Ms Betterhome

Independence Days Challenge 2010
March 2, 2010, 10:12 pm
Filed under: enviro, food, gardening, independence days, learning | Tags: , , ,

I’m a huge fan of Sharon Astyk’s writing, and really have appreciated the things I’ve learned from her over the past couple of years. Last year I took the Independence Days challenge, despite being in the ‘wrong’ hemisphere in some respects. Work is crazy, but I’m planning to take the challenge again, because I did find that I did an amazing amount of growing, harvesting, cooking & preparing thanks to the sense of mindfulness the challenge brings.

You can read the full rationale here, but this is the core of the challenge (quoted from Sharon’s ye olde blog):

We’ve got seven categories here, and anything you deem to fit counts as an accomplishment. Here are the categories:

1. Plant something – This is obviously something that many of us are doing now anyway, but it should be a reminder that gardening isn’t “put in the garden on memorial day and that’s it” – most of us can grow over a longer season than we do, and enjoy fresh foods grown through spring, summer and fall, and even into or through winter in many places. Even if you live in an apartment, you can sprout seeds. So keep on planting!

2. Harvest something – Folks in the Southern Hemisphere are doing this full swing, but as soon as you pick the first dandelion from your yard, it counts if you ate it or preserved it. Don’t forget to include food you forage – whether from wild marginal areas, or even just from the neighbor’s trees that he never harvests (ask, obviously).

3. Preserve something – For me this starts as soon as the asparagus, nettles and rhubarb are up. Canning looks like a big scary project if you have to can a truckload of green beans on a hot day in July. Dehydrating seems overwhelming if you have to pick the pits out of 4 bushels of plums in a single afternoon when you’d rather be doing something else. And yes, sometimes everything comes ripe at once, some big jobs can’t be avoided, and you just put on the loud rock and roll and go at it. But a little at a time is possible, you can be canning corn relish while you are washing up from dinner, or stick the strawberries in the sun to dry on your way out the door. Natural cool storage can take two minutes. Starting a batch of pickles takes five. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming – and it is a way to preserve what is plentiful, inexpensive, delicious and healthy for a time when there is less of it.

4. Waste Not– Once you’ve got food, whether purchased or home preserved, you have to keep an eye on it – we waste nearly half of all food, much of it in our homes. In this category goes making sure you use what you buy or grow, cutting down on garbage production by minimizing packaging and purchasing, composting, reducing community waste by composting or feeding scraps to your animals, and taking care of your food storage – everything from keeping records and writing dates on jars to checking the apples and making sauce when they start getting soft. BTW, reduce waste also refers to money and energy – stretching out your trips to the store and not “spending” gas on your food, cutting your grocery budget and reducing cooking energy. These are things that are good for the planet and good for all of us.

5. Want Not – This is the category where you report the stuff you’ve done to get ready that isn’t growing/storing/preserving food. That means the food you buy for storage, the things you build, scavenge, rescue and repair that get you further down the path. Did you get a good deal at goodwill? Biu om bulk or with coupons? Scavenge some cinder blocks for your raised bed building project? Share with a neighbor? Find a grain mill on Craigslist? Buy some more rice and put it away? Inventory the medicine cabinet? Pick up a new book that will be helpful? Tell us! The reality is that every nation, every government agency concerned with the security of its citizens, assumes that most people will be able to handle a short term emergency or service disruption themselves – but most of us can’t. There are people who simply can’t prepare – they lack the ability to do so. But if you aren’t one of them – if you can do even a little, you can make sure that when help is offered, it goes to the people who truly need it. Moreover, you can make sure you are there and able to help others when it is needed.

6. Build Community Food Systems – Great, we’re all doing this stuff at home. But what did you do to help spread the message, because that may even be more important. Did you talk about your victory garden at your kid’s school? Offer to share space with a neighbor in your sunny yard? Can you pick up some groceries for a neighbor who doesn’t drive anymore? Bring a casserole over to the family that lost their job or moved in? Donate to your food pantry? Teach the neighbor kids to make yogurt? Offer to teach a canning class? Show someone else where the nettles are growing wild? Talk about your food storage or gardening plans? Share a plant division or seeds? Help out with the food pantry garden? Give a talk about the importance of small local farms? Run for your zoning board? The first line of security for all of us is each other – we are all enriched by a more food-secure community.

7. Eat the Food – Sometimes I think people have more trouble actually eating their garden produce or CSA shares than they do growing or buying them. Ultimately, eaters have more power over our agricultural future than they know – farmers can’t necessarily lead the way – they have to sell what eaters want. So cooking and eating are the way we will change the food system. This is where you tell us about the new recipes you tried, or the old ones you adapted to new ingredients, about how you are actually eating what you store and store what you eat, or getting your kids to try the kale.


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