WORLD, MEET ANNE: This week we’re chatting with the self-described urban neophyte homesteader and brand spanking new HOMEGROWN member Anne. (She’s also the bloggess extraordinaire behind Food Retro. Check it out!) Anne found the HOMEGROWN flock via another member of our Ontario cohort, The Local Kitchener and HOMEGROWN dad Jonathan—a connection that makes us want to play six degrees of HOMEGROWN.
Who do you know here? And who do they know? Have you reached out and said hello? Want to start? Don’t be shy: Post a note below and welcome Anne to the fold. We’ll get the ball rolling: Thanks so much for being a part of HOMEGROWN, Anne. We’re over the moon that you’re here!
What is Meet Your Neighbors? Most of us spend a fair amount of time tending our online gardens, but it’s easy to forget there’s a real person behind every quiche recipe, chicken inquiry, and hoophouse design here on HOMEGROWN. Well, nuts to that! MYN gives us a chance to meet over the back fence and shake hands. (Or maybe hug? We’re huggers. But no pressure.)
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Hello, Anne, and happy summer! We can't help but notice the stellar background in your photo up top. Can you tell us a little about where that picture was taken?
Yes! Thank you, happy summer to you too :) This is part of a mural in my spare bedroom... the whole room is painted this way! When we bought the house, the previous owner had two sons in their early teens, and one of them was a total space fan. He even put glow in the dark sticky stars in constellations on the ceiling! We've been talking about repainting it, but all of our friends and family think we should leave it the way it is. My son's a bit of a space cadet too after our trip to LA where we saw the retired Endeavour, so maybe we'll move him into this room and do some updating of the mural ;)
It's just awesome—totally a young boy's dream room! And speaking of kids (how's that for a smooth segue?), you mention in your HOMEGROWN profile that you didn't grow up around canning and gardening. What changed? What made you want to learn?
It was a bit of a journey getting here, actually. My son has food allergies... he was diagnosed at about 6 months old with a severe dairy allergy. It's difficult to avoid milk in premade foods (though fortunately not as difficult as say, soy), and many of the foods that were technically safe were SO artificial that the ingredients label read like a chemistry textbook. For a while, I thought it was a temporary thing, but when it looked like he wasn't getting over his allergies and they were getting worse, I started experimenting more in cooking and baking.
But the gardening and my awakening to food activism really started when I began wondering what was causing his allergies. There's suspicions around some of the commercial food industry in North America because the rate of allergies here has skyrocketed! In other countries that haven't adopted these practices, not so much. Whether it's GMOs or pesticides or food additives at fault, I don't know. All I know for sure is the more I learn about modern farming and food production, the less I liked. And we're totally dependent on it! I didn't like that either. So I decided to rediscover some lost arts...
Sounds like you had a really strong motivation to begin with and that it has continued to grow the more you've learned. I bet there are other moms—and other concerned eaters, in general—here on HOMEGROWN who'd like to swap tips. (Speaking of tips, don't forget to browse Anne's blog, Food Retro, for lots more on allergies, cooking, and beyond.)
Of all your experiments so far, what has been the most challenging? (We heard something about a self-irrigated planter, for starters.) And is there something that has been surprisingly easy but especially rewarding—something you'd recommend everyone try, no matter how much of a neophyte they are?
Haha! Well if we're talking about challenges, I think to date my biggest challenge was creating a more natural, organic, solid, bakeable chocolate chip. I've had the experiences of others to guide me at least tentatively in most things, but I had to do hard trial-and-error for that one and guess at some of the science involved. At least the experimentation process was tasty :D You can read all about my puzzling on chocolate chips at http://www.foodretro.com/?p=8351
As far as something rewarding to try even as a total novice? I never thought I would enjoy gardening so much as I did, but I love going out there every morning to check out my plants and watch things grow. Building the sub-irrigated planter definitely has helped me become more successful as an urban gardener than I expected to be my first year out. I was expecting a lot more difficulties.
Sometimes the simplest-seeming questions are actually the hardest: What came first, the chicken or the egg? How do you bake the absolute best organic chocolate chip cookie? We can't wait to benefit from your scientific research. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
It sounds like the sum of all of your efforts, from baking to gardening, has been pretty rewarding—not just for your son's health but for your peace of mind, as well. Can you tell us a little more about how your homesteading has changed your own life?
I don't think I can call myself a homesteader just yet, but I'm working on making my way there. :) It's a process! I'm enjoying it.
It's tough to describe how this has changed me. It's such a fundamentally life-altering thing to grow and make your own... you become more aware and more respectful of the environment, and how things become linked together. That respect impacts everything, from intolerance for waste to a curious reluctance to try to upset a natural balance in even a small patch of dirt growing in your backyard.
So well said—and what a great respect you've got for the big picture. Last question and then we’ll let you get back to the homefront: What’s for dinner in your house tonight? And thanks again, Anne. Really glad to know you!
Ooh that's a great question. I have leftover grilled chicken in my fridge. I think maybe a pasta primavera, with heavy on fresh veggies and a bit of asiago cheese on top (for me and my husband).
Thanks for the warm welcome Jennifer! I'm so glad to have found this place. I look forward to connecting with others and learning from their experiences :)