Hunting and Gathering

The theme of the last few days has been modern day hunting and gathering. Here at the beautiful Dixon Lake our eldest son, Cade has been fishing four days in a row, relishing some peaceful alone time from his siblings I am sure, and getting all the old timers excited for his efforts. If he had a fish on, invariably an old guy would yell, “Hey, someone get that boy a net!” Or, ” That kid is taking all the fish outta here.”

We are currently at Dixon Lake in Escondido, CA – a truly beautiful spot. Our campsite has a view of Escondido valley (think city lights out our bedroom window at night) on one side and the lake and woods on the other. Louis and Mireille, our friends from France, have joined us here at the park as well. The dads took the older kids fishing and with the combined efforts of Louis and Ludvic, brought in a Rainbow Trout big enough to feed us for 2 dinners! It also doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore to pile 10 people in our Airstream:)                                                                                                                                                                   

The fish caught were given the respect due any creature that loses it’s life to feed ours. Nate and the kids thanked the fish, which naturally progressed into a biology lesson with Nate explaining the parts of the fish as he was dissecting it for the freezer.

The psychology and the spirituality and the diet of the hunter/gatherer intrigues me. I struggle sometimes with any attempt to juxtapose that life with what is in front of us today. Maybe no era has been ideal ( in thinking of the hunter/gatherer era I am really grateful for a flushing RV toilet, hot running water, and a laptop to share my pictures ) but what have we lost for our luxuries? What makes old men sprint across a parking lot at 6:00 in the morning to get their fishing permits? What are our primal needs? Are we missing something by not dancing around a fire in the wilderness, or having a house that folds up in minutes, to follow the herds? What have we gained/lost in our personal property rights and borders?  Are we missing something by insulating ourselves with security? Just some questions. Any ideas?

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A view in Escondido

Enjoy the view from our campsite in Dover Lake State Park – Escondido, CA

We are going to use this campground as a home base for visiting several farms in the area this week…and visiting the local markets of course. I will try to get some shots of the view on the other side…the lake and woods.

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Heaven on earth

After saying warm goodbyes to Walking J Farm, we settled in San Diego, CA for about a week or so. I feel a little underdressed in this part of the country (like Thoreau I am a little suspicious of any enterprise requiring new clothes, and am more comfortable in clothes with a few tears or stains) 98% of me likes quiet, peaceful places with lots of grass, trees and open sky.

But big cities, like San Diego, have one thing going for them. Local. Food. Variety. Big cities are a place where farmers in the surrounding area can bring their food and sell to a lot of people in one place, and there is generally the demand needed for good sale. We went to the Little Italy Farmer’s Market in downtown San Diego, Saturday. While feeding the parking meter and trying to keep all four kids on the sidewalk and not in the road, I overheard this casually dressed muscular man talking to a biker-looking-dude about how he had smoked his ham with such and such a method and spices, etc. I thought it was interesting that these two men cared enough about their meat to have a conversation about it on a Saturday morning.  We continued down the sidewalk and it wasn’t long before my senses were overloaded. We came away with just a few of the offerings: chanterelle mushrooms, pea shoots, pepper spiced cheese curds, sourdough bread, raspberries, limes, oranges, dried pluots, golden raisins, dried bing cherries and apricots, garlic-parsley-pepper spread (to die for), pickled garlic, carrots, kale, bok choy, cabbage, celery, beets, fresh-squeezed orange juice…I could get used to a year round Creative bounty like this. Not to mention the street entertainment. Have you ever seen an accordion playing musician labeled “Smiling Jack” in a big box store? Or a drummer playing a full range of sounds on a wooden box? What live music is appropriate in Walmart?  Only the kind of “canned” music that is being played across the whole of our country just as the same clothes are available from one Walmart to another, coast to coast.  What I love about traveling is that each city, each region has it’s own treasures, diversity, tastes…when stewarded by the community. But when a commercial chain plops itself down and sets up shop, this diversity is lost to department headings of Women, Pharmacy, Toys, Housewares…made by who knows who. I offer you an alternative. Look your producer in the eye and see the passion for their product light their face. Juxtapose the fresh ideas of the farmers market against the corporate security of stale profit margins. See a one of a kind offering of individual creativity.  Feel the love, eat the love.

So, I have realized this a few times before but it has made itself clearer in the last months… I am at my happiest showing my inner divinity creating in the kitchen. Cooking in a little Airstream kitchen has definitely not squelched this desire. This kitchen happiness is something we are taking into consideration as we think about what the future holds for making a livelihood.

I have come to anticipate new markets, the people that may be met and the new connections that will be made in our “web” of life.  We have just made some new friends, Mike and Vesna, along with their three boys. They are a delightful, inspiring couple from Canada who sold it all and started traveling about three weeks ago. For their fun and heartening blog go to www.mudakiller.com We shared a couple of days with them before we had to move north, but will be doing our best to see them again in the near future as we are not too far away.

On another note, we did some touristy things, one of them was going to the world famous San Diego Zoo. We also took some of our farmer’s market bounty as a picnic to La Jolla Cove where the barking seals hang out near the tide pools and rocks.

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Growing Grass Polyculture Style At The Walking J Farm

We followed Louis and Mireille Roux to Walking J Farm in Amado, AZ. We have been here two weeks and are loving it.

The lineup –

Including our hosts, Jim and Tina, there are four families…twelve kids, and two single WWOOFers. Our kids are in hog heaven with all the playmates available.

As far as WWOOFing goes this farm has been great. There is laundry on-site and all the pastured chicken and beef we could want. Nearby is Forever Yong Farm for our fresh salad greens, carrots and Napa cabbage. Nate works full days here, 5 days a week, which gives me freedom to do farm work around my housekeeping and homeschooling tasks.

What we have been doing here –

Chicken processing day happens every two weeks (150 birds every other Monday!):

Game night on Saturdays

For our Maggie’s 6th birthday party we had a potluck and campfire cookout with everyone. Mireille played the accordion and Casey played the harmonica, which prompted dancing by the little girls.

There is also the daily interaction between moms, dads, and kids…including an easy but steady flow of farm work. Farm work has included daily moving of the chicken “tractors”, animal care and feeding, preparing new garden acreage, fence building, seed planting, plowing fields for new grass planting, etc. It is more than a full-time job to build a farm like this from scratch.

Our hosts, Jim and Tina, took the plunge into sustainable agriculture (grass based polyculture) about a year and a half ago. Jim grew up ranching, and has been in several agriculturally based business ventures as well as owning a fabrication shop and general contracting company. Tina has been a Montessori teacher and teaches yoga. Their farm, Walking J Farm, is what is called a polyculture farm and produces pastured broilers, turkeys and beef. They are also growing their egg and pig production. With their goats, Tina is hoping to begin having milk for their family. Eventually they would like to have cows for a raw milk herdshare program. (Yeah!)

Real Food In the Airstream Kitchen

I have started my first brew of authentic ginger ale and I have been making lots of broths and soups with the meats and bones available here. I also made a chicken liver pate’ out of the pastured chicken livers from “chicken” day. If you are curious about why we would want to eat liver read here.

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New Friends

The day after Christmas we were hanging around the trailer having some post Christmas fun. Our host was away and Nate had stepped out. There is virtually no traffic on our host Kyle’s road so I was surprised mid-afternoon to see a woman walking down Kyle’s driveway. I poked my head out, saw an RV at the end of the driveway and asked if she was looking for Kyle.

Thus began a friendship with Louis and Mirielle, a French couple and their two young boys, who are traveling in the U.S. for 6 months, WWOOFing and sightseeing. They ended up staying at Kyle’s place for a week and talked us into following them to the next farm when we were done at Kyle’s.

We have many wonderful conversations with Mirielle. She speaks fluent English but her husband and boys are just learning. We talk about education, philosophy, religion, child-rearing, non-violent communication and our culture’s differences and similarities. We learn French words…which we seem to forget the next day:) We learned that certain four letter words that have to do with excrement are understood in French or English, as my husband and Louis did their best to work together and communicate.

We shared a meal in our small trailer (10 people!), and shared stories of our lives. Louis was a dairy farmer.  Mirielle teaches foot reflexology and had a small Montessori school. Other days we play games with all of the children…language doesn’t seem to be a barrier to having childlike fun.

Our lives are richer because of the perspectives that new friends bring.

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Phase Two

Almost three weeks ago saw us leaving Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. This marked the end of Phase One, resting and exploring and in general being in a vacation mode. December 13 saw us arriving at our first actual “farm” to work at. Phase Two. It has been a busy three weeks, thus the lag in writing, full of interesting experiences and work.

For those who may not know what WWOOF is, it is an organization – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It had it’s birth in New Zealand and has now spread throughout the world. The point of the organization is to connect people who want to learn about organic farming with farms who are willing to teach and feed in exchange for the labor of these volunteers. For a nominal fee you can sign up with the WWOOF organization of your choice, like USA or New Zealand, and search by region and farm description.

We chose southern AZ to start our WWOOFing adventures in, mostly because the weather is pretty nice this time of year. We sent out letters to farms in Arizona and New Mexico, introducing our family, our goals for learning, etc. We got about 15 responses back from farms willing to take a family.

We are currently at the homestead of Kyle Young, Erda Kroft, in Arivaca, AZ. It is in the territory where the Apaches roamed and not too far from where Geronimo ultimately surrendered. Arivaca itself is in a valley surrounded by mountains. Beautiful, though brown this time of year.

We came here with the intention of staying just two weeks, but within a few days we decided we would stay longer, in the hopes of being able to learn to build a wood-fired horno oven for baking things like bread, tortillas and pizzas.

The things we have been learning can’t really be fit to a scope and sequence … but I am confident that if we keep on, the pieces will fit together into a useful tapestry for the future warming of our own homestead.

A list of what we have been doing:

Transplanting seedlings, butchering roosters, fermented fruit chutney making, moving a LOT of dirt, building a new garden site, sauerkraut making, planting seedlings in the new garden, fence building, free amendment hauling (A.K.A. getting manure from another farm and being confronted by a snorting, protective male llama). And now horno oven building. Here are some pictures of the beginning stages. Here is a link to a finished (small) horno that Kyle has built before. http://www.erdakroft.com/wood-fired-oven-workshop/

Our host is a single guy in his late 50’s. A natural builder, he has built his home and

outbuildings out of cob construction mixed with bamboo. He is the type of guy who knows a little bit about everything.

The food we have gotten from Kyle, though not plentiful for a family of 6, has been great. Stewing rooster, Black Copper Maran eggs that are worth $5/piece, biodynamic persimmons, grapefruit and lemons…and we have been introduced to other local farmers for grass-fed meats and greens.  There is still a shortage of available raw milk, which is understandable with the lack of good pasture in this area. 150 years ago this whole area was a lush pastureland with head high perennial grasses. Due to heavy ranching and overgrazing it is now predominately populated with mesquite trees and cactus.

Two weeks ago I found a gallon of raw milk at the Food Conspiracy Co-op in Tucson…for $13 a gallon. I ignored the organic milk next to it for half the price and made a home for the Save Your Dairy raw milk in my cart, with only a small pang of monetary guilt.

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Last of Phase One-Carlsbad Caverns

Our tourist days eventually had to come to an end. At least for now:) From Fort Davis, TX we journeyed on to Carlsbad Caverns. It was truly amazing and our pictures won’t do it justice.

I think we have actually had our fill of beautiful sights and tours and state and national parks and picture taking for a bit. We are on to the next phase, more on that in the next post…but first a few poor pictures of a beautiful place.

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