Tag Archives: family

Book 6/24: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I’ll start this post with a confession: I’ve never read any of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels, although I’ve long been intrigued by titles like The Poisonwood Bible and Pigs In Heaven.

I first saw this book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life on Instagram, where one of my friends, Mrs Smyth, posted a photo of it and commented on what a great book it was. And it really is! It tells the story of how Ms Kingsolver and her family pack up their life in Tuscon Arizona, move to a farm owned by her husband, Steven Hopp, in Virginia, and attempt to live for a year without industrial food. That is, food grown and raised locally – either food they grew themselves, or food from “so close to home [they’d] know the person who grew it”. The plan was to spend a year “in genuine acquaintance” with the sources of their food, with only extraordinary reasons for sourcing something from outside their state or county.

2016 Book 6 - Animal Vegetable Miracle

I loved this idea, and was hooked on their journey as soon as I picked up the book. The timing was fitting: March is the month of the Tassievore challenge, something I’d been an enthusiastic participant in for the last two years, but hadn’t quite gotten into this year.

The book, published in 2007, begins as the family drives out of Tuscon and, ironically, given the forthcoming venture, calls into a gas station for fuel and junk food. It makes the point that “the average food item on a US grocery shelf has travelled farther than most families go on vacation”. Ms Kingsolver observes that the energy used by producing and transporting food far outweighs the energy we get from consuming it. The case for eating locally grown food is compelling. “If every US citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”

Ms Kingsolver weaves the story of her family’s efforts to eat locally or do without with observations on the status of food in our modern life, and the book includes some brief articles by Steven Hopp that provide some interesting facts and statistics on issues raised in the book.

She writes of the conflict between cheap convenience industrial food and small locally-driven enterprises trying to stand up to chemical companies, big food producers, supermarkets and governments. It’s a story that plays out everywhere: small egg producers battling ever-increasing red tape to get truly fresh eggs from happy chickens to their customers; Elgaar Farm having to crowdfund new equipment to continue to be able to produce their products using centuries-old methods and still being tied up in the approval process; Two Metre Tall making glorious beer through natural fermentation that the big brewers claim is “off” because they don’t understand the methods.

I found myself nodding at pretty much every point Ms Kingsolver makes in the book. I’m not sure that everything she describes happens in Australia, or to the same extent, but the overall picture is the same – we live in a society that is largely disconnected from its food sources, demands everything all year round, wants cheap and convenient – all of which comes at a huge price – our health, animal welfare, the environment and local farms to name just a few things. Cheap might be good for our hip pockets, but we pay for it in other ways.

The commentary on the current situation was somewhat deflating, and made me wonder if there really is any hope for the world to reconnect with its food and to get back to more sustainable ways of feeding ourselves. But the anecdotes and stories of what people are doing at a local level made me feel more positive, in spite of the massive obstacles that exist.

I loved reading about Ms Kingsolver’s youngest daughter Lily establish her own poultry enterprise at the age of nine; the fact that Ms Kingsolver had to check the security of the house whenever they left in zucchini season so the the neighbours couldn’t break in and leave zucchinis for them; and the wonderful story of buying a huge pumpkin in Italy, hacking it open at their accommodation and trying to dry the seeds out during their trip so they could take them home. Oh and the expose on the sex life of turkeys, which was horrifying, fascinating, amusing, and ultimately heartwarming.

There’s also a very thought provoking chapter on meat eating when it comes time to harvest the poultry that’s destined for the pot.

Each chapter ends with some thoughts from Ms Kingsolver’s eldest daughter Camille on her perspective on the family’s project, as well as some of her recipes and meal plans for the produce that is available in season each month. These are also available on the website.

I love the whole idea of this project, and would love to be in a position to be able to commit to doing something similar. 12 months of Tassievore-ing and getting food from my own backyard! It seems quite doable at this time of the year when the markets are overflowing with beautiful fresh produce. Ask me again in July or August. I was encouraged by the fact that Ms Kingsolver and her family didn’t end up eating dandelions (or roadkill) in the leaner months like other people they knew of that had attempted similar projects.

Realistically I know that doing this would mean some fairly big changes, a large vegetable garden and time I don’t have. But rather than giving up, I have to get out of the habit of all-or-nothing thinking. No, I can’t  source absolutely everything I eat from my backyard and from people in my immediate area that I know personally, but this doesn’t mean I can’t do anything at all. This book has inspired me to start thinking about some smaller changes I can make to increase the amount of local food in my diet. One baby step at a time.

It’s important.

12 of 12 August 2015

Wednesday 12 August was a work day that wasn’t 100% normal. The forecast for Hobart was 4-15, with a chance of a late shower.

1 of 12 – It was cold when I got up. It’s the time of year when afternoon me hates morning me for rugging up so warmly, because I either swelter in all my layers walking to school to pick up Juniordwarf, or I have to take so much off that my bag is stuffed full of clothing and heavy, so I get hot just by carrying it. No glamorous school mum here, just a bedraggled, frazzled, flustered, melting mess.

1 of 12

1 of 12

2 of 12 – If you read my post about our recent lunch at Peppermint Bay, you might remember that Juniordwarf loves the movie Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, and wanted to try sardines at the restaurant. Once he’d had sardines, he decided he loved them so much he needed to have them again. They’re now a staple on our weekly shopping list, and he has them a couple of times a week for breakfast.

2 of 12

2 of 12

3 of 12 – Juniordwarf is a big fan of the author Andy Griffiths. He has heaps of his books, including the “Treehouse” series. The latest book in the series, The 65-Storey Treehouse, was released today. Juniordwarf is a frequent visitor to one of the local bookshops to flick through the Andy Griffiths books, so much so that the staff have been enlisting his help to cross off the days on the countdown poster to the release. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get into the store to get the book today, but it’s on the agenda for tomorrow.

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3 of 12

4 of 12 – This time of year has some lovely sunrises. I haven’t taken a lot of sunrise photos this year. This is the post-sunrise sun over Bridgewater.

4 of 12

4 of 12

5 of 12 – Lil Sis, my Mum and I went to the cemetery to pick out a spot for my Dad’s ashes to be interred. He passed away in 2009 and was a donor to the Utas Body Bequest Program, so it’s been several years until we’ve been able to find a place to lay him to rest.

The cemetery is in a lovely quiet spot. We passed by this view of the Mountain, still dusted with snow after last week’s cold snap.

5 of 12

5 of 12

6 of 12 – One of the areas we had a look at.

6 of 12

6 of 12

7 of 12 – The Daphne in St Davids Park is smelling divine.

7 of12

7 of12

8 of 12 – We had to pick Juniordwarf up early today so he could go to the dentist. He had his teeth scraped and cleaned for the first time. He was a bit uncomfortable, but he was a real trooper and didn’t complain at all. I did have a photo of him in the chair but I can’t post it because the dentist is in it, and you know how you can’t show dentists’ faces on television . . .

9 of 12 – Juniordwarf is a big fan of The Princess Bride. We’ve watched it together several times and he likes to act it out. When I found out that Cary Elwes, who plays Westley in the movie, had written a book about the making of the movie, I wanted to read it. The library didn’t have it, but they did have the audio book, so we’ve been listening to that. It’s a really interesting. I’m glad I’m a lot more familiar with the movie now, after repeated viewings, because I know exactly what he’s referring to most of the time.

9 of 12

9 of 12

10 of 12 – I used to not like grape hyacinths. Now I love them in early spring. They look fantastic planted en masse. If only I had somewhere I could do a mass planting.

10 of 12

10 of 12

11 of 12 – Once upon a time, another lifetime ago, I studied French. After I left uni I forgot about it. Lately I’ve felt like I wanted to take it up again. I got onto the Duolingo app a couple of weeks ago and started to see how much I could remember. More than I thought. The Duolingo website tells me I’m 52% efficient in French (whatever that means), which I’m pretty happy with after two weeks of revision.

11 of 12

11 of 12

12 of 12 – We’ve been planning our NZ trip since 2000. Every time we’ve started to get serious about it, something’s happened to put the trip on the backburner. Now in 2015 it’s really going to happen. Next month! And I’m going back on my TravelPod to blog about it.

12 of 12

12 of 12

Channelling (Day 3) – 12 of 12 July 2015

A very belated conclusion to our weekend in the D’Entrecasteaux Chanel in July.

Sunday was going home day. We had another leisurely breakfast and coffee. Lots of coffee, before packing up and checking out. (Pro tip: If you ask your 8 year old to get everything of theirs out of their room, you actually have to go in and make sure that their definition of “everything” is the same as yours.)

(1 of 12) I had to go back as we were leaving to take a picture of the red door on the cottage.

1 of 12

1 of 12

We drove down past the marina to the start of a short walk to Kettering Point. (2, 3 and 4 of 12) There’s a lovely view from the marina all the way around to Bruny Island.

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2 of 12

3 of 12

3 of 12

4 of 12

4 of 12

We spent a while there watching a sea bird circling in the sky and diving for fish. It was mesmerising.

(5 of 12) The Kettering Point walk continues to Trial Bay, where we had stopped briefly yesterday on our drive to Woodbridge. It’s a lovely walk through the bush and, for some reason I can’t explain, I felt a strong feeling of connection to this place. I’m not a coastal person and as far as I know I have no family history in this area, so I don’t know where this came from, but it was a feeling that sat with me for most of the walk.

5 of 12

5 of 12

(6 of 12) After the walk, we finally went back to Grandvewe to buy our cheese.

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6 of 12

(7 of 12) We decided to have coffee in their café, where there’s a great view back to the water.

7 of 12

7 of 12

The options were coffee and tea with normal milk, or for $2 extra you could have it with sheep’s milk. I normally drink black coffee but I wanted to try sheep’s milk, so we all ordered our drinks with that option. It certainly tasted different to any milky coffee I’d have before. Both Slabs and I thought the sheep’s milk made the coffee less sweet, although the staff member who served us said that sheep’s milk is sweeter than cow’s milk. Whatever, it was different, and I’d definitely have it again.

(8 of 12) Juniordwarf had a pot of tea. His report was: “It tastes a bit like sheep cheese. It tastes like English Breakfast tea with sheep cheesy milk. It’s delicious . . . (second taste) Yep, this definitely tastes like sheep’s milk. And cheese.”

7 o f 12

8 o f 12

Not too sure about that.

We spoke to a fellow customer who was new to Tasmania, and she told us how much she loved the state and that she’d been spending every weekend getting out of Hobart to see new places. It must be great to have the freedom to do that! I felt a tiny pang of envy.

(9 of 12) Juniordwarf enjoyed a conversation with the sheep before we left.

9 of 12

9 of 12

Our final stop was the Oyster Cove Inn in Kettering for lunch.

It’s a nice pub right near the marina where the Bruny Island ferry leaves from, so you get a lovely view of the boats if you sit close enough to the window.

According to the website it was originally the summer home of one of Tasmania’s richest men of the 19th Century, Alfred Cotton. It was converted into a guest house in the 1930s and a hotel in the 1950s. (10 of 12) Despite the later additions and renovations to the building, you can still see what the original house would have looked like from the deck.

10 of 12

10 of 12

The deck is lovely, but it was a bit cold for us to want to sit out there. (11 of 12) It has some interesting sculptures dotted around, which I’d like to find out more about.

11 of 12

11 of 12

The dining room was packed when we got there, and we got the last free table. (12 of 12) The meals were great, and I think I liked mine better than the meal I had at Peppermint Bay. I’d definitely go back there.

12 of 12

12 of 12

Nothing eventful happened on the way home. As always, the weekend had gone too fast. I was sad to have to leave and I hope we get another chance to spend time in the area soon.

Week in review: 16-22 February 2015

This week’s goals:

  • 17,000 steps per day – 6/7 days. Weekly total 137,518 (daily average 19,645)
  • [Private Goal] – 0/7 days
  • Go to bed before midnight (baby steps!) – 5/7 days – 3 of which were 11.55, but it all counts!

This week was a quiet week. Still settling back into school routines and trying to get to grips with new arrangements. Library day is different, PE day is different, music day is different – all good fun to try and remember. I’m trying to put my own morning habits and routines into back place as well as trying to get Juniordwarf to do things like get his stuff out the night before instead of racing round in the morning looking for it.

We’ll get there in the end. Probably the end of term, when it will all fall to pieces again at holiday time.

We spent the weekend at Bacchus Marsh with family to celebrate a significant birthday. It’s not a place I ever would have thought to visit otherwise, but it turned out to be a delightful town, with some lovely old buildings and very friendly people.

The clouds looked like mountains in the sky

The clouds looked like mountains in the sky

It was a very hot weekend, but we had a great time with Slabs’ family and I think his parents must have been thrilled to have all their kids in one place, as it doesn’t happen very often.

Slabs and I took the opportunity of having 6 babysitters to get away for a couple of hours and have lunch at the Bacchus Hill winery.  I mean seriously, what else would you do at somewhere called Bacchus?

Bacchus Hill Winery

Bacchus Hill Winery

Wine!

Wine time back at home!

Bacchus Hill Winery

Bacchus Hill Winery

We enjoyed the wine and the food a lot, and Slabs appreciated being somewhere with a bigger range of reds than most Tasmanian wineries produce. Unfortunately, not having any checked baggage with us, taking some home wasn’t an option, so we’ll just have to go back next time we visit the area.

Impresario Theatre

Impresario Theatre

Bacchus Marsh Court House

Bacchus Marsh Court House

Lerderderg Library

Lerderderg Library

Werribee River

Werribee River

It was 36 degrees or something equally horrific when we got home, and the house was like a hot box. Sleep proved to be very difficult on Sunday night.

Next week’s goals:

  • 19,000 steps per day.
  • [Private Goal]
  • Go to bed before 11.45 pm.