It's easy to look at all we do for cooking, farming and do-it-yourselfing and be overwhelmed. Honestly? If I was looking at this 4 years ago I would have laughed! What's this crazy family doing I would have said!
But we didn't start like this, it's been a long time coming, starting 12 years ago, before I'd even met my husband. (Keep in mind I'm just shy of my 20th birthday now). My Mom had a garden, but not a veggie garden, and with her help we started some large pots of veggies on our porch. Cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, easy thing along those lines. (Although for the next 11 years I couldn't grow lettuce to save my life!)
Fast forward 4 years...
I'd always liked animals, having grown up with hunting dogs, cats and rabbits it was something I was used being around. I was 12 years old and wanting to spread my wings as far as animals went, and started testing my Dad like this:
Dad, Can I get a horse?
Dad, Can I get a cow?
Dad, Can I get a pig?
Dad, Can I get laying chickens?
REALLY?! (suddenly surprised and testing more...) Dad, Can I get sheep?
Why not? Your grandparents have fields right beside us and until you were born they ran sheep, so they can help you out.
By this point I was ecstatic. How lucky was I! I did a LOT of reading, researching and networking with other farmers. I wanted to do this right! I figured out that we wanted to get a chicken tractor, it would be best for us, and allow us 6 hens, more than we would need for eggs. When they started laying I was overjoyed. Raising our own food! This was satisfying. This is what I wanted to do.
My parents split up shortly after this and Dad moved out, leaving Mom and I to this. We've dabbled in many different things from then until the present, raising everything from weaner pigs, breeding pigs, bottle calves, bottle lambs, breeding ewes, milk cow, beef cows, laying chickens, meat chickens, incubating chickens, a horse, milk goats, guinea pigs, rabbits, quail, and ducks.
We currently have meat goats, milk goats, milk cow and laying chickens. We're going to do a batch of 3 or 4 pigs this spring, and plan to get a bottle lamb in a month or so for our son to raise. We'll also do about 80-100 meat birds.
It's safe to say we've done quite a bit. Every single different animal taught me a lesson. Those need their own stories and posts, which in time will come.
The fall I was pregnant with our son, (2008,he's 2 ½ now), we made a pact to ourself that we were not going to eat any meat that wasn't raised or hunted ourselves, or from a good local source. We were going to eat local meats only, no exceptions. (We of course weren't going to refuse a meal served when out) At this point, we were also given a lactating milk cow by friends of ours. We milked her for about 3 months before she was dried up. We tried making yogurt with very little successs, and mostly just ate A LOT of french toast for breakfast because of all the milk and eggs we had.
The next fall (2009) we decided we would only eat about 90% local fruit and vegetables. We ate a LOT of root vegetables, as we hadn't put away enough of the other things. We did garden our butts off, but not enough to put away lots for winter.
In June of 2010 our cow spontaneously started lactating (she was pregnant, but wasn't due for 2 months) because of piglets sucking on her udders. We were getting 10 litres a day, milking once a day and I was doing almost all the milking. For Mac's first birthday we had an ice cream part, of 2 dozen different ice creams and frozen yogurts. It was fabulous and so much fun. We quickly found that we had to find different uses for the milk, my Mom started making cheese and we made lots of yogurt.
The following fall (2010) we continued with the local meats and vegetables, and I decided we needed to overhaul or cleaning and beauty products. We researched and tested, finally finding what worked for us. It'll be different for everyone, but I'll say we use a lot of vinegar for cleaning! I started experimenting with better baking ingredients, but didn't even think about a grain mill. This is the year that I started canning my heart out, and I've never looked back. I LOVE having canned goods on hand.
2011 brought a lot of things, my Mom is kick-ass at making cheese and makes pretty much every type of soft and hard aged or not cheese you can think of. We are spoiled. For about a year (maybe more) we had relief milkers two days a week that gave us a break and made milking easier. We've only ever milked once a day. No more is needed. We're not going for super high production, our cow isn't capable of that. She's a jersey, a sweetheart and a part of our family. She is my husbands cow.
We also got milking goats, and milked for a couple months before they dried up, and they'll freshen in a few months now. I'm looking forward to my Mom making more goat cheese. When they were lactating she'd make a batch of goat cream cheese every week that rocked our world.
2011 is the year I saved up for a grain mill as well, starting with a handmill, then selling that and buying a Nutrimill. I love my mill, love that I can make such amazing flours that send my baking to a new level.
Eating local is easier than you think, you'll be amazed when you start looking what you can find. Yes we want uber local and organic, but really? I'm just happy to have BC fruit and veg, because it means that they haven't been shipped a long long way. I don't go to California on my vacations, so why should my meals come from there?
It doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg either. Most likely, if you start eating only local, seasonal produce, you'll save on your grocery budget. Here's the kicker---when it's in season----it's in abundance---when it's in abundance----farmers are unloading them at cheaper prices----so you pay less. It's the supply and demand! Strawberries are more expensive in December because it takes a lot to get them to grow at that time of year, they won't be local to our little island and they really won't taste that great.
You know why the NUMBER 1 reason we eat local is? Because it goll-darn tastes better. Food that is grown in it's natural season, and shipped very minimal distance, TASTES BETTER. It's higher in nutrients because they haven't been picked green, shipped and refrigerated for 3 weeks before getting to you.