Saturday, December 03, 2011

Oh, Year

What did I say in that long-ago last post? Yep. Blink. There went November.

Now all of a sudden, it's December -- and I'm knee-deep into holiday preparations in baking, not to mention trying to find a moment to celebrate this little blog's anniversary. Hard to believe I've been writing here for seven years now.

So maybe that explains why I'm feeling unsure of the future direction here -- that good ol' seven-year itch. Part of me feels like there's more I could do or say somehow, more areas of the kitchen to explore -- and part of me feels like I spend so much of my life around food that even I am bored with hearing myself talk about food.

Guess it's appropriate, then, that it's time for a year-end review and some thinking about where I might go from here. First, let's flash back to last year's review:

I also still don't want to bake full-time." Ha! Famous last words! Now that Local Roots is open six days a week, and the Local Roots Cafe is also up to speed (and using my bread for paninis and other sandwiches), I am regularly baking every day. (Sundays I'm usually just whipping out the first batch of panini loaves for the cafe -- not too time-consuming.) So that definitely changed my plans for the year.

"I will have less space for my own gardens this year, not more." Again, that didn't end up quite as expected since the Contradance Callers invited me to share space at their garden -- thus increasing my growing space 100%. That gave me the opportunity to plant some different crops and to learn from other experienced gardeners -- a really fortuitous change of plans!

I need to make a little more time for my writing again." Well, you might not have noticed it so much here, but I did eventually start to get caught up on book reviews and a couple of other pieces for The Ethicurean, and I have submitted a few things to Farming Magazine as well. Writing a good deal for the Local Roots newsletter helps... but there's room to grow here, too.

As far as other goals go, I didn't get much additional farming experience, aside from one visit to the Delighted Gardener's plots. I did find other outlets for selling my baked goods. I did keep up with eating out of my pantry last winter, and I did get a little more reading in (though I still have a few titles I need to work into my winter reading pile).

On the whole, I would say it was a very good year. The baking business grew at a gradual pace, allowing me to tweak my baking schedule and offerings regularly without feeling overwhelmed by what I had committed myself to do. I had good crop yields from my gardens, with enough to share with friends and even some to donate to the Local Roots Cafe. I limited my food preservation to what I would truly want to eat or use in baking, thus freeing up some time and personal energy. And I still had time to spend with friends, enjoying the fruits of my labor.

But change for the New Year is already afoot. My personal eating habits have had to undergo significant alterations this fall due to various health issues created by my eating too much of my own baked goods -- no details are necessary, save to say that I am right off anything with sugar or most any baked goods in general. And in tandem with that, I confess to having made a gradual shift from being a vegetarian to being what the Renaissance Man calls a "meat snob" -- someone who will eat meat that is sourced from a trusted local producer.

This is all creating a more mindful approach to what I eat, because it's amazing to discover just how many things -- especially condiments and sauces -- that I have to avoid now due to "hidden" ingredients that will do me no good. I'm learning to simplify my cooking and my palate -- but also craving some new things that I hope will expand my culinary skills. I definitely have room to grow here.

Other things to look forward to in the coming year:

1. Over the next month, I'll be exploring other ways to grow my baking business. Since this clearly is where the bulk of my work time is being spent, and since I do need to bring up my income level somewhat, I need to consider new ideas: new products, new outlets, new customers. I've had some success this past year in introducing new products at Local Roots, from different sandwich breads to a delicious apple strudel bread that has become popular and new tea and herb blends. I hope to come up with several ideas that I can implement throughout the coming year.

2. I want to start my garden planning for next year now and to start some seeds even as early as January. And I want to make sure that by midsummer 2012 I'm getting seeds started for fall crops -- I fell behind on that this year and don't have as much in the garden right now as I had hoped (though I still have beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and chard to pick).

3. While I plan to continue following the Independence Days challenge for myself, I'm less likely to post about it here since I will probably incorporate it into a column for the Local Roots newsletter. And I really want to do better at record-keeping for next year's preservation -- I did none of that this year.

4. I will try to pursue other outlets for my food-related writing. Farming Magazine is a great local option, but I have a couple of other possibilities in mind, so I want to look into those before I say anything more.

5. I have really enjoyed teaching cooking classes at Today's Kitchen Store this year, so I want to spend some time in coming weeks thinking about potential future classes. Teaching these classes not only brings in a little extra income, it's also a wonderful way for me to brush up my knowledge and skills. So far I have plans to work with a friend on an herbal tea class next summer, and the store owners would like me to come up with additional Local Roots-sponsored classes featuring seasonal produce. It's a good start!

Well, those are my goals for the year. Now, let me turn it over to those of you who are still reading this struggling little site -- based on that, what would you enjoy reading about? What ideas do you have for me?

Let me know -- I'm staying open to whatever happens!

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