Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Diary of a First Time Farmer

So easy to make New Year’s resolutions....What’s not so easy is committing out loud so that others can hold you accountable. Recognizing resolutions and goals as two separate things, resolutions are the incremental changes I resolve to do: like doing yoga three times a week, or writing everyday. Goals direct my focus on the bigger picture like “build a barn” or “finish my next cookbook” (two of mine for 2014).

Inspired by the movie “Julie and Julia” I was intrigued by the ambition of that Julie blogger-girl to tackle (on a daily basis) something as overwhelming as a Julia Child cookbook. (Yes, cookbooks are my life, but Julia intimidates even me.) For those who’ve read my cookbooks, you know I’m not a foodie…and I’m certainly not a life-long chef. Instead, I’m a girl who grew up on good country cooking, but never really studied how it all came about, until now. (For this, my journalism background came in rather handy.) In addition to a sentimental desire to preserve every step-by-step ingredient I could find in family dishes I’d enjoyed all my life, I grew even more intrigued to study the spirit and energy that goes into a lovingly prepared meal, for to me, this is what makes Southern cooking special.

Cookbook One (Southern to the Core: An Evins Family Cookbook) was written in tribute to my family, who, yes, knew a little about Southern cooking. What I learned from that experience (as the inside covers will attest) is that the more grease splattered the recipe card, the more popular the dish, and even if you were the girl invited to bring paper goods to the reunion, you’re never too old to learn how to cook. “Core” is just that. It’s “Core” Southern cooking 101, and for those of you who say “I can’t boil water” well, yes, you can. And if you want the simple basics, this is a primer(for traditional Southern dishes at least—your pot roasts, your dumplings, your basic Southern biscuit).

Cookbook Two (Put A Lit On It: Casseroles, Comfort Foods & Things We Take to Funerals) was the result of having too many recipes left over from Cookbook One, especially when it came to casseroles. When I stopped to ponder “Why so many casserole recipes, Mema?” it made sense. In Mema’s day preparing food with others in mind was the norm. There were your church socials, your family reunions, and of course, the food you took to the funeral home or left on your neighbor’s back porch when someone died.  This was the ultimate comfort food. It was no wonder I had a plethora of worn out casserole cards. You were as apt to be cooking for a large group as you were your own family, not to mention that your own family was usually a pretty large group in and of itself.

This brings me to Cookbook Three, now in the works. Cookbook Three is the result of me realizing that the first two books work great if you can get to the grocery store. They are full of “a can of this” and some “cream of something thats” but what if (I began to wonder) a bushel of beans showed up on my front porch? (This happens in the country. Often.)  More important, what if I wanted to grow my own? Could I do it? Where would I start? How hard would it be? (Visions of old dogs learning new tricks danced in my head.)

Book Three traces the origin of Southern cooking straight back to the garden. More than a cookbook, it’s an almanac and planting guide of sorts: a commentary on where food comes from in the first place and country hints on gardening. While on this mission to find out if I (a total novice) could learn to grow things, I decided to journal my way from selecting the seeds to learning the art of canning (and everything in between). Trust me. This has not been for the faint of heart. Those who’ve been living this way all their lives have my utmost and undying respect.

Turns out, I wasn’t so alone in my curiosity. The more I’m asked “What are you working on now?” the more I find others are likewise curious about growing things—some for health reasons, some for nature reasons, some are downright worried and asking, “If the grid went down tomorrow, could I survive?”

Turns out our grandparents and great grand parents knew things we’ve been taking for granted. Believe it or not, there IS an art to growing our own food and there are reasons beyond sheer survival for why it’s a good idea not to assume someone’s always going to be around to do it for you.

Over the past two years, I’ve pulled up stakes, moved to the country and tried my hand at this gardening thing. From testing my soil to picking a tiller to learning to plant by the signs, I decided in the name of cookbook research I was going to learn to grow a garden, and then I would learn how to can and freeze the things I grew. I am by no means an authority, but I have cultivated one heck of a healthy respect for those who farm for a living, and as a result, have made it my mission to turn my question-askin’ skill set over to everything gardens, farming and sustainability.

What I have learned is I have much to learn, but while learning, I’ve decided to blog my way through it, for those who might likewise have an interest in this sort of thing.  (For those of you who don’t, you might check in from time to time just for the humor of it all, cause not only am I a novice, I’m a blonde novice, and asking the simplest (if not stupidest) of elemental questions is my forte.)

My resolution is to write every single day about one girl’s farming adventure and the lessons she’s learning as she grows. From tilling the soil, to planting the seeds, to studying the signs, to buying the tools, I’m gonna share what I’m learning, in hopes that if nothing else, you too will come away with a healthy respect for all that goes into the food we too often take for granted. (If nothing else, maybe my blunders will save you some time and money along the way.)

Some days I’ll add pictures. Once I master my editing classes, I’ll toss video into the mix. But I commit, first and foremost, to writing about this journey each day, everyday, starting today. I’ll be laying out a barn, I’ll be witching for water. Oh, and I spend a good deal of my day laughing at my goats while trying to teach them circus tricks, since I’m lousy at selling them off, for fear they’ll get eaten. Whatever the day’s agenda, I’m sharing it here, so bookmark if you want, forward the link to a friend…whatever.  May or may not be your cup of tea, but I give you my word, it will never be boring.

So here’s to commitment.
Here’s to life in the garden.
Here’s to meeting you here again tomorrow…
Go(at) Team!

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