Tag Archives: Food

Long Live The “Mortgage Lifter”

mortgage lifter tomato radiator charlie

 

Challenging economic times call for ever more creative survival strategies. Food costs have exploded across the land, forcing families to squeeze every last penny from their rapidly devaluing dollars. Housing costs are another matter altogether and a home mortgage can be a terrible burden to bear. Just ask anyone who has lost their home through random hardship or the disappearing job. At times it seems a most unsolvable puzzle.

A man named MC (“Radiator Charlie”) Byles of West Virginia had a solution to these type of problems in the early 1940’s. In this case his answer was large and red and proud, and particularly delicious on a slab of steaming homemade bread with salt and mayonnaise.

A homespun gardener and inveterate tinkerer, he wanted to build a better, and bigger tomato. And build it he did. After several years of propagation his tomato plants could produce, mild, meaty, and delicious fruit of immense proportions. People flocked to his door for a look at a 3 pound tomato, and he was happy to accommodate them. Never one to miss an opportunity, he sold his seedling plants for $1 each and paid off his $6,000 home mortgage in a few short years. He named his new creation “the mortgage lifter”, and a backyard gardening legend was born.

That legend lives on today, and for good reason. Imagine paying off your property with the fruits of your backyard labor. Think about what life would be like without a house payment, or a weekly grocery bill large enough to choke a horse. It’s an inspiring and encouraging idea. It gives me hope. It can be done. Marshall Cletis Byles would tell you so, if he could.

I tip my gardening hat to him, and to the unbounded energies of his creativity. I’d say it’s time for many of us to take another look at his game changing idea. Perhaps it’s possible to follow his example and do our very best to lift the grinding weight of the mortgage from our backs. It may be an overly ambitious or unrealistic plan, but like him, I must try.

There are many ways to get there, and perhaps you have already begun or are well on your way. Our version of the “grocery lifter” comes in the form of rabbits and squab. Others beat back their bills with a small flock of geese, which possess the marvelous ability to efficiently convert grass to many pounds of tasty meat. The addition of a few pigs can provide miraculous results for your larder, particularly if you are a fan of pork and pig fat. Pigs, like tomatoes, have often been refered to as mortgage lifters. My neighbor has added a couple of steers to his small pasture and plans to keep one for the freezer and sell the other to cover his costs.

You may have an entirely different idea, but the intention is the same. I think it can be any animal or plant that works for you and fits your particular set of circumstances or comfort level.The important thing is that we all do a little to help ourselves and contribute to a more self-sufficient life. Every bit of food we can produce at home takes power form the corporate controlled food model. It gives us a reason to get up in the morning and keeps us grounded in the small satisfaction of a job well done.

So let’s hear it for the backyard gardener, the keeper of hens, the canner, and the prepper. Give thanks to the independent farmers and agricultural workers everywhere. Let’s revel in the joys of animal husbandry, fish farming, or beekeeping. Put a little bit of the farm and the old-fashioned barnyard back in your everyday life. You won’t regret it.

We can do it. We are doing it. Let’s decentralize, and unplug from the controlling grid. We must put our heads together, and our families and communities will follow. Let’s keep our friends close, and our enemies at bay. It’s the mortgage lifter revolution, because the very definition of mortgage is death and we must throw off the chains of that grim and unforgiving reaper of sorrows.

The spirit of MC Byles, like his seeds and giant heirloom tomatoes, live on. It can be seen in the successes of backyard entrepreneurs across the continents. Sometimes the path to independence and the bounty of a joyful life starts with a simple seed, planted in the welcoming and living earth of a backyard garden.

Long live the mortgage lifters and the backyard heroes, and the unlimited promise of a new day!

———-Do you have a backyard hero? Tell us your story…

“There’s nothin’ in the world that I like better than

Bacon, lettuce and home grown tomatoes
Up in the morning and out in the garden
Pick you a ripe one, don’t get a hard ‘un
Plant ’em in the springtime eat ’em in the summer
All winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin’ and the diggin’
Every time I go out and pick me a big’un

Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What’d life be without home grown tomatoes
There’s only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes

You can go out and eat ’em, that’s for sure
But there’s nothin’ a home grown tomato won’t cure
You can put ’em in a salad, put ’em in a stew
You can make your own, very own tomato juice
You can eat ’em with eggs, you can eat ’em with gravy
You can eat ’em with beans, pinto or navy
Put em on the side, put em on the middle
Home grown tomatoes on a hot cake griddle

If I could change this life I lead
You could call me Johnny Tomato Seed
I know what this country needs
It’s home grown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don’t bury me
In a box in a cold dark cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
Where I could be pushin’ up home grown tomatoes”

From “Home Grown Tomato”, By Guy Clark, Sugar Hill Records, 1997.

Soil, Not Gold, Is The Best Investment

earthworm in the hand
Hans / Pixabay

Robert Rodale was a pioneer in the fields of organic gardening and local food production, as well as a giant in the publishing world. His words often ring more true today than when he wrote them, which is a gift in itself. I have reproduced some excerpts here from a small volume in my collection, which hold even more power given the fact that they were written in 1981. It provides another insight into the current discussions of the merits of gold as an investment, compared with the ability of an individual or family to provide food for one’s survival in the face of bad times.

For many, those bad times have visited their neighborhoods already, so they definitely hit a little too close to home.

For example:

“…we are heading into a soil and food crunch. I am convinced that the days of surplus farm and food production are almost over. My guess is that you haven’t heard or read about that possibility anywhere yet, except right here in these pages. But it is bound to happen…”

“The disruption of normal social and economic activities caused by a worldwide food shortage would probably increase the attractiveness of both gold and soil as investments. But I feel that if you compare the relative merits of each, soil is clearly the winner. And because of the shortage of food that is likely to occur within this decade, soil will soon replace gold as the most talked about and symbolic thing of enduring value.

This is going to happen because people have always put a higher value on things that are rare. Gold has always been rare, and will remain so, even though more is being mined all the time. But soil has never before been at short supply on a worldwide basis. Erosion and encroachment of deserts have ruined the soil of large regions, and their have been famines caused by bad weather. But never have people had to contend with the thought that, on a global basis, there isn’t enough soil to go around. Within a few years that will change. Soil will, for the first time, become rare. And worldwide television and news reports quoting crop production statistics and high food prices will carry that news everywhere.

A new symbolism of soil will develop. Until now, soil has symbolized dirt in the minds of many, especially city people who have little or no feel for the tremendous productive capacity of good soil. I think we are going to see that attitude change rapidly. Access to good earth will become the greatest of all forms of protection against inflation and a much stronger security blanket than it is now…”

“When you spend gold, it is gone. Soil properly cared for, is permanent…”

“I want to make one final point. Suppose you do have a hoard of small gold coins at home, and a food shortage develops here in the U.S. Hopefully, the cause will not be war, and it may not even be an absence of food in central storehouses. The shortage could be caused by transportation breakdowns, most likely a lack of fuel to carry food from farms to processing plants to supermarkets.

Where would you take your gold coin to buy food? In postwar Italy, as in this country several decades ago, small diversified farms could be found near all towns and cities. There were even truck farms within the city limits of New York. All are gone now. Many americans would have to walk or ride their bicycles for hours to get to a farm, and then likely would find an agribusiness operation with bins of one or two commodities on hand. Spending your coin would present a real challenge.

So the best fall back possession is not gold, but a large garden and a pantry of home-produced food.”

From the introduction by Robert Rodale, in the book titled “Fresh Food, Dirt Cheap (All Year Long!) by The Editors of Gardening Magazine.

“I wish to have an intimate relationship with earthworms, and soil”.  – Michael Patrick McCarty

 

earthworm castings
Hans / Pixabay

 

You Might Also Like: A Simple Act of Protest 

A Simple Act of Protest

 

Today I ate a homegrown cherry tomato, and I liked it. It was perfectly ripe, bursting with flavor, and it did not travel 1000 miles or more to get to my mouth. In fact, I picked it from my sun room, just a few steps from where I write this.

I ate it because it was good, and I could.

To eat it supports a system in which I believe, one that is right in so many ways. It is a local transaction, of that there is no doubt. More than that, it is a conscious and personal act. I tended and nurtured that small plant, and I studied it’s growing fruit with hope and anticipation.

To eat a tomato from the supermarket more than likely supports a system that I do not believe in. That tomato depends on chemicals, the corporate model, and long distance transport, steeped in diesel. It rarely tastes like a tomato either.

Thus, I so protest. I pop it into my mouth and I eat my cherry tomato which was just a second ago still attached to the vine. It is an inconsequential act, I suppose, but it still holds power. It makes me feel better. It may not change the world in any significant way this day, but it did change my world, and for the moment, that is enough.

inproperstyle / Pixabay

 

Rabbit Livers Are Da Bomb!

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a victorian painting of a chef surrounded by a variety of wild game in preparation for cooking. eating Rabbit Liver
Let the wild Feast Begin

Betting and odds making is not my forte, but I am willing to wager that even the most adventurous among you have not eaten a rabbit liver.

If I’m wrong, and you have partaken in the livery plate of heaven, then you may wish to stop reading now. You know what I am about to say, and I hate preaching to the choir or boring our readers.

The liver of the common domestic rabbit may be the most delectable liver in all the world. It’s not even exotic or overly pampered, and it can probably be found on a homestead or backyard just down the road. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know that it is really, really good for you too.

I know, it was a great shock to me also. I am generally not so passionate about innards, or “offal”, as it is more affectionately known. The word itself sounds much too much like “awful” to my wordsmith sensibilities, which makes me wonder if that was the intention in the first place. It doesn’t help to know that a common definition is “waste parts, especially of a butchered animal”, or that some synonyms include refuse, garbage, or rubbish”. Sounds so completely appetizing, or not. As a matter of course, I tend to favor the standard cuts and less daring fare, but hey, to each their own. And then I discovered rabbit livers.

To be more accurate, I can thank a friend for that discovery. He was the one that watched as I butchered and processed some rabbits for that night’s dinner. I knew that he liked his rabbit, and I was happy to oblige him and eager to get it in a pan. I had completely overlooked the livers, and he was absolutely not going to let that happen. As it turned out, he cared much more about them than he did about the rest of the rabbit. He rolled them in flour and flash fried them in butter and spices with a happy grin, and I tasted one and smiled too.

I don’t know why I should have been so surprised. I’ve field dressed a lot of game during my years as a hunter and pursuer of large and small game. You could say that I came to livers and other organ meats quite naturally, and I’ve had my share of venison liver, and such. I know that millions love it, but I must admit that I have always been a reluctant eater of such provisions. I was always a hunter first, but a cook, …not so much.

After all, what does one do with a pheasant gizzard, or the kidneys of a caribou. A responsible hunter uses all parts of the animal. But the wet, squishy parts?

I call it the “offal dilemma”, as all roads lead to the undesirables and inevitable actions. I always separated out the parts and pieces, and either passed them out to appreciative friends (or so they said) or made a half-hearted attempt to prepare and eat them. It really wasn’t too bad. That was until the day of rabbit livers, and my opinion of livers, and offal in general, made a hard right turn. I am a reinspired cook, so pass the onions and mustard, please.

Offal is no longer a tough sell. These livers are in a league all their own. They are mild and sweet, satisfying, and easy to prepare. In fact they are hard to ruin, short of setting off a nuclear explosion in your kitchen.

But don’t just take my word for it. Track some down today. Befriend your local rabbit raiser. Impress your friends with your culinary expertise – hell, impress yourself. You won’t regret it even a little bit.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if many more people know about this original delight than I suspected. After all, epicures can be funny that way. Sometimes they don’t let us in on all of their little favorites. They must protect their source, after all. On second thought, maybe it can be our little secret too.

By the way, rabbit livers can also keep you in shape. I’d walk a mile for a rabbit liver, because rabbit livers are Da Bomb!

Da Bomb: the best ~ simply outstanding; no comparison or greater value can be placed to another of similar type of manner”

Michael Patrick McCarty

Food Freedom!

You Might Also Like Rabbits Today Keep The Grocer Away.

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A Face Only a Mother Could Love…A Squab Is

A young squab pigeon, sitting in a nest box.

 

A squab is an unfledged, immature pigeon.

Once easily found and gathered in the wildlands of times past, they have been a reliable source of animal protein throughout the course of human history. Pigeons were without a doubt the first domesticated poultry, preceding even the chicken, as is more commonly thought. Once domesticated, they became a favorite menu item for every culture and society throughout the world.

Most squab grown for commercial or backyard harvest weigh one pound or less, and present a perfect serving portion for one person. Since squab are harvested at 24-28 days old and hence have never flown, they are extremely tender when properly prepared.

A succulent, dark-meated bird, squab has a full-bodied flavor with an accent of the wild, without being too rich like a duck can sometimes be. Delicate and moist when cooked, it is considered a preeminent ingredient in cuisines as diverse as French, Moroccan, or Cantonese. They offer a taste and texture truly unlike any other bird.

A favorite of homesteaders and homegrown epicures, they can be easily raised and harvested, providing a welcome source of meat throughout the year.

Food Freedom!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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http://throughahunterseyes.com/

 

dimitrisvetsikas1969 / Pixabay