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Starving off the Land: Figuring out first-hand food

Starving off the Land: Figuring out first-hand food
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“What are we going to eat all winter?”

He had a point, and those first few months are still referred to in our house as the Winter of Clams — shellfish being just about the only food available for harvest on Cape Cod in February. As spring approached, though, our efforts widened, and so did our horizons.

Beginning on that first day of January, 2009, we have eaten something we’ve procured first-hand every single day, and I’ve been chronicling our efforts at my blog, Starving off the Land. We’ve built a chicken coop and raised a flock of hens. We’ve installed two beehives in our backyard. We’ve taken heroic measures to amend the sand that passes for soil in our part of the world so we can grow things to eat. We’ve raised our own Thanksgiving turkey. We haven’t shot a deer yet, but we’re trying. We fish, we shellfish, we lobster, and we’re Cape Cod’s newest oyster farmers.

I’ve learned a lot since I left New York. I know how to drive a boat, how to handle a shotgun, how to break a broody hen. I can split wood, slaughter turkeys, use power tools. Along the way, I’ve talked to other fishermen, hunters, and gardeners, and the thread that runs through all their efforts is the profound satisfaction of harvesting food first-hand. If you catch it, grow it, find it, or shoot it yourself, it’s more than just dinner; it’s an accomplishment.

We tend to put food acquisition in distinct categories. Gardening is different from beekeeping, raising chickens is different from catching bluefish. But the life-long hunter has something important in common with the first-time gardener, and it’s that moment when you put the fruits of your labors on the table.

Do you know that feeling? The satisfaction of knowing that you coaxed that food out of the soil, or the sea, or the woods, that you spent time outdoors getting wholesome, healthful food to feed yourself and your family? That’s what’s at the heart of first-hand food, and it’s a feeling I never knew as a city-dweller.

I think I’ll stay for a while.

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