Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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A recipe for vulnerability

We are in the final stretch of the year and when people ask how it’s going right now, my response is that these last three months may be the hardest yet, and on some levels I’m totally over it. It’s harvest season and, yes, food is abundantly available and we’ve gotten really good at sustaining ourselves. But, the life of a locavore isn’t simply about the season or the food supply.

Most of the things we do are relatively easy, such as these examples from the past week:

  • Overcoming my fear of canning and turning 30 pounds of tomatoes into sauce
  • Devising a fruit fly catcher to deal with the population boom due to the above
  • Making pickles & yogurt before the cucumbers and milk go bad
  • Figuring out how to extract salt from seawater
  • Finding the first wild mushrooms of the season
  • Even dealing with the “too many mothers” in our virtual kitchen who constantly assume that I am doing everything wrong and destined to get botulism.

Next week I’ll be harvesting bay nuts and corn and making corn tortillas from scratch with our friends at Mendocino Organics. As I’ve said many times before, no single undertaking is inherently difficult. Whatever we are making/doing usually just requires time, some basic equipment, and enough will to triumph over the lazies. I love making, foraging and problem-solving and this is all really fun (aside from the stress and fatigue) and I feel like a domestic ninja when things work out. Every single meal is an accomplishment, and the joy of working so hard for your survival is unparalleled.

The not-so-easy things:

The difficult part is integrating all of this into the rest of life and work, at a pace that is not built for living from scratch. Traveling for work last week I survived on nuts, cheese and apples for a few days when I didn’t have time to cook nor access to a kitchen. But it’s all doable, and with a little more planning and prep, I could have been well-fueled. Why wasn’t I? This gets to the core of it – I don’t want to. Not every day, not all the time. Not all by myself. And, I miss green tea and chocolate and tequila.

While living closer to the land and food has been tremendously grounding and empowering, it has also been isolating and lonely. When I signed up for this, I didn’t want to eat 3 meals a day by myself for 365 days. Community has been built through the project, but it has also been disruptive and alienating to have such an extreme diet that means I can’t eat at restaurants, meet people at a cafe for a hot beverage, or eat the food at a wedding or a birthday or go on a normal date. Sometimes I make dinner with/for other people, or bring my own food to group meals, but the food often feels like a barrier between me and the situation. It becomes the focus of conversation when sometimes I want to enjoy the warmth of other human bodies and connect about things beyond sustenance. I know, it’s also totally amazing to be so connected to food, and be talking about real food with people every day. That’s the point of this. On a more basic level, I am sick of cooking all the time, and I don’t always want to plan ahead or take so much responsibility for every darn thing I put in my mouth. Plus, I have been largely stranded in Mendocino for six months without a car, which makes connection and community exponentially more difficult in a rural area.

All said, limits are extremely revealing and the Eat Mendocino project (along with the near-death experience this year) has allowed me to take a big, deep look at my existence. And I think that all the “hard things” really come down to one hard thing, which is the hardest of all: being vulnerable. This year, more than ever before, has made me realize how much we need each other – as neighbors, friends, and links in the food chain. Communities were created around the food supply, and now, food exemplifies the disconnectedness of human society. We don’t need each other to survive. We don’t need to know where anything comes from, or where it ends up. We don’t need to plan ahead, we don’t need to get along. We can just go to the store and buy food from strangers. It’s convenient, and it’s cheap-ish, and it’s simple. But, the costs of our fossil-fueled culture of ease are enormous.

I watched this video today by one of my favorite speakers, Brené Brown, who has dedicated the last ten years to studying vulnerability. I want you to watch this video, all of you (and her other videos, they are fantastic). But, if you don’t here’s what she has to say about the ills of a society dominated by an avoidance of vulnerability:

“We numb vulnerability. Evidence of the numbing: We are the most addicted, we are the most medicated, obese and in-debt adult cohort in human history; we’re numbing. And this doesn’t even include busy-ness […] Because we just stay so busy that the truth of our lives can’t catch up.” – Brené Brown

I think she’s so right.

People often ask me, “What are your goals are with the project?” There is a compelling list of social, ecological, political and spiritual reasons behind our mammoth undertaking. But now, I simply say this:

My goal is for people to become more intimate with their food.

To me, it’s all about intimacy. Whatever this means, for whoever you are, wherever you are. It doesn’t have to mean eating local. It’s about slowing down and getting one giant step closer to your food, whether that means making dinner with your kids, cooking something from scratch for the first time, or buying too many strawberries or peaches and throwing some into the freezer to forget about them and rediscover them in a few months. It means doing something that you are afraid to do and not worrying about whether it works out, reading the labels and asking questions about the ingredients, or picking an apple from a tree. This is one thing we can do to un-numb ourselves.

To me, this greater intimacy is the direct path to awareness which ultimately leads to being more vulnerable in life, and with each other. On this path, how can we deal with our vulnerability, and lean into it (even when we’re tired, frustrated, or scared)? This is what Brené Brown advises:

1) Practice Gratitude

I have mad gratitude for every seed and hand that has fed me this year, and I will try to remember to say thank you daily – especially when I want to whine. I have never been so grateful for the gestures of others; there is simply no higher act of love than feeding me. Thank you to Sisterwife Elizabeth for making me this yummy dinner last week at the end of my big work trip. I would so marry you.

Dinner made by Elizabeth

Elizabeth also shares some really good advice about How to remember the good in a recent blog post, which boils down to writing down the compliments that people give you. When I want to numb, I need to remember the incredible things that strangers have said to me about how we have inspired them to think differently about their food; there is truly no greater compliment.

2) Honor Ordinary

It’s true, we often overlook the ordinary, waiting for the next big thing. When we get closer to our food, and really stop to taste it, an apple becomes extraordinary. By turning off our monkeyminds to notice the ordinary beauty in the world (like this beautiful golden chanterelle we picked yesterday) we get closer to what is always right before us.

Golden chanterelle

3) Fill Your Reservoir with Joy and Love

There are countless ways to fill up with the good stuff. Take the time to do that. For me, tonight, it was writing this post, and knowing some eyes out there would read it. Love to all. – S


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Locavore Potluck on Tuesday August 13th: Eat local with us!

Today I found out that we actually got the ear of the much discussed SF Chronicle writer, and she published a response to readers regarding her story, which includes a direct link to our post. I’m not going to comment on her calculated response; I have said enough!

I do want to invite you to have dinner with us. It’s about time that we did this. We are hosting a community potluck and everyone is invited to break bread with us. We will also discuss the upcoming Farm to Table Dinner at the end of August,, so if you’d like to volunteer it would be wonderful to have you there.  Pick something up at the Farmers’ Market, or bring something from your garden. Be sure to check out the rules, so that your dish is “legal.”

We will have local sea salt, herbs, chili pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar on hand in case you need some help in the flavor department. This will be a casual event with good food, good people, and possibly a trouble-making baby goat. Families are welcome!

Eat Mendocino Potluck

Tuesday, August 13th, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Location has been changed to the Mendocino Community Center on School Street in Mendocino.

What to bring? Anything and everything local!

Watercolor painting of the Noyo Food Forest


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Candy Cap Mushroom Ice Cream Recipe

I love my mom for many reasons. But, I especially love it when she comes to visit and I wake up to a yummy local breakfast, and a clean stove. Apparently I do did not inherit the gene that motivates you to wipe down the stove after every meal (or the one that makes you fold laundry straight out of the dryer) I decided to demonstrate my daughterly appreciation with some limited edition Mendocino grown candy cap mushroom ice cream.

Disclaimer: Writing recipes is hard because we don’t often use them, or modify them so much at whim that we don’t exactly remember what we did, but we’re just happy it’s not totally gross. We have, however, made this ice cream so many times that we have something that closely remembers a replicable recipe. When I am less than exacting or if things don’t turn out as I hoped, know I am not withholding my secrets – just admitting a highly improvisational approach to cooking. You might finding it liberating to find out that it’s hard to screw up most things.

For those of you who are not familiar of the wondrous candy cap mushroom, welcome. They have the scent and flavor of maple syrup and grow abundantly in the woods on the Mendocino Coast. We harvested ours last winter and dried them. Sadly I am down to the bottom of the jar, because we love this ice cream so much. Good thing berry season is here.

Dried candy cap mushrooms

Candy Cap Mushroom Ice Cream

2 cups of milk (we like it whole and fresh). This is the right amount for my ice cream maker – depends on your machine.

about 1/4 c. dried whole candy cap mushrooms (or approximately enough to cover the bottom of the Vitamix blender…)

a few Tbsp. of local raw honey. I used wildflower honey from Lovers Lane Farm

Equipment:

An ice cream maker. This is the Cuisinart that I have and I’ve been really happy with it.

A blender or coffee grinder.

Directions:

Begin by grinding the candy caps in the blender or coffee grinder. I use my Vitamix for this, which powders them really nicely.

Candy cap mushroom powder

Heat two cups of milk in a saucepan until the edges are just starting to simmer. Don’t let the milk burn, as always.

While milk heats, beat 3-4 eggs in a bowl with 2 Tbsp+ of honey. I have started adding a bit more honey. Beat well until blended.

*Slowly* pour the warm milk into the eggs, whisking continuously.

Add candy caps to the mixture and whisk everything together.

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan and heat on low, stirring constantly with a big spatula. You may need to lift it off the stove to control the temp – you want it to thicken, but not curdle. This is the only delicate part of the process. Stay alert. *If* it starts to curdle, take it off the heat immediately  and whisk vigorously. It’s probably thick enough once this happens.

Chill the mixture, ideally overnight, in the fridge. In an ice cream emergency, an ice bath will do. The results are much better when the ice cream mixture has cooled completely.

When ready to make ice cream, pour into the ice cream maker. Turn on and let the magic happen. I think it usually takes about 20 minutes.

Cuisinart ICe Cream Maker


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How to cook beans (not from a can)

People often ask us what has been the hardest thing about eating locally. Most of what we do is not inherently difficult; the biggest challenge is rearranging one’s life around cooking whole foods for every single meal, every day. This requires a complete lifestyle overhaul. We must always think ahead and I rarely leave the house without some kind of food stuffed in my purse. So, the hardest thing is giving up anything premade, whether it be a box of crackers or cereal, a bag of chips, or a can of beans. Honestly, I had never cooked dry beans from scratch before this year. Speckled Bayo Beans

It took us months to track down local beans, and when we did it was tremendously exciting to have a non-animal protein source. These speckled bayo beans came to us via Westside Renaissance Market and they were grown by Guinness McFadden in Potter Valley. When I made the first batch, I ate them every day for nearly every meal for a week and it felt anything but pedestrian; it was like a bean miracle. The simple becomes the miraculous when you have gone without.

Taco salad!

Local Taco SaladHuevos rancheros!

Local Huevos Rancheros

We have said many times that the point of this project is not to get everyone to do what we have done and dive into the deep end of the local food pool. Rather, we hope that people will start looking at their own plates and think about how they might start connecting with their local food supply chain. There are lots of ways to do this – from making strawberry jam to baking bread or simply making time to pick blackberries on a lovely summer day. It all starts with getting closer to the source and cooking from scratch. The more we do this, the more we realize we are capable of.

Here is my challenge to you: take one thing that you usually buy in a box, can or bag, and try making it from scratch. Just one simple thing, like beans. And if that’s where you want to start, here’s the recipe, borrowed from Nourishing Traditions (an indispensable book to have on hand in the whole foods kitchen).

Basic Beans

Makes 8-10 cups cooked beansNourishing Traditions

2 cups black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas or white beans

warm filtered water

2 tablespoons whey or lemon juice (for black beans only)

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed (optional)

sea salt and pepper

Cover beans with warm water. (For black beans, stir in whey or lemon juice). Leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours, depending on the size of the bean. Drain, rinse, place in a large pot and add water to cover beans. Bring to a boil and skim off foam. Reduce heat and add optional garlic. Simmer, covered, for 4-8 hours. Check occasionally and add more water as necessary. Season to taste.

I have never been good at following recipes. I often throw in some other stuff when I’m cooking the beans. In this batch, I added onion, oregano, and kombu seaweed (for saltiness and trace minerals.)

Pot o' beans


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How the jars fill up

After a week of not seeing Gowan (which feels like an eternity in locavore time) we made a dinner date for tonight. When comparing kitchen stock and discussing who would bring what, Gowan asked the dreaded question, “Do you have salt?” I hesitated to answer, because I knew my stores were running low, but I didn’t know how much she needed. Salt for a meal, or salt to make 4 gallons of fermented veggies? Before I could answer, there was a knock on my door. And this is what I found when I answered:

Salt Angel

A salt angel. Truly. My friend Aleya spontaneously decided to drop by with a gift of sea salt that she had harvested last year. Her timing was beyond serendipitous. I returned to the computer and replied to Gowan, “I have LOTS!!!”

This is how the jars fill up. One by one, when you least expect it. I have described this project as a leap of faith, but it is also defined by the many leaps of generosity and kindness that happen all the time, in the most perfect of ways. The best part about Aleya’s gift wasn’t discovered until after she left.

Message from a salt angel

Nothing like a love note on a ball jar lid! These little gifts of sustenance and gratitude have been one of the most profound parts of this eat local experience. We have abandoned convenience and control and opened the door for surprises and miracles. This is not to say that there is not an incredible amount of planning, coordination and intention behind our food life. But, we have also unleashed a new force of unexpected generosity by inviting people into our kitchens through sharing this story. Some of June’s surprises: a fresh-caught fillet of ling cod, a couple pounds of speckled bayo beans and a bag of goji berries grown in Willits!
Goji Berries

I think these gifts are so touching because food is intimate. We need it to survive, so it reveals our vulnerability and our mortality. What we eat and what we grow and forage also reveals something about our lives. Food reflects culture, history, class, tradition and of course, climate.  I stopped by my accountant’s office today and the receptionist exclaimed, “You are famous!” I dismissively laugh at this, but am always delighted when someone wants to talk food. She starts by saying she wouldn’t want to give up cookies, and I assure her that cookies are definitely part of our diet. She also shares that she’s growing peas, and wants to give me some if she has extra. This, too, is how the jars fill up. These food offers always make my heart smile because I know that feeding us is also an endorsement for a new and different food future. One where we talk about food, we share with strangers and we are not so afraid of intimacy.

Next I go to Gowan’s, where her jars are full of delicious fermented veggies from her garden.

Gowan's fermented veggies

Jar 1 features a green garden medley of onion blossoms, peas, zucchini and red pepper. Jar 2 is sweet red onions and beets. Both are done in a saltwater apple cider vinegar brine.  Thanks to Aleya’s salt, the jars will keep filling up. Gowan also has two dozen duck eggs for me, which were graciously transported over the hill from Ukiah by Supervisor Dan Gjerde. How’s that for public service?! Then we go back to my place to feast on a huge pot of those delicious bayo beans and make a batch of candy-cap custard ice cream with roasted bay nuts. We were too excited to photograph the ice cream. Now, we go to bed with full and happy bellies. Thank you to all of you who have helped fill us up. You inspire us.


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Eat Mendocino in the Real Estate Magazine

Dear readers,

I know, it’s been awhile. Last month I used up all of my words writing this article for the Real Estate Magazine, which defies its name to feature local human interest stories. I was excited to be invited to write the cover story for last month’s issue and it’s created a real buzz around town. I can’t go anywhere now without someone mentioning the article; even my physical therapist brought it up while doing an ultrasound on my right hip last week!

Publishing this article made me realize two things: 1) The interweb is miraculous, but it’s really nice to be able to put something in someone else’s hand. Print media is so not dead. 2) We need to write, write, write. I have mega guilt about not making enough time to tell you all about our project because we are too busy doing it. And that is totally counterproductive.

The whole point of this eat local experiment is to share the journey along the way. I was recently in a gamechanging car accident and it has made me realize one thing quite clearly: it’s time to slow down. No more living the “slow food” life in the fast lane. We need to make time to live and eat local, and also time to tell you all about it. So, that is my promise. More soon. For now, if you haven’t read the article, yet, you can download it in PDF form or read the text below.

Eat well and drive safe.

So much love,
Sarah

Real Estate Magazine Cover

Eat Mendocino: An adventure in eating local in Mendocino County

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles

By Sarah Bodnar

A few weeks into this year, I found myself in the First Aid aisle at CVS, completely dumbfounded by the Band-Aid selection. A kitchen accident had resulted in a gnarly flesh wound to the thumb and I needed a protective layer between my hand and the world. I thought there were two kinds of Band-Aids: the soft fabric ones and the plastic ones. I like the soft ones. Simple, right? Not simple. Niche marketing has hit the Band-Aid shelf; the selection stunned me. They now come in every texture and shape, and in variety packs that make you question whether any one Band-Aid could possibly meet every human need. I spent over fifteen minutes studying the wide assortment of bandages that I might need for a host of unforeseeable injuries at some point in the unknowable future. Feeling defeated, I finally settled on a variety pack, sans pre-applied antibiotic cream.

This little errand exposed deep realizations about my changing relationship with “stuff.” It was less than a month into our food project, but radically modifying my decision-making process around food had recalibrated my entire life – and it couldn’t be more unlike the Band-Aid aisle.

A year of eating local

On January 1st, 2013 my friend Gowan and I embarked on a year of eating food that is grown, raised and foraged in Mendocino County. We made a choice to know where our food came from – all of it. We chose to commit to this place we live and love. We chose to feed directly from the land and sea and live by the seasons. Ultimately, we chose to make life more complicated for the sake of simplicity and signed up for a year of uncompromising limitations to open the door to abundance.

We chose to do all of these things out of graceful optimism and bull-headed stubbornness. Fundamentally, we knew we could do it. Gowan is a farmer and a maker of all sorts of things, from gorgeous compost to fine silver jewelry. I am a lover of food, professional dot-connector and a media machine. Together, we are some kind of home-grown DIY girl farmette with hundreds of online fans. Our goal is simple: to live off the land and the sea, and love it. It is also our goal to inspire a new agricultural future, celebrate abundance and build as much topsoil as possible.

Emptying the cupboards

In the weeks leading up to the New Year, I cleared out my pantry, fridge and freezer, purging anything and everything that wasn’t grown, raised, or foraged in Mendocino. This meant that there was almost nothing left. I had not been freezing, drying, canning or preserving anything in preparation for this mammoth undertaking. I only decided to join Gowan in this adventure a week before Christmas! I gave away five bags worth of groceries, all of my spices, and my entire beloved tea collection as Christmas gifts.

A few items made the cut in my pantry: seaweed and herbs I had harvested and dried last spring, locally harvested sea salt, apple cider vinegar, a bag of frozen huckleberries, dried fava beans and some local duck eggs. Otherwise, my shelves were filled with a lot of empty mason jars. Heading into the New Year, I knew we were a far cry from food security. It was the leanest time of year and my cupboards and fridge were largely barren. I’m not sure if this winter dearth was more or less terrifying for my sister-wife. On one hand, she had a few hoop houses that were still yielding tomatoes and hot peppers at the first of the year, plus lettuces and mustard greens and all the tree collards we could eat.  As a farmer, I imagine she was also acutely more aware of how much we had not planted and stored for the winter months, and how long it would be before the ground started to warm again. So, the first lesson was that you must clear out the old to make space for the new, and have faith that you will not starve in so doing. Our mantra instantly became, “Start where you are, do what you can, with what you have.”

The Rules

The first step was defining the boundaries of our project, and what “local” would mean to us. There are many different functional definitions of local food, usually based on the distance that the food has traveled. Our goal is to discover the food abundance within the borders of Mendocino County, so we are only eating food that is produced in Mendocino County. Thus, the project is aptly called, “Eat Mendocino.” This means we grow, raise, pick or catch it here, or get it from someone else who does. We don’t have any Barbara Kingsolver-variety exception foods or “get out of jail free” cards; we are 100%. We will survive without coffee, tea, chocolate, coconut water and avocados for 365 days (with smiles on our faces!). We wrote the following rules at a bar the week before the project began and they are posted on our website, so that the world may keep us accountable:

  • We eat locally produced food, not locally processed food. So, if the inputs aren’t local, we don’t eat it (coffee, tea, mustard, beer, jam, and… ice cream)
  • We are not making exceptions for staples such as grains or oils. Some of those things grow here, and those that don’t will not be staples for us.
  • We will not use spices, sauces or flavorings that made with ingredients produced outside of the County. This is where it gets real.
  • If we are traveling or happen to be outside of the county, we will be 100% committed to eating food that is locally produced in that place, as close to the farm or garden as possible.
  • Our first priority is to produce as much food for ourselves as we can and source the rest directly from the farmer, rancher, fisherman through barter and exchange. We will also support local grocers that sell locally produced food.

The hunt for local food

Food is our clock, time revolves around its procurement, processing and preparation. This involves frontier land resourcefulness and a lot of dishwashing. A couple weeks ago I saw a bumper sticker that said, “I don’t buy food from strangers.” That’s probably the simplest way to describe the parameters of our project. Our survival now depends on knowing our community more intimately than ever before. There is a simplicity to our meals because we start with what is available and work from there. Each plate is also a complex web of relationships between people and the land. We can trace these connections item by item, meal by meal. I realized one day in January that I knew every single thing that I was putting in my body. I knew we were going to get really cozy with our food, but this is an impressive reality to live. There are no hidden sources, no unknown preservatives, nor any un-pronounceable ingredients.  Nothing but real, whole foods with a story.

There are many people to thank for our survival. We would not be alive without the one hundred and fifty pounds of potatoes we got from John Richardson at Noyo Hill Farm. John and Charline Ford’s grass-fed beef has been keeping meat on our bones. Gowan’s Oak Tree farmstand in Philo is making life much sweeter, with their well-stored apples and dried pears, peaches and persimmons. We also love the local stores that make a point of stocking local products, which are surprisingly hard to come by. For this reason, Scott Cratty is our hero. He is the owner of Ukiah’s most revolutionary corner store. He has filled the shelves with 100% local produce, and introduced us to many local treasures such as Pennyroyal Farm cheese, McFadden Farms dried herbs/spices and pistachios from Calpella! In Scott’s words, “Mendocino County is the place where your next door neighbor is doing the coolest thing that you will never know about.” Word. Never has it been more important for us to know our neighbors.

Through the process of sourcing food, strangers have become friends, and we are awed and humbled by the kindness of our community. People have shared with us so many items out of their own freezers and pantries, including goat and pork meat, dried peppers, seaweed, salt, corn, flax seed, quinoa and wheat. It truly does take a village to feed a locavore; we are always accepting donations, so let us know if you would like to feed us or show us your favorite fishing spot!

To juxtapose this with the current food system is a stark, astonishing contrast. We live in a world where food is largely divorced from source. Even for people like me who generally eat healthy and shop at the Farmers’ Market, taking it to this level is completely gamechanging. Much of what we eat has changed hands many times, is highly processed and packaged, and the production and distribution of these green-er foods is fueled by petroleum. While it may come in a recycled paper box, printed in soy ink and bears an organic and Fair Trade label, much of your food probably comes from really far away. This is inherently unsustainable, and will only prove to be more so as the cost of oil increases. As we have un-globalized our own diets, it has been fascinating to strip away the many layers of the current industrial food system and start exploring what it would take to go back to the old ways, in a new way.

Filling up

Even in the darkest of the winter months, we have been well fed. We are fortunate to live in a temperate climate, where kale grows wild on the headlands, and mushrooms spring up from the forest floor. We began the year trusting that we would survive, but without knowing exactly how. There have been rough spots – especially in the beginning. I still remember the unparalleled joy of picking up our first load of milk and butter on Day #5. I learned quickly that the local diet is inherently low-carb, and had to start eating unladylike servings of potatoes to keep weight on. My body tells me what it needs. When I need fat, I unabashedly scoop the cream off the top of the milk jar. I drown everything in butter. I drink wine when I could use some extra fruit calories. Sometimes I eat honey right out of the jar with a spoon. We have to listen to our bodies, and constantly balance our physical needs with the seasons.

We have also gotten pretty good at asking for help, and been blessed with so many acts of kindness in the form of food and fishing poles. Over the last few months our diet has included a lot of kale, meat, milk, potatoes, apples, butter, eggs and bone broth soup. Sometimes we eat meals fit for queens, and sometimes, it is, well totally gross. But, usually it’s really, really good. Often when I feed my friends, they say it is the best milk, orange, beef, cheese, etcetera that they have ever eaten. The paradox of our lives is that opulence and indulgence springs forth from scarcity and compromise. After days of eggs, potatoes, cabbage and kale, suddenly we are eating lemon meringue pie or enjoying a full Thanksgiving style feast on a Tuesday night in February because a thirty-pound turkey unexpectedly thawed due to a power outage. Other times, we are trying to figure out what to do with twenty five pounds of ripe kiwis. And sometimes I am cracking walnuts open with a hammer and sipping champagne.

Jar by jar, the pantry has filled. And emptied. And filled again. Food flows in and out of our lives in a tidal wave of bright colors and textures. We cannot afford to stockpile, and there is a newfound comfort in this rhythm. In three months, we have seen that every empty jar is an opportunity and that using things up is the best way to invite abundance – simply because there is no other option.

The fruits of our labors

I have long believed that preparing food provides nourishment beyond taste and calories. Sometimes I will spend an hour cooking a meal and by the time it’s ready, I already feel satiated. This, I believe, can be explained by the Ayurvedic perspective that we must experience our food using all five senses. When we are intimately connected with the entire process of our food chain, the rewards are unsurpassed. Case in point: I would argue that nothing can make goat cheese taste better than snuggling just born baby goats.

There is another aspect of the locavore life that has nothing to do with the food itself; it’s about money. Every time we purchase food from local farms, ranches and dairies, we are investing directly in the local economy. We are keeping money circulating here at home, rather than subsidizing international companies to feed us. It’s an efficient closed-loop system: by eating locally we actually build local food security – and the ROI is delicious! It is one of our goals to highlight all of the inspired farmers, young and old throughout this county who are committed to feeding the people, supporting biodiversity and building topsoil. This was once a county that grew enough food to be food secure. It is now a county whose two main crops are not food. Supporting these farms is supporting a new agricultural future, so you can have your local bread and your wine, too.

I have never been so involved with my food, nor so governed by the natural cycles of the seasons. The most challenging part of the locavore lifestyle has been finding balance between feeding myself and doing everything else. There is no going “back to the land.” I am living with the land, and also running my own consulting business, organizing community events and trying to rekindle my relationship with my yoga mat. Life cannot stop and the dishes must be done.  The truth is that it is extremely challenging and also naturally easy all at once. We have had to invent new efficiencies, modify our schedules and lives and remove things that simply don’t fit. There is little margin for error, no out clause when you have a busy day or didn’t have the foresight to pack food, just don’t feel like cooking, or have been taking down by a ruthless flu. Days like these, it is really good to have a sister-wife. It gets easier with every month, and as the air gets sweeter with the scents of spring the ground warms and promises much goodness to come. My skin looks great, my body feels awesome and I now do dishes as a form of meditation. It’s hard to believe that we’re almost a quarter of a way into this year. I am humbled and moved by people who tell me that this quasi-insane undertaking has made them look at their own dinner plates and think about where their food comes from. We are encouraged by all of our blog readers and Facebook followers who are learning and laughing with us. In the next episode of “It might be totally gross,” I am going to attempt to learn how to bake (without using baking powder) with our monthly shares of freshly milled wheat & rye flour from the Mendocino Grain Project – after being gluten-free for over four years.

When there is flour, you learn to bake bread. This is how it works; food determines life now. Meals are created with what is available, in the time we have. Our plates reflect our landscape and every single thing we eat can be traced back to the hands that grew it, raised it or picked it. The feeling I had in the Band-Aid aisle really had less to do with all the options, but of the alienation that we experience as normal part of everyday life. Nearly unlimited options are presented to us in the Band-Aid or cereal aisles, making us feel like we are choosing. Yet, somehow we usually end up feeling somewhat defeated by trying to find what we really want in a box. Because maybe what we’re looking for isn’t merely, but connection. This year is fundamentally about reconnecting. As we connect the dots in the local food system, we are building profound new relationships with the place we live and love and the people who are stubborn enough to farm here. We have redefined choice; by embracing limits we have opened ourselves up to an existence that is more deeply satisfying and delicious than I could have imagined.


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morning of our Farm to Table Dinner

This evening we’re feeding dinner to the community. We hope you’re coming!

Today will be a lot of rushing around, coordinating harvesting, picking flowers, laying out the jewelry I’ve been making, and watching our beloved chef Matt glide around unconcernedly deciding what he’s going to make out of the mountain of local food we’re assembling.

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You guys, we have amazing local food. Look at that cheese!

0402131008I’ll be bringing my greens mix some of you might remember from the Caspar market- the above is my saved seed strain of purple orach, with a couple of our Americorp volunteers who will be joining us at the dinner.

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Baby greens are ready to be picked, hens have been hard at work laying, goats have been milked in the cold spring mornings, our local farmers have joined together to share what they create so that we can all have dinner, 100% Mendocino county in origin.

I have to go rush around now, hope to see you later. If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, there will be some for sale at the door, and the dinner is at the Caspar Community Center tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Loves,

-Gowan