Sharon Astyk, one of my favorite writers, has just announced the beginning of her Independence Days challenge for 2012. I’ll be playing along and reporting here. Now I did say that my next post would discuss how I actually garden ... and it will ... but since Independence Days focuses on food, and we like to grow as much of our food at home as we can, it’s closely related to gardening. At least it is to me, and it’s my blog, after all.
What are Independence Days? Astyk borrowed the expression from Carla Emery, author of The Encyclopedia of Country Living. One of Emery’s goals was to feed her family as much as possible from her own labor. To do this, she tried to plant something every day from late winter to mid-summer, so they would have a wide choice of foods to eat over an extended period of time. By mid-summer some of the crops were ready to be harvested and put up, so from then through late fall she tried to do a little of that every day, to ensure her family had some home-grown food in winter and spring. During the winter and for as long into the following spring as possible, she and her family made it their goal to eat some of the stored food each day. For Emery, Independence Days were the days, or perhaps just meals, that she could feed her family from just what they grew. Independence Days represented a struggle, but one that was worthwhile for her and her family. Astyk, in adopting the term for her family and her book Independence Days, reminds us that in the midst of the economic, energetic, and environmental difficulties of our time, one of the best ways we can respond is to make the growing, preserving, storing, cooking, and eating of locally-grown foods a central part of our lives. But she also knows that many of us don’t have the skills we need to preserve, store, and cook unprocessed foods in low-cost, low-energy ways. Hence her book, and it’s a good overview of a big subject, enough to get you started if you haven’t done much or any of these before. Later on I’ll suggest some other books that go more in depth into some of the topics, for those of you who want that info.
Astyk runs the Independence Day challenge not for competitive purposes, but so we can see and note the positive steps we take each day toward our own Independence Days. Perhaps you think you haven’t done enough if you haven’t spent all day digging up your garden or canning quart after quart of produce. It’s not that concentrated efforts like these don’t make a big difference - they do - but doing a little bit every day is easier for most of us and will end up being a big accomplishment when seen over a whole year. Looking back over your week and noting all the little things you did helps to keep you focused and looking forward.
The categories Astyk set up and the reasons for them can be found here (see the Feb. 1, 2012 entry). I may as well get started with what I did this week, since it’s Friday and she suggested reporting on Fridays. For those of you who live in the St. Louis metro area or other areas with similar climates who want to know what gardening activities are good to do at various times, you’ll be especially interested in the first two categories.
Plant something: I started onion and leek plants in flats and put the flats on the glassed-in porch. It’s still too cold to put anything in the cold frame, but the porch is warm enough to start seeds.
Harvest something: nothing this week, since I don’t have any hoop houses or other enclosures over the outdoor garden. It is winter, after all.
Preserve something: nothing this week, see above.
Waste not: I started drying the egg shells rather than just reflexively tossing them into the compost pile (not that composting them is a waste, but I have ideas for other uses for them). I checked the various stored veggies to ensure they are OK when I removed some to eat.
Want not: nothing particular this week.
Eat the food: homegrown butternut squash, storage radishes, beets, turnips, sunchokes, and kimchi; sun-dried locally grown peaches, Mike’s homemade wine from home-grown elderberries.
Build community food systems: this blog post would be it.
Skill up: I’m sowing seeds according to the biodynamic calendar this year for the first time.