How We Eat
The other day, I calculated I did 6 loads of dishes between getting up and dinner time - this wasn’t including the dinner dishes as the kids and Kevin are responsible for those. It wasn’t an event day, a batch cooking day, an extra guest day, or any other special day around here, just a bog standard day in the life of the farm.
We cook a lot. Most of the time, I recognise it for what it is - an immense privilege that has come from building our lives around the things that matter most to us. And it is a privilege - both in the sense that I am able to do it because I work from home and can pop in between the office and the kitchen throughout the day and because I have the time and means to do all the steps that it takes to get most of our meals from farm to table. Buying whole ingredients in bulk, purchasing and feeding a cow, goats and sheep, investing in the infrastructure and space to do those things, having access to land in the first place, these are all things that make me a very privileged person in the scheme of things.
And its precisely because we have invested so much of everything into “from scratch” living, that we don’t really have a ton of choice but to eat the way we do (even if Theo would like McDonald’s every day of the week) - we can’t both buy feed for the cow AND buy milk from the store - its one or the other and fortunately the “other” is our preferred choice. Also, eating seasonally and trying to focus on what we have and not what we want means that we often do without.
So, here is a little glimpse into how we eat (and cater) at Gartur Stitch Farm.
Having a dairy animal or two means that dairy takes central stage in the farm kitchen. If we aren’t milking, we are undoubtedly processing milk in some whey (har har). We make all of our own:
crowdie (a soft spreadable cheese, like chevre)
We also make a large portion of our own butter, but not all. Partially because we aren’t a licensed dairy, so all of our butter and milk that we serve to guests needs to be store bought and because we simply can’t keep ourselves in butter as we use a lot of it. We buy in cheddar cheese as well.
The only meat we buy is sausage and bacon - otherwise we eat directly from the farm for beef and lamb and from our friend’s farm for pork. We also buy game off of our neighbour the gamekeeper. On one occasion last year, I bought some pork from the grocery and Ellis complained loudly that it was gross. When we do buy meat in, we generally buy a whole animal (back to the privilege of having space to store it!!) - it works out cheaper for us, is easier for our friends who supply it and it means I know what we’ve got to work through. In the case of our beef, our friend raises the cows for us and when we sell it on, it means we get amazing beef to eat and he gets a good price for his animals.
That cooperative model of selling some of what we buy in so that we can afford to buy in bulk is a model that works well for us. We use it with the flour we sell for our breadmaking kits and courses as well. Obviously we make our own bread. We bake a sourdough loaf most days and also at least once a week make wraps, scones and soda bread. We easily go through a 16kg bag of flour in 2 weeks and more in summer when we are running events. We buy from Mungoswells Malt and Milling in East Lothian and they deliver to the farm once every 6 weeks.
We order beans, tinned tomatoes, nuts, grains, Oat Milk (I am lactose intolerant and can’t drink milk) and most other pantry staples in bulk. As we do a lot of catering for the farm, we have a wholesaler account with Greencity Wholefoods, a Glasgow-based wholesaler. We invite other neighbours and friends to bulk buy with us, saving a delivery fee and enabling them to get bulk items as well. It works out well for us, as we don’t always need enough to go over the free delivery amount, so they help push it over the edge. We have also used BuyWholefoodsOnline in the past - though a recurring order oversight meant that I now have 20kg of wheat bran in my pantry…
Fruit and Veg:
This is one area I think we could definitely do better. Though we aim to be as self sufficient as possible, the whole goats/chickens and vegetable garden co-existence hasn’t been resolved in the 6 years of living here… Last year, we produced most of our own veg, but that also meant we ate a lot of salad and kale and very little of anything else. When we aren’t producing, we head to our local wholesale fruit and vegetable market (for those who are local - its France Farms - either at the Caledonian Market in Springkerse on a Tues-Thursday 8-2 or at their farm in Gartocharn from 9-5).
We have bought box schemes from Locavore when we aren’t catering. The veg is lovely and local, but it is never enough. We eat a lot of fruit and veg. With every meal made from scratch, we could easily go through at least 2 boxes a week to feed everyone, even if we aren’t catering.
We do work to put away as much food as possible, again, this can be a bit of a challenge as autumn is an incredibly busy time with work. We make a point of canning jam throughout the year for ourselves and to sell in the shop. We make green tomato salsa (but never enough) and ferment food as we go to help it last. Ideally we would do more canning, freezing and preserving, but we do what we can when we can.
My afternoons are almost always the same story - endless hours of Theo following me around telling me he’s hungry. We try not to buy in too many snacks for the kids - not for any reason other than they would eat them all in one sitting. Generally, they have bread with something on it and a few times a week I will bake some cakes or cookies after school.
Division of Labour:
I do almost all of the cooking here. I am generally better and faster than Kevin at looking at what we have and making things up. We don’t really meal plan, but I try to have an idea of what I am going to make for dinner the next day so I can soak beans or defrost something. If I don’t feel like cooking or the cupboards are bare, I have no problem with the kids eating cereal for dinner or sending out an emergency call for takeout. The kids all get school meals, so I know that at least once a day they are getting a hot meal that they generally like. And if it means one less load of dishes in a day, I am all for it.
We have a new vlog up all about how we eat, with a couple of recipes as well.
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