The Real Value of a Home Cooked Thanksgiving Dinner

Last night as I was driving to physical therapy I saw a sign at the Big Boy restaurant in town, it read, “Turkey dinners On Thanksgiving Day, $8.99 per person.” I thought to myself in my 5 p.m. tired fog, I am doing this wrong. Taking my son and family to dinner would cost us about $36.00, plus drinks.

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A fun Thanksgiving game of dominoes with our grand daughter.

Today as I processed the idea overnight I began to realize that my special order organic 9lb. chicken at $4.00 a lb. that the chicken alone equals the monetary cost of the meal advertised on that restaurant sign. Add to that expense the cost of organic; potatoes, carrots, stuffing, Seven Superfoods Salad ingredients, corn bread, Jell-O w/ fruit (for my 6 yr. old granddaughter), two vegetables and dessert, cider, lemonade, cider and tea. And I quickly realized that for many cheap food is a real and deceptive lure.

Add to that my 2015 Thanksgiving Schedule:

Monday: Make the shopping list and grocery shop.

Tuesday: Make the Jell-O and Seven Superfoods salads and bake the pies.

Wednesday: Clean house, change tablecloth, makes the table arrangement and set the table.

Thursday: Get up early to cook the food and entertain the family.

And yet the flip side to this coin is the reality of what a home cooked meal prepared with love truly means. As life gets busier and busier, welcoming family and guests into the warmth and security of our homes for the day is becoming a lost art. But I feel it’s an art worth pursuing and keeping.

Because we use locally raised foods, we are not footing the bill for transporting ingredients across the country or around the globe. So it takes less fossil fuels (or energy) to cook a locally sourced meal at home. Studies show that it takes double the amount of energy to process, package and transport food than it does to grow it

Because we have control over what we are cooking and eating our meal will be more nutritious with less salt, additives and empty calories. Food we cook a home is just plain healthier and the cooking process itself empowers us to make heathier choices.

Cooking at home is also better for the environment as there is less food waste and fewer tossed out items like food wrappings and paper napkins and tinfoil cooking pans to enter the waste stream.

It’s a terrific way to teach introduce children to new dishes as well as about the taste, texture and pleasure of well-prepared food. This process turns the time spent together in the kitchen or dining room a family bonding experience.

The real truth is, the food I cook at home just tastes better. Once I began eating “real foods” I quickly recognized the difference between what I was now eating and the “dead food” taste of the foods in my past.

Their is also the pride I feel when I plan and cook a great meal at home and my family devours it. This is something I cannot put a price on. I know I am giving something of value to them and this is a way for me show my love for my son and granddaughter.

Because we will be using the whole chicken we have less waste. We will eat that chicken for our Thanksgiving dinner and then have leftovers to work with for the rest of the week. For us that means making a homemade chicken pot pie later on that same week, one of my husband’s all-time favorite meals

After that I will take the bones and skin and vegetable trimmings and boilthem into a rich chicken stock. This will be the perfect starting point for a pot of delicious homemade soup later on this winter.

Anything left over will end up in the compost bin and in a year or so it will be turned into wonderful soil and free fertilizer and the leftover bones and skin will be given to the chickens to peck over as a treat.

While we build the basics of a healthy from scratch meal we also build community and lifelong bonding with our loved ones. We make and keep traditions and create memories that are priceless.

The only real ingredients I need for my happy Thanksgiving are real food and my family. And I believe that cooking still matters.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Splendor in the Homestead Meadow

Late July and early August is the time for splendor in our homestead meadow. It’s now ablaze with color of day lilies, yarrow, cup plants, ox-eye Daisy’s and more.

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With the open prairie as my inspiration I began creating a meadow garden here over a decade ago. This is the is the month of splendor for colors in the meadow at the Small House Homestead. The native flowers are in full bloom now and creating stand out color this year.

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I selected varieties that would flourish in the heat and sunshine and require little care once established.

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The sweet smell of the Butterfly shrubs is intoxicating and the splashes of red bee balm, orange butterfly weed, yellow cup plants and brown-eyed Susan’s, and purples butterfly bush, ornamental grasses and blazing star make for an invigorating and beautiful stroll around the meadow.

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These hardy natives can tolerate the summer’s heat and drought with nary a blink like warm weather warriors.

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Most all attract butterfly’s, bees and dragon fly’s and other insects.

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It’s hard to believe that when I started this project in 200 this was a traditional mowed grass area I decided to let grow up. I wanted to add a lovely destination garden for my White Oak Studio &  Gallery customers to enjoy. Come for the garden and shop the gallery. Or come to shop the gallery and enjoy a stroll in the meadow garden.

I started by digging out the grass and weeds in a 5 ft. border all around the meadows edge and plugged in perennials and added layers of bark chip mulch.

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My plan was to choose native plants that are drought tolerant, that attract insects for the birds, make a splash of vibrant color and be good for the ecosystem. I wanted to create many “edges” where birds of many species would come to nest and raise their young. We call this our “Songbird B&B!”

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Later on I added another 4 ft. of garden behind the perennials and planted taller shrubs using Viburnum’s I dug up from a friend’s garden , Forsythia’s I propagated and Flowering Quince shrubs that pop up in places where I do not want them. I now have  a nice shrub backdrop that blooms in the spring.

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We also have a Monarch Butterfly way station and are a certified National Wildlife Federation garden.

Here are a few images of the early meadow around 2004 when it was a  brand new project. It’s been fun and rewarding to see its growth and expansion.

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Our meadow edge border in 2004.

 

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Corn, beans and squash –  a Three Sisters Garden

 

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Cut flowers grew in the raised bed in the early garden years.

Small House homesteader and gardener, Donna