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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Atisnal Cheese in the Back of Beyond and Venison Steaks

I just got off the phone with some good friends of mine. They have cows and have been busting their butts to be able to produce and sell their very high quality milk legally. It is not easy if you're not a huge commercial dairy, and the task has taken them from Washington to Colorado, to Oregon, and now back up to Kettle Falls, Washington (about an hour from Spokane). They're only weeks away from getting their commercial license to sell raw milk. And their milk is wonderful. David bends over backward to make sure that each and every cow, each and every milking's worth of milk is pristine. And it is. His raw milk outlasted the commercial, pasturized stuff in the fridge every time I got it.

Aja, his wife, works for a small natural food store and they're going to expand their cheese section, offering artisnal cheeses. Now this is not a metropolitan area with a lot of middle class buyers looking and paying for upscale products. This is VERY rural. People there, Aja tells me, are willing to pay more for organic, high quality, local, and artisnal stuff. Not everybody, by a long shot, but enough to keep the store going. And hopefully to keep the dairy going.

That fills me with hope. :-) I have loved the artisnal and local foods movement, but I was afraid it was a figment of the moneyed middle class. Let's face it, small scale produced food is simply not cheap. You have to grow very large scale with a minimum of labor hours in order to produce food at the cost you're used to seeing it in the grocery store. I couldn't sell my veggies at grocery store prices and survive. But oh, do you pay a price for cheapness. You pay it in quality of the product -- you've got to use a lot of chemicals in order to eliminate all those expensive hands weeding and removing pests -- you pay for it terms of animal welfare. It is not really possible to raise animals humanely on the scale required to produce cheap meat and eggs.

It's a tough choice to pay more for something you could pay less for. I'm really pleased to hear that people who do not live in the suburbs of Seattle or Portland are willing to do that. I was thinking about this as I cut and wrapped the venison steaks from those mule deer hindquarters David lugged back from eastern Oregon. I caught some flack from someone who wasn't at all happy that I was eating deer. Not a vegetarian. That person just figured it was better to eat that nice, plastic wrapped chuck steak than Bambi. I don't buy commercial beef. That buck didn't suffer much. David is a good shot and a consumate meat hunter. The steer who went from calf operation to feed lot to slaughter house had a tougher time. The lambs I raise don't know what is in store for them and it's over before they figure it out. It's unpleasant, messy, hard work, and of course you have to do the killing, but I'm happier this way. I know they had a good life, both the lambs and the deer. Well, when it's all said and done, a whole lot of tiny critters will get to eat me, so what goes around comes around, eh?

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