Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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Cucumber, tomato & basil salad for when quitting is not an option

I have a lot of silverware, way more than a single girl needs. So, when I get down to using a plastic fork, things have gotten bad.

I admit it: I would really like a hot bath and take-out tonight. Instead, I will throw together some food eventually clean my kitchen and blog. Such is the glamorous life of a locavore. There is no quitting.

Today was Farmers’ Market day, so I’ve been out and about all day, talking to people. schlepping signs, loading and unloading stuff from my “market mobile.” Now I’m home and before I can deal with my disaster of a sink, I need to eat. I’ve got a bunch of goodies from the market, and decide to throw together a quick summer salad.

Chopped cucmber, onion & tomatoes

Cucumber, tomato and basil salad

* I will leave out specific amounts, because that just depends on how much you want to make.

Diced cucumber

Halved cherry tomatoes

Chopped  red onion

Minced basil

Olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Splash of apple cider vinegar

(If I had thought of this before I devoured it, I also would have added some of the chevre that I bought today from Yerba Santa Goat Dairy…)

Toss it all together and enjoy. And, yes, I will be eating this with a plastic fork. Then, I am taking that bath.

Cucumber, tomato & basil salad


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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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Freedom Song for Local Food

In celebration of Independence Day, Gowan, Apple, and Fourth of July ParadeI marched in our quirky little small-town parade today. We wove through the streets of the Mendocino village in a procession of colorful and eclectic floats. It’s a snapshot of our funny little corner of the world which is quite unlike any other place. My mom came to the coast for the holiday to escape the Central Valley heat, so we tasked her with capturing some photos of us. In her characteristic diligent manner, she documented the entire procession. I will upload her pictures to our Facebook page tomorrow, so be sure to follow us.

As we walked with our neighbors, I was reflecting on what we were “standing” for. We were marching with the Moms Across America Label GMO group and flanked by our local and mighty Grange contingent. Our collective message was simple: real, safe food is a right. Our personal statement is that we can choose to exercise this freedom every time we put food in our mouths. Not that it’s simple, not that it’s always cheap, and not that it’s convenient. But, it is our right, and it is one that many of us give away every day.

Like voting, you have to show up and do it. The food system is subject to many of the same flaws as our democracy as they are inextricably linked; the deep pockets of corporate powers, suspect political agendas, and the strategic disenfranchisement of the poor. The difference is that when you cast your ballot, you are thrown into a convoluted electoral system that doesn’t ensure that your vote really matters (nor that it will even be counted). When you eat, your cells cannot be deceived. Eating real food, especially fresh local food, has profound impact on your sovereign body as well as huge social/political/ecological implications – with immediate return.

On a day that celebrates our independence, we have much to be grateful for. Running water, birth control, washing machines, the internet and now, finally, same-sex marriage. We are also a sick, stressed, and tired nation ridden with cancer and diabetes. How many people really feel healthy, relaxed and hopeful about dying happy in their sleep at ripe old age? The statistics are getting worse as time passes. Yet, optimism is appropriate when we realize that this, truly, is a matter we can take into our own hands, every day.

Every single time you eat, you are choosing to create the world you want to live in. It is that big of a deal. Every calorie is an investment in your own health and longevity, every dollar spent supporting a local farmer is a subsidy toward a local food economy, and every gallon of gas saved by consuming locally is a carbon credit that your children and neighbors will directly benefit from.

And perhaps the most important return of all is one that is more difficult to quantify: joy. We have compromised much in the name of convenience, efficiency and freedom – the simplest deep joys that come from harvesting potatoes (which is like a subterranean Easter egg hunt), waiting for the first tomatoes to ripen, or the sweet smell of a pie in the oven. We endlessly seek entertainment, happiness and stimulation without knowing what our lifestyles have cost us. Often what we chase just takes us further from what we need the most. Reconnecting with our food opens up new roads to bliss, daily.

So, how did we celebrate our freedom today? After the parade, we came back to my apartment and I supervised the ever acrobatic Apple while she mowed my lawn and Gowan assembled some patriotic taco salads for us.

Apple the lawnmower

Patriotic Taco Salad

Then mom and I toasted the day with a glass of Mendocino syrah. With every bite, and with every sip, I love this country.

4th of July toast


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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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How to make real yogurt

In the natural division of labor in our domestic pact, I make the yogurt and Gowan makes the cheese. It’s largely based on equipment: I have a gas oven, and she has a dehydrator. But, I like my job a lot. It might have something to do with a genetic predisposition to yogurt (I am Greek after all). But, I like the many steps to yogurt making and find the process grounding and meditative. And, now I will share all my secrets with you. The thing about making yogurt, and making most things really, is that none of it is very complicated. It just requires a few simple pieces of equipment and good timing. You can’t let the milk go bad, make sure you don’t run out of starter, and make the time to get it going and also be sure that you will be available to take it out many hours later. (I have ruined yogurt due to late night escapades…) So, it is really an act of being present more akin to meditation than cooking. But, maybe they are one and the same. Making yogurt is also a lesson in freedom.

There are lots of different ways to make yogurt. I’m not an expert, this is just the way I do it and I think it reliably makes damn good yogurt. Gowan agrees. Wild FermentationI learned from the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz – which is a fantastic resource for all things cultured and fermented. I don’t have a yogurt maker, but I’m not opposed to using them – I just don’t have one and don’t seem to need it. So here it is:

Equipment:

  • A sauce pan or small/medium soup pot – sized according to how much milk you have and yogurt you want to make
  • A gas oven – this is important for this method. If you don’t have a gas oven, you will need to find another way to incubate the yogurt at a steady temp (like a yogurt maker). Some people put it in a cooler, wrapped in towels, next to bottles of hot water. The oven is just easy and the temp seems to stay steady.
  • A candy thermometer
  • Whisk or rubber spatula
  • Mason jars – I like the wide mouth quart or pint sizes for yogurt making
  • Ice and a sink or large bowl for making an ice bath

Ingredients:

  • Cow Milk. We are lucky to have fresh milk right from the udder. You can use any kind of milk – store bought, Organic, rBGH free, but we strongly recommend using whole milk – always. I have ranted about the integrity of whole milk in another post, so I will not belabor this point here. It is possible to make yogurt with other kinds of milk, but cow is what we have, so that’s what we’re using right now. It’s true that all milk is breast milk, and we recommend getting as close to the breast as possible. It really will taste better.
  • A little bit of yogurt for starter – this can be from your last batch, or from the store, or from a friend (which is my favorite place to get it). You don’t need much, but we’ll get into that later.
  • That’s it!

Directions:

  1. Pour milk into saucepan, insert the candy thermometer and begin to heat on low to medium low. Stir frequently. Do NOT let the milk burn. That is your number one priority. I post up next to the stove and try not to leave it, because I burned it once and I will never let that happen again. Burnt milk = gross yogurt.
  2. Keep stirring diligently until you raise the temp of the milk to 180 degrees. Stirring keeps it from burning and keeps the temp even throughout the pan.
  3. Prepare an ice bath. Once the milk has reached desired temp, turn off the burner. Place the pan in the ice bath and allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees, stirring occasionally so it cools evenly as well.Yogurt in an ice bath
  4. Turn the oven on to the lowest setting for a few minutes while you complete the next step.
  5. Pour the cooled milk into the mason jars and then stir in the starter. Yogurt in jarsYou need way less starter than you think – only 1 tablespoon per quart. I learned this from one of my favorite cooking quotes of all time, found in Wild Fermentation and borrowed from the Joy of Cooking. (P.S. I just added Joy to our Wish List b/c I don’t actually own a copy which is unbelievable, yet true.) Ok, so this is why yogurt is all about freedom:

    “You may wonder why so little starter is used and think that a little more will produce a better result. It won’t. The bacillus, if crowded, gives a sour, watery product. But if the culture has sufficient ‘Lebensraum’ [German for ‘room to live’], it will be rich, mild, and creamy.”

  6. Turn off oven, and then place jars on oven rack for incubation. The oven will retain warmth from pre-heating it, and the pilot light will keep it warm enough for the cultures to get happy and do their thing. Try not to move the jars at all once incubation begins – it makes the yogurt unhappy.
  7. Leave yogurt in the oven for 8-12 hours, depending on desired thickness – or when you remember to take it out! I like to do this in the evening so that there is fresh yogurt in the morning – which is the best thing ever (and so that my oven isn’t occupied during the day).
  8. Remove and enjoy straight out of the jar! If you are Greek like me, or just have really good taste, you may want to strain your yogurt to make it even thicker. To strain it, you line a colander with cheesecloth and place in a bowl. Pour in the yogurt and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The whey will separate, making your yogurt even thicker, creamier and more delicious than it already was. Save the whey for other cooking uses. This is what I do when I have the patience to not eat it right away.


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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.