We have found something new to learn and discover each year, and the fair gets bigger and bigger. This year, I went to workshops on chickens in gardens (and how they can peacefully co-exist), home fermentation, building a real foods pantry and foraging for wild foods. A wicked storm moved in on Saturday and when we were soaked and freezing, we skipped an afternoon of workshops to get dry and warm. But otherwise? Awesome.
In particular, the class on lactofermentation inspired me to finally get off my duff and get my kombucha (fermented tea) going at home. Mark had given me all the tools to get started for a gift one year - including a SCOBY - so I don't know what's been holding me back from starting. Someone at one of the workshops mentioned that you can't be afraid to be a beginner. I think it's given me enough push to get started!
Mark and I laugh that we both leave the MENF each year and want to quit our jobs and move off grid into a cabin in the woods and raise some goats. While that's not in our immediate future, it's nice to come away refreshed and with new ideas on how to live more sustainably.
One of my favorite parts of the fair is the presence of all manner of animals. If you follow me on Instagram (@nextgenhouse), you might have seen these guys.
It's no secret that we aren't vegans by any stretch of the imagination, so I was a bit hesitant to try out a vegan food truck. I guess in my head I was expecting creepy textured vegetable protein, but I ended up having a great chili and a fantastic salad that was fresh and delicious (with figs! so yum!), a sharp contrast to the processed commercial offerings at the main food area. (The main food area had a mashed potato martini bar. I mean, seriously. Ew.) I was impressed by the food from Randita's - and also how the people in the truck kept their cool despite a ridiculously long line and pouring rain. I'm adding their restaurant in Saxonburg to my list of places to try!
Really, we actually end up learning a lot from the vendors we meet. Here are some of my favorites:
Snack Taxi - I bought two reusable snack bags for my lunch and thus far they've been working out fantastically. I am working on reducing consumption of plastic bags, so my two Snack Taxi bags have already saved me almost 20 bags! Plus it looks cute too.
St. Lynn's Press - Pittsburgh publisher of some great gardening books, including some by local authors. We picked up Good Bug, Bad Bug to help us with pest ID. They'll be publishing The Steel City Garden: creating a one-of-a-kind garden in black and gold by Doug Oster in the fall, which looks to be awesomely Burghy! Might be an idea for our front yard flower area.
Gourmet Grassfed - I had my first ever beef jerky from Gourmet Grassfed and holy cow (no pun intended), was I surprised at how delicious it was. We bought some jerky and beef sticks - they'll be perfect for Mark to take out in the woods when he's hunting all day.
Farm Fromage - Fantastic raw milk cheese from PA farms. I had a mushroom and leek jack cheese which was amazingly bizarre but delicious.
CeCe Caldwell's Paints - non-toxic, eco-friendly paints, including one called Pittsburgh Gray, which is highly appropriate
Singer Farm Naturals - producer of some delicious cherry juice concentrate. We picked some up to mix with soda water as a yummy drink, but I'm also interested in its use as a recovery drink for running after seeing a blurb about it in an issue of Runners World.