Monday, March 29, 2010
100 mile diet in zone 3 -5
Recently, an expert from the local college gave an enrichment lecture at Jogas, one of the local bistros. His topic was the 100 mile diet and its feasibility in our valley. His conclusion was that it wasn't feasible, so grow as much of your own food as possible, don't do without coffee, tea and chocolate and be happy.
Ah-hum. Waving hand wildly from the back. Excuse me, Sir. I beg to differ.
Not only is it possible but we in the Kootenay-Boundary have the best of all senarios -- existing between desert in the Okanagan (zone 6) , through the mountains (zone 3) to the Creston valley where grain and fruit are grown. We have within 100 miles of Joybilee Farm -- Grains from Creston, the best grass fed beef, lamb and goat in the West -- grown right here, Okanagan fruits like grapes, cherries, peaches and, my goodness, our own apples, pears, cherries, plums and even hazelnuts and walnuts.
Local farm fresh eggs and poultry are available at the farm gate. And there is even an organic artisan cheese maker -- Jerseyland Organics -- right in Grand Forks. And the farmer's market is full of all the standard vegetables in season from May to October.
So yes, there is no coffee or chocolate grown locally. But how about peppermint tea, chamomile, saskatoon tea.. Oh, and no coconuts, oranges, avacadoes, mangoes, cashews but my goodness, no one is going to starve in this valley, following the 100 mile diet if they are preparing for the winter when the food is in season.
And that is the key -- preparing for winter when the food is in season. Canning, pressure canning, freezing and drying for winter use, at the peak of freshness, in the summer and fall.
I've been canning for winter for 28 years. It is a fun activity to do together as a family. Before we had our own acreage we harvested wild fruits and went to local farms to pick. We grew a big vegetable garden and learned to enjoy the vegetables and fruit that we could grow organically, ourselves.
We started raising our own eggs by building a chicken tractor, that housed 4 or 5 bantam hens and we moved the tractor every morning onto fresh ground. That gave us enough eggs for family use and also cleaned up the grubs around our apple trees, which increased our apple harvest.
We got a Saanan milk goat for her milk and milked her once a day -- leaving her babies on her during the day and separating them at night so that we could have the morning milk. The milk from one doe gave us 3 litres of milk from one daily milking -- 4 litres when she was fresh. That's enough for a batch of cheese or milk for a 4 person family.
And a kid or two for the freezer -- kid tastes like lamb, and is cut up the same way as lamb into leg roasts, chops, and stew meat or ground. Many cultures in the 10-40 window have goat as a staple meat in their diet, so there are lovely curries, and picante stews that start with goat meat. Or you can cook it using a lamb recipe and you won't notice any difference.
Most bantam hens will brood their own chicks, so we had replacement hens for eggs and roosters for soups -- very small roosters. Roosters begin to crow at 16 weeks of age so if you are in the city you want to put them in the soup pot before that.
We raised French angora rabbits as a dual purpose animal -- both for fiber for spinning, knitting and weaving -- and for meat. Rabbit meat is a delicacy in Italian, French and German cooking -- as well as in Native cuisine in North America.
A rabbit fryer is ready to put in the freezer at 14 weeks and will weigh 5 lbs. -- dressing out at 2 1/2 to 3 lbs. finished weight. Rabbits are easy to raise in a back yard hutch, even in the city. They are quiet and easy to manage. The average litter size is 6 to 8 kits so they are a great introduction to raising your own meat. Two does and a buck will give you ample meat for a family of 4 to have one meal a week.
Their droppings and the goat manure can be put directly on your garden without composting, too. It won't burn the plants and is full of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, plus minerals like calcium and zinc. And the rabbits will eat grass hay, and trimmings from your garden if they are started on them slowly.
What about vegetables? If you are cold like we are -- with potential frost all year here in the mountains -- you can still grow your own vegetables. We stick with the hardy vegetables -- well mulched potatoes, peas, flax, cabbage, kale, chard, beets, bok choy, sui choy, oriental radishes and carrots. But we grow many colours of each of these for interest. I also try beans every year under a row cover and have been successful 3 out of the last 4 years. Zucchini's also give us a few zukes from under their row cover. Winter squash, tomatoes and peppers grow so well in Grand Forks that I buy them from my friends at the farmer's market. I could grow them in a greenhouse at the farm.
We could grow our own oats and wheat here but we don't own the equipment to combine it for home use, so our neighbor at Hampshire Ranch grows it as straw and we feed it to the animals and then drink their milk.
Now before you get turned off at the thought of eating "Thumper" or "Billy the Kid". Look at the ethics. Everything must die at some point. Its part of living. When you raise your own meat for the family table you know that it has been raised humanely and without neglect or cruelty. The animal has had the best possible life -- with its every need met including its need for companionship with a human. Yes, domestic animals have a basic need for human companionship and humans have a basic need for animal companionship.
You can raise it without hormones, chemicals, or antibiotics ensuring that its environmental footprint is low. It can be fed the scraps that you would normally compost -- cabbage leaves, grass clippings, carrot peels and waste from the apple trees.
Then when it has accomplished its life's purpose you can humanely slaughter it for your own table. Your homesteading friends may be able to teach you this essential skill. Please, if you eat eggs and milk or buy grocery store meat, consider raising your own, if you are able.
So I conclude that there is nothing essential to nutrition that is not available within 100 miles of this lovely valley that we live in. And that the 100 mile diet is feasible for any who wish to engage it. But every one won't so the grocery stores are still needed.
A food co-op is beginning in our valley for those consumers who don't want to grow their own food but want fresh local meat, vegetables, fruit and grain. The Kettle Valley Food Co-op is having a members meeting in April in Grand Forks, B.C.
Oh, and about tea, coffee and chocolate -- not 100 mile diet material here -- but there is room in the 100 mile diet for indulgence. Its a lifetime commitment to healthy, sustainable eating -- not a religious exercise of abstinence for its own sake. So I suggest you chose the things that are important to you and start there.