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started off poorly…I forgot how many breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings I had scheduled with friends and colleagues. Friday night was date night with Descartes, during which I managed to have no earthly idea where my food had flown in from. Saturday morning was my beacon of light (more later) but by Saturday night I was dining at the local sushi place with a good friend, eating fish that was likely caught in a far-off land, and likely not even caught, but farmed and harvested. Sigh. Monday was dinner with two old friends, at one of those newer theme-chain restaurants (the theme is something like French or Louisianan, but honestly the theme should be the Home of Giant People Who Love Giant Muffins). The rest of the week fared much better, with home-cooked meals and Wednesday’s pick-up of our new CSA box – I could have sworn I read somewhere about using pomegranate seeds in a sauce…anyone?

But back to Saturday morning (please note my attempt to keep the farm and its owners anonymous and untraceable – see my most recent post about the growing hostility toward raw milk suppliers in CA). I left early-ish for my first visit to the local farm that would, hopefully, soon be my supplier of pastured dairy, eggs and meat. It was a clear morning, and after an uneventful drive south to Stockton, I headed east on a highway that wound its way through flats, then mounds, then hills and finally rolling, oak-covered foothills of golden grass. The scenery undulated under me as I took in the fresh country air, the Gold Country scenery, and finally the sign that indicated I had reached my destination. Two large, muddy dogs greeted me with a wary welcome, circling me until the farmer called them back to him. He was the only one awake so far this morning, and needed coffee. He called me in. After a half-hour at the kitchen table I knew far more about his work history and health issues than I had intended, and I found the conversation refreshingly slow-paced. “Shall we go visit the animals?” Sure.

Outside the bedroom window I met the cows, calves, chickens, goats, and pig that bed down each night just a few feet from their human stewards. Midnight, Lucy, and others nudged me and accepted my hand on their noses. The pig sniffed my purse for food and left muddy nostril marks. The goats jumped the fence and one another to get to the haypile near a second pen, which holds the steers and geese. “The steers are going to market next week…it’s time,” said the farmer in a way that was neither nonchalant nor nostalgic. I looked in their faces, determined to keep my eyes open through all parts of this farm tour. As I’ve said here before, if I’m going to eat meat, I’m going to be conscious of where it’s coming from.

We moved back to the house to discuss business; the farmer’s wife was up by then, and it turns out she really supervises things around here. These farmers are clearly nervous about the ramifications of selling raw milk in California, and determined to know me before signing a milkshare agreement. A milkshare is just about the only way for these farmers to sell the delicious raw milk, cheese, and butter that Lucy et al produce from the 103 acres they graze from day to day. I was ready to sign, but they wanted me to take home some of each and try it first, so I’ll know what I’m getting. Turns out the wife talks a blue streak too, and she proceeded to tell me much of her work history and health issues, many of which led this family to retire from the city to the country, and return to the farming lifestyle their parents and grandparents had taught them. “We’re not in farming to make money,” the wife told me. “We have this farm so our children and grandchildren will always have good quality food no matter what. You benefit from the leftovers.” Fair enough.

I left with a trunk full of food – a gallon of raw whole milk (the sweetest I’ve tasted), 1/2 pound of raw butter, a pound of the sharpest cheddar ever to pass between my lips (the farmer’s wife made it three years ago and has been turning it over once a week since then, to keep it aging), a dozen eggs with deep orange yolks, and a pound of stew beef. All this, plus a promise of raw goat’s milk once the goats have birthed their kids in January. My milkshare will be goat’s milk, supplemented with cow’s milk whenever the goats are dry.

I set out on a country road that winds its way along the edge of the foothills, north again toward home. I took all the historical routes, through Gold Rush town after Gold Rush town, feeling fulfilled and excited about my first local-food adventure. And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it got better. I spied a sign for fresh, homemade ravioli, at a little box of a building along the road. I don’t know how long Vinciguerra Ravioli Co. has been gracing Jackson with its pillows of goodness, but I bought four boxes to add to my collection of local foods in the trunk.

By the time I got home I was hungry and ready for some yum. I cooked up a box of pumpkin ravioli just like John Vinciguerra instructed – at a slow boil, for only a few minutes so the ravioli don’t burst (I only had two casualties). In the meantime I melted some butter with garlic and some sage from my side garden. Tossed together and sprinkled with grated Romano, it was heaven on a spoon. A rewarding end to an adventurous day of food.


URGENT: Some serious deception has just taken place in the California Assembly, and Californians who value raw milk (and all its health benefits) need to take swift action to stop it!

Read all about it from Mark McAfee’s point of view here, and also check out David Gumpert’s excellent analysis here. Then write letters! Send them! And post a comment here letting me know that you did! I’m doing a mailing in the morning, and I’ll post once I’m done, too.

Thanks, y’all.

I’m inspired again. Aaaaaahhhhhhh! It feels good. As you can see, I haven’t written here in a while; I’ve been somewhat wrapped up in figuring out what foods don’t agree with my body so I could stop eating them. Well, that turned out to be harder than at first it seemed, and took some of the fun out of food for me. As a bit of an obsessive personality when it comes to health and food, I recognized the pattern and decided to cool it a bit. Basically, my body feels happier when I cut down on grains and sugar…big surprise there! It’s only what I’ve been reading for the last, oh, ten years or so. So white sugar is out of my life, except for the 1 cup a month that I need to keep my kombucha thriving. And grains are a few-times-a-week proposition now.

But that’s not what has inspired me – I just figured I’d quickly account for my absence. What does inspire me at the moment, is the 100-Mile Diet. I’ve been very intrigued with the “eat local” concept, but failed miserably at the September challenge set forth by Locavores. I just didn’t keep track at all. But I think I’m ready to go there, and commit myself to a 100-mile foodshed as much as I possibly can. Since I live smack in the middle of northern California, I have a fabulously diverse foodshed – I can hit the coast, and I can hit Nevada – so I really can’t complain!

So with Samhain around the corner, I set forth my New Year’s Resolution: For the next year, I will source as much of my food as I possibly can from within my 100-mile foodshed.

What does this mean? Well, I’m finding out (to the relief of my internal perfectionist) that there is no one right way to do this. Everyone is creating their own version of the 100-mile diet – some making exceptions, some going whole hog, others going a week or a day at a time. So I’m laying out my own personal plan for the next year, and I intend to use this blog to hold myself accountable to it. I’m excited and nervous at the same time! What will this be like? How will I feel if I fail? What will my biggest challenges be? Am I too close to winter to do any canning or freezing prep? Okay okay, enough worries, on to the plan.

HerbanGirl’s Year of 100-Mile Food

1. Weekly produce from my new/old CSA. Distance from home: 51.5 miles (pick-up on Wednesdays, 1/2 mile from my office)

2. Supplemental produce from the downtown farmers market on Sundays. Distance from home: 1 mile

3. Milk, eggs, and possibly cheese and beef from a family farm near San Andreas. Distance from home: 71.1 miles

4. Fish and seafood from our local fisherman, Brand Little, available at the farmer’s market or co-op. Distance from home: 1-2 miles (Brand fishes off the SF coast: 80-100 miles)

That takes care of the basics – fruit, veggies, dairy, eggs, meat. Then there’s the question of prepared foods, ingredients, etc. I really feel so lucky to have so much close to me. Lundberg has been growing rice in my town for decades, and Full Belly Farm grows and sells wheat. Organic cultured butter from Clover is only 80 miles from home. The abundance of crops at Apple Hill is only 50 miles away. We are absolutely surrounded by wine country – Napa Valley and Sonoma to the west, Amador and Shenendoah to the east. We have spices and herbs a’plenty at home, but when they’re used up I will have do make do without (sniff) cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom…my very favorites.

As much as I admire the original 100-Mile Dieters, I don’t know that I can succeed at eating 100% within my foodshed for the year. By now I am quite familiar with my limitations and weaknesses, and I would hate to mentally throw away a good idea just because I can’t do it All. The. Way. So I’m giving myself five “wildcards” (this is the lingo, apparently) to keep myself sane.

Wildcard #1. Coconut products. These have become an important part of my diet, and they’re doing much for my health so I’m keeping them.

Wildcard #2. Salt. There is no natural source of edible salt in my foodshed, but good sea salt is incredibly nutritive and important. So I’m keepin’ it!

Wildcard #3. Cocoa. This seems a bit silly considering how little I eat it, and I may regret the choice, but I’m keeping it as a wildcard so I can have my occasional hot cocoa or square of deep, dark chocolate. And I bet when I get to making my own ice cream I’ll be glad I kept it!

Wildcard #4. Vanilla. I bake. ‘Nuff said.

Wildcard #5. Baking soda. See above.

In addition to my wildcards, which I consider near-necessities, I’ll also give myself some permission to not become local-uppity or rigid. I will not turn down any food that is offered to me in hospitality (that comes from Jessica Prentice and I think it’s beautifully put). When he makes it, I will drink Descartes’ homemade beer without asking where the barley came from. Anything that’s already in the house today doesn’t count, but I can’t replace it when it’s gone unless it’s local. And when I go out to eat or when I’m traveling, I will do my best but not drive myself crazy.

There. It’s set in cyberstone. Hold me to it, y’all!

Now, anyone know a good local substitute for cranberry sauce?

The Author

This is a site about saying yes to life - written by a multi-passionate rock star who loves to take life between her fists and kiss it full on the mouth.

"Make my boy realize that, at the end of the everlasting why, there is a yes. And a yes and a yes!"
- Mr. Emerson,
A Room With A View