Homestead Happenings

Sanity still reigns on the wee homestead and I thought maybe a few of y’all might need a decent dose of it during these crazy dog days of summer amidst continued global chicanery.

The garden looks more like a jungle, but there is a method to the madness. Mostly it’s called ‘too hot to bother’. Still, it looks better than it ever has this time of year (which is saying very little) so I’m proud of a few things worth sharing.

The pigs are eating well off the luffa, which does so well here it actually out-competes the grasses. I wish we liked to eat it too, but I do use the sponges. It’s widely consumed in some cultures, so I might keep trying recipes to see if anything can improve its very bland taste. Plus, the bees love it, so it’s definitely a keeper.

We’re pretty limited on the veggie harvest this time of year, which means eating okra almost daily. I’m really not a big fan and it’s not even a fun one to harvest. It’s prickly and the fire ants scout every inch of it waiting to fall into your gloves or onto your thighs as you cut the spears. Its only redeeming qualities, if you ask me, are that it thrives in the heat and the flowers are pretty.

It’s our first harvest of scuppernong grapes and I’ll soon be making some wine and jelly. I’m kind of sick of canning, after all the pickles and having tried several new canning recipes this year, but I must find the grit somewhere and get back to it. For my latest experiments we’ll soon be tasting pickled watermelon rind, melon butter, and some exotically flavored cucumbers. That’s in addition to all our usual staples of pickles and salsas and sauces.

Green scuppernongs, yum!

I’ve also made poke wine! It tastes pretty weird, but is supposed to be an excellent medicinal, so I thought it would be good to have on hand this winter. Despite popular hype, poke berries are not poisonous. Well, not exactly anyway. The seeds inside the berry are poisonous if chewed. You must extract the juice or swallow the berries whole.

Buttercup decorated with Poke berry splotches 🙂

Our pear harvest was quite small this year, but those will be processed soon too, into cider and preserves. My favorite, figs, have been doing better after a couple years of total failure. Too bad we eat them too fast to preserve them!

I’ve settled into a nice routine with milking our goat Summer and am extremely pleased with the cheeses I’ve been making. It took some getting used to, fitting it all into a workable new plan, after making mostly large-batch cheeses for several years. I’m using only traditional methods now too, so no more expensive cheese cultures to purchase.

Organizing seeds and preparing the fall plantings are also in high gear. It’s a real challenge in 90+ degree temps to be considering the cool season crops. I’ve got some started indoors under lights and my direct sow method amounts to throwing a variety of seeds in the ground every week, waterIng liberally, and keeping fingers crossed. Usually, eventually, some seedlings get brave and make an appearance and if we’re lucky, will produce something before the first frost.

Handy Hubby’s still rockin’ the new utility room and it’s already looking fabulous! It’s been a 100% DIY project for him and he never fails to impress. Once done I’ll give him a proper staging and big kudos post.

Well, that’s all folks, thanks for visiting!

My Rain Man

The Sweltering Season has officially begun, later than usual for these parts, lucky for us.

Long weeks of crazy heat and zero rain makes for four lazy dogs and one crabby wife.

So Handy Hubby comes to the rescue once again!

I wanted to share this one because it’s a cool off-grid hack, even though we aren’t off-grid. The ability to pump water from your natural spring, creek or man-made pond or other source has advantages for any landowner. There is the savings on your water bill of course, and the peace of mind in having an alternate water supply, but beyond that the untreated water is better for the plants, animals and environment.

While it does take some significant time and expense initially, to set it up, move it around and then conveniently store it away when not in use is just what we need around here.

We soak the yard and garden with it, and then soak in it ourselves in our 200 gallon stock tank. A real redneck sort of system, but so refreshing!

I asked for a detailed explanation on Hubby’s handiwork to include here for anyone interested and he mumbled, “Just glue it and screw it.”

Yes a man of few words, but great actions, just like I like ‘em. 🤣

On further pressuring him he said if there was anyone reading this that must know the details, just say so in a comment below and he’ll let me figure out a way to persuade him to oblige.

Breathe in Beauty

Nature is not perfect, nor perfectible. But whether in chaos or order there can always be found magnificent beauty that heals, energizes and inspires.

I don’t like to see folks high on false Hopium when they face troubled times.  I don’t like political slogans or wistful mantras about Hate or Love.  

I wish all mankind could feel what I feel, see what I see, touch what I touch, so that the wholesome Hopium of pure life filled them each day with all the sense of wonder and potential, or challenge and purpose, they try forever in vain to find in others’ words and buying things.

And they would know to micromanage Life is antithetical to our raison d’etre, not to mention a hard lesson in futility.

Co-creating beauty and abundance, participating directly in our daily sustenance, living reciprocally between the heavens and the soil is a marvelous feast of the mind, heart and soul.

Nature does not long to be worshipped, or revered, or admired from afar, or just replicated in images. It is us, it is ours to be truly seen and felt, up close and very personal, not as masters or servants, but as partners, in divinity.

To work with nature, really work WITH it and IN it, is to spend your days suspended in magic.

Try one minute of bee zen. Can you hear their successful model of a happy colony? Contrary to popular lore, the worker bees control the queen, not the other way around. Can you sense their contentedness in maintaining their colony as instinctually as every Superorganism does?

Just like the human body, if left to its own devices, it knows just what to do.

One minute of bee zen

Milking Mamas, Busy as Bees

Big days on the wee homestead! The cucumbers are coming in by the bushel full, the lambs are dropping like rabbits, the mushrooms are growing like mad and the bees sound exceptionally pleased. I can’t keep up!

Luckily, Handy Hubby is here now every day, thanks to his ‘early retirement’ (that is his layoff six months ago) thanks to The Great Scamdemic. With his steady efforts and attention our place is shaping up beautifully and my stress levels have been reduced by half, even as chaos still reigns. For these are not the only new milking mamas, I’m now officially a milkmaid in training myself!

Welcome, Summer! Two piglets for a goat in milk was our barter with a friend. She’s settling in nicely and Phoebe was the first of the herd to greet her.

Learning to milk in humid and buggy 95 degrees F is every bit as pleasant as it sounds. 😏

Impressive udder and gymnast-like capabilities!

Handy Hubby crafted me a nice milk stand from plans posted by Fias Co Farms, a very good resource for goat newbies.

The chanterelles will surely give up very soon in this heat, so I forced myself to brave the mosquitoes and ticks once more to gather one last big basket full. I came across a new variety while hunting that’s not in any of my books, so I contacted Texas Foraging expert Mark ‘Merriwether’ Vorderbruggen, who identified it and directed me to this excellent site:

https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/hexagonal-pored-polypore

Since our temps went from April-like to August-like overnight, I got stuck in a bit of a bind with the bees. Because I’m trying to work between 3 different hive types (very stupid, do not entertain this folly I would advise) I’m trying to get them to move of their own accord. It is working, but it is quite a slow process. I will eventually have 3 colonies from this one very full nuc without too much destruction or fuss, or at least that’s my plan.

To end I offer a true garden success. I’ve been experimenting a lot with companion planting, sometimes with advice from permaculture books, but sometimes just by my own observations. This year I planted sunflowers very early, before it was warm enough for the cucumbers and melons. My thought was to attract the bees to the garden like a lure down to the still small cucumbers. It’s worked like a charm and the trellises are bursting with activity.

I’m also trying some new tricks with the tomatoes, letting the cherry types go wild, but highly managing the large varieties and interspersing them with various herbs, lots of comfrey, turmeric and ginger. The results are not yet in on those efforts, but I’ll keep y’all posted.

Mmm, grapes, our favorite! Ta Ta for now

Flooded Dells & Chanterelles

Wow, what weather! We got 12 inches of rain overnight on Monday, far more than we’ve ever seen here. Unlike the tornadoes, hurricanes and hail, however, I don’t complain about the rain. This region was made for rain, and lots of it. It’s the droughts that are far more difficult to withstand, and far more unnatural.

Texas Weather Modification doesn’t respond to public inquiries and they don’t share data on all the various projects happening around the state, so who’s to say if this was all Mother Nature. Man’s tech being ‘proprietary’ after all, we peons and peasants are relegated to the realms of conspiracy theory. Folks will continue to deny the weather warfare schemes until the bitter end, I suppose. No one wants to believe man is manufacturing the weather, despite clear evidence right at our fingertips.

However, that’s beside this particular post’s point. This is what we woke up to, the sound of Niagara Falls outside our window! While still in bed I said to Hubby, “What is that sound? It can’t be wind, the trees aren’t blowing!” One look outside and I saw, that’s the creek that now looks like the Mississippi, flowing right over the road and bridge (sorry for the shaky camera, I was focused on the roar more than the image).

While we had several fence issues from the debris, lost a favorite old tree, and the electricity was out for a spell, it’s absolutely amazing to me how resilient nature can be.

The water was mostly receded in just one day and then, out come the lovely fruits as kind rewards for our losses and extra labor.

Chanterelles abound, the flowers and veggies are flourishing. The mosquitoes and ticks too, no gifts given without associated costs.

One delicious dinner of pasta in cream sauce with chanterelles, green brier tips and sweet peas. And another favorite tonight, pizza of course, which Hubby pronounced my best ever. Our own homemade cheese, bacon and sourdough crust certainly help the chanterelles sautéed in garlic butter make their best impression. .

While hunting chanterelles I stumbled upon a rather large patch of this rare beauty which I once mistook for a wild orchid. Actually it’s a Purple Pleat-leaf, in the Iris family. It’s gorgeous in the wild, but wilts immediately when cut. I carefully uprooted a few of the tiny shallow bulbs and transplanted them in the garden.

Hopefully the bees will find them as lovely as I do! If not, they still have their garden favorites.

Birds, Bees & Weeds

Exciting times on the wee homestead!

We had a Foraging Walk that was well worth the two years waiting. The first postponement was after a tornado leveled their property during one of their tribal ceremonies, the Caddo Mounds in Weeping Mary, which I wrote about here and here.

The second time was during the initial stages of the Plandemic, when I cancelled due to mask mandates.

On this fun foray, 3rd time was a charm, no storms, no masks and a very educational afternoon. Top 3 things I learned:

1. Medicinal weeds should never be dehydrated in a machine, something about chemistry. Two ubiquitous weeds I thought had no other redeeming qualities besides bee food: Goldenrod and Carolina geranium, are in fact beneficial medicinals.

2. There’s a compound in red cedar that inhibits the breakdown of alcohol for 18 hours. So, a common practice is to soak some branch tips in strong spirits for a month. The final product becomes kind of like Absinthe in that it’s potent enough to cause hallucinations, which can lead to great art, says me, or, a cheap date, says Hubby.

3. Foraging in areas where there was once iron mining operations, quite common around here apparently, unbeknownst to me, should be avoided due to potential mercury contamination.

A super exciting swarm event is next on the Fun list!

I’ve been wanting to populate a couple of re-furbished TopBar hives, but the dimensions are not the same as those Hubby’s crafted, so splits would prove very challenging.

Bearding in summer, not too unusual in our hot climate. But, bearding in spring, probably a sign they’re really cramped.

I was hoping for swarms, and got one off the ‘bearding’ hive I recently wrote about (pictured above). They stationed themselves about 75 feet away in a young cedar tree and I got lucky to find them there immediately, while I was nearby harvesting mulberries. This is our first plentiful mulberry crop and I’m not sure what to make with them. Any suggestions?

I did recently learn from the Deep Green Permaculture site that it’s possible to get a 2nd crop of mulberries by cutting the branches back after the 1st harvest.

As far as the swarm goes, my first attempt was dismal, in the ‘Don’t do this!’ category of the pathetic novice, which I should know better by now, which I post so y’all can laugh at me, as I well deserve.

I don’t know what I was thinking! I wasn’t even good at holding a tray like that as a cocktail waitress. Spontaneous blasphemy makes this quick clip RATED R—For Mature Audiences Acting Immaturely Only. (Bet you didn’t know in a past life I was a sailor!)

Cringe-worthy

The 2nd attempt was successful, thanks to Hubby, who sawed the branch off into my waiting hands so I could gently walked them over to their new hive. They seem to be adjusting nicely! These thoughtful bees saved me lots of messy work.

The Ninja* colony has attracted a gorgeous bird, which I’m pretty sure after consulting my field guide, is a Summer Tanager. Though I don’t approve of his hunting live bees, he does also forage dead bees under the hive, so he gets a pass.

*Ninja colony, so named due to their constant battling yet relatively calm nature. I believe this is at least partly due to their position right next to the house, where they get constant traffic, but seem unperturbed by it, unlike the more remote colonies at the far end of the orchard, who are just plain abusive.

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee update with some happy snaps because we’ve been keeping as busy as bees around here!

The bees are busy indeed and multiplying like rabbits. Time to expand their chambers or to do some splits.

Bearding in summer, not too unusual in our hot climate. But, bearding in spring, probably a sign they’re really cramped and fixing to swarm.

I did end up losing one colony, the only one I have in the conventional Langstroth model hive. I’m going to blame myself for that though, I left a super on over winter and we had a really bad winter. They made it through alright from the looks of things, but left about a month ago, probably because their numbers were still too small to keep a mansion clean while trying to nurse babies to build up the colony again. There was no evidence of freezing or starving, so I suspect they left as a small swarm. That’s my story anyway.

Construction continues on the best project so far. Handy Hubby is building an addition to our house and I’m over the moon excited about it! This place was never meant to be a year-round residence, it was initially used as a weekend cottage and hadn’t been used for many years by the time we moved in.

We’ve been cramped for quite a while, but now we’ll have a new, very necessary and very functional, climate-controlled Utility room. Thank you, my love, better late than never! 😉

We aren’t cat people but we adopted a barn kitten last year to try to help with our mouse, vole, mole, gopher, snake problems. Apparently she didn’t get the memo, or realized the problem was so bad she needed a crew.

Skittles, our frisky barn kitten having kittens.

Our piglet population is back down to a manageable size since trading 2 piglets for a milking goat to be delivered next month and 2 others for a breeding ram after a friend has freshened her flock. We also traded a beehive for some bantam hens because they are known for their strong broody behavior, and sure enough, here’s one tightly tucked on her clutch. It’s one of my favorite things to trade with folks and leave Uncle Sam with his funny money out of our pockets for a change.

You can’t see me! Bantam hens, known for tucking up in tiny corners to brood.

As for garden developments, I continue my efforts incorporating permaculture features. I keep experimenting with good companion plants; I’m planting more perennials amongst the annuals; I’m doing more succession planting; I’m getting lots of comfrey growing for ‘chop and drop’ composting.

My latest addition is a ‘poison garden’ including such toxic beauties as datura, belladonna and castor bean. I’m testing a few tricks like ‘spooning’ the onions, which is to remove the dirt from the bulb tops to encourage larger storing onions. I’m watering weekly with ‘poop soup’ that is, watered down cow manure I’ve gathered from the stray cows sometimes wandering our property.

It’s a dirty job, but anything for my plants!

As always, I let the herbs and greens go to seed, but this year I’m going to get better about seed-saving. The price of seeds is going through the roof! Another new project I’m dedicating time to is more propagating, but not just the easy stuff anymore, like figs and roses and mulberries.

I’m going for the big time—‘native’ trees! Wild cherry (because they taste so amazing), Osage orange (because they are so useful) and prickly ash (because they look so cool) are at the top of my current list.

As for foraging, a favorite spring activity for me, in addition to pokeweed and dandelions, I’ve got another new favorite: greenbrier tips—taste just like asparagus. The root, along with sassafras root, were once the main ingredients of root beer, which I plan to try soon. Yum!

Ciao for now, thanks for stopping by!

Poke Fear & Irrational Science

In its typical, now routine, fashion ‘science’ comes to save the day and leads everyone astray.

Once upon a time they desperately wanted us to fear cannabis, so they fudged some data to make it look like not only is marijuana a ‘gateway drug’ but it will kill all your brain cells and transform you into a moronic, lethargic two-ton-Tessy with crossed eyes.

Sassafras, that most delicious natural ingredient that used to make up root beer and was enjoyed by our ancestors for centuries—science data decided it’s a carcinogen and it gets stripped from the marketplace for half a century. Then the data decides, oops, nevermind. Then they decide it makes an awesome illegal street drug known by “Ecstasy” aficionados as “Sass” and it’s then highly processed active ingredients are exploited by twisted chemists and greedy marketers and pushed on curious kids around the world. Thanks, again, Science!

So, forgive me when I heard for the first time the panicked cries about the poisonous pokeweed I had to roll my eyes a little. I heard repeated the usual crazy as I tried to research it myself—the ranchers trying in vain to eradicate it permanently before it kills all their cattle; the dying children whose dumbass parents didn’t perform the proper ceremonial procedures before consuming; the dead chickens who consumed the poisoned berries, etc. All nonsense. We’ve never had a chicken or any other animal fall ill from this ubiquitous ‘weed’. The four-legged show no interest in it and the birds, wild and domesticated, love the berries at the end of summer when little else is available for them.

And, it is the most delicious green I’ve ever tasted, no exaggeration.

I’m not alone in my palate preferences.

“For many, getting a springtime poke-sallet fix was indeed a psychological if not necessarily a medicinal shot in the arm. Azzie Waters remembered a saying by ‘old Doc McClain’ of Marble Hill, Georgia, who declared that ‘if you’ll eat one good mess of poke sallet in the spring of the year, you won’t have typhoid fever.” (Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking by Joseph E. Dabney, p. 263)

It’s simply miraculous our ancestors managed to survive at all before the Great Age of Scientism came to our collective rescue! Though I do suspect back in the day folks knew better where to draw that very fuzzy line between science and politics. Yet more crucial life skills lost to Progress.

As for the ‘proper ceremonial procedures’ I’m referring to the often repeated ‘requirements’ of fully boiling the greens three times, rinsing them and changing the water each time before consuming. I tried this, wanting to give these nincompoops the benefit of the doubt, knowing full well this had to be overkill. Simple logic told me there’s no way mountain folk would waste that much time and resources, hauling huge pots of water, burning all that fuel, and still consider these greens such a great Spring treasure. My hunch was correct, considering the mess of greens that resulted was the equivalent of green soup with hardly a solid piece of green remaining. Clearly that’s not what all the Southern old-timers rave about.

A bit more research and I’d bet only one parboiling is necessary. But, I’ve been giving it two, just to be on the safe, but still delicious, side. From there it can be used just like spinach and the taste is far better. Traditionally it was popular to fry it in bacon grease or coat it in cornmeal and deep fry it like okra.

Tonight we’ll be enjoying it smothered in homemade Mexican queso. Mmmmm. 🙂

Celebrate Small

Some things are better small, even in Texas. Small markets, small steps, small farms, small solutions.

Get big or get out! That was the slogan of the last century that surely haunts loads of old farmers to this day.

“Many who got big to stay in are now being driven out by those who got bigger. The aim of bigness implies not one aim that is not socially and culturally destructive.”
The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture by Wendell Berry (1977)

“We have always had to have ‘a good reason’ for doing away with small operators, and in modern times the good reason has often been sanitation, for which there is apparently no small or cheap technology. Future historians will no doubt remark upon the inevitable association, with us, between sanitation and filthy lucre. And it is one of the miracles of science and hygiene that the germs that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons.”

That book was written when I wasn’t yet 10 years old. And it’s only gotten worse.

I ask myself regularly how this is possible. Now it’s not just small farmers, the attacks are against small business, in general.

But, then as now, the attacks are primarily psychological. Folks are lured by promises from thieves and liars, and that’s the better part of the story. Other times, and certainly increasing in our more modern times, they are lead senselessly, through fear and desperation, because they have medical bills, or student loans, or mortgage payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they see no other way to go on but to sell their souls to the State.

And yet, the seeds of the solutions have always been lying dormant all around us, waiting for our nurturing care and attention.

“Just stop building it.” Catherine Austin Fitts

Brilliant woman who is walking her talk!

“Just move to a smaller community.” Curtis Stone

Homesteading – #SolutionsWatch : The Corbett Report

“Just try it, you never know, you might like it!” me 🙂

One minute of wee piglets being piglets just might seduce you!

A culture is not a collection of relics or ornaments, but a practical necessity, and its corruption invokes calamity. A healthy culture is a communal order of memory, insight, value, work, conviviality, reverence, aspiration. It reveals the human necessities and the human limits. It clarifies our inescapable bonds to the earth and to each other. It assures that the necessary restraints are observed, that the necessary work is done, and that it is done well. A healthy farm culture can be based only upon familiarity and can grow only among a people soundly established upon the land it nourishes and safeguards a human intelligence of the earth that no amount of technology can satisfactorily replace. The growth of such a culture was once a strong possibility in the farm communities of this country. We now have only the sad remanant of those communities. If we allow another generation to pass without doing what is necessary to enhance and embolden the possibility now perishing with them, we will lose it altogether. And then we will not only invoke calamity — we will deserve it.” WB

Food Matters

Can you tell who your ancestors were from the sorts of foods you like?

Folks say you develop a taste for the foods you grew up with and keep a sort of inner-scent nostalgia from childhood, like when Proust describes his semi-conscious love affair with Madeleines.

I’d say that’s only the surface layer of the story. The first time I smelled beans cooking from scratch, as in not coming from a can, I felt I was wafting on scented dreams that could not possibly have come from my own limited lifetime.

We didn’t eat sourdough or sauerkraut either growing up. We ate Oreos, McDonalds, KFC, TV dinners, mac & cheese, and we loved them. All the way through university I lived on mostly fast food and had little clue what cooking from scratch actually meant.

So, considering I was well-adapted to such convenience foods growing up and had developed such a taste for them that I craved them after moving to areas where they were not available, what gives?

Hubby had a much more traditional outlook from his childhood than I did. More than any other single influence in my move toward better nutrition, he was my inspiration. He introduced our household to fermented foods, and now I’m primarily the one who nurtures those crafts. His folks had already been gardening in his youth and still had a ‘subsistence’ mindset, and by that I mean they still ‘put up’ food, something that was unheard of to me growing up.

Do you eat to live or live to eat?

Breaking bread together still means something in our country, I think, but barely. Somehow even the traditional ‘pot luck’ is hardly lucky anymore when food sensitivities reign and diet dictocrats menace and folks’ general health is so poor who knows what will set them off the deep end.

New film: Like Beans for Beef? I don’t think so!

Sensual, comforting, beautiful, sublime, simple, food is far more than sustenance, just as depicted in a popular and a most favorite film of mine, Like Water for Chocolate. Can your mood affect your meal? Can your meal affect your mood? Any true cook or gourmand knows, indeed, it can, and often does. That is ‘the weather’ both inside and out, tempers the dish, for better or worse, and that’s a fact I’ll swear by.

Which came first: the cheese, the beer, the wine, the bread, the kraut or the Kombucha?

In Czech they say their beer is liquid bread. Fermentation is a key miracle of life that I had no idea existed until I was nearly 40. I’d visited caves in France where Champagne is aged and others where Roquefort is crafted and been to festivals where the ‘new wine’ and liters of beer were copiously enjoyed and obviously had eaten pickles in my lifetime, but none of these experiences cemented the notion of fermentation in my mind.

“In all raw whole foods, the food plays host to beneficial bacteria that are particularly suited to devouring it. These native cultures also help to transform the basic foodstuff into traditionally fermented foods: Cabbage contains all the bacteria it needs to become sauerkraut, wheat has all the bacteria and yeasts it needs to become bread (or beer), and grapes have all the culture they need to become wine. Milk is no exception: The native biodiversity of raw milk provides microorganisms that help infants digest their mothers’ milk (and cause the milk to decay if it is spilt); these microorganisms are all that the milk needs to become the many different styles of cheese.” The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses by David Asher

The first time I tasted Camembert with onions was in Germany, partnered with great beer, and it was instantly a favorite meal. At home I bought an American-imported version of both, but they were not the same. Once I started to make cheese myself I realized why, and also realized, I’d become a bonafide cheese snob. A freeze-dried culture is very different from a ‘territoire’ cultivated culture—as different as Velveeta is from the homemade ‘Mexican queso’ it’s supposed to imitate.

Generations upon generations of traditional cheese makers evolved the diverse methods of making cheese while carefully practicing their art. All classes of cheese were discovered by cheese makers long before they had a scientific understanding of the microbiological and chemical forces at play in its creation. Industry and science hijacked cheers making from the artisans and farmers some 150 years ago, and since then new new styles of cheese have been created; yet during that time hundreds, possibly thousands, of unique cheeses have been lost.” (Asher)

These cheeses were made from my own fungal cultures and have a far superior taste compared to the cheeses made with the typical freeze-dried cultures:
brevibacterium linens, geotrichum candidum, penicillin roqueforti

I know how bizarre this will sound to many, because that’s how it sounds to me, now. I didn’t even know vegetables had seasons and I’d never tasted cheese that wasn’t processed and wrapped in plastic, but I assure you, for a girl raised in the American suburbs this was/is typical.

I remember the first time a visiting Czech friend tasted an American beer, he remarked, “That’s an interesting beverage, not bad, but it’s not beer.” It was Budweiser, the ‘beer’ that was originally from Plzen, called Budvar. Even then, already as a ‘worldly’ adult, I didn’t fully grasp his meaning.

Now I understand he was noticing the obvious lack of real fermentation. Like breads made from instant yeast instead of natural yeast, or cheese made from freeze-dried cultures instead of natural cultures, there is most definitely a difference and once you are sensitized to it you cannot even refer to this difference as subtle. It’s glaringly elementary, yet it’s pitifully difficult to describe.

We grew up with artificial sodas like Coke, but we don’t drink them now, because once you master your own favorite Kombucha flavors, artificial flavors become unpalatable. Ditto on the artificial condiments—ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, Tabasco—these all fared from real and healthy foods that once kept our ancestors thriving for centuries before science learned how to mimic them, but not in nutrition, only in taste, and even then, only sort of.

It’s similar to the modern rose that is hardly a rose but in looks alone. And even then, only sort of. Do modern cultivars creating the equivalent of fake boobs recall that roses, like boobs, once had a nutritive purpose that surpassed mere vulgar voluptuousness?

It would appear that no, they do not, because even here in the ‘rose capital’ of Tyler, Texas, boasting a very popular annual festival with a Queen and everything, I’d never have fathomed roses were once cultivated primarily for their hips.

Selective breeding and shortcuts require compromises that are most often not worth it once you develop refinement and can truly appreciate how unsurpassed is the luxury of time. Two days for decent bread, two days prep plus six months aging for a great Alpine cheese, a year for a drinkable wine, a century of painstakingly crafted cultivation for a beautiful yet still nutritious rose—when you nurture the sensitivity of your palate and your gut, you realize there really is a hierarchy of taste and fake is never going to be an adequate substitute.

I’ve set goals all my life, many of them I’ve achieved and many more I’ve not and many more still I decided were not worthy of achieving once within the goal posts. But there is always remaining this matter of food, and it always fits. Not the short-term convenience foods I grew up with, but a much wider tradition that settled into our lives rather organically and that reflects the ancestral wisdom I believe my own ancestors were mistaken to leave behind, which I feel very fortunate to have the time and inclination to revive and cultivate.

With Handy Hubby perfecting another lost art—growing, slaughtering and butchering all on-site—perhaps we should up our game goals? ‘Luddite Power Couple’ is that a thing? 😉