Saturday, September 12, 2009

Neighborly Economy

The night frosts are upon us, down to 25 degrees on Monday, and we’re in the thick of the harvest. I picked pears and apples this week and today I lugged a bucket of cucumbers in from the garden for a batch of honey-curry pickles. It’s also the season for meat and the first hunters are out in the hills. In a few weeks, we’ll be butchering and starting our delicious Bunchgrass Beef on its way to hungry families anxious to lay in a supply for the coming winter. Think of all those kitchens that will soon be filled with the tantalizing aroma of simmering stews and savory roasts. I’m starting to salivate.

One of the best parts of having a family ranch is having family. Our “real” family, and our amazing “family” of friends who work for each other, lend each other stuff and barter to get things done. This week Prairie was here helping sort and move cattle and build fence.

Prairie also stretches our thinking with discussions about local food systems, sustainable communities and economic justice. We’re lucky to have her out in the world learning, traveling and working towards positive change. One thing she shared with us was a list of Wendell Berry’s 17 rules for a sustainable community that appeared in YES! magazine. Berry is a farmer and well-known author and many of his rules resonated with me. I especially liked rule #15:

“Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.”

When asked what they value about living in small rural communities, I often hear people say it is that we help each other when we need it. A house burns down, someone is injured in an accident or becomes ill, and suddenly a whole swarm of people tumble out to organize meals, set up donation accounts, raffle quilts, hold dances and auction off $150 huckleberry pies.

Our family certainly relies on and enjoys being part of the neighborly economy. Just this week we had Prairie’s help with the cattle, Bryan was here to lay out the new corral, Pam called to offer green beans and another friend let us glean fruit from his orchard. We then passed on apples and cucumbers to other families.

While she was here, Prairie also took over the kitchen and whipped up some tasty meals. Working at Zenger Community Farm and immersed in the thriving food scene of Portland, she collects a lot of interesting recipes. The Carne Asada tacos she made were perfect for Gabe’s birthday dinner. Try out her simple and savory recipe. With a few neighborly acts, you might even be able to rustle up some of the ingredients right where you live. In any case, you can start "economizing" by having the neighbors over to enjoy it. Maybe they'll bring the beans and rice.

Prairie’s Carne Asada Tacos

A nice piece of grassfed beef - sirloin, flank, or round steak
Juice of 2 limes mixed with several cloves of minced garlic, some olive oil, salt and pepper

Marinate the meat in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours in the lime juice/garlic/olive oil. Then cook the meat. You can cut it up into small pieces and sauté it. Or you can grill or broil it whole and then cut it up. Don't overcook it.

Serve on warm corn tortillas garnished with:

Chopped white onion in fresh lime juice with fresh cilantro
Fresh jalapenos minced
Hot pickled veggies, jalapenos, carrots, cauliflower, etc.
Fresh or home canned salsa
Shredded cabbage
Chunked avocado

Goes good with a side of rice and beans.

From Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef