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Sometimes you hit the too-much point.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s just…all too much.  You feel wild.  You feel crazy.  You feel out of control, out of body, and like you just want someone to put you in a room full of glass and hand you a baseball bat.  You’re pissed at the world and its incompetence/lack of compassion/stupidity/unfairness/insert shitty attribute here.  You are awesome, goddammit–you kick ass.  Why doesn’t everyone agree on that?  Why is everything going to hell?

So I hit that point today, and when I saw that a loaf of bread had gone moldy, I went over the edge, delightfully careening out of my gourd as a steady David Bowie soundtrack played in the background.  I slammed the loaf to the ground and stomped it into disc form while screaming and crying and uttering a string of obscenities that would surprise a grand total of nobody who knows me.  I howled about wanting to burn everything to the ground.  Yes.  Yes, this was good.  I needed more. And The Boy could tell.

He took a glance around.  There was a moldy orange in our fruit bowl.  He gingerly placed it in the center of my new Breaking Shit pile.  Then he got the fuck out the way.

Freshly-squeezed O.J., anybody?

But the pièce de résistance was a gingerbread village (yes, gingerbread, as in Christmas) that was laying in a pile of things to be “handled.”  Well, fuck, I could handle that village right here and now.  Godzilla-esque fantasies flashed through my head.  I slammed the thing to the floor and went on a killing rampage, complete with imaginary screaming villagers, as The Boy watched on with what I believe was genuine childlike delight.

My little misfits, I beat the shit out of that gingerbread village.

There is a beast that lives in each of us.  Suppressing it is what gets us into trouble, and into straightjackets.  Feed the beast regularly.  Let your crazy out.  Fly your freak flag.  Start a “Breaking Shit” pile at your homestead.  And if you want, show me your Breaking Shit pile.  Bonus points if you’re in the shot actually breaking shit.  And I’ll post it on this here site.

After the carnage had passed, and The Boy and I were standing there in quiet contemplation of my streak of destruction, he sighed deeply, saying:

“Your main problem is that you’re a goddess, and you’re among men and women, and you’re trying to be one of them.  You know, that’s what Jesus tried, and I’m not sure if you know, but it didn’t really work out for him…have you read the Bible?”

I love The Boy.

Until next time, my sweet, sweet misfits: break shit.  And love yourself.

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You must read this post, titled “When I grow up I’m going to be an old woman.”

I so hope that none of you read my blog or are into natural foods or homesteading because you think this lifestyle will keep you looking 25 for life.  Instead, how about we all just strive to be like Roxanna and be the coolest old ladies we can be?  I know I’ve been fortunate enough to know a few–those special women who laugh at the notion of “aging gracefully,” wear white after Labor Day, dye their gray hair purple, talk about sex with jaw-dropping candor, and just generally have a hell of a good time, no matter what anyone else says about how they should do it.  And mourning their youth?  Fuggedaboutit!  They’re having too much fun as devil-may-care, wheelin’ and dealin’ old ladies to give two skrits HOW old they are…or what anyone else thinks about what aging SHOULD look like.

I mean, the choice seems clear to me.  You can be this:

Photo by Hamed Saber

 

Or, you know…this. 

Are you a cool-as-hell old lady?  Do you aspire to be one?  Let’s discuss!

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Hello, Greenie Beanies,

I recently got an email from another satisfied customer.  That is, someone who read and liked my regular column on Urban Homesteading, which runs in every issue of MaryJanesFarm Magazine.  Her name is Linda, and she wanted to pick my brain about urban homesteading.

Linda has been living in a rural home in California, and 2 years ago she moved into a city apartment with her adult daughter.  Linda is not used to cramped city apartments.  Linda does not like to feel cramped.

Oh, we can feel that pain, can’t we, sugar dumplings?

In any case, she’s having a hard time adjusting, and she’s finally looking for some ways to bring out her inner farmgirl.  But how to do it in the city?

Oh, sugar pies, YOU JUST KNOW she came to the right place!

Since I get questions like Linda’s fairly often via email or text message or Facebook nudge or secret message (seriously, people, if you have a question, ain’t no shame in postin’ it for all the guacamole-lovin’ world to see!  We won’t tease you!  And I kick jerks off my comments board, which makes “The Alchemist” the fun-lovin’, free spirited, totally tolerant, non-judgmental, warm and fuzzy, rolicking good time encouragin’, dictatorial palace of blogs.  Or something like that.).  Okay, I forgot what I was saying.

Oh, right.  Since I get questions like Linda’s fairy often, I’m going to print a piece of my response to her here.  Benefit from it, add to it, improvise, my sweet pets!

…It sounds like you’ve had to undergo quite the adjustment, you poor dear!  I was born and raised in Chicago, but have lived elsewhere–always in major cities, including Honolulu and New York.  So the crunch for space and land has always been an issue for me, and boy, do I sympathize.  I think one huge perk about city-living and small spaces is that they make you creative.  It is, of course, far easier to homestead on forty acres than it is in a 600 square foot apartment.  So you get plucky.  You get creative.  You become less wasteful and more ingenious.  You will, too!  Embrace it, and give it time, Linda.  But maybe I can help you to hurry things along….

Most of what I grow is in containers.  People have no. Idea. How. Easy. This. Is.  Really, I’m astounded at all the naysayers who will tell you vegetables can’t be grown in pots.  [Readers: remember when I showed you how easy it is?] Listen, you can grow colonnade apple trees in pots!  Almost any plant, given the proper space, soil, water, and nutrition, can be container-friendly.  A great beginner’s book I’d recommend is McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container. I’m not sure what kind of balcony space you have, but I say, load it up, girl!  A big part of urban homesteading is seeing what you can get away with.  The answer, in my experience:

a whole lot.

Think lettuce in window boxes that hang over your balcony railings.  Patio tomatoes in pots.  Strawberries in hanging baskets.  Peppers and eggplants are extremely container-friendly–mine are very productive in a mere 8-inch pot.  Zucchini are notorious for a reason–they are practically reproductive machines.  Though I’m a big fan of heirlooms, you might try the Raven Zucchini hybrid–it’s container-friendly and produces loads of fruit very quickly.  Tea gardens are a great offshoot of the herb gardening thing, and mint and chamomile do very well in confined spaces.  Make use of vertical space, too, with plants that climb.  Just be sure that your landlord is okay with all this, and that you’re following the necessary safety precautions for balcony weight limits and such.

The great thing is, I think city neighbors, while they may not know much about what you’re trying to do, are usually pretty receptive and curious.  You may have been no big deal to your far-off rural neighbors, but you’ll probably be a sensation when you cut pumpkins from a vine twirling around your fire escape.  Try to make friends with your new neighbors, if you haven’t already, and let your garden be the icebreaker if need be.  Share your produce, try not to drip water onto your neighbors below (I said “try”…it won’t always be possible), and if you make friends with people who don’t really use their space, go ahead and ask if you can put a box or two on their railing.

Remember, mushrooms are a great edible crop that you can grow indoors in low light–why not try a mushroom kit?  Several issues ago, I wrote about the process in my “Urban Homesteading” column in MaryJanesFarm Mag.  In another piece titled “Bunnies in ‘da Hood,” I wrote about raising indoor angora rabbits for their knitting fiber (they shed it naturally).  My very first article for that column was about community gardens and yard shares.  If your ambitions outstrip your land, you might try to find for-rent gardening plots nearby.  You’re likely to meet new neighbors who share your farm fantasies.  Try to cultivate online relationships, too–I like to do a little seed swapping on the forum at www.gardenweb.com.

Homesteading for me goes beyond gardening.  I cook, I bake, I sew, I knit, I ferment, I pickle (I’ll be teaching pickling and fermenting workshops during MaryJanesFarm Day at this event in St. Paul in September–why not attend?!), I bake my own bread, brew beer and wine, make cheese, and am generally engaged in any nonsense I can lay hands upon.  Now The Boy and I are getting into roasting coffee.  We also subscribe to a local CSA or farm share box, which connects us to great local produce that we can’t or don’t grow ourselves (try www.localharvest.com to find one near you).  It helps to make us feel like part of a community.  We satisfy this urge by visiting our local farmers markets, too.  Perhaps you could start a weekly farmers market habit and hobnob with farmers and foodie neighbors?  These little things can help to put you in touch with a local, land-loving community that you didn’t even know existed.

…Lotsa hugs,
Gen

Well, whaddya think, my little custard tarts?  Did I just about cover it?  Did I give you any fresh inspiration?  Can you add anything to help Linda’s transition go a little more smoothly?

Duh, you totally can!  Do so in

3…

2…

1…

GO TIME!

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Winsor McCay sketching Gertie the Dinosaur at a dinner party...because everyone knows that dinnertime discussions of organic food must be accompanied by sketches of free-range dinosaurs. Duh.

Yeah, that’s right.  An arse.

An eager acquaintance who shares my interest in natural foods asked me the other day, “What do you do when you’re eating at a friend’s house?  Do you ask where the meat and vegetables came from?”

Honestly, the notion of doing so absolutely smacked me in the brain and levered my jaw wide open, that’s how appalling I found it.  Ask my host?  When I’m a guest in his or her house?  If the meat was pastured?  If the produce has pesticides on it?

The short answer is “no.”  The long answer is “Hell no.”

And I don’t spend even a moment worrying about that meal’s “larger impact,” either.  I do the best I can with my food at home.  I do the best I can with what I eat when dining out.  But in no way do I let my dedication to eating a whole, natural diet impose upon my respect for my friends.  Many of them do not eat the way I eat.  Many have never intentionally purchased a piece of organic produce even once in their entire lives.  To me, the idea of asking a host whether the meat was sourced carefully is just as uncomfortable as if one of my dinner guests were to put down his fork, give me an earnest, concerned look, and ooze, “Now, Gen, I’d really like to talk to you about Jesus.”

No.  No you don’t.

It’s that personal.  I make the food choices I make because I feel it contributes not only to my own personal health, but to the health and good of everyone.  Alienation does not contribute to the health and good of everyone.  Food snob evangelization does not make anyone better.  It just makes you look like an asshole.  It makes others uncomfortable to be around you.  It causes them to associate the whole natural food/urban farming/organic blah blah blah movement with feelings of inferiority and shame.  When you shame someone, they don’t want to listen to you.  When you make someone feel inadequate, you do not effect positive change.  This isn’t to say that you can’t talk about your lifestyle with others–of course you should.  When the time and place are proper, and if said others seem interested.  Otherwise, you’re beating a dead horse.  A grass-fed, free-range horse that belches rainbows, sure.  But a dead horse nonetheless.

Sure, I’d love it if all my friends felt the way I do about natural food.  And I’m sure they’d love it if I didn’t de-pants myself at inopportune moments.  Point is, we can’t always get what we want.

Your friends may start to cook and eat like you, eventually.  They may not.  THEY’RE STILL YOUR FRIENDS.  Chances are, that means they contribute to your happiness in some way.  Which means they’re awesome.  And they don’t deserve asshole-ery.  So when you find yourself tempted to say something about the meal they’ve so graciously served you, remember that you two have something in common.  You both long for a world where a carrot doesn’t have to be called an “organic carrot” to imply its wholesome nature.  It can just be a carrot.  A world where we can all relax, pull up to the table, and be carrots–I mean–trust that our food is what it’s supposed to be.  A world where we don’t have to talk about it.

But I’ve heard enough stories to know that I don’t speak for everyone on this front.  So I’d like to hear from you–do you think it’s rude to popularize your foodie beliefs at your friend’s dinner table, or do you take the “loud and proud” approach?  How do you think victims of food snobbery should respond when confronted?

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Photo by Infrogmation (talk) of New Orleans

You know how people always say, “Ohh, don’t use Twitter and Facebook to tell people what you had for breakfast!  That’s, like, sooo the wrong way to use the Internets!”?

Well, they do.

Anyway, whenever it happens, it makes me cringe.  That’s because I’m a food voyeur.  I WANT to know what you had for breakfast.  I also wanna know what you had for lunch, dinner, elevenses, high tea, clandestine snack time, and midnight munchfest.  And hell, I’ll go a step further.  I wanna know what’s in your fridge, too.

I’m not that houseguest who prowls through your medicine cabinet.  Couldn’t care less.  But I will stand in the kitchen having cocktails and laughing and chatting with everyone else while the little person in my head goes, “WHAT’S IN THE FRIDGE, OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!”  Could it be…camembert cheeese?  A big bowl of citrus fruits?  Craft beer, or the cheap stuff?  A log of salami?  A body?  And what do they keep in the pantry?

Well, you shouldn’t dish it out if you can’t take it, right?

So I’ll let you in on the things that are always in my fridge and pantry, even when we haven’t shopped in a while.

In Team Frigidaire’s Corner, we have:

*Hard-boiled eggs (Great for an on-the-go breakfast for The Boy, or a healthy snack for me.  Ladies, eggs are the original 100-calorie pack…except they’re only 70 calories!  Eat real food.  Seriously.)

*Whole milk plain yogurt (A light lunch these days looks like a bowl of this yogurt, several hefty BAMS of Saigon Cassia Cinnamon from The Spice House, a handful of sliced almonds, and a handful of golden raisins.  Stir and nom.)

*Lacto-fermented produce (Right now we’ve got pickled crocks of red cabbage sauerkraut, garlic dill carrots, garlic basil tomatoes, cuke spears and slices, chow chow relish, jalapenos, hot-and-sour sesame cabbage, kim chi, and whole clementines floating in probiotic caramel syrup)

*Sourdough starter

*Cheeeeeeese (at a minimum, we’ve got grated pecorino romano, yogurt cheese, and often a hard, aged cheddar of sorts)

*Organic peanut-and-salt-only peanut butter

*Whey (for more lacto-fermenting, my friends)

*Lemons (salad dressing, soup brightening, beverage-enhancing…lemons do it all!)

*Grass-fed butter in one-pound blocks

*The Boy’s Homebrewed Beer (at the moment it’s one keg each of Wit and Red Rye IPA)

*A tub of miso paste

*Scanmask beneficial nematodes (What?  They’re for my plants.  You’re SUPPOSED to keep them in the fridge.  What?)

And over on Team Pantry, we’ve got:

*Assorted nuts (at the moment, it’s slivered almonds, whole almonds, chopped pecans, and walnut halves–all of them raw)

*Dried fruits (always raisins, at least the golden ones, but usually both)

*Bananas (I went through a phase once where I ate three bananas a day.  It lasted years.  I have no legitimate defense.  I still eat one just about every day.)

*Chocolate….lots of it, in various forms.  (I rarely go a night without having some, and I always keep a large, high-quality block of 72% around for shaving, chipping, chunking, and OH YEAH MAJOR NOMMING OM NOM NOM…)

*Canned tuna and/or salmon and/or anchovies (You can do just about anything with tinned fish, am I right?  I SAID, AM I RIGHT??  Thank you.)

*Coconut milk (Being lactose-intolerant, I feel that this one is pretty important, y’all.  Soups, dairy substitute, curry base, ice “cream”…)

*Seaweed (the roasted and salted kind is great for snacking, provides an iodine boost if you don’t use iodized salt, and can be thrown into some miso broth in a pinch with a poached egg for some awesome soup…yes, this is as close to ramen packets as I will probably ever get.)

Of course, this doesn’t include our very generous assortment of specialty spices, oils, sauces, flours, sugars, grains, blah blah blah.  I figure those are a given.  And every Friday we get a CSA box delivered with more goodies.

Well, how’d I do?  More boring than you thought?  Anything shocking?  I have quite a few living things in my fridge, don’t I?  I also have quite a few DEAD things MWAHAHAHAHHA!

Okay, now fair’s fair.  Feed my obsession and tell me what YOU always keep on hand.

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