muddy feet memoirs

The Chronicle of My Comeback

Category: Foraging

Home Economics


There aren’t a lot of essentials in life.  Food, of course.  Water.  Shelter.  Love.  I think that about covers it.  Money is the way most of us secure these things – or in the case of love, sometimes we chose money over it – but Jay and I have taken a different approach.  We look for ways not to need much money.

These past few years we have focused on food – growing it, gleaning it, sharing it, butchering it, preserving it and enjoying it.   We’re hardly experts, but our backyard gardening skills are getting honed and through networks of generosity we essentially have all the fresh produce we need without having to buy it.   Livestock and poultry find their way to us for slaughter – roosters, old hens, turkeys, even a pig – and our freezer is filling up with a lovely array of meat for the table.  Ten young hens lay eggs for us every day.  We’re doing alright in the Food department.

Water is our next project.  I can’t say much about water conservation except that we plan on installing rain cisterns and redirecting the laundry water into a grey water system sometime this year.  With the apparent drought we’re facing we might have to jam on that grey water system!  Will the grey water flood the backyard?  Will the rains from next winter be sufficient for our garden the following summer?  I promise to keep you apprised of our mishaps and victories!

Third on the list is Shelter, which is a tricky one because it will always demand money.  Currently we’re trying to modify our home loan through the new HAMP program (brought to us by our beloved President Obama).  This should lower the interest rate and reduce the mortgage to something manageable in relation to our very low income.  In previous posts I have fantasized about walking away from this house for something even funkier in the country – something we could buy outright – but reality set back in and this is our best option.  We love our drafty old house with the big-enough backyard.  It fits the five of us nicely, and with the basement being built-out possibly another soul could join our adventure one day.  We’ll have to be discerning about who we invite to do that of course, as recent events have taught me.  I’ve been known to be naive about these things.  I think of myself as idealistic, but sometimes the theory doesn’t pan out in practice.

And lastly Love, which probably doesn’t need description, but I believe it is how we’ve made any progress with the 3 “essentials” listed above.  I can’t grow all the food we need in our relatively small backyard (.15 acre), but I don’t need to.  We share with friends and they share with us.  We’ve created a community built on friendship and abundance.  These friends have helped with plumbing and construction, advice about our mortgage, are drafting the plans for our water systems…   and we help them in turn.  They love our children, and so can watch them while I accompany Jay to his doctor’s appointments.  We are trustworthy and honest with them and they return the favor – family in the truest sense of the word; a community greater than the sum of its parts.  Ironically, Love is the cornerstone of self-reliance and yet cannot be achieved alone.  At least that’s true in my world, and I mean to keep it that way.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for stopping by.


Pink Peppercorns

In our lovely antique town we have many gnarled and ancient pepper trees.  They drip leaves like willows, and in the Fall they produce pink clusters of tiny pearls.











Pink Peppercorns are not true peppercorns.  They are the aromatic berries of  the Peruvian Pepper tree.









Dean and Deluca are selling them for &7.75 per oz.










I nabbed a grocery bag of berries and leaves last weekend…  they are everywhere in Vallejo.  I removed the pink peppercorns from the leaves after a few days of drying.

Not sure how many ounces this is, but it’s a lot by Dean and Deluca’s standards.  Urban foraging is where it’s at.

Stay tuned for fennel seeds and olives!