Tips and tricks on living a frugal existence (with an emphasis on healthy living) from a queer girl and her partner as they attempt to play, love, and go to school while working at minimum wage in a too-expensive apartment in the heart of Nova Scotia.
Who Invited The Herbivore?
A U-Pick Adventure and The Vegetarian Who Doesn't Preach
Oxford, Nova Scotia, calls itself the Blueberry Capital of the World. It's got fields and fields of blueberry farms and a blueberry festival, and a giant, slightly horrifying metal blueberry statue at the first rest stop off the highway, complete with a Tim Hortons.
I was nowhere near Oxford, though. That was useless information for your next trivia competition at the pub. Now you know the answer, should anyone quiz you on the obscure and rather sad slogans of towns in my province.
Bedford: A Traditional Stopping Place
Stewiacke: Halfway Between The North Pole and The Equator
Truro: The Hub of Nova Scotia
Two weeks ago we went to my new favourite place in the Valley, Dempsey Corner Orchards. GF and I went last year, but too late in the season for anything really good. This time we brought friends and sunscreen and plaid shirts (lesbo chic) and completely forgot to pack a lunch. Oops.
We got our hands filthy and fed screaming kids and pulled a really heavy wagon back and forth in the blazing summer sun for hours - for fun.
Dempsey is a gorgeous U-Pick farm in Aylesford, Nova Scotia. As the name implies, they grow the food, and you pick it off the trees/bushes or dig it out of the ground. Not only are the workers super nice and the farm full of variety and the animals adorable, but the owner is a riot. She appeared during our U-Pick 101 session, draped herself all over our teacher, wailed about how she'd been missing her since a whole day ago, then offered us a pregnant cat. She also tried to sell us a book by asking, "Do you like to read? Do you poop? If you keep it in the bathroom this book is perfect for extended stays." My kind of woman.
I mentioned before that I generally don't get to eat fruit because I can't afford to. Despite Oxford being only about an hour away, blueberries can cost anywhere from $4-$7 per two handfuls. Just about a cup of berries hardly feeds one person, let alone two for two weeks. For a poor almost-student, fruit is just out of the question. U-Pick fruit is the exception to this rule. Not only did I score enough blueberries to satisfy me for probably a good chunk of the winter (six boxes), but I got them organic and for $2.50 each.
GF also got a huge kick out of digging white potatoes, and we came home with probably three or four pounds for less than $3. There's absolute benefit to buying in bulk and doing the harvesting work yourself. Provided we can keep them at an optimal temperature (Warm Apartment Hates Potatoes: A Memoir), we'll have three months worth of food for $18.
On a related note, we also picked up 8 kilos (16 pounds) of rice for $15 from the grocery store. Rice and Lentils are a very cheap, base staple for really tough times that everyone should be aware of - it's much healthier and less expensive than, say, Hamburger Helper (and requires less attention to cook).
"Little Dog" begging me with his beautiful
two-coloured eyes to feed him more cookie.
Dempsey has a beautiful big yard besides the gardens that kids can play in. Around it are pens full of farm animals, enjoying their day-to-day life and so used to attention that the goats, pigs, and baby cow (named "Daisy" - can you believe that?) will come running when someone approaches, screaming for affection (and probably food). There were rabbits, ducklings, two hilarious piggies, two breeds of hen and a rooster, sheep, goats, and the cow, plus four absolutely precious old dogs, whom I referred to as "Fluffy Dog", "Fluffy Puppy", "Dead Dog" (he laid around so still), and "Little Dog" and fed under a picnic table. I had my hands all over any animal that would stay still long enough (pig noses feel so weird!) and had to help get Daisy the calf into the goat pen without the goats escaping, during which time I had my fingers licked and became a cow whisperer.
For the last year or so I've gone from a relaxed vegetarian to more of a flexitarian (someone who generally avoids meat but won't disregard it completely), but it struck me when I was feeding Daisy how like the dogs she was. She had such gorgeous big brown eyes and was so dainty and polite as she took grass from my hand. I think I fell in love with her and her shyness and little hooves, and it kind of hit me while I was petting her neck that I've eaten bigger versions of her. That thought upset me the whole drive back to the big city.
Everyone knows how food animals are treated in developed countries. I don't have to quote any hippie books or activist websites on the horrors of feedlots and slaughterhouses. It's sick. But we don't make the connection of hamburger = tortured cow because we're not seeing it daily, and because we much prefer the delusion of the happy Dempsey-esque farm life for Bessie or Daisy the Former. I've let myself slip into that delusion, going, "I'll buy humane, grass-fed, local beef when I have the money, but I can only afford regular stuff right now." Really, I should be taking responsibility for the practice I'm promoting with my appetite, and just avoid eating those animals who have as much personality (if not as much brainpower) as my childhood dog. I wouldn't want my boy or Fluffy Puppy in a slaughterhouse.
(I will, however, continue making broth from animal bones, because GF does eat meat, and I will not waste food.)
So the herbivore has returned. Admittedly, I've gotten used to eating meat now, so stopping is a bit of a challenge. But I'm determined, for both the sake of the baby cows in the world and for my own health. Next stop: hummus.
Things to pick from this:
1) Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper than pre-packaged. Picking your own food lowers the cost even more. If you can get to a U-Pick before winter, do so, and stock up!
2) Go to Dempsey Corner Orchards, or, if you're too far away, check out their quirky Facebook page.
3) What you eat is your business. Take a second to reflect on your business expenses. Could you eat less of something and splurge on the more humane/antibiotic-free/local version? Would it save you money? Could you consider limiting what meats you eat? Could you be passionate about your food choices without criticizing others for theirs? Let's all be open-minded!