If I could sum up why it is we do everything we do…
… the early morning milkings…
…. the cleaning out of the chicken coop…
… the tending, caring, and slaving over the garden beds…
… the answer is actually quite clean and easy. It’s the food. We do what we do for the food. The benefits of growing one’s food completely overwhelm the work load. And even though it’s easy to question that in the mid-day sun in August, it remains the truth. To say that growing your food is rewarding seems a gross understatement. Growing your food is revolutionary.
But beyond the culinary enjoyment of the succulent bacon, crisp snap peas, and dreamy milk, one of my greatest joys in this lifestyle is getting to share this passion with my children. They are beside me, hands in the dirt, learning about bugs, soil systems, weeds, watering, moon cycles, planting dates, pests, harvest, preservation…. and taste.
They’re eating carrots pulled right from the earth. They’re witnessing the blessings of a bumper tomato crop and the frustration of loosing the broccoli to a rouge chicken. They’re learning that potatoes are planted and harvested from the soil, brussel sprouts are best after a light fall frost, greens are the backbone of the year-round vegetable garden, and flowers do more than just look pretty lining the garden beds. They’re learning that as we take care of our animals, they can care for us. They’re learning to compost and utilize every scrap of food or garden waste.They’re learning how to bake with natural yeast, can peaches, weed a garden, collect eggs and recognize a broody hen, and that good food involves patience and work.
They’re learning that there are times of plenty. And times of want.
…and that most things are out of our control.
And much to my great joy, they’re getting to witness God’s fingerprints all over His earth.
Is it just me, or have we robbed our children of these joys? We seemed to have dumbed our kids down to hot dogs, peanut butter sandwiches, and convenience foods. Instead of teaching them to savor the flavor of an earthy beet, they’re hopped up on artificial flavors and sweeteners. We don’t expect them to eat the spiced lamb shoulder roast. We expect them to hate it and then whine for macaroni and cheese.
There seems to be no where safe from this artificial-crap kids zone either. Got a bunch of kids together in a group? Let’s throw a bunch of processed junk at them and see what happens!
I, for one, am choosing to fight against this when at all possible. I’m inviting my children to take part in a food revolution.
I want my children to know the flavors of fresh pork, chicken livers and tree-ripened cherries. I want them to enjoy sautéed kale and swiss chard gratin. Idealistic? I don’t think so.
In defense of all vegetable-hating-children, I will say this: If my measure of taste was based on standard grocery store vegetables, I’d hate vegetables too. They’re tasteless! Bitter! Unripe! Old!
… but garden produce is a completely different beast. Just like fresh meat. Or even eggs. Freshness affects taste. The care that went into the production of the food affects taste. The animal’s diet affects taste. The harvest date affects taste, people! There is an entire world of delicious tastes out there to be had!
We’ve got to stop assuming our kid’s are limited to canned spaghetti sauce and cereal. Please. STOP!
We had a young boy who visited our farm every week last summer. He’d arrive early in the morning to help milk Sally Belle, before coming up to the house to help me with breakfast. We eat a hot breakfast 365 days a year around these parts and this was a new concept for him, as he was pretty set on cereal or the like before heading off to school. We would cook together, grating garden potatoes into sizzling lard in the cast iron skillet. We’d cut up fresh peaches over our steel cut oats that had been simmered in spices and cream. Each week the breakfast was different, but that didn’t really matter. What mattered was sitting down over a hot breakfast, sharing that moment, exploring vegetables and tastes together for the first time, and having a hand in the production of them.
I loved watching his face as he drank the milk, still warm, from that morning. Knowing he’d helped in getting it to the table brought him such pride and recognizing the phenomenal taste difference of fresh, raw milk was always fun to witness.
It would seem as if our children don’t enjoy this type of food because we don’t give them opportunities too. Why is that? Why is it always hamburgers, chips, and soda?
When did we become so flat and lifeless?
Food, for thousands of years, has been a method of communication and fellowship. It was reflective of a time, a culture, a people, a season. This is easy to see on the farm, as our menu is reflective of that very moment… that very time. April eggs aren’t the same as August eggs. Nothing is continual or uniform, but rather, ebbs and flows with the weather and the season. The menu is living. And our kids are getting to witness that.
Georgia asked me the other day if we could grow bell peppers. I explained that I had started bell pepper seeds in February. They’d been placed on a heat mat to encourage germination, before being set under special grow lights to encourage healthy growth. A few weeks back, they were moved into the greenhouse for safe keeping until fear of the last frost had passed. They’ve been watered daily. Soon, I explained, we’d plant them in the greenhouse where they would remain through the summer. Peppers can be sensitive to the heavy winds we experience around here, so the greenhouse would keep them safe. In July and August, we would be able to begin harvesting some of our bell peppers, assuming no pests or rogue chickens get the better of the plants, that is. “Well, how many days away is that?” she asked. “Quite a few.” I explained, “But just think about how fun it will be to finally get to eat them! And think about how good they’ll taste snapped right from the plant!” She smiled. She may only be 4, but she gets it.
Food doesn’t have to be fake. Or dyed with Yellow #5. Or dumbed down. Or even fast.
Food, grown with care, teaches gives our children some of the most valuable lessons they could ever hope to learn.
And it’s my joy to be witness to that.
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