Not Greener-Than-Thou

June 29, 2011 by Categorized: Earth Matters.

I did not set out to become greener-than-thou.  And it’s a good thing, too, because as a Martha Stewart of Green Living, I’m a failure.

We’ve all met those types, haven’t we?  I call them the Buddhist earth-mother-with-a-trust-fund people.  If you’ve learned how to grow your own tomatoes, they’ve learned how to grow all-organic heritage tomatoes from an endangered variety that has twice the vitamin C of other tomatoes, and how to can enough of them to last them through the apocalypse.

And they do it all while wearing organic cotton yoga pants, grinding their own baby food, and never watching television or using deodorant–or needing to.  (That type of woman’s armpits never smell.  Except, possibly, very faintly of patchouli.)

I admit to being seriously intimidated by these mountains of serene competency.  I run into them all the time at farmers’ markets and at our local CSA–which is one of the reasons I like farm stands so much.  (They tend to be run by plump women in polyester, wearing out-of-fashion eyeglasses.  I love those women; they are Of My People. They remind me of me.)

All joking aside, there is a smugness problem in the world of sustainable living, and I like to think I’m not the only person who has been known to go allover shy when exposed to the faint tinge of condescension I sense in the air when I visit the native habitat of local sustainability experts.  Like, biking to work is cool, right?  But it has not escaped my attention that there are those for whom only biking to work on a fair-trade bamboo bicycle with ergonomic handlebars is really cool.  And those of us trundling along on second-hand Schwinns don’t cut it in some circles–especially if we can’t repair our own bikes, or have to walk them up steep hills.

So you’ll perhaps be reassured to learn that, despite the seriousness of my efforts to cut myself loose from eating factory farmed food for a host of environmental and ethical reasons, I am not going to achieve graceful earth mother status in this lifetime.

I proved that quite conclusively yesterday, scorching the cheese.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I understand that my quest this summer, to learn to make my own cheese so that I can have an affordable source of that food that comes from local, organically-raised and well-treated cows, could be understood to be a little on the Extreme Green edge of normalcy.  And I didn’t start out to wander so far from the safe suburban verges of the shopping mall culture where I was reared.  But…

  • When I gave up single use plastic, I began noticing how much other food was packaged in plastic.  Unnecessarily so.  So I began buying more whole foods, and bringing them home in reusable cloth bags from the store.
  • Which made me begin looking out for more sources of food that wasn’t pre-packaged… which made me notice more fresh and local produce.
  • Which made me start buying (and harvesting) more of that.
  • And noticing how much better it was than what the supermarket was selling.
  • Even in the “fresh produce” aisle.
  • Which made me want to preserve the local food for winter.
  • Which led to learning to make pickles.  And jams.
  • Which led to noticing that we have good local organic milk available.  In glass bottles that get reused!
  • Which made me notice that my cheese comes from all over the place.  And a lot of it is probably full of all the chemicals and crap that’s no longer in the rest of my food.
  • Plus, milk production on a large scale is highly polluting–but the dairy industry locally isn’t.  Lots of very nice goats and cows on small farms.
  • But locally produced cheese costs about as much as a used Mercedez-Benz.
  • Which led to… attempting to make my own cheese.

Actually, I first experimented with cheese making in April, making up a small batch of panir, the cheese that may be familiar to fans of Indian food. Panir is an exceptionally easy cheese to make; I followed directions I found on You Tube, and it worked just fine.

My goals for this summer are more ambitious.  I want to learn how to make, not just panir, but cream cheese (which we use in large quantities) and feta cheese, which I can substitute for some of the local-but-not-organic cheddar cheese we also rely on.

The gold standard would be to be able to make our own parmesan–but hard cheeses are notoriously fussier to make, and I realize that may not work out.  Still, friends who are ahead of me on the sustainability learning curve reassure me that cream cheese and maybe even feta are within my reach.

And I know how to make pickles–I learned that just last summer–and how to brew beer.  How much tougher could cheese be?

So I ordered a book and some cheese-making supplies online.  I did not sign up for classes, for the same reason I don’t buy local organic goat’s milk cream cheese–I’m not made of money, people!  I don’t have a trust fund! And I followed a recipe for panir–just to refresh my memory on the whole cheese-making process–from Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making, expecting it to come out even better than panir made by following random directions from You Tube.

As expected, Ricki’s recipe and directions were marvelous; she is the acknowledged queen of American home cheese making.  The curds separated out wonderfully–they were cleaner and larger than in my previous attempt, and seemed to cling together more firmly, too.

There was just one problem.  Ricki’s recipe called for a gallon of milk–not the six or seven cup batch I’d made previously.

And so I used a gallon of milk.  Which meant using a bigger pot.

Alas, that bigger pot had a thinner bottom than the one I’d used previously.  And where Ricki’s directions very helpfully called for “stirring often to prevent scorching,” with my pot and that much milk, even stirring constantly did not prevent scorching.

At the end of that wonderful process, my beautiful, big, clean, firm curds pressed into a lovely block of completely inedible cheese, and I spent several minutes storming around the kitchen, hurling small kitchen tools, and exercising a vocabulary my sainted mother would almost certainly prefer I did not possess.

Every bit of that lovely, organic local milk tasted horrible from the scorching I’d given it.  And every bit of that lovely, inedible, organic local panir is now making up one of the most expensive layers of compost in our heap.Cat and her compost

I made my husband take me out for a nice, artificially-flavored, highly-processed soft-serve ice cream to get the taste of failure and burnt milk out of my mouth.

This, this, ladies and gentlemen, is what a learning curve looks like.

With the exception of trust-fund earth mothers, all of us look graceless when we try to do new things.  At some time or other, the gardens that we plant get taken over by weeds, our free-range chickens get eaten by racoons, we learn that the carefully and lovingly preserved canned raspberries taste just awful, the jam didn’t set, and the pickles turned out flabby and too salty.

Which is why we need to be community to one another.  We do need to learn new, different ways to live.  We do need to revive old skills–by which I don’t necessarily mean that all of us need to make cheese at home, or preserve potatoes and carrots for the winter.  But some of us do.  We are far too reliant on a food system that is reducing the fertility of our soils, polluting our waterways, exposing us to increasingly dangerous antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, and which is in turn utterly reliant on petroleum resources that are not infinite.

We can do a lot to ease ourselves out of that dependence.  We can do more if we do it as a community–if we share our failures as well as our successes, and share experience rather than smugness.

I am going to try again to make cheese–either with a thicker-bottomed pot or with a smaller, scaled-down batch of milk.  And I’m going to try making my own poultry sausage, canning tomatoes, and getting through the winter on stored local produce.  I may well conclude that some or even all of these skills are too much for me, and that the effort to practice them isn’t compatible with working full-time, having a life, and having friends.

Or maybe, like baking my own bread, building a raised bed garden, and making raspberry jam, some of these skills will be keepers–things I do for joy as well as to lighten my burden on the earth.

But I promise you this: I will not pretend I haven’t spent time sweaty, confused, frustrated, and swearing like a stevedore along the way.

I don’t even own a pair of yoga pants.

ADDENDUM: For a look at a more successful local cheese-maker, visit the site of my friend and inspiration Beth.  (I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have yoga pants either, though I strongly suspect her of making her own baby-food when her kids were little.  They seem to be turning out just fine, anyway.)

Comment Feed

54 Responses

  1. Blessed are the cheesemakers.


    • Thank-you for this. I laughed and cried right along with you as I have been there and done that all. I am sitting here right now listening as my beloved rooster is shouting his lungs out to get me out there to scare away the raccoon or bobcat that is threatening my/ his Hens. I have lost 10 this week and it is making me very MAD. Even so I love this life and my small farm and MY Compost heap. Life from scraps and mistakes.
      I am happy to know I am not the only one in this fix.

  2. You are an Earth Goddess. FACT.

    Yes, this includes the colourful vocabulary, visible skin covered in mud and grass stains, and wonderful curves and smile :)

  3. I sit here and smile with you, cry with you (I just blew up my first attempt at canning a few days ago), and give you two green thumbs way, way up. Keep fighting the good fight. You inspire me to go get back at, just because.

  4. Quaint HomesteaderJune 29, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    I’ve been there, even if I do own yoga pants…. Failure is no fun. I struggle with construction, and I’ve had to rebuild our chicken coup at least once after trying to move it. It’s best to learn new skills with the cheaper ingredients…so mistakes don’t cost as much. Nothing wrong with learning on the milk at walmart.

  5. Sara, you make me laugh! “Blessed are the cheesemakers”–indeed! (I wonder if there is a whole green living version of the beatitudes, if we but knew?)

    Greycat, you make me laugh, too–with delight. It is nice to feel known, warts (grass stains?)and all.

    Keri, oh, yeah. Feelin’ ya there. We: the few, the proud, the getting-it-eventually of the back-to-nature movement… right?

    Quaint Homesteader, I recognize in you a kindred spirit, even if you do own yoga pants.

    Meanwhile, I’m off to investigate the rumor that sauteed with garlic, radish greens are edible…

    • Quaint HomesteaderJuly 3, 2011 @ 8:35 am

      The funny thing is that I never do yoga in my yoga pants…LOL You do have a very valid point there is a lot of Eco-friendly crap being marketed to us crunchy people. But buying used is also a green alternative and less expensive. I can’t afford solar panels, but I can afford a clothes line. Living green and living simple, and living within one’s means should all go together.

  6. Big Hugs

    failures are never fun and with food (for me at least) there is always the guilt of how much I just wasted

    I am yet to be brave enough to try making cheese (for that alone I applaud you) … but recently I was grilling a mess of veggies outside and got distracted and wound up turning all these lovely slices of eggplant and sweet potatoes into inedible hockey pucks and the language was colorful yes it was

  7. See, now, and this is why everyone needs a compost pile, and a garden to put the finished product into!

    Very important in the guilt absolution department. *grin*

  8. Nicole YoungmanJune 29, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

    How lovely to see a pic of you! :) I’m not nearly as far along in the process as you are–my big challenge is just trying to get things to grow in this Gulf Coastal subtropical climate. Anything that likes “plenty of sun and cool temperatures” is NOT going to get both at the same time around here…I’m currently experimenting with grow-lights in the kitchen to see if I can ever have basil and cilantro at the same time. Or parsley. Parsley would be lovely, but so far it won’t sprout…argh. :)

    • I think this is one of the frustrations of trying to eat sustainably and locally… it will look different everywhere. There are no Big Solutions, just lots of little local ones.

      I still find inspiration in the writings of gardeners and urban homesteaders all around the world, whether their climate is anything like mine or not. There is a kind of willingness to try things on that I think we all have in common.

      But good luck with the cilantro! I love that herb!

  9. I read this to my fiance who proceeded to sit and laugh wildly. He thought I’d written it, because this is EXACTLY the path I’ve been down in the last 6 months AND I did the same damned thing to paneer yesterday!

    I do have yoga pants, but all of this working to be green and not eating all the funk in food the vast majority of time (I still have Taco Bell from time-to-time, because I like it.) I’ve lost 50 pounds. So really they just look goofy on me.

    • Yeah, I’m with you on the eating junk from time to time. Purity is way more of a strain than a gain, either for Mama Earth or for me. (I won’t buy potato chips, because I have committed to avoiding single-use plastic packaging–and reducing other plastic waste as much as I can. But if you buy them and serve them at your party? Watch out, for I will eat the whole bowl!)

      And, as the picture clearly shows, I’m all about the lookin’ goofy. So I’ve got your back on that one, too. *grin*

  10. Hands down – best blog post I’ve read in a very long time. I feel inspired.

  11. Love your writing, Cat, and I’m right there along side you for the journey.
    My most recent revelation was that I have no tolerance for the strawberries that I was growing, or rather trying to grow and then find to pick before over-ripeness set it. I gave up, pulled them all out, rebuilt the raised bed and then transplanted some winter squash into this area. It feels refreshing to let go of what was clearly not working and moving on to other possibilities. Thank you for sharing and re-inspiring me!

    • Oh, good for you, Clare! There’s not much point in trying to grow what you won’t use.

      My broccoli is kind of a disappointment, too, but the weather has been weird enough this year that I may try again. Or call it a liberating failure and move on.

  12. Inspirational Cat, thank you. I’ll be having a go at cheesemaking in your footsteps. Paneer, here I comex

  13. This is the best blog post I’ve ever read, but even better, the most relevant to me.

    I too will never be greener-than-everyone-earth-mother type either! But I am finding my own path slowly. It never occurred to me to make cheese! But your mistake inspires me! So I may try. :)

    and hey, I just cooked two days ago with one of those huge thin pots and also worried about scorching the stuff in the pot. I was also too frugal and too in a hurry to run out to the kitchen store to buy a heat diffuser. So I used the top of a big tin can between my pot and the stove burner. the tin can was one of those big cans of tomatoes from Sam’s and that lid worked perfectly to prevent scorching. I threatened my hubby with dire consequences if he threw out that can lid, as I will be using it frequently with that huge pot!

    • Love the home-made diffuser idea! I often think of the Thoreau quote about distrusting any new project that involves buying a new suit of clothes, and think about how, all too often, my eco-projects seem to require buying a new product or tool.

      I do buy them when it seems right to do so–used if I can get them used–but I’d rather make it myself if I can…

  14. Damn, I was hoping for at least a ranting paragraph about the inherent classism displayed by a disappointing lot of “green and sustainable living” folk. I figure even a majority of those with trust funds acknowledge that failure is a part of learning — what they don’t tend to acknowledge is that the working classes simply *don’t* have the time or other resources for doing anything more than loading up a recycling bin after two full-time wage-slave jobs and kids.

    • See, Ruadhan, I think that’s where community comes in. Now in my fifties, I’m doing OK for money, but if you want to talk wage-slave, there’s few wage slaves like a high school English teacher. Seriously–I’m not whining about it, and I do love my job, which not everyone can say, but during the school year, I work 50–60 hour weeks, every week. (Vacations and weekends are usually spent grading essays, as is a lot of the time at the end of what most people think is a teacher’s work day.)

      This leaves me feeling awfully tired and with very little time to do more than recycle, and yet I know the Earth needs us all to begin to do more than that. We seriously do all need to find new ways to live.

      I’m lucky in that I have both a strong and loving community, including people who are farther along the path of green living than I am who share their knowledge with me, and those precious, precious summers off. This is the time of year I get to have a learning curve.

      Which I then share with you, my community… making embarrassing public mistakes so you won’t have to! (This is my theory, at least, and my cold comfort when a project goes south on me.)

      But during the school year, it’s all I can do to apply what I’ve learned in the summertime. When I say, yeah, it is practical to become more independent around food, to bake bread as a way to avoid processed gunk and excessive waste, or to hang up your laundry on a clothesline to dry year round, I’m speaking as someone who has struggled to find ways to make it work–but there are ways. (Bread, for instance, I bake monthly, and freeze loaves to cook the day I need them. With practice, this is surprisingly easy.)

      It is harder for “real people”–people with full time jobs, kids, and little or no extra money when the bills are paid. But it’s worth remembering that our grandparents and great-grandparents did it this way before us.

      I don’t know about you, but my grandfather was a truck driver, and my grandmother a full-time school teacher who raised four kids during the Great Depression. She would probably laugh to see what I consider to be difficult!

      It’s worth exploring, each of us, to see what we can do… and what we can do with joy, believe it or not. Not that everyone is going to make cheese or can tomatoes. But simpler living, less Big-Agriculture-dependent living, is possible, and even good.

      With or without organic cotton yoga pants and a trust fund. *smile*

    • Nicole YoungmanJune 30, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

      Absolutely true–but there’s also a lot of urban gardening/food justice stuff going on out there to help people in low-income/minority communities start small farms to grow produce for farmers’ markets etc. Not everyone has to have their own garden, I think one of those “little local” solutions (great way of putting it, Cat) is making economic space for some people to be able to make a living providing that good local food for others in their communities who so badly need it.

      • Agreed, Nicole. It takes a lot of small players, including consumers, to create a healthy farm economy. And even more to create a healthy, ecologically sustainable food culture.

        For one (fairly radical) specific example of low-income food justice work, readers might want to check out the writing of Oakland CA resident Novella Carpenter. Her blog, Ghost Town Farm, and her book Farm City, are great reading, and her book really changed the way I think about food.

        I especially love the way she looks specifically at the ways that low-income and working-class Americans, including those in cities, subvert the rules that have created food deserts in the first place, and find ways to create community through sharing (and selling, not always legally) home-grown and home-cooked food.

        I’m also deeply grateful to the hundreds of men and women, farmers, volunteers, and administrators, who have created our local CISA Program, which improves access to all kinds of local farm produce and helps farmers succeed. So much of what I love to do would be impossible without their hard work–I hope to be able to write more about them, and about local farmers, in the near future.

  15. Love this post! I, too, get tired of the greener-than-thou types, not to mention the bullies — the ones who let you know in no uncertain terms that unless you eschew every modern convenience immediately you are single-handedly dooming the Earth. I do my best and strive to do better, but I am NOT switching to fabric butt-wipes or giving up electricity.

    You mentioned trying to make sausage: I’ve been making my own, both sage and Italian, for about a year, and it’s extremely easy if you don’t bother with casings. I do freeze mine, but canning is a viable option. You’d probably want to do them in casings so you could pour hot broth and/or melted fat over them.

    And by the way — if you want to make meatless sausages, black beans are wonderful.

    Best of luck!

    • Whoa! Dana! Meatless black bean sausages? Oh, share, share please!

      Funnily enough, this is the day I have made my first experiment in poultry sausage. Ironically, if I ate pork, I’d have a local, sustainably-farmed source of good pork sausages nearby. Or, if I still believed that “organic” was a meaningful label for chicken, I could buy organic chicken sausages at the local coop.

      But I don’t, and I don’t, so I’ve been doing without this convenience food for over a year now. I miss it–we rarely eat meat (and when we do, it’s local, pasture-raised poultry, which is expensive enough to discourage eating it too often) but I used to love to throw a handful of cooked turkey sausage into a pot of beans or a lentil soup or spaghetti sauce.

      I’m hoping to do so again, if all goes well. We’ve ground up the meat and a lot of the fat, and I’ve added the spices. I’m going to add a small amount of rice to it before cooking some, and freezing a whole lot of uncased sausage for later use.

      With you on the bullies, by the way. (I got scolded this week by one greenie, for using name-brand hand-soap. I’m currently working really hard not to retaliate by naming her own carbon-emission sins, which I know to be Not Small.)

      I think it’s most important that we figure out the changes we are each able and ready to make, and be willing to share with one another the fruits of our learning–not our egotistical superiority complexes.

      (Which is a strong hint: I want your recipes!)

  16. Thank you Clare for the link to this witty and wise post! It’s not a race or a competition, each family must make the changes that they can adapt but I hear you about the “holier than thou” greenies. Makes me laugh to think that I was in elementary school for the very first earth day and have ALWAYS been earth conscious and slightly “crunchy granola-ish” but it makes sense to grow, cook and can what you can. And reducing any disposables well, don’t need to be a rocket scientest for that one either. I find it amusing that so many are “discovering”a lifestyle that was 2nd nature to our grandparents! Sorry about the cheese, my only attempts have been mozzarella w/ good results!

  17. Nicole YoungmanJune 30, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

    Another point to throw out there–I teach environmental sociology and my students are always amazed after doing the “ecological footprint” quiz what a difference living in a city can make to LOWER your footprint. Those greener-than-thou folks (and maybe the Paganer-than thou ones too? :)) sometimes seem to think that we all need to have our own little sustainable-living homestead to be doing it right, but higher population density also means less fossil fuel consumption for travel (we can walk, bike, take a bus or light rail) and heating and cooling costs (fewer single-family homes). The downside of course for gardening and such is that we have to find community garden space (which hopefully has been tested for lead) and/or get really good at growing stuff in pots.

    • Yeah, good point! It’s really rural and suburban folks like me who have the larger footprint. Between my daily car commute and heating an elderly farmhouse, I have a huge ecological debt to overcome. I can’t completely offset it, of course, but I do what I can.

      Meanwhile, Pagans too often think that rural living is more environmentally-sound. It’s not! And, anyway, Pagans have always been urbane, as many of our Hellenic Recon friends will be happy to point out.

      Gardening and buying local food is more practical for me. But walking to work or even taking public transportation is not. We need to do what we can, not angst unduly over what we can’t, I think. (But also be ready to figure out when we can do more than we’d previously thought!)

  18. Oh my goodness, Cat! I just came over here from a link from The Wild Hunt blog, and I think I’ve found a kindred spirit! I haven’t laughed this honestly in ages:)

    A few weeks ago on my blog, I was just ranting about the superior “look at me, look at me! i’m growing things!” attitude of some fellow community gardeners. But you put your finger on the point much more eloquently than I did:)

    Yesterday, my two young sons (7 and 4) and I spent the afternoon hiking at a nature preserve. We came back, and I made whole-wheat pasta with home-made pesto from home-grown (organic) basil and garlic, tossed with cubed fresh mozz from a local organic supplier. And then we ate it in front of the TV, watching some stupid big-Hollywood Disney movie. Talk about squelching smugness! At least I’m toes-in-the-dirt honest enough to admit it!

    You have been added to my must-reads, and I look forward to perusing your archives and reading future installments:)

    • Wow, Summer, thanks!

      And not just for the compliment (which I ate up with a spoon, of course) but for describing the joy of what we do. It ain’t about smugness or becoming P.C. It’s about how spending time in nature and cooking with real food (some of which we maybe grew ourselves or bought from real farmers we even know by name) feels good. Feels good in the same ways that invoking the gods under a sky full of rain or while walking on a beach feels good, because it is so alive, and so real.

      As is being a human being, and watching Disney with your kids, not sitting around being some kind of cultural puritan. *grin*

      (And I’m glad I made you laugh.)

  19. Another person linked from the Wild Hunt here. *waves* I’m about to start out on my own, and while I can’t garden yet (no yard) I DO plan to take advantage of farmers’ markets here.

    I also have a recipe for ricotta cheese somewhere (it’s a bit like cottage cheese–no fancy equipment necessary, just a regular saucepan). After this busy weekend is over, I’ll dig it out to share. :)

    • Awesome! Ricotta is on my list of cheeses to try, too.

      We also serve who visit the farmers’ market. *grin*

    • Don’t let not having a yard stop you!!! Do you have some sun somewhere, be it a patio or a sunny windowsill? A community garden nearby? You can do it if you want to:) Just google urban gardener, patio gardening, or community gardening. Dirt is everywhere, might as well take advantage of it;)

  20. I help write environmental policy for local government because, while I feel that individuals can lead the way, ultimately it takes a restructuring and community effort to really make much effort on most of these issues. So, with that, may I suggest that the most sustainable thing we can do as envrionmentalists and people who care about Nature is to become active in local government. That means participate in citizen advisory committees, attend public meetings, and, yes, run for office.

    • This is huge, Lonnie! And thank you for your service.

      I recently encountered a piece of writing through Grist, about Garett Brennan’s concept that there are multiple talents and multiple needs in the clean energy movement. Their work, at Focus the Nation, involves training young activists “according to four roles: Innovators, Technicians, Storytellers, and Politicos. They train young people in whichever role they’re best suited to, while helping them draw on the skills of others.”

      When I read this, I felt a thrill of recognition. I do my bit when it comes to contacting politicians, writing letters, and so on, but it is not my strength. I’m a teacher, a writer, and a part-time gardener and cook. I see myself as part innovator, and part storyteller.

      When people ask me why I bother, either with the plastic fast or with my efforts to eat locally and seasonally/sustainably, they typically point out that individual efforts cannot prevent the tragic effects of how we are exploiting the ecosystem… and they’re right.

      But what I hope I can help to do, participate in doing, is to change the story we tell ourselves, at least in this culture-within-a-culture of Paganism. I think of what blogger Priscilla Stuckey has written, of the need to create new cultural “scripts” to help us react to environmental challenges, and to (hopefully) avert catastrophe. And I think that this is where my best skills lie, where I am led to contribute the most.

      But yes, yes, a thousand times yes, our efforts cannot begin and end with our individual actions. Political involvement, both within the system and in opposition to it, is also desperately needed.

      What matters most, I think, is that we each seek out a place to begin to add our efforts to the work, and that we encourage each other to create change.

  21. Hilarious, informative, inspiring — you are a talented writer. My first visit here, and not the last. Keep on spreading the seeds, and keeping it real!

  22. Thank you for being so very honest. I am just learning how to move from being dependent on supermarkets, to realizing things taste FAR better fresh from the garden. Funny, we had gardens every summer growing up, and after I went out on my own, I didn’t do that.

    I don’t have a garden at home (will be getting some local home-grown vegetables soon, though), I eat way too much processed crap, etc. But, I was so proud of myself for getting happy chicken eggs this year. And finding a person who sold them *cheaply* meant a lot. No, not 100% organic (the feed is local, though not organic), but they are HAPPY chickens. I’ve met them, I know they are loved and well-cared for. It does make me sad, though, that I know there are people who will find fault in me for *that*!

    Thanks for being so down to earth and non-judgemental. It’s nice. :)

    • I think the organic label can be helpful in finding our way through the food jungle, but knowing your food source is far more significant. If you know the person who is tending those chickens, and you know that they get to scratch and peck and do their little chicken-hearted thing in the world–express their essential chicken-ness as Joel Salatin might say–that’s way more important than any label.

      In fact, there’s always someone cynical ready to exploit the technicalities of a label like organic, meeting the letter but not the spirit of the classification (as when Arizona organic lettuces are grown with manure trucked in from far away, and watered with water the local ecosystem cannot replenish).

      In the real world, I don’t think we get to be pure in what we do… just try to pick our compromises based on our ideals, and try to learn more about how to change the system that makes some of those compromises so destructive.

      Whaddaya gonna do about the judgmental types? I guess everyone needs hobbies, right? :D

      • Nicole YoungmanJuly 1, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

        That’s one of the things that drives me crazy about the “eat locally” movement, too, as much as I love aspects of it. I am NOT going to stop eating apples because they can’t be grown here, I’m sorry, and there’s really only so much eggplant you can eat in July. But eating strawberries and peaches and citrus from California when we can get ones grown locally/regionally is just nuts (and, of course, they taste like crap in comparison!).

    • (Also–seriously? Aren’t local, pastured-chicken eggs just the best? Who knew how different they would be!)

  23. 1) think double boiler (pan in large frypan will do it)
    2) One of my mantras: “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” (translation: there’s always a learning curve).
    Did you feed the icky stuff to the chickens? THey’d Love it, and if they ate it it wouldn’t be wasted…..

  24. Thank you for this post Cat. It makes me feel better about doing my small parts here in NYC :)

  25. Oh my, this made me laugh as well as completely sympathize. My was woeing over my completely lame heirloom tomatoes this morning, planted late due to… well, life. Looking across the alley at my neighbor’s beautiful garden already with ripe early tomatoes I could have cried (never mind she has full sun and thirty years of experience and I have partial share and 3 years.) I so needed to read this. <3 Thank you.

  26. Hi found you through Chas’s SRNB – great writing!

  27. great story and a fun read. I learned quite a bit from this post and am eager to put some of those tips to work. I always try to laugh at myself when I do similar blunders, and knowing I am not alone in this really helps. Thanks.

  28. Love the story!
    The other part, at least for me, of being greener, is looking at the entire footprint of our actions.
    The time was, when I was part of group that shared much food, when I too did the cheese, bread, canning…I still lust after those wonderful eggs still warm from the chicken….
    However now I look at the footprint of the doing/sharing/preserving (in what ever form) and go to the local, very good, farmers market. The economy of scale there makes my purchases much greener, and I am still not paying for plastic and long haul transport. Right now I am eating lots of blueberries and sweet corn, but come winter it will be turnips and cabbage.
    I live in a pre-owned house, it was not built green by today’s standards, but all the maintenance is, and I believe it to be greener than any new construction. And, if I actually owned a pair of yoga pants, they would have come from the second hand store…
    Please, keep writing of your adventures, they are wonderful!

  29. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

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Continuing the Discussion

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