So, how’d it go?

We’ve come to the end of the week-long Ban the Barcode event. It was a really interesting week. Actually, the lead-up to the week was very interesting as well.

I found a real love and enjoyment of going to farmer’s markets in search of produce and local foods. It’s easy to get into a rut when going to the supermarket produce section, the selection is nowhere near as varied, nor as solely seasonal as what you find at farmer’s market. Getting to talk to the people who grew the produce, who created the product themselves – nothing beats that! It helps to tie you into the community as well, and gives you a vested interest in seeing it continue to thrive.

In the course of getting ready for the event, I discovered a desire in myself to be more in charge of the foods we’re eating. Making as much of it as I can right now, picking up new skills and learning to do things I’ve never done before – like canning or making cheese. Eventually growing a garden so that we’re able to supply more of our own food. Putting food by so that in the winter, we can rely on what’s in our pantry or freezer(s) instead of buying out of season produce shipped in from some agribusiness here in the states or from some other country (which also seriously increases the carbon footprint of that food).

I’ve already started gathering books and websites to better learn about how to grow and what will grow in our short-growing season state. Colorado’s late frost date for Spring, and early frost date for Autumn mean that growing produce is a little trickier than in some other states. I’m happy that the part of the state I live in is at an elevation that will actually allow for a growing season at all, since parts like the mountains can be extremely tricky to grow in. If I do my planning and preparation correctly, I’ll be ready when planting time comes around next Spring.

One of the other benefits of this week has been really looking at what we eat. We’ve discovered that there are a few things that absolutely will still be purchased at the grocery store. One of those things is orange juice. Oranges don’t grow in Colorado, so I won’t be able to get them locally. My husband has been drinking orange juice every morning with breakfast since he was a young boy, and isn’t willing to give it up – to him, breakfast needs to have orange juice with it. The best we can do is buy organic orange juice that uses oranges only from the States, so they’ve had a short-ish trip to the grocery store. Another thing we’ll be continuing to purchase at the stores for a while longer is milk. I’m trying really hard to find a local dairy that leaves their cows in the field except during milking. Until then, I’ll be using milk from Colorado cows – cows that haven’t been treated with RBst – that I can get from the grocery stores.

So much of this falls in with our desire to tread more lightly on the earth. To be more responsible, and less wasteful. To live a greener life, in better accordance with the seasons. After all, as I’m teaching our children about the seasons, and as we celebrate the Turning of the Wheel, what does it show them if there is no connection to the land the food comes from, to the animals that we get our meat and dairy from? There needs to be that link, that understanding that how we live not only affects us, but it affects the land that our food grows on.

If you were Banning the Barcode this week with us, what was your outcome? Did you find things that just didn’t work? Did you learn something important about yourself?

If you didn’t join in the fun in time for the Summer Solstice, no worries! There’s talk that we’ll be Banning the Barcode again for Autumn. :)

Ban the Barcode!

So over on Facebook, a friend of mine started an event called Ban the Barcode (which is going on through this week). I thought this sounded like an awesome thing to be involved in, and figured it was something I could do. Perhaps not easily, but I could definitely do it. So I started looking at the foods we eat, and trying to figure out what we could change.

Unlike some families, it wouldn’t be totally hard to do, since we’d gotten rid of all the artificials (colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives) back in 2003, and corn syrup/dextrose (they are the same thing, just a different name) followed in 2005. After those eliminations were made, we found things that were made without all the artificials, but they were expensive. As we started really paying attention we noticed something else – a very sneaky something else. Continue reading

Cereal! What to do about cereal?

In the process of changing our lives to one of self-reliance, sustainability, and better health, one of the things I must always keep in mind is that my husband changes his mind slowly. I must present information to him several times, and give it a chance to take root in his brain – and give plenty of time for him to ask questions – before a major change to our lives can be made. When approaching him about eating better, and relying less on supermarkets for our food (and thus be able to further my goal to Ban the Barcode), one of the things I had to promise was that there would be something quick and easy for breakfast. So to make good on that promise, I started looking at what I could make at home. Hot oatmeal will be great on our cold winter mornings (and we do get them here in Colorado), but during the warmer months, that’s not going to fly. So what can I make? Granola! I can do granola! I have rolled oats, I have dried fruit, and I have honey. I can totally do this! Continue reading

Bagel how-to

After posting about my bagel experience on the Ban the Barcode event page, I was asked to share my recipe and how I did it. Helping people learn to make the things that they’d normally buy is a great way to Ban the Barcode, so here we go!

Ingredients for the basic dough:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon or packet of active dry yeast
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Ingredients for bagels:

  • Basic recipe
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or whatever you’d like to use on top of the bagel

First step, proofing the yeast: The water needs to be hot – between 100 and 115 fahrenheit. Take your measured hot water, pour it into a large bowl, add the sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the yeast to your water-sugar combo, and stir. Then let the whole thing sit for about about 5-6 minutes, so the yeast can activate and bloom. If your yeast doesn’t do anything, and you know your water wasn’t too hot, then you’ve got tired yeast. At that point, it’s time to buy more yeast. Continue reading

Bagels? Bagels!

Aside from cereal, bagels are one of the most consumed store-bought products in our house. My husband’s preferred brand of everything bagel is pretty costly – $4.29 at our local store for a package of 6 and where as the ingredients {Unbromated Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid) Water, Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Yeast; contains 2% or less of: Yellow Cornmeal, Salt, Sesame Seed, Poppy Seed, Guar Gum, Monoglycerides, Roasted Garlic, Calcium Propionate, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Acetate, Sodium Propionate, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Acetate, Sodium Propionate and Sorbic Acid (to Retard Spoilage) Enzymes, L-Cysteine and Baking Soda} aren’t all horrible, they’re also not great. This isn’t really the kind of food I want my husband eating every day – that’s right, one bagel a day for his work lunch.

Surely, armed with my trusty bread machine, I can create a better bagel than that, right? So on I broke out my bread machine, and the accompanying recipe book (which I’ve scribbled recipe alterations in) and got to work. The recipe worked just fine, and the boiling water bath went great, and the first batch of bagels I’d ever made was in the oven and ready to go! Continue reading

The Unexpected Homesteader?

So how can homesteading possibly be unexpected? It’s not as though one wakes up in the morning to discover that they’re living on an acre or two with livestock, orchard, and bountiful garden that wasn’t there the night before. :)

In our case, it’s unexpected because we didn’t set out to do this. We’ve slowly worked our way to this point. We started down this road when we removed all the artificials from our diet – colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners. Then we removed corn syrup/dextrose and HFCS. I’ve been doing most of my own baking for years, and trying to buy locally if I could, but honestly hadn’t put much effort into it. Sometimes I had my husband pick up bread on the way home and if we really wanted produce that wasn’t seasonal or local, we’d buy it. We also use more packaged products than we really should considering the limits of our monthly budget.

Recently, I’ve become more and more irritated with our food system. I’m maddened by the constant push of “healthy” foods – that when you turn the box over and read the ingredients you find items that bear no resemblance to food in the least. Maddened by the fact that boxes get smaller but the price stays the same, so that the food manufacturer can claim they didn’t raise prices. Irritated that they’ll change the food without notice, so that you find out only when you bite into it and the taste or texture is different. I’m irritated that no matter what the consumer says, the companies (and the government agencies) ignore us and continue to pursue their bottom line – finding the cheapest way to turn a profit. Continue reading