Today is Sunday, the last day of my “eating from the land” diet. This has been a week of exercising discipline; it has been a week of connecting more intimately to the land around me. It has been a humbling week, realizing what I don’t have, how weak my body is when I eat less, especially bugs and no coffee.
I think this week has changed me a bit. Hopefully I will get back in the pattern of eating well and being more conscientious about my food choices. Most are free to choose what they eat and don’t eat. Many have few food options and many more can’t afford or won’t eat at all today. Food should not be taken for granted. Food is a gift, given to us by a Creator who gives out of his abundance. I think that when we eat we need to stop and recognize this gift, recognize how our food is produced and where it comes from; we need to remember others who don’t have the luxuries and options we have. Maybe this will help us to make better food choices. One of the best ways we can make the world a better place is by choosing what we put in our mouths or don’t put in our mouths.
I had fun celebrating at a wedding last night, eating with new and old friends. Food is a wonderful thing. I enjoyed it. What we eat affects our health; it affects our mood. We need calories to survive. We need the meal. Well it’s Sunday and I am a pastor, so I think I should share a little differently today, cause there is a Great Meal coming, a banquet where all peoples, classes and cultures will be represented, the marriage supper of the Lamb, a meal of shalom, whole peace, a meal of abundance for all God’s people, a meal of justice, where no one will be without food, a table where there is a seat for everyone. This is not a meal that we have prepared or a utopia that we have built. It is a meal and a table that has been given to us. So let’s live and eat rightly now as we await that meal.
We eat for survival, but we also eat when connecting to others. Sharing a meal is an event to be celebrated, a time to slow down, a time to enjoy one another’s company. It has been said that the family who prays together stays together. Beyond that, I believe that a family who eats together stays together.
After church today, our family came home and we made an event out of the meal. We all worked together to make it. My two oldest children joined me in the garden to harvest some items for our meal. We picked a few different herbs, okra (the okra never made it out of the garden because my daughter ate it all), tomatoes, and some greens. Catherine and I spent the next hour in the kitchen making the meal together just talking and hanging out.
For our lunch/dinner (we didn’t eat till after 3pm) we ate lamb burgers mixed with sage, oregano, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and onions. On the side we had had thinly sliced fried potatoes and a kale, collard and tomato sauté. Everybody cleared his plate. It was a good meal and a great time.
Did you know that the word companionship means, “to eat bread with others”? Well, we didn’t eat bread, but we enjoyed food together and took pleasure in knowing that our meal was just, a product from the full work of our hands, given to us from a productive, healthy and growing place. We are dependent upon the land; we are not separate from it. We share this place together, with people, animal and plant, a place treated with equity.
Today I woke up with little energy. For breakfast, my beautiful and loving wife made me 2 eggs with some tomatillos, onions, zucchini, and herbs. I also had coffee, some frozen peaches from last year and an unripe pear; no headache today.
After breakfast, I headed to our houses on N. 41st Street. On my way I had to take a detour because one of the blocks was shut down near our houses, due to a shooting. I am not sure if it was domestic or gang related, but it was a grim reminder of the uphill battle we are in.
We didn’t have much of a plan to work on today, since we are still waiting on floor plans for the first house and the yard is being maintained. Our goal is to help revitalize our inner city one neighborhood at a time. Westside Church (with Abide Network) has adopted two houses in North Central Omaha. We sat on the steps and made a plan for some ways to engage with the neighbors. We will start enacting our plan next week. I don’t want to talk at length about our God-sized plan for that area now, but the job does seem impossible and I don’t feel I am qualified for the huge task I have been called to.
I lack energy. I see so many obstacles. I feel the weight of our city, the poverty, the apathy; it’s a heavy weight. I see a few who want a heavenly reality now, a garden city where there is no violence, no poverty. I see a few who want something better than what is. I think we all want something better, but that day will never come unless we work together and have a unifying vision for what God’s kingdom actually is (I will write much more on this tomorrow). I am okay with that which stands in the way. As I look back over the past few years I see great progress, though in the moment it feels differently. Wait for the Lord whose day is near. Wait for the Lord; be strong, take heart.
Today I will rest. For lunch, I had a left over lamb arm steak, a few small half-ripe apples, tomatoes, zucchini, onion, and herbs.
Tonight will be different. Tonight I am officiating a wedding. Tonight I will let go of the worries of the world and celebrate two lives becoming one. Tonight will be a wonderful reminder of the Great Meal to come. I will join in their celebration around a ceremony and a meal. Tonight I will celebrate with anticipation knowing that better days are coming to this place.
Today was a different kind of day, a special day. The morning started as usual with water, coffee and stevia. I didn’t eat breakfast right away except for the few things I picked from the land. Around mid-morning I realized how hungry I was and came inside and ate 3 eggs with some dried herbs for seasoning. I immediately went back outside to work.
Most of my day was spent in the garage organizing and cleaning. Two of our crew worked outside, mostly around the house, cleaning up, doing needed chores and finishing the lorena stove. Two others, my sister and wife, spent the day cleaning the house and preparing for the big night ahead.
We had a great surprise of two friends from church coming to help give us back a working toilet and sink that have been out of commission for months. We still have a lot of work to do to make our plumbing completely workable again. A long story short, bad pipes, bad toilets and hardwood bathrooms don’t work well together. We are in the process of having to restore all 3 bathrooms. This has made living tight and close to say the least.
For lunch I ate edamame beans, green beans, potatoes, arugula, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and onions. I drank water before going back outside to make everything ready.
Tonight, was a special night. Tonight was not about self-sufficiency; it was about community. Tonight, New Earth Farm & Goods hosted Young Farmer’s Night, put on by the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society: http://nebsusag.org. We hosted 28 people on our farm for a potluck dinner and farm tour. Everybody brought something to eat; I ate almost everything. The lineup consisted of raw milk, 3 types of organic cornbread-red, blue, and yellow, corn casserole, cranberry pear crisp, cookies, watermelon, grapes, hibiscus/roselle/moringa/agave tea, apple cider, zucchini bread, garlicky bread, white bread, cucumber water, corn mushrooms (smut), and crock pot ratatouille with tomatoes and squash. We provided the roasted lamb with horseradish and a few other things. It was a great night to eat, fellowship and show people the farm!
I really believe that self-sufficiency by, and in of, itself is a false vision of the world, given to self-achievement, ego and isolation. Food and farming in community and builds into people is a much better approach. Modern day farms are getting larger and larger with less and less accountability. Growing food and sharing together from what we have is the best way. The best way is growing together. This is the hope of our farm, living, learning, and working daily, praying, serving the land and people, together, in hopes of a better future, creating a better world than the bleak one that surrounds us on every side, both in Papillion, Omaha and beyond. A small pebble has been dropped in the water; the ripple has begun.
Today is harvest day. Of course, I had coffee and stevia first. Well, after I had some well water. Every week during the growing season we harvest food for 12 families, not including all the people we feed throughout the week. Whatever extra is left is sold at the farmer’s market, bartered and given away. Today is a good day to be in the early morning cool gardens. I ate breakfast as I went along: green beans, the first of the okra, a few tomatoes, a carrot, and a few different types of leafy greens. The strawberries are usually my favorite garden harvest snack, but they are now past production.
I did have a later snack of eggs with all the typical ingredients from the past few days. Those nutrients gave me the energy I needed to move the electric net fencing for our mob grazed sheep and steer. I hope we have enough pasture regeneration this year to feed them through the fall. All of our ruminants will be sold to other flocks or butchered for meat at the end of the growing season. We can’t afford any more off-farm inputs; a vacation seems like a nice idea.
Our plan is to grow vertically from our tiny land base, like a big city with skyscrapers. When you have no more land and you want to house and feed more people, the best way to build is up. Once we have our food forest of trees – fodders, nuts, fruits, berries, vines, and canes more established – we will bring the large animals back in, who can help the system to be productive, like elephants in the savannahs of Africa or the mastodon savannahs that once existed here in the Midwest.
For lunch, I watched others make cheese quesadillas and turnips cooked in butter. That sure looked good. I wanted to, but did not taste.
I ate potatoes, onions, swiss chard, tomatoes, tomatillos, and arugula. The arugula gave it a nice little kick. The best part of lunch was the drink. I made a hibiscus and roselle tea. I should have added moringa to the mix. That would have given me all kinds of needed minerals, protein and vitamins. Moringa is a miracle tree that grows in warmer climates, but not here. We can only grow it here as an annual. We do grow a few tropical and subtropical plants here. Our hope is to push our growing zones and try to overwinter things that usually won’t overwinter in Zone 5b temperate climate. We want to push the boundaries of what is possible. Maybe one day we will develop a cold hardy moringa tree through mass seed selection.
I had to run errands this afternoon. On my drive I was more keenly aware of all the ways to get easy and cheap food. So many food stops with such great marketing on every corner, cheap food produced the same way it’s priced. I sensed the food places on every corner luring me in. Today it was a difficult thing to resist. We live in a broken system that makes it so easy for us to just keep going its way, sucking us in, telling us the same lie as in the garden, the original garden.
We are trying to produce food that is rich – rich in nutrients, rich in care, rich in community. However, rich food, rich community, rich earth comes at a price. It requires sacrifice; it requires more. I think it will always be hard as long as the system is broken.
For dinner I ate broccoli greens, arugula, carrots, radishes, turnips, and the best chicken one can get, with herbs galore.
Well, off to lock up the stationary and mobile chicken coops, and then going to bed with the sun.
Today, I woke up craving honey, and then, salt. Give me something sweet and then salty. I think our watermelons will be ready soon.
For breakfast, I had my Santa Martha Blend Coffee, ($3 from every bag sold goes directly back to Santa Martha to help with development). I did add some stevia leaves to my coffee this morning, sweetened it right up and it tasted good. I also ate eggs, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, dill, and oregano. I wonder if I put some dirt on my food I would get the salty taste I am craving. I would definitely get some needed minerals. Maybe that is why my youngest son, Shepherd, eats dirt every day. He is a very healthy boy. I also think he eats cow pie from time to time, but I am not sure if he swallows.
For lunch I ate potatoes, eggs, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, basil, and oregano. Man, this is a lot of the same foods. I have eaten eggs twice already today and speaking of eggs, I am partially cheating by eating eggs anyways. Our chickens’ diet mainly consists of bugs, garden scraps and what they can forage on their own, but we do also supplement with local, non-GMO and transitional grains. So until I am able to produce all their feed on the farm, we really aren’t that self-sufficient or sustainable.
For dinner, I had some mint tea and ate chicken breast (same story as the eggs) with oregano, and a little bacon grease. On the side I had crooked necked squash, tomatoes, swiss chard, onions, basil, and oregano. For dessert I had baby carrots. I am getting ready to have some lemon balm tea.
Let me just be clear. First, when I am listing vegetable items that I am eating, I am usually talking about multiple varieties of each. For example I have eaten 4 different varieties of tomatoes and 4 different varieties of carrots, all kinds of radishes, as well as the same for other vegetable species in my diet. But the real deal is how much I am missing grains and sugar, I think. I have a slight headache. I am really thinking more about how much we need to grow more grains. It is time to plant some buckwheat and we are definitely planting a lot more rice next year.
STOP!!! STOP!!! STOP!!! What is wrong with me? My diet is so NOT-diverse. I am eating diverse things but I need fillers and I am waiting on things in their appropriate seasons. I need to stop thinking about ANNUALS. What we need to plant are PERENNIALS, a diversity of perennials ripening throughout the season. Yes, we have a few apple trees, a few peach trees, both of which did poorly this year. We have a pear tree with unripe fruit. We have a serviceberry and apricot. We have a few raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwis, strawberries, and others. We have a little horseradish, comfrey, rhubarb, and asparagus, but we haven’t done our real perennial plantings yet. We have no real nutrient density or sustenance in our diet. Corn and soy is not the answer.
To have sustenance in our diet, we need to be planting chesnuts (a bio-fuel, human food, animal food, timber source, fuel source), hazelnuts and hickories just for starts. We have plenty of walnuts. We need to be planting a diversity of fruits, which we have started this year. In the spring we planted around 150 fruit trees: apples, peaches, pears, plum, cherries, pawpaws, and persimmons. But we need to plant our high bush cranberries, more fodder/living fence trees like willow, black locust and buck hawthorne. We need our berries, lots and lots of berries, like seaberry, honeyberry, currants, raspberries, gooseberries, and vines too. We need more groundcovers and edible mushroom species. This list is just for beginners and could go on and on. We want our food to be our medicine, we want our trees to be our buildings, we want our guests to feel welcome and at peace when they enter into this place. We want to have a diversity of food raining from the sky and shooting up from the ground, which we don’t have to till. We want to experience healing in the fullest sense of the word. We want to spread that healing to the world, planting seeds of faith, hope, and love. Most importantly, love.
Well I have had enough for tonight. Time to eat another squash - I’m hungry again!
So I decided to go ahead and drink coffee, since I work on the farm in Nicaragua where the coffee is produced. This excellent coffee is also roasted and packaged on our farm in Papillion. Learn more by visiting http://santamarthacafe.com and http://negoods.com. However, the first thing I missed in my coffee was honey. Man, we really need to get our beehives going. I need my honey! A few other ways I could and should get sugar from my land would be to tap my maple, walnut and mulberry trees. We planted stevia, but way too late in the season, and we only have a small amount. I am pretty sure not having sugar is going to be the hardest part.
Walking in sandals outside this morning, I kicked over a cow turd, where a bumblebee was bedded down. The bee got stuck between my toe and my sandal. I got stung good and long. My ring toe is swollen and is still pretty painful, now 8 hours later. I was running late and had to leave for work, so I just ignored my pain and left. I realized after I left that I could have just chewed up some plantain leaves and rubbed them on my toe to reduce the swelling. We have plantain growing everywhere at New Earth Farm. Once I got to the church, I walked around the entire property looking for plantain leaves, but none could be found. Tidy uniform grass is seen as proper. Medicine comes from pills. On the contrary, everything we need to live well grows out of this biological system in which we live, earth. We only need to identify and care well for what surrounds us.
I left the office for a meeting at a restaurant. I didn’t eat any food, but I did break my diet on accident. I drank the water I was served. Did you know that Omaha ranks as the 7th worst drinking water in the country? Out of 148 chemicals tested for, 42 were detected in some amount, 20 of which were above health guidelines and 4 of those were illegal amounts, including atrazine (an herbicide that causes birth defects), trihalmethanes (refrigerator fluid), nitrates, and manganese. All of our water at home comes from a well. This reminds me that I should probably get our well water tested again.
We grow a ton of food, so eating well is not going to be a problem. For breakfast, I had eggs cooked in some bacon grease, zucchini, tomatoes, and basil. For lunch, serviceberries, cucumber, radishes, apples, and potatoes cooked with bacon grease, sun-dried tomatoes, kale, onions and oregano. I ate a snack of tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. For dinner, I ate squash, ham, green beans, soybeans, tomatoes, onions, collards, swiss chard, radish, and oregano.
Our food is prepared on a stove that uses electricity; our water is pumped up from the ground using electricity, and our food is stored using electricity. Our city’s electricity is produced by nuclear and coal power, a very unsustainable source of power, for me, an unsustainable farmer. I told my wife that I think we need to cook all of my food with wood outside. She told me that if that is the case, I am on my own for preparing the food. If all goes well, our outdoor wood-burning stove will be completed by next week.
I ate well, but my mood is down, either from all the pressures of life or from the things I am depriving myself of. Most likely, it is both and more.
My name is Jonathan Dodd. I am a husband, father, farmer, community developer (both locally and abroad), and pastor. I desire to be a sustainable farmer who builds a sustainable future in a city and world of decay. I want to provide for my family, my kids, my kids' kids, my community, the world community, while not destroying the physical world around me at the same time. I want to change the world for good, but I am still trying to figure out how I might be better and what that should look like. I know that everything is about relationship to everything. So if I want to be better in the world, I must begin with relationship to everything around me.
I think the best place to begin is right where I am.
Over the next seven days I will do my best not to be philosophical or inspirational. I hope to only blog about my experience with the world around me and the food I eat and the drinks I drink and the people as I experience them. Starting tomorrow, I will only be ingesting what comes from my land base with a few days of exception.
We have a farm and produce a lot of what we need for our sustenance, but we don't produce anywhere close to what we consume. I am still a majority consumer, buying much of what I need and want. I am curious as to what I can do without and what I can learn new to do with.
I have been spending a lot of time over the past week thinking about all that I will have to give up. I think it will be difficult. No butter, no salt or pepper, no to a lot of things. I am a person addicted, living in an addicted world. I wonder what my world would look like if I couldn't buy all that I need. Over the next week, I will be attempting to live off the land, fully, with the exception of 2 days, yet to be revealed.
However, a few caveats. First, I will do my best to reflect on my experience and not to preach about how you or I could be and live differently. Second, two of the next seven days will not be the same as the other five days, but you will have to wait and see what those two special days will look like. Thursday and Saturday will look differently, but will have their own unique twists on food and community.
I have a large reserve of food, including meat and potatoes, but there is a lot I do not have. There is a lot that I am not connected to. I hope to bring you my experience of the world, balancing the physical world with technological cyberspace.