A Challenge for July

One of the first things I did after we started a garden was begin reading. I wanted to sop up as much information as I possibly could because I knew absolutely nothing. Additionally, I was so excited about gardening that when the sun went down and I had to retreat inside, I didn’t want the magic to stop. I searched for stories that would entertain me when I couldn’t be among the plants.

As I was browsing the Colony Urban Farm Store In Winston-Salem, which had quickly become my favorite place for heirloom seeds, local honey, and inspirational products, I stumbled across a book that caught my eye. Farm City, by Novella Carpenter, is the memoir of a woman who found herself in the inner city, creating what she called a “squat garden” on the abandoned lot nextdoor, keeping bees on the deck of her second story duplex, and eventually raising various farm animals from turkeys to rabbits to pigs. She described in hilarious detail all of the struggles and successes she faced along the way. I couldn’t put it down.

I left the book with two key takeaways. The first, to Mitch’s dismay, is that I want to raise a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner next year. Some of you may find that a little over-the-top, but I’m going to give that turkey the best turkey life before he arrives on my table. I’ve had friends and family tell me they could never eat an animal they raised, and I’ll take that – as long as they promise to eat one I’ve raised.

The second takeaway is that for too long, I’ve been too far removed from my food. I would go to the grocery store and place things in my cart without giving much (if any) thought to where the items came from. Occasionally I would visit a local store for something they prepared in-house that I couldn’t get anywhere else or a farmer’s market as a family activity on the weekends. But most of the time, even when my grocery list was comprised of ingredients for healthy meals that I’d meticulously planned for the week ahead, I grabbed my food without much concern for where it came from or how it was made.

In her book, Novella recounts how she decided to live for the month of July off of only food that she had grown in the garden, eggs from chickens she kept, or meat from animals she raised. Don’t worry, besides Mr. Turkey, I don’t plan on ever raising any animals for meat (but just wait for the egg-laying hens blog in a couple months!), so being entirely self-sufficient is not in the plan. But her experiment did inspire me to take on a challenge of my own.

Starting on July 1, our family will eat only foods produced by ourselves in the garden or by local farmers. We’ve already begun scoping out the local farmers markets where we’ll do most of our shopping. And, we’ll spend a lot of time at the Lewisville Country Market, our current go-to for locally sourced favorites. Through the process I hope to not only discover some new foods, recipes, and local markets, but also to meet and interact with local farmers and the people connected to them. I want to know more about the food I eat and the food we feed our family. And, I’m interested to understand the difference in price compared to shopping at the grocery store.

As more and more of our plants come into harvest, we’ve already started feeling more connected to our food. This evening we had baked chicken with pesto, baked zucchini, and sautéed green beans, all prepared with ingredients from our most recent harvest. I’ll keep you up to speed on what we learn come July, but in the meantime, enjoy a picture of our delicious, mostly homegrown meal.

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