptied the Ziploc bag into the rest of the full box. 

What does this story have to do with vegetables, you ask?  Well, this philosophy most definitely extends into my new vegetable venture.  Every meal, I look into my giant box of vegetable goodies, and think which of these can I use first in order for nothing to go to waste?  And when I go pick up my new box of vegetables every week, I make myself finish everything from the old box first.  This is very exciting for me.  Besides that, it makes me think of new and creative things to do with the different vegetables.  I have to say that it is definitely squash/zucchini season, and that these crops must be very prolific.  I have been getting other things, but nothing else really cook-able (more like greens and tomatoes and cucumbers).  So, when I cook, I am always trying to find a way to use my squash and zucchini.  This is a challenge because my boyfriend “doesn’t like squash.”  Or at least he didn’t.  I have cooked squash (and zucchini, but it’s basically the same thing, you know) every way you can think of.  In addition to eating squash raw as a vegetable dipper, I have cooked squash with sausage and squash with scrambled eggs and squash in a quiche and squash with parmesan cheese and squash with beef and mushrooms and rice and onions and squash with green beans and bokchoy and squash with kohlrabi.  (I got you on those last two, didn’t I?  Bokchoy is a green, and more common than kohlrabi, apparently often used in Chinese stir-fry recipes.  Kohlrabi is a root vegetable very like a turnip.  I haven’t met anyone who had heard of it before yet…except the lady who I pick my vegetables up from.)  Well, while we were camping, my boyfriend decided that he did like squash after all, but only when I cooked it.  I’m hoping that actually has something to do with my cooking ability and not with the fact that he decided he ought to get used to it if it was all I was going to feed him.  We get a newsletter with our vegetables, and this week on the back they talked about how much squash/zucchini we have been getting.  It said, “You know you have become a creative cook when you can repeatedly bring squash to the table without groans.”  Yay!  It doesn’t mean I’m a good cook, but at least maybe I qualify as a creative one.  And that’s my story about squash.

Community Shared Agriculture and Thanks

I have to thank my friend Jody for bringing Community Shared Agriculture back under my radar.  I read an article on it in the newspaper early spring, but completely forgot about checking into it after that.  So, last week I get an e-mail with a form attached for signing up.  Way cool.  If you don’t know, Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) is basically a “subscription” to whatever is grown at a local farm.  The farm I signed up for grows organic vegetables and a few fruits as well.  This farm (called Eco-Gardens) allows you to order a full or half share…a full share is half a bushel and a half share is a quarter bushel, which is plenty for me.  It’s reasonably priced, too.  I would definitely spend more money buying a quarter bushel of organic vegetables at the local store.  Not to mention, I don’t have to shop.  On the sign-up form, there is a list of what these guys grow, and you rate how much you want (or if you want none), and each week your quarter bushel shows up w/ something.  Woo hoo!  It’s gonna be like a surprise package every week!  I’m really stoked about this; can you tell?  For someone who doesn’t like to shop (ME!), this is great.  I don’t have to go decide what vegetables I get, I just go get whatever I get.  So, this isn’t just a local thing…these CSA’s are all over the place.  Mine supplies vegetables for 26 weeks…that’s half the year.  Not bad.  So, if you like supporting local agriculture and prefer to get fresh vegetables or are trying to eat organically with a little bit less expense, I encourage looking into it.  I’m excited to figure out how to cook spaghetti squash when that comes in….hmmm.  And also interested in how they get watermelon to fit in a quarter bushel. 

 And for anyone who read my last blog and is praying for me, thanks.  I have actually felt like a person the last 2 days, and although my human reaction is to say, “Well, the severity of it was probably on the way out anyway,” I know that’s just Satan’s argument because he wants me to deny God’s power.  While my symptoms have not disappeared, they have gone back to being manageable.  So, thanks for praying.  And also you don’t have to stop if you don’t want to.