Friday, November 9, 2007

Good Enough Is Perfect

I'm delving into farming books. I'm planning on turning our little corner of the Shire into a mini-farm. Visions of chicken tractors dance through my head. A must-read book on the subject is You Can Farm by Joel Salatin and the way he writes it makes you think that it's really can farm. One of the more notable quotes in the book comes from his father. He tells how his father gradually passed the reins of the family farm over to him, allowing Joel to make decisions and do things without micromanaging the changeover. "Good enough is perfect," he said. When I first read that, it rubbed my perfectionistic, control-freak nature the wrong way. I cringed. But the thought stayed with me and bubbled in the back of my mind like my pickles. I pondered the hazards of "analysis paralysis," of being caught up in trying to do things so perfectly that nothing gets done at all. Sometimes it is best just to move forward, even if it isn't the best plan around, just to get moving and see what happens.

Which got me thinking about all of the work that I do and the very little that I task the Hobbits to do and the disservice that exacts...for all of us, all for the purpose of satisfying my way of doing things. I've been working on letting go. One excruciating inch at a time. The breaking point for me was the leaves in the yard. Last year, the leaf fall was significantly diminished by the emergence of a cyclical defoliating pestilence. They were amazing. I could stand out on the back deck of our house and hear them eating the leaves. I'm not the only one who noticed this....several other people commented on it, so I know I'm not nuts. (Well, I probably am, but at least this isn't the evidence of it. Smirk.) Yard clean up last fall was an easy-breezy affair. And it only took that one easy-breezy year to forget just how many leaves the trees in our yard produce. After slogging away for an entire week and not being half way done--ignoring the new deposits on the areas where I'd cleaned--I decided that I needed to fall back ten and punt. This was the time for Operation Good Enough Is Perfect.

It came to me one night as I was falling asleep. I'd equip Princess with a small rake and have her edging around buildings and trees; Bug would man the hose and garden, soaking the leaves to speed composting; Dog would run relay on the mulch bags for the mower. Of course, when I announced my plan, it was met with crows of delight from work-famished younglings who were eager to assume this Herculean task. Um. Not. Nonetheless, everyone went to their assigned stations. What had taken me a week to half way complete was accomplished in two days with the four of us working. Dog estimated that he'd satisfied all of his PhysEd requirements for quite some time. He pondered weighing a full mulch bag and calculating the poundage he'd schlepped into the garden, just to throw in some practical math skills applications on top of it all. Bug was a trooper and soaked the leaves relentlessly, just pausing long enough to call for more EMs to refill the spraying cup. "This is the best job I've ever had!" he chirped. I gotta get these guys out more.

On chilly, hard-working days like these, it's divine to come into a house warmed by the oven and infused with the smell of dinner baking. I'm telling you, I keep flashing on all of my childhood favorites these days. Comfort food. My mom used to make a cream of mushroom casserole that we all loved. When everything went off the menu, we lost this one, since it was a "box of this, can of that" kind of recipe. After a while, it dawned on me that someone had probably used the packaged food as a short-cut from a Real Food recipe. I twiddled with it and reverse engineered it into a recipe that everyone with furry feet can enjoy, namely the Hobbits.

Cream of Mushroom Chicken Casserole

6-9 chicken parts
8-12 mushrooms, sliced
2 cups rice
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups coconut milk
2 T dry Italian Dressing Mix

I said before that my grandmother started every recipe by browning the meat in carmelized sugar and oil. See? Here it is. So dump oil or lard in cast iron dutch oven and heat sugar until brown and bubbling, just to the point of smoking. Add meat pieces and allow to brown on each side, turning for even browning. Add sliced mushrooms and saute. Add bone broth, coconut milk, rice, and stir. When the liquids begin boiling, add dressing mix and stir until until incorporated. Bake at 350* for 1-2 hours or until cooked.

Italian Dressing Mix

1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
2 T oregano
1 t pepper
1/4 thyme
1 t basil
1 T parsley

For dressing, mix:

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup oil
2 T water
2 T dry mix

In the quest for gardening perfection, I stumbled across Efficient Microbes as an enhancer. I used it one Fall and in the following spring, all of the dead fall leaves in the garden were dirt...almost no leafy matter left. And worms? There were so many that when I walked through the garden, they would spring from the ground and wiggle across the tops of my feet with each step. Really. It was like something out of Tremors. The following year I skipped the EM and the results weren't as stellar. It's a great product. But that's the problem. It's a product that I'm buying from someone else and I've taken Sandor Katz's admonition to heart...the one about becoming a producer and not a consumer.

Then the idea struck me. EM is fermented molasses water with some additives thrown in. Fermented molasses water. How about kombucha tea made with molasses instead of white sugar? In the interest of this science project, I sacrificed all but two of my scobies to make this muddy brew. It fermented up and even made more muddy scobies in the process. I had Bug spraying this stuff all over the layers and layers and layers of leaves blanketing what was my garden. I won't know until the spring whether or not my science experiment did its job. I'll know if it the leaves have been reduced to rubble and have returned to the dust sufficiently.

And good enough? Yeah. That would be perfect.


~M said...

Great post! What kind of oil are you using in the Italian dressing? Thanks!

Loztnausten said...

Thanks for visiting, M!

Most of the time I use olive oil in my dressings, but lately I've been dangerously flirting with rice bran oil for things that need a more delicate flavor.

Unknown said...

Hi there, I stumbled on your site through various links and was interested to read about your leaf experiment with EMs. Though I've known about EMs for several years (see ), I never have worked with them.

Thanks for giving me a push to try them.

Anonymous said...

I need to read that book. Joel Salatin...isn't he the "salad bar beef" guy I've just read about in Real Food?

I am really glad to find your blog! I came over here from one of the Nourishing Traditions Yahoo forums.


Loztnausten said...

Jennie! Glad to have inspired someone. :) We'll cross our fingers and see what happens in the spring!

Rebekka! I haven't read Real Food, but it sounds like something I'd want to read. Thanks for the recommendation and thanks for visiting my site!