I was recently asked, ‘Shaye… why do you do it? Why do you slave over the stove… over the garden bed… over the animal poop… over the piles of dirty dishes? Why, why, why?'
Great question, ye who shall not be named.
(Don't worry. It wasn't Voldemort that asked me.)
Anyway, I thought for about 1.29 seconds and then POP – I had the answer. The food. The FOOD. THE FOOD!
Good Lord. The food.
I fear that I've unintentionally become a food snob. For the past year and a half, we've been breaking our backs on the farm to build garden beds, build fencing for our meat animals, lugging around buckets of water, picking up organic grain from the local feed store, breaking frozen waters, bedding stalls with hay, watching midnight animal romps to ensure successful breedings, hauling wheelbarrows full of wood chips and manure, bucking hay, organizing feeding systems, getting out of bed way too early, chasing pigs down the driveway, butchering chickens, preserving foods, fermenting even more foods, and even tending to our beehives.
I believe we've answered that Voldemort.
Homegrown Food Tastes Better.
When we sat down at the cluttered dinner table a few nights ago, I stood back for a second, released a deep sigh, and looked at the spread set before us.
The soup was a Paprika Pork Soup – the chicken stock used had been simmered for 24 hours with root vegetables from our winter stores and the carcass from one of our homegrown meat birds. The carrots, onions, and potatoes were from our larder – grown just 10 yards from the kitchen door. The pork was homemade sausage that had been made that day from our very own pigs that we butchered earlier this fall. The deep red, simmer soup was spiced with salt, pepper, paprika, dried coriander, dried cumin, and chili powder.
Lastly, we broke open a pomegranate and sliced up a crisp apple that we had harvested from a local orchard a few weeks back.
90% of the meal had been raised… grown… harvested… preserved right here on The Elliott Homestead, the meaning 10% was reserved for a few specialty products (like the pomegranate) and dried goods (that are easy and efficient to ship).
Please don't take my enthusiasm as arrogance. It wasn't that. I don't do this for some romantic self-glorifying means. Rather, I was able to take a step back and simple sigh. WOW.
We DID IT.
We DID what we had set out to achieve years ago.
We became producers.
I'm still happy to be a consumer for those dried goods that have been traded and shipped across miles for thousands and thousands of years – spices, coffee, chocolate, tea, salt, etc. I have no problems with stocking our kitchen with these goods and I'm very thankful that we can do so. That being said, this year, we were able to produce almost all of our produce, meat, eggs, and dairy products. Right here on just a couple of acres.
To see all that hard work pay off in such a delicious way – well, there are no words. Rewarding is an understatement. It's life-changing.
Because we're able to sit down at the table with fresh eggs, gathered the day before from our own free range hens, that have been fried in our own butter, served alongside a slice of our very own home cured bacon, a tall glass of fresh raw milk from our family cow, and a variety of vegetable or fruit from the garden… well, it's easy to get spoiled.
Kings couldn't dream of eating this well!
And that's why we do it. I LOVE this lifestyle. I love the smell of Sally when I tuck my head into her flank to milk her. I love wiping the dirt away from a radish and biting into it's crisp flesh. I love listening to a sizzling chicken roasting in the oven. I love gathering the eggs with the rascals and shoving them into my pockets. I love that my kids can wander around the farm, exploring the soil, the grasses, the gardens, and the lives of the animals. I love that they can say “Mom, I miss Chester and Wallace” as they nibble on pieces of bacon made from their bellies. Because it gives us connection. It gives us responsibility.
We've been conditioned to think of super-market food as “food” and in one way, yes, it is just that. A cabbage is a cabbage. A gallon of milk is a gallon of milk.
But cabbage harvested fresh from the garden? Locally? In season? That's a whole ‘nother creature entirely.
And milk that's less that 12 hours old? Fu-get-about-it.
THE FLAVOR, people. The flavor is the greatest difference. And after six months of eating almost exclusively from our farm (besides the occasional Costco trip), dare I say, we've are really on the right track.
Spring eggs are not same as Fall eggs and garlic harvested in the early Spring is much different than garlic harvested in the late Summer.
There is a cycle to this. There are flows. There are seasons.
God has orchestrated the most incredibly symphony in nature. And that's a sympathy I want to listen to.