Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Growing My Own Food Has Taught Me

I've had a sort of internal dialogue running through my head for weeks. Spring 2014 was our first real and successful garden. I never knew that planting it would lead to the discoveries we've made along the way. It is highly gratifying to go out in your backyard and see life occurring around you, see it repeat itself, and even for the most part care for itself.
 Where I grew tomato plants this summer, I now find myself pulling up baby tomato plants that have sprouted from the seeds of fallen tomatoes. All. by. themselves. This is not a what you should be eating blog post. Certainly I have a lot of opinions on mass-produced food, big farming, pesticides, GMOs, and processed food, but everyone has the right to eat whatever they want.
 I like to go out to the garden sometimes and just watch. For instance, just a few days ago those baby sugar snap peas were not there. There was only a small white flower. It just amazes me.
 I love watching the bees work in the garden. If you've never taken any interest in the importance of bees when it comes to food, you should! Bees are completely fascinating. God created them to know how to do every single thing they need to survive. Their queen dies? The worker bees MAKE a new one. We don't need to interfere. Unfortunately, we have interfered, and now colonies are collapsing. There is a lot to be said about bees, but instead of hearing it from me, I suggest you watch Vanishing of the Bees on Netflix. My husband and I are currently doing our research on organic beekeeping, and will be setting up our equipment this winter to begin beekeeping in the spring.
 I love the fact that there is no ingredient list here. If there was, it would say water, sunshine, and organic "soil". I put soil in quotes because I actually don't use soil for my beds. I follow the square foot gardening method, and it is a mixture of organic materials such as peat, vermiculite, earthworm castings, cow manure, chicken manure. There are no weed seeds in it, like there are in bagged soil. Any weeds I get in my boxes are only if they blow in with the wind.
 Chickens have been our newest adventure and have kept me on Google nonstop. Sure, I did a lot of research before we got our chickens so that I'd know what to expect. What I didn't know is that eggs are seasonal. Did you know that? There are all kinds of things you learn when you buy from a local farmers' market or produce your own. Suddenly you realize things just don't appear on a shelf or at your fingertips. Someone put in effort for that food to be on a shelf.
Chickens molt in the fall/winter. After a lot of reading, I found out that means they will lose some feathers (some more than others) and will slow or stop completely producing eggs. This is a time of renewal for their reproductive organs, and will keep the quality of the eggs strong when they begin again, or pick up production. We have four hens. Before we got chickens, I thought that meant we'd get four eggs a day. Wrong. We have never had more than two eggs in one day. Granted we bought them in the fall, not even knowing anything about molting season. There are things some people do, to try to amp up production during this time or kind of "trick the hens" into thinking there is more daylight than there actually is. We've decided to just let it happen naturally. If God designed them to operate this way, it's for a good reason. They don't live to serve us. I can tell you one other thing I've learned about natural (healthy diet, no antibiotics, no hormones) eggs- the shells are thicker, the yolks are so yellow that they almost look orange, and the yolks are THICK. They don't easily break or run like typical grocery store eggs.

Nature is more interesting than you might think! None of this stuff is new, but it's new to me. Do people think we're weird? Probably. Wasting our time? Probably. Do I care? Nope. Growing my own food has taught me that food is precious. It does not come easy. It does not come quickly. Used correctly, it has all kinds of power to nourish our bodies in the ways I believe God intended when He created it.

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