There is no easy way to capsulize what has been happening, but I came across something in all my reading that has given me a lot to think about, so let me share it and see what I can do.
Traditionally, this is the time for lots of cleaning. Mostly because I anticipate company, or at least cannot even think about erecting a tree in my house or baking dozens of cookies without cleaning off lots of horizontal space and cutting the dust load about 60%...and it's very tiring.
I save articles and things I want to read all year long, and get to them when I can, and many of them this year have been about sustainable farming including checklists and guidelines about measuring progress. I've taken the liberty of condensing them all into a workable list for 2009 and so I am going to treat you all to a "test run" if you don't mind. (Those of you groaning, can exit here; the rest of you find a chair.)
You could follow this list daily, and come Spring, I am sure we will. But for this time of year, there are certain considerations that might limit us, as you will see.
Plant something. I took advantage of our little aspect of Global Warming (thank you, George Bush!) and put in another 65 garlic bulbs and about the same number of tulip bulbs before any cold temperatures set the frost in the ground. It sets later and later each year, and although gardening wisdom tells us to do all this way back in September or October, I have discovered that if you do that, our freaky temperature swings often get the bulbs starting too early, and they get vegetative growth in the Fall, and do miserably in the Spring. So perhaps I was pushing the limits by doing all this at the end of November, but we shall see. (And it has worked for the last three years, so who knows?. Anybody else having to alter their farming schedule due to changing weather patterns?
Harvest something. We participated in the Thanksgiving Farmer's Market and took jams and jellies to sell. We were actually able to harvest windfall apples and quince in November, and so we put up quince jelly and apple jam. And we are still harvesting eggs in December!
Even though we turned our light off at Thanksgiving, the girls are still laying. Any of my other chicken friends still collecting?
Preserve something. In the more traditional sense, that would mean something like this. I get tired just looking at the picture. But, we did put up more jams and applesauce even in November, and I like to keep my aspirations high...but seriously, I read a blog post that reminded me I had all but forgotten the cheese in the cellar fridge...so I've been tending to them. I'm hesitant to open them...and what the heck, one is Parmesan and the other Cheddar, both benefit from aging.
Prep something. We are planning on hatching turkey poults next spring, so there were calculating decisions when it came to harvesting for our customers this year. In the end, DH decided he liked the Bourbon Reds better, and so they have been designated as our official layer flock for next year, but I couldn't give up our Narragansett tom, Onyx. A face only a mother could love...
Anyway, I prepped their pen by laying a thick layer of straw in the back half to give them insulation against the cold ground and a draft blocker. We have six left; two toms and four hens (two of those have dates with the processor after the New Year.)
Cook something. It wasn't hard to fulfill this item. Jams, jellies, cookies, turkeys, dips, party foods, and candy...in addition to the regular stuff with as much farm food as we could manage. Favorite farm food used so far: garlic scape pesto. I put it up in the early summer when the scapes were ripening, and it freezes very well. It is yummy! What's everyone's favorite "farm food" that they used for the holidays?
Manage reserves. For us, we planned to give lots of homemade gifts this year. So managing reserves was all about deciding which went for gifts, and which stayed for consumption here. My ultimate foodie gift box went to my sister in Monterey, who got goat cheeses, jams, maple syrup, organic popcorn, mustard and an antique platter in one of her patterns. (Collecting antiques is like recycling, right?)
She made me a beautiful necklace for Christmas, which is kind of like managing reserves for her...she collects beautiful stones and beads and she has an entire room full. (Beader's heaven)
Work on local food systems. We participated in the Thanksgiving Farmer's Market in Bennington, VT. It was indoors (thankfully!) and it was a lot of fun. We got to bring our yarns as well, and business partner Allison featured her new line of mustards. Participating in the market this year was very educational and connected us to consumers in a way we had never done before. (Can't wait for next year.) We are planning several plantings of beans for drying for next year, as that was one item I thought needed better representation at the market. People have gotten away from using beans, and they are a wonderful source of protein, vitamins, etc. and great for winter food storage. What other items have people noticed are wanting at the Farmer's Markets?
Reduce waste/recycle. I'm busy turning old wood into a new coop, sending outgrown clothes to a friend's two daughters, and making a dedicated effort to use up my stashed yarn into worthwhile projects and finished items. (Talk about reducing wasted space!) And I happened by a neighbor's farm at the right time two weeks ago...she was cleaning out a storage bin and was taking the expedient route and simply shoveling the old spelt
into the tractor bucket for dumping. I snagged 4 big bags simply by being willing to shovel them full while she dumped her load in the compost pile. Turns out the turkeys and chickens really love the stuff, and it's organic!
Learn something. This is perhaps the hardest one to document. Besides learning what spelt was, and reading all those articles about sustainable farming and the like, what can I point to as new learning? How about learning that Canadian geese (despite being named for our snowy neighbor to the North) do not really like snow. In fact, they seldom come out of the barn unless paths have been well shoveled, or there is something decidedly NOT snowy to walk upon...like say, a snow angel?
What has everyone learned lately?
And finally, my own personal addition to the 2009 list:
Be a friend. What is more important to sustainable living than building a community of people that you care for and want to be around? I have learned painfully and poignantly this year that family can be rotten (don't panic "family" that are reading this! I don't mean you. Believe me, the rotten ones aren't reading-not that I'd care if they were, but they are off spending the thousands that they stole, and wouldn't know how to read a blog if they wanted to...but I digress...) and friends can be found in unusual places. Better to cultivate the friends...
What do you like about your friends?
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday, and looking forward to blogversations in the new year!