Independence Days: My First Challenge

Sharon April 29th, 2008

I’ve quoted Carla Emery’s wonderful passage about Independence Days and how she plants on this blog before, but it bears repeating.  She wrote,

All spring I try to plant something every day - from late February, when the early peas and spinach and garlic can go in, on up to midsummer, when the main potato crop and the late beans and lettuce go in.  Then I switch over and make it my rule to try and get something put away for the winter every single day.  That lastas until the pumpkins and sunflowers and late squash and green tomatoes are in.  Then comes the struggle to get the most out of the stored food - all winter long.  It has to be checked regularly, and you’ll need to add to that day’s menu anything that’s on the verge of spoiling, wilting or otherwise becoming useless.   

That was Carla’s version of “Independence Days” - a world where every day was part of the food cycle.  She wrote more about this in one of my favorite

 People have to choose what they are going to struggle for.  Life is always a struggle, whether or not you’re struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might as well be for something worthwhile.  Independence days are worth struggling for.  they’re good for me, good for the country and good for growing children.

Now there’s a Declaration of Independence for you.  Or perhaps the Constitution of the United Food Sovereign People of the World.  It is so desperately needed that we do declare our independence from the globalizing, totalitarian, destructive, toxic, dangerous agriculture that destroys our future and our power and pays to destroy democracy.  And so, when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to divorce themselves from a system that has become destructive, and thus:

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union of human and nature, establish justice and ensure food sovreignty, provide for the common nutrition, promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty, for ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution for the United Food Sovereign People of the World.

I’ve never really run a challenge before on this blog, but I thought I’d start one - the Independence Days challenge!  We’re already sort of doing this over at the food storage group (if you want to subscribe send an email to [email protected]), but I thought I’d bring it here, because I think it is a thing worth struggling for.

I challenge myself and all of you to work on creating food Independence Days this year - that all of us try to do one thing every day  to create Food Independence.  That means in each day or week, we would try to:

1. Plant something.  Obviously, those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere and having spring are doing this anyway.  But the idea that you should plant all week and all year is a good reminder to those of us who sometimes don’t get our fall gardens or our succession plantings done regularly.  Remember, that beet you harvested left a space - maybe for the next one to get bigger, but maybe for a bit of arugula or a fall crop of peas, or a cover crop to enrich the soil.  Independence is the bounty of a single seed that creates an abundance of zucchini, and enough seeds to plant your own garden and your neighbor’s.

2. Harvest something. From the very first nettles and dandelions to the last leeks and parsnips I drag out of the frozen ground, harvest something from the garden or the wild every day you can.  I can’t think of a better way to be aware of the bounty around you to realize that there’s something - even if it is dandelions for tea or wild garlic for a salad - to be had every single day.  Independence is really appreciating and using the bounty that we have.

3. Preserve something.  Sometimes this will be a big project, but it doesn’t have to be.  It doesn’t take long to slice a couple of tomatoes and set them on a screen in the sun, or to hang up a bunch of sage for winter.  And it adds up fast.  The time you spend now is time you don’t have to spend hauling to the store and cooking later.  Independence is eating our own, and cutting the ties we have to agribusiness.

4. Prep something.  Hit a yard sale and pick up an extra blanket.  Purchase some extra legumes and oatmeal.  Sort out and inventory your pantry.  Make a list of tools you need.  Find a way to give what you don’t need to someone who does.  Fix your bike.  Fill that old soda bottle with water with a couple of drops of bleach in it.  Plan for next year’s edible landscaping.  Make back-road directions to your place and send it to family in case they ever need to come to you - or make ‘em for yourself for where you might have to go. Clean, mend, declutter, learn a new skill.  Independence is being ready for whatever comes.

5. Cook something.  Try and new recipe, or an old one with a new ingredient.  Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with all that stuff you are growing or making.  So experiment now.  Can you make a whole meal in your solar oven?  How are stir-fried pea shoots?  Stuffed squash blossoms?  Wild morels in pasta?  Independence is being able to eat and enjoy what is given to us.

6. Manage your reserves.  Check those apples and take out the ones starting to go bad and make sauce with it.  Label those cans.  Clean out the freezer.  Ration the pickles, so you’ll have enough to last to next season.  Use up those lentils before you take the next ones out of the bag.  Find some use for that can of whatever it is that’s been in the pantry forever.  Sort out what you can donate, and give it to the food pantry.  Make sure the squash are holding out.  Independence means not wasting the bounty we have.

7. Work on local food systems.  This could be as simple as buying something you don’t grow or make from a local grower, or finding a new local source.  It could be as complex as starting a coop or a farmer’s market, creating a CSA or a bulk store.  You might give seeds or plants or divisions to a neighbor, or solicit donations for your food pantry.  Maybe you’ll start a guerilla garden or help a homeschool coop incubate some chicks.  Maybe you’ll invite people over to your garden, or your neighbors in for a homegrown meal, or sing the praises of your local CSA.  Maybe you can get your town to plant fruit or nut producing street trees or get a manual water pump or a garden put in at your local school.  Whatever it is, our Independence days come when our neighbors and the people we love are food secure too. 

I’m not suggesting you should do all these things on any day (heck that’ s impossible) - but every day try and do one of them - or every week, or every weekend, if that’s what your schedule allows.  It takes practice to live and grow and eat this way - so let’s do it now while we’ve got the time and energy and each other for support. 

I’m going to try to do this, starting now, and running all year long.  If you sign up in the comments section, I’ll try and set up a cool sidebar thingie, like all the funky challengers do.   We’ll do weekly updates, and I want to hear how you are doing too!  Who’s in for in Independence Days?


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