November Kids

I used to keep our buck separated from our does, so we could manage when they kidded.  But in the last couple of years I’ve just kept them together, leaving it up to nature to decide when the babies would come. And nature has preferred January and February, even though those are the harshest months for the health of mama goats and newborn kids.

So I was delighted when all our nannies became amorous this month. A goat’s gestation period is five months, and in November our weather is usually mild. If we’re going to be out in the barn in the middle of the night assisting with kidding, I’d much rather do that in November than in January.

Our new billy goat Abraham has big hooves to fill, but he seems to have stepped up to the challenge. Once he’d done his duty in the barn pasture I took him to the other pasture in the hopes that he could work his magic there too.

On his way to another assignment

On his way to another assignment

Ready to get to work

Ready to get to work

The Daddy-to-be

The Daddy-to-be

But so far the girls in that pasture seem unimpressed.  I’m hoping they’ll grow very fond of Abraham soon. If not, we may have more January kids after all.

Weeding and the Goose

It’s impossible to stay ahead of the grass and weeds this time of year. Nature is in overdrive.  I spent a lot of time with my weedeater yesterday.  Like a chainsaw, I consider a weedeater a necessary evil on the farm. The weeds beneath the grapevines had grown to be taller than the vines themselves.  The situation called for drastic action.

I also spent time rescuing the zucchini, which was in danger of being overrun. But that weeding was all done by hand.  We’ll see how long it takes the weeds to regroup and return.

After battling back the weeds

After battling back the weeds

Grateful zuke

Grateful zuke

We’re harvesting an abundance of squash and zucchini these days, and enjoying meals featuring fresh squash (one of my personal favorites). We’re in the midst of transitioning to summer crops now and should have tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, potatoes and peppers very soon.  What a great time of year.

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Baby banana fingerling potatoes

We’re looking forward to returning the Wild Goose Festival, which is next weekend in Hot Springs, North Carolina. We’ll be giving a talk on Sunday morning and we spent part of yesterday preparing for it.

The theme of this year’s event is “Blessed are the Peacemakers.”  Our talk is titled “Peacemaking through Sustainable Living.” Here’s the blurb describing it on the website:

Talk – Peacemaking through Sustainable Living
A society that consumes more than it produces will ultimately collapse. Along the way, in order to survive, such a society will have to beg, borrow or steal from others. Violence and exploitation are inherent byproducts of overconsumption and unsustainable living.

Bill and Cherie Guerrant are farmers and advocates for lives of voluntary simplicity. They will discuss their ongoing journey to sustainable living, and how we can all help create a culture that lives peacefully and in harmony with the rest of creation, through simple living and ethical eating.

More about us and our talk HERE.

We’re looking forward to connecting again with our old Wild Goose friends, and to making new ones.

For the past few years this has been our only weekend away from the farm.  We have farm sitters lined up, so we’ll be swapping farm chores for a few nights in a tent in the woods by a river and a few days soaking up music, justice, spirituality and art.

For any readers planning to attend, we hope you’ll say hello if you see us.

Jesus, Bread and Chocolate

JBC

In his engaging and well-crafted book, Jesus Bread and Chocolate, John Thompson weaves into a memoir of his interesting life a look at the surging appeal of “artisanal movements,” evidenced by increasing appreciation of such things as locally-grown food, hand-crafted specialty breads, chocolates and beer. He sees in these movements a cultural yearning for high-quality, ethically-produced alternatives to the industrialized mass-produced products that are predominant in our culture (and that he sees reflected in many expressions of contemporary Christianity), and he calls upon the Church to reflect the values and ethics of these artisanal movements, rather than those of the industrialized economy. In a society that increasingly finds church irrelevant, this is a message that should resonate with many these days.

The author doesn’t presume to map out specifically what artisanal church (my words, not his) would look like. Rather, he shares his own fascinating journey from an impoverished and often terrifying childhood into the world of indie music, then eventually into an appreciation of good coffee, food, beer, and bread, and ultimately into an awareness that the evangelical world is largely imitating the industrial model, which many are finding to be unsatisfying, rather than gravitating toward the artisanal model, which he finds more compelling.  I learned a lot about coffee, beer and bread, and the author’s life story makes this book a page-turner.

Full disclosure: the chapter on local food features our farm and quotes me a lot.  I met John Thompson at the Wild Goose Festival a few years ago, when he was just beginning to work on the book. When he asked if I would allow him to use my thoughts on the local food movement (and our motives) I was happy to agree. My comments in the book will be recognizable, of course, to readers of this blog.

I’d never given much (if any) thought to how our society’s desire for high-quality locally-grown food might be related to other rising artisanal movements. Connecting them, as John has in this book, makes good sense to me now. The yearning for authenticity in our society goes much deeper than just a desire for good vegetables.

The Power of the Consumer

Despite a barrage of criticism, Chipolte has now converted to a 100% GMO-free menu. It has been rewarded with an ever-increasing market share and a soaring stock price. The rapidly increasing market demand for GMO-free products is further evidence of the power of the consumer to change our food system.

The rest of the fast food world is taking note of course and nearly every day it seems there are new stories of menu changes designed to reflect the values of consumers who are increasingly looking not only at the price of their food, but also to the ethics behind its production. So fast-food companies are announcing that they will no longer sell pork from companies that keep sows in farrowing crates or chicken from companies that feed human-used antibiotics to their chickens to stimulate growth. They’re not doing this because they’re suddenly conscious-stricken about their practices. They’re doing it because they have concluded that elimination of some of the practices most objectionable to informed consumers will make their corporations more profitable.

The anti-GMO bandwagon, rolling along despite no assistance from the government and no government coercion, is threatening to bring dramatic change to the industry. As one widely-circulated article says:

For Monsanto and GMOs the situation suddenly looks ominous. Chipotle may well represent the beginnings of a market swing of historic proportions. GMOs may be relegated to cattle-feed status, or even oblivion, in the USA. And if GMOs fail in the US, they are likely to fail elsewhere.

I see GMO food as more of a symptom than a problem, but given that with very few exceptions GMO ingredients are only in unhealthy food that no one should eat, if GMOs should be brought down by consumer sentiment that would be fine by me.  More importantly, it would be confirmation of the power of consumers to defeat corporate food marketeers and government-sponsored market manipulation.

Thanks to activists and nonconformists in the food movement, the future of our food system looks much better today than it did a couple of years ago.

Seasonal Eating With White Flint Farm

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Cherie wrote a little cookbook, featuring some of our favorite seasonal recipes and tips for sustainable living, as well as recipes for homemade household products like cleaners and toothpaste. It is now available on Amazon (HERE) and, for you folks in the Danville area we’ll have it for sale for $5 at the farmers market.

Purposeful Spending

Another excerpt from Ellen Gustafson’s excellent and highly-recommended book We the Eaters:

If everyone in America decided to refuse to buy or eat any product that contained HFCS, some very interesting things would begin to happen. For starters, companies would be forced to escalate their efforts to provide alternatives to HFCS-sweetened products, just like Heinz did with its Simply Heinz ketchup, and is Pepsi did with the introduction of Pepsi Throwback – both sweetened with cane or beet sugar. Something else rather interesting what happened as well: we would in effect be conducting a Princeton study of our own. We could be the lab rats not eating HFCS and watching as our weight likely goes down in our health improves. Not by changing our caloric intake or how much we eat, but simply by changing what we eat.

In the past three decades, an increase in industrial food processing, the loss of small- and medium-size farms, and the overproduction of subsidized commodity crops have left us with an overabundance of the wrong foods across the board. Consider what would occur if we dismantled subsidies that favor the overproduction of corn, soy, wheat, and cotton, and replaced them with incentives that encouraged more diverse, healthful agriculture. And then what would result if we applied the same sound agricultural programs in Uganda, and everywhere else in the world that needs assistance. We would begin to revolutionize the entire food system. We would use the power of free market dynamics to our advantage. We need to deploy our consumer dollars, with purposeful, health-conscious, economically sensible, globally connected spending earmarked for good food now, instead of health-care costs later, as a means to realign the food system.

Here is some food for thought: the 33% rise in obesity in America predicted by 2030 will come with $549 billion in added health-care expenses. If the rate of increase in obesity drops by only 1%, we would save an estimated $84.9 billion in healthcare costs. The conclusion is obvious: it costs far more to treat obesity than to prevent it in the first place, even if that means absorbing higher food costs in the short term.

After preparing this post I read Pope Francis’encyclical LAUDATO SI: On the Care of our Common Home. It is a remarkable document that has deeply impressed me. While the media is focused only on the discussion of climate change, this is actually a comprehensive examination of the effects of environmental and societal degradation resulting from overconsumption–addressing pollution, waste and our “throwaway” culture, lack of access to clean drinking water, loss of biodiversity, global inequality, decline in the quality of human life and more. It is a beautiful and compelling call for sustainability. Almost all of it could have been written by Wendell Berry. The Pope does address climate change, of course, and appropriately so, but it is in the context of a much broader discussion.  It is a long and thoughtful document, but I highly recommend taking the time to read it if you can. Link to the full text HERE.

OK, this time I mean it.  I’ll be offline for a few days. Back next week.