Thursday, December 10, 2009

Take Five

You might think I've been snoozin' at the wheel around here lately. Apart from the weekly updates, what the hey-ho has Her So-Called Baklava Majesty been doing? you may ask.

And I'd have to shrug my shoulders and say, beats me. I've been so focused on the market that (A) I haven't gotten much beyond utilitarian comfort cooking (not really a bad thing, given all the awesome produce I've had STILL to work with) and (B) I let this blog's 5th anniversary pass me by.

That's right, it's been five whopping, gloriously insane, creative, stressful, amazing years at Rolling In the Dough. I've gone from fiendishly extravagant dinner party details to more thoughtful musings on the various readings that led me further down the Local Foods Lane -- from experimenting with recipes to getting back to basics -- and finally, returning to my Roots (Local and otherwise) by baking up a storm.

Wow. Who knew? What a lavish, luscious, eye-opening journey it's been.

And because it's the time of year when I try to stop and breathe a little and reflect on the year before it slips away, it's time to look back at last year's goals for the blog and to set some new ones.

The garden(s) definitely saw an expansion this year, though not all at one place. The Absent-Minded Professor, awash in work from all sides, never found the time to excavate another garden bed, but my newfound friendship with the Farmgirl Wannabe brought me space for my grain patches. And though I never got row covers to help extend the season, I did get some crops planted very early and am continuing to enjoy fresh greens from the garden, thanks to succession planting prompted by the Independence Days challenge.

As far as pantry-stocking from the garden goes, I managed to have another banner year in terms of food preservation (even trying a couple of new recipes and techniques), plus I had a modest yield of nearly 4 quarts of buckwheat seed from my pancake patch. The dried beans bombed, thanks to hungry neighborhood critters that kept the plants from reaching maturity, so I'll have to find some better way to protect those next year.

I've definitely continued reading up on farming. My Gene Logsdon library continues to expand -- as did my Wendell Berry collection after meeting him this spring -- and my monthly book reviews for the Local Roots newsletter leads me into other territory as well. The Cheerful Lady has been loaning me copies of Growing For Market, so I've been getting lots of good ideas on how to improve my gardening techniques. I have not, however, had much chance to delve more deeply into Home Cheese Making -- perhaps later this winter?

Thanks to spending some of my vacation time caring for others, I did not spend as much of it helping out on local farms as I had planned, but I did manage to help the Lady Bountiful a couple of times (starting seeds and harvesting crops) this year. And thanks to the Renaissance Man, I found more areas for good foraging down at The Farm.

Beyond the goals, of course, the biggest thing this year was the least expected: getting involved in a group of people who brought an amazing dream to fruition in Local Roots. After talking about local foods for so long, I knew it was time to put up or shut up, and I threw myself into the work of bringing this year-round farmers' market to town. Through it, I've met some terrific new friends, found more opportunities and inspiration, worn myself ragged, and had a lot of fun. I never could have planned any of this, but I'm sure glad it all happened.

So where does that all lead me for this coming year?

1. Once again, the main focus is on expanding the gardening. It looks like I will have more space to work with at the Farmgirl Wannabe's acreage, and I have plans to put in more grains, potatoes, dried beans, and a host of other crops that might provide enough surplus for me to sell at Local Roots. And since My Wonderful Parents and I will not, alas, continue to enjoy a CSA share this coming year, I'd like to grow more of what I eat and preserve.

2. Along with that, I'd like to explore baking for market some more. I've had good responses to what I've had for sale so far, and I think that as we set up a bakery counter at the market, I'd like to try some seasonal recipes, including some of my own. Long ago I realized that full-time baking wouldn't really suit me, but this might fill that urge within me without taking too much out of me.

3. Of course, all of that means that I will still be deeply involved at Local Roots, both as a board member and as a producer. A lot of my time will likely go toward the marketing aspects of putting out a worthy newsletter with the fabulous Jen and promoting workshops and community events. We have a lot of great ideas floating around, but sometime soon I'll need to sit down and start plotting a course and getting more people on board to make these events happen.

4. Thanks to Local Roots as well as the local OEFFA chapter, I've met even more farmers and would like to revive my idea of spending time at local farms to learn more about their growing methods. I've enjoyed what I've done so far!

5. I'll keep doing the Independence Days challenge and try to remember that not only do I want to grow and preserve plenty of food for the winter but that I also need to manage those stores well so that my shelves aren't still full come June. I'm still trying to find that balance point!

I may play with other plans this coming year, but I think these overarching goals will keep me more than busy enough. My contentment, though, comes from realizing how intertwined all these goals are -- and how steadily that sets me on the road I want to travel, thanks to all the hard work that has come up until now.

Later tonight I'll get back to more baking -- and to an OEFFA chapter meeting (time to think about seed orders already!) -- but I knew it was time to look back before looking ahead. What a great year it's been, even with the crises and chaos and mind-bogglingly full calendars.

And next year? I expect it to be even better.

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