It's been a long time coming, this here blog. I've been talking about sharing my ideas in a multitude of ways for years now, and here's hopefully to the start of it all.
This weekend, I spent Saturday with one of my favorite bloggers (and so much more!) the extraordinary, Ashley English (check out her blog @small measures), who was kind enough to host about ten of us for a canning class in her own home. As many of you know, I have become quite obsessed with canning and homesteading over the past couple of years; however, I just had to jump on the oppurtunity to meet Ashley and visit 'chez english' as she calls it..
Their home is a dream come true, and I'm sure most of the girls that were along with me on Saturday would agree.. A long dirt road winds up to their cute house on a hill, fully equipt with gardens, acres of land, bee hives, a chicken coop (or, more like, chicken sedan), and so so much more. Why I didn't take a single picture, beets me! ;)
It surely was an inspiration for anyone wanting to carry out their own homesteading dreams. So, we watched and listened to Ashley eloquently describe the ins and outs of the canning process as she poached, diced, spiced, and cooked up an amazing peach jam with ease. We sipped on homemade lemonade and cucumber water, and noshed on yummy salad, garden pesto pasta, a variety of pickled goodness, bread from farm and sparrow bakery, and last, but surely not least, peach cobbler with lemon verbena! fresh whipped cream and candied verbena! It was all to die for, and I sure left with a lot of wonderful ideas to add to my own list of homesteading dreams (this such accumulating list is slowly turning into a small novel..)
My own garden and canning ventures started at a young age when I spent afternoons and summers in my grandmother's yard across the street from the house I grew up in. If I wasn't high up in the magnolia tree, picking flowers or rearranging the canned goods in her cabinets, I was digging in the dirt searching for worms, or picking warm tomatoes off the vine (still my fav past time). Pretty much everyone in my family has a knack for living off the land, and a joy in it too. I guess, like most of my inherited traits, I get it honest...
My grandmother (far right) continues to grow the largest tomato plants I have ever seen (they reach over the roof!), my family shucks corn and puts up peas all summer for the winter, and still owns the family meat business that my grandfather's family started in Durham. My uncle has land with a pond, barns, and farm that could fulfill my homesteading dream (to the likes of 'chez english'). Matter of fact, when I went home a few weekends ago, we picked up about thirty pounds of tomatoes (and bags full of other veggies) that I quickly turned into my favorite sauce (animal vegetable miracle's tomato sauce) and canned for the winter. This many tomatoes is a days harvest for them.. oh, i can only hope for this one day!
I've been lucky enough to also have my own garden the past four years in the variety of locations I've lived within Asheville. The first year garden was mainly experimental and the summer was spent trying to figure out what to do with the surplus of peppers, tomatoes, and zuchinni that were all taking over the small plot it started out as. It was so much fun and I learned a lot just by trial and error. There was a 'nature area' for composting that soon gave rise to volunteer blackberries and tomatoes. There was a rhubard patch hiding behind some trees a neighbor told us about, and blackberries in another neighbors yard. Flowers were (some successful, some not) transplanted from my parents house in Durham to various spots in the yard and garden. Needless to say, there were many firsts (and many fails!) that year.
The following year I lived in an apartment and got quite accustomed to container gardening, as I was limited to two porches. This sparked my interest in being in the kitchen, and I spent hours cooking, baking, and making to replace the hours I'd previously spent in the garden. The only thing I successfully grew and harvested that year were tomatoes, herbs, and lettuce. But I did live within walking distance to the downtown farmers market where I became a regular and my love for local food took off. I got crazy ideas (then, not so much now, because these ideas have also taken off in the community..) that I wanted to make and sell cupcakes, or popsicles, or crafts, or better yet, start a farm and sell produce. (And if you know me well, these are things I still continue to talk about wanting to do..)
Just a few weeks ago we visited a friend in Salisbury's peach farm where I picked up peaches for jam and preserves, okra for pickling, and the best homemade peach ice cream I've ever tasted.
And at the Durham the farmer's market I picked up the cutest little peppers and yellow cucs to pickle. (The okra was from my uncle, and turned into more pickled curry okra since the first batch was a hit!)
And I'm just waiting a few weeks to head to my secret spot to pick pears for preserves.. these are last years pics, and I'm down to my last two jars.. Also hiding in there is miracle's chutney, my favorite curried pickled green tomatoes (long gone, and this year's don't seem to match up..), and hott hottt hotttt sawce (also long gone...)
The last two years I've been super lucky to be able to have a pretty steady garden at my old house (to be featured heavily in upcoming posts!) And I think this was the beginning of me starting to take myself seriously about wanting to be a part of this amazing movement going on. A movement that has deep roots in history and our community, and luckily, my family. I was able to appreciate it for so much more than just having access to local, tasty, healthy food year round (which I also LOVE..), but the chance to continue a family tradition I am deeply passionate about and hope to carry into the way I live my life. And maybe I can influence a few of you along the way to join the bandwagon, too!
I feel so lucky to have successfully grown my own food and started practicing a more sustainable lifestyle, and I hope to share some of this with all of you. I also feel incredibly lucky to know so many amazing people with access to such amazing local resources.
Thanks to you all for your wonderful support over the years!