Saturday, July 10, 2010

CSSS*: Week Two—Where Does Our Food Come From Week

* Camp Stimey Saturday Summary!

Well, we sure did find out where our food came from this week. We had an extremely heavy on the activities Camp Stimey week. I also think that my children ate more ice cream this week than they have in the past month. We went a little lighter than I like to on the book learnin' and keeping up on our summer activity packets sent home by the school, but I'm willing to let that slide.

Day One—Where Do Appetites Come From Day!

I'm kidding. Alex took the munchkins swimming.

Day Two—Let's Learn About Produce Day!

You may remember Tuesday as Death March to the Peaches Day. I know I do. But mostly there was lots of delicious eating and picking of fruit. We did this at Homestead Farm in Poolesville, Maryland.

So many blackberries...

Of course, just picking the food isn't quite enough. It seemed important to show the kids that you can create other foods from the basics. So I asked my mom to bake a blackberry crisp for me. You know, for the kids. I'm generous that way. I found a fantastic Triple Berry Crisp recipe that is just as good with just one berry, as long as you use all one and half cups of butter. I just ate the last bit last night and I'm sad it's gone.

Day Three—Cooking From Scratch Day!

I was planning to go to Whole Foods on Wednesday and show my kids the little signs they have posted on their butcher cases that tell about the ranches that the meat comes from. This was in lieu of visiting a slaughterhouse.

Unfortunately, not being a Whole Foods shopper, I didn't realize that every Whole Foods doesn't have this feature, especially not the crappy one we wandered into on Day Three. Not wanting to drive all the way to the awesome Whole Foods, we just went to Giant instead. Because stuff is cheaper there.

Really this is all Whole Foods' fault. Had they been more awesome with their signage, we would have bought healthier stuff from them.

I semi-jokingly mentioned in my original post on berry picking that one of the things I was trying to teach my kids by going berry picking is that it is crazy hard to be a farm worker. Fortuitously, whilst driving to an appointment on Wednesday I listened to Tell Me More's piece on just that. I was a little bummed that my kids weren't in the car with me to hear it, but it was all about the United Farm Workers' Take Our Jobs campaign, which encourages unemployed Americans who complain that immigrants steal jobs from them to actually participate in the jobs that those immigrants do.

One of the guests on the show was Gabriel Thompson, who wrote a book called Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do. I've already ordered the book, because his stories about working in the lettuce fields for a couple of months were pretty intense.

This is exactly what I'm interested in. There are stories behind those bright packages in the grocery store, and they are important. I want my kids to start learning that.

Okay. Lecture over. After I got home, we started cooking from scratch. My kids were pissed that we weren't cooking the pre-made cookie dough I'd bought, instead forcing them to help make bread, butter, and peach pie. The irony.

Jack was totally into helping me make bread. He was a pro at kneading it. It was the perfect activity for such a tactile kid. The bread was actually pretty easy to make, although you do have to knead it a couple times and let it rise twice. It's going to take you about four hours to make. Recipe here.

While I had Jack working on the bread, I put my mom to work making a peach pie. I gotta tell you, it didn't look awesome to peel and pit all those peaches. It got easier once she started boiling them first to make them easier to peel, but I was glad I was on bread duty. I was just watching my dough rise.

I am honestly not sure what recipe she used. I gave her one, but I think she found her own so I can't give you the link. Sorry, Internets. My mom cares not for thee. Regardless, it was really good. I ate some for breakfast this morning.

Our crowing achievement, however, was making our own butter. Butter is quite literally Jack's favorite food, so I thought he'd think it was cool to make it himself.

Here is your butter making recipe:

1. Pour heavy cream into a jar with a lid.
2. Shake.

Seriously, it's that easy. It will take a while (maybe 20 minutes of shaking) to create the butter, and you will have to pour off the excess buttermilk, but it was easy and very illustrative of the principle.

I made Sam take the lead on this activity.

Happy and eager.

Getting tired.

"I need a quick break."

Now Jack has to take a turn.

Now Quinn.

And then finally, the closer.

All of our hard work was totally worth it though.

We had an amazing fresh dinner that included our delicious homemade goodies. Sam told me that I made a mistake by only making one loaf of bread. According to him, I should have made 36 loaves. We ate the whole loaf in one sitting. They loved the butter too.

Day Four—Petting and Fairy Tale Farm!

I figured that since we were focusing on flora so much that we should take a stab at fauna too. Day Four would have been an optimal day to go to a slaughterhouse or chicken farm, but even I am not so insensitive as to subject my children to that.

I found a petting farm that turned out to be mostly made up of fun kiddie activities featuring scenes from fairy tales. This was Clark's Elioak Farm. We had a lot of fun even if we didn't learn a lot about food.

Day Five—The Dairy Farm!

Friday was our triumphant visit to an actual working dairy farm, and the scene of 2010's first Camp Stimey Meet-up. Thanks to Laurie for attending and seeing Camp Stimey in action!

We visited South Mountain Creamery and learned a lot about where we get our milk. I totally recommend a field trip like this if you're looking for something fascinating to do. At this particular dairy farm, milking starts at 1:30 and continues all day, with baby-cow feeding (assisted by the public) at 4 p.m.

We arrived at 2, which left us with a lot of time to kill, as there is not really all that much to do. I would say that a 3:30 to 5 visit would have been plenty. I'm sure the farm people were wondering why we spent all day there. It was great for us though. We got to know some of the really nice employees there who brought us kittens to play with and helped me talk Jack down from trying to adopt one.

This was honestly, truly one of the high points of my summer thus far. It was so interesting.


So there you have it. Quite a week huh? And now, when we look at this pamphlet we found at the dairy farm, we can say, yes, we have a pretty good idea about where at least some of our food comes from.

So many thanks to Jenni, who suggested this topic in the first place. We had a great week!

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