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The Dirty Life, raw milk, taking names and other rantings…

February 8, 2012

Every once in a while, little messages come flitting down from who-knows-where to illuminate a *good* idea. This last month was full of them. Less like ‘flitting’ and more like a downpour befitting of a normal Oregon winter. So many things to get excited about these days!

I just finished Kristin Kimball’s new book, The Dirty Life: on Farming, Food and Love, since she is speaking at the Small Farms Conference at OSU later this month. She and her husband have started a “whole diet” CSA, in an attempt to provide ALL of the food a family can eat ALL year round! The model is insane… they sell all of the meat (chicken, beef, pork), milk, eggs, dried beans, grain (flour),  veggies, fruit, butter, maple syrup and cheese that a family can carry away for less than $2000 per year, AND they do it all with a team of draft horses! I was exhausted just reading about their adventures. But it got me thinking…

It seems to me that the sustainable small farming movement has been gaining more and more momentum since I first started taking notice a few years ago, especially in our area! Everywhere I go, people are talking about bees, raw milk, keeping chickens, pickling, canning, curing meats, growing veggies… as Portlandia describes it, it’s as if we went back a whole century, before the industrial revolution, and collectively decided we were just going to start all over again.

Our little community of local self-sufficiency producers is getting stronger by the year, and it pays to keep the discussion going and hone our collective skills…  We don’t raise cows, but our friends at Champoeg Creamery do, and do they ever! Jon and I can’t get enough of the fresh raw Jersey milk that Charlotte sells us. It’s ruined me forever. Last week while travelling, I found that I was missing it, aching almost… (and this from someone who never drank milk, at most just a splash of it in my coffee). You know how our grandparents would tell us stories about skimming cream from milk straight from the cow, and how good it was? I seriously had no idea.  Charlotte is hosting cheese-making classes, too (check the website, there’s a feta class next Sunday!).

Bubba and Sarah King from the Collective raise pigs, chickens and ducks, tend bees and are now starting on their own CSA adventure to provide more families with produce and have big dreams of expanding their local food co-op. The Dundee Promise Church is starting a Community Garden this year to help provide fresh food to the Yamhill County Food bank (check out for more info on how to help out). Everywhere you look, someone’s either curing their own bacon, catching and canning their own tuna, fermenting their own sauerkraut.  Everyone is “into” something. Offal is “in”.

Forgive me for being a socialist hippie, but it had me wondering if we could,  as a community, produce enough goods to barter amongst ourselves to have everything that we need? Last year, when I changed health care providers and had a lapse in coverage, my doctor offered to trade veggies for health care (she is especially awesome). We barter eggs for coffee and wine.  We barter vineyard consulting for cherries and pears that we put in our CSA boxes, and preserve for winter. We barter veggies for land and the occasional use of a tractor. Jon bartered his woodworking skills for those cute little chicken-feed tote bags you got last summer. With any luck this summer, we’ll trade veggies for delicious milk, yogurt and cheese, and Jon’s building skills for Bradley’s gorgeous pottery.

And yet, we still live in a society. And we still live in a society with things like taxes and car insurance and red light cameras that cost you $285 for making a rolling right on red in the middle of the night (sigh). We still need money. But how far can we go without?

Last year, I brought in the lowest income that I’ve ever made as an adult, including the years I was a starving student. But I lacked for nothing. And I was happier than I’d ever been working for a ‘living’, and people valued our efforts. So, I think this is the right path… in any case, I think that by learning how to NOT rely on other countries to raise our food, or on our government to subsidize our food production industries in this country, we can’t go wrong.

Our CSA season is coming up again, and we’re taking names. What do you have to trade for a CSA share this season? What entrepreneurial ideas do you have, and what do you need to make them happen? What can you build? What skills do you have and what are they worth? (we need a tax advisor! and a good mechanic!) Kristin’s book taught me two things… 1- doing it alone is downright crazy. 2- we CAN do an awful lot locally with the resources that we have.

So here is my question for you all. If we no longer had access to cheap commodities, what could you bring to the table?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Catherine Douglas permalink
    February 8, 2012 5:53 pm

    This is a fabulous and thought-provoking post. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be pondering the answers to your questions…

  2. February 8, 2012 8:15 pm

    Great post!! I really admire you and what you’re about. Sorry about the traffic ticket…

    • nadinelew permalink*
      February 8, 2012 9:38 pm

      thanks charlotte. ditto. as for the ticket? i guess that was the “ranting” part. watch out for that tualatin-sherwood rd and 99W intersection!

  3. February 12, 2012 2:50 am

    Wonderful post! You know I dream of this!

    Home manangement, packing, moving (21 times!) and all things related to raising 6 sons (including pregnancy and childbirth advice) are my background so far – and a lifetime before that of working on a small farm and ranch. My natural bent is: Planning, organizing, coordinating, creating references, keeping calendars, researching… I am the one who battles between the need to get out and be with the crowd, and hole up for weeks and be furiously busy with these other necessary components to carrying out the daily business of life. I’m sure I could do this for a great many people, if they called on me!

    Thanks for the plug for the community garden, too! Let me know what I can do in trade for your expertise in getting us on track for this year… (feeding chickens…?)

  4. Polly Basile permalink
    February 17, 2012 12:41 am

    Nadine~ I loved your post, and it makes me want to be part of your community even more! I would offer my sewing and knitting skills, weeding and harvesting, teaching classes in basketweaving and whatever else there was a need for ……We need to work on Ed…he has so many skills to offer once he’s done in Detroit!

    • nadinelew permalink*
      February 18, 2012 6:51 pm

      polly you ARE part of this community! you post more recipes than i do, and you laid out the whole ROCO garden last year, remember?

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