Friday, April 13, 2012

Backyard Bounty

As I traveled with my child last week for Spring Break, I picked up a Sunset magazine in the airport. I love Sunset, as it has a similar and complementary flavor to what I am trying to achieve with my website so, not surprisingly, when I cracked open the pages I was delighted to find an idea that I loved— loved enough to share here.

Apparently, Sunset's One Block Feast  has been going on since 2008, though this month's article was the first I had heard of it. Four years ago, galvanized by the expanding locavore movement, the magazine's staff set out to grow, raise and produce everything needed for a summertime feast. They started a backyard garden, raised chickens and bees, and learned to make ingredients like cheese, vinegar, beer, wine and salt—all within the parameters of small scale backyard gardening.

"All sorts of eye-opening things happened along the way. [The group] came to venerate the people who make their flour for instance (winnowing wheat is a gigantic pain, to put it mildly), and artisan cheesemakers who create consistent results (none of their cheeses ever turned out the same). They changed the way they cooked and began to truly understand everything they ate. While harvesting honey, pressing grapes, and cleaning the chicken coop together, they also became better friends, [and] decided to keep growing."

They launched a blog during that first growing season ( ) which ended up winning a James Beard journalism award, spawned a book and, eventually, the contest written about in this month's (April) magazine. The contest challenged nine teams across the West to their own One Block Feast. (To read more about the contest and participating teams:

I love this idea --that friends and neighbors of all ages can come together and, in the process of working together, connect more deeply with what is most meaningful in our lives: our food, our land and each other. Participating teams in the Sunset challenge produced a wild array of foodstuffs ranging from oysters and prawns, to honey and pickles and a vast assortment of fruits and vegetables. All attested to the fulfillment and sense of connectedness they garnered from taking part in the project and, it seems to me, that even a scaled back version of this challenge could bring a host of blessings to any group, anywhere, willing to invest in the process. I like the idea so much I'm going to present it to a group of my friends. So how about it? Are there any RST readers out there who want to embrace the challenge? Those who do, please be sure to let me know how it goes! 
Happy Growing!

To read more, or to order the book, check out the Sunset website:

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