Saturday, November 19, 2016

Healthy Holidays

Farm Update

We've had a lot more time to spend in the kitchen cooking
awesome meals now that the CSA season is over!
Hi everyone!  Happy Thanksgiving!  Although it’s only been three weeks since the end of the CSA, it feels like a completely different life to me.  The first half of November was the warmest we’ve ever had, so we were able to offer a one-week CSA share, and we had quite a few people order one!  Thank you to all of you who put in orders for veggies and eggs!  That was a busy week, but a good one!  Fred planted next year’s garlic crop yesterday, just in time to be beat the bad weather that’s moving in.  He also disked down some old crops and chisel plowed some areas for the early spring plantings.   As the weather gets colder and more crops meet the end of their season, we are settling into our winter rhythms more.   We’ve been able to spend a lot more time in the kitchen, cooking with the veggies we have left from the fields and coldframes, as well as the pork from our piggies and the venison Fred was able to get over the last few days.  This is the time of year when we turn toward hearth and home, just as generations of farmers before us have done at the end of November, and relish time with our family and friends.  We hope you have a great time in the upcoming weeks doing the same!

Healthy Holidays

Oh, the holiday season!  It’s that cozy time of year full of decorations and good food, family and friends, joy and cheer!  But for most of us, it seems like it is so hard to stay healthy.  I don’t know about you, but this is the time of year when I have to start making a concerted effort to stay healthy and in shape.  In the summer, exercise and healthy food just happen to me naturally because I’m always moving at the farm and because we’re eating out of the abundance of the season.  But then the days get shorter and the light dimmer, and the weather makes us want to cozy up to the fire.  This is also the time when our bodies start calling for comfort foods, foods that will warm and fill us.  This is nothing new.  In fact, it’s what people in our area have done forever.  When you are eating seasonally (which was the only way one could eat up until fairly recently in human history), it is natural to eat fresh, light foods in the warmer months and warm, dense, filling foods in the colder months.  As the fruits and vegetables became less available, people relied more heavily on bread, meat, and things they had preserved from the bounty of summer, such as jams and starchy root vegetables.  And it was natural to stay busy in the summer, because in our agrarian past, that’s when the majority of the year’s work was done.  Then when the daylight hours got too short and the weather too cold, and the fields were covered with snow, families would bundle up next to the fire and occupy themselves with sitting-type activities.  It was pretty normal for a person to put on a few pounds in the winter, both as a result of the change in lifestyle, but also as a mechanism to keep the body warm in the pre-furnace days.  It makes a lot of sense, actually, and it’s what our bodies naturally want to do.

Now that the weather has gotten colder, we have kale growing
in the greenhouse instead of the field.
Which is all well and good for the cozy, bundled up, pre-electricity folks.  But we’ve had a change of expectations, and I don’t want to gain five or seven pounds every time the weather turns cold.  Back in the day, people needed a little extra insulation in the winter, and it was fairly easy not to notice it under the extra layers of clothing.  But we don’t live that way anymore.  So how do we avoid following the traditional patterns when we still live in the traditional climate and our bodies still want warm, dense fall and winter foods?

I think it’s all about intentionality.  Because let’s face it:  If I just did whatever my body wanted, I would sit by the fire and read and knit all winter, and not move off the couch the entire time.  And I would have pumpkin pie and pork chops and ten cups of coffee every single day.  Which would be fun for a few days, but then I would start to feel sick and lazy, and my brain would get a little fuzzy, and I would start to notice that I didn’t really like the way I look.  There’s a reason that seasonal depression is most common in climates like ours, and I don’t think it’s just about the lack of sunlight.  All of these factors contribute to a more negative mental outlook.

So what are our options?  Some of these will sound kind of like, “Okay, duh.”  But there’s a pretty wide space between knowing and doing, isn’t there?  Here are a few ideas for how we can stay healthy, fit, and happy all winter. 

·      Make a goal to stay active!  It’s so much harder when the weather is nasty.  Walkers and runners find that the roads and trails we frequented in the summer become dangerous when covered in ice, and our motivation gets sapped the first time we try to run into a freezing wind.  And if you’re into basketball, tennis, soccer, or a myriad of other sports, often the courts and fields are covered in snow.  So you might just have to take your physical activity inside during the winter.  If you live or work near a gym, awesome!  Problem solved!  I personally am fortunate enough to have a treadmill and a husband who will give me a hard time if I don’t use it, so I have set a fairly ambitious mileage goal for each month until I can get back outside.  Basically, figure out what works for you, your schedule, and your lifestyle, and actually do it!  And if you don’t have a physical activity you love (or can at least tolerate), it might be time to find one or several.  There are a hundred options these days, from YouTube yoga videos to spin classes, so chances are pretty good you’ll be able to find something you enjoy doing.

·       Eat fresher and lighter!  This one is tricky when you care deeply about seasonality and local food as I do.  Because “fresh” and “light” are not adjectives I would use to describe foods that are available locally in this season.  I have had to stop being so much of a purist in this respect while still trying to get things from pretty close to home.  A few years ago, we tried to make it all winter on just food we produced or got from local sources, and by March, I was completely over beets and frozen green beans.  It was just kind of depressing, and that’s no way to live.  So the last few years, we’ve started supplementing what we’ve preserved from the summer with whatever fresh produce looks the best from the co-op or grocery store.  Often these are seasonal gems like Michigan cranberries, or cold-hardy crops like kale and spinach.  We also usually keep some kind of citrus fruit on hand in the winter because although they don’t grow around here, they are in season during the winter.

·      Don’t go crazy on junk food at parties!  This is the time of year where there are lots of celebrations and gatherings, and lots of delicious-looking foods that aren’t very good for us.  You already know this, and if you’ve ever read the November or December issue of any woman’s magazine, you are equipped with tactics like, “Don’t stand talking next to the food table.”  The key here is moderation.  For me, there is no food that is off-limits, so if I want some pie, I’ll try some pie.  Just not a ton of it.  A good way to make sure you’re not going crazy is to put the foods that look appetizing on your plate, but make sure you take larger portions of the healthy stuff and tiny portions of the unhealthy stuff.  Then eat the healthy stuff first.  By the time you get around to the unhealthy stuff, you won’t be as hungry, so you’ll be less likely to go crazy.  Then, if another piece of pie is really calling your name, wait 15 minutes for your brain to receive your body’s natural satiety signals and know if you are actually still hungry.  At the end of 15 minutes, if you still really want it, go for it. J

So there it is!  A few totally doable ways to make it through the colder season healthier and happier!


In a few days, about 50 of my cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents, and grandparents will be gathering at my mom and dad’s house for Thanksgiving, and I cannot wait.  Since the original 20ish of us that there were when I was a young child has grown to 50+ over the last three decades, everyone pops in on my mom’s Family Thanksgiving facebook event and lets everyone know what they’ll be bringing, so we don’t end up with just turkey and 25 pies.  This year, Fred and I are slated to bring some veggie side dishes, so naturally, I’ve been searching the internet for some winners that are easy to scale up for a crowd.  This year for family Thanksgiving, I'll be bringing Sauteed Carrots and Sauteed Kale (because it's pretty much my favorite way to prepare veggies).  If you happen to have a large group to cook for at Thanksgiving as well, check them out!