Eating with your heart

heart-beetbig heart-beetBe still, my heart.

After seeing those pictures that come and go on the internet showing the correlation between the way food looks and the part of the body it is especially good for if eaten, I often find myself doing the same when I look at food.  When I saw this giant beet, the result of what we now know is the miracle of growing food under plastic in spring, new to us this year but quite nice as it turns out after all the hemming and hawing that took place deciding to bring this into our farming picture, my first thought was that it looked like a heart.  That I should eat it, right then, for my heart.

True, or not, we sliced this beauty up and roasted the whole thing, and I did end up eating almost it all myself, right then, since not everyone on this farm loves roasted beets like I do.  And I did feel that my heart was filled, in more ways than one.

The little boy wanted to help slice it, not easy since beets are pretty solid pieces of root food, but we pretended.  We had fun.  We looked at the surprising inside design of this heirloom variety.  We marvelled, together.  I took photos.  Our oldest boy, my visual artist, took photos too.   And my mind strung together thoughts.  Theories on feeding your family well and with joy, and on the need for a healthy, loving approach to food, free from fear.  I played with words, with phrases like, eating with you heart and food for your heart-beet.

beets, heirloom, seasonal eating, local foodbeets, heirloom vegetables, seasonal eating, local foodBut in my heart, I know that modern day diet theories are a sticky issue.  One I prefer to stay out of, mostly, besides shout outs about the obvious things, like DOWN WITH MONSANTO!  Truly, though, I lament the fact that it is all so complicated.  Complicated, more than anything, by the fact that there is a whole food industry that many of our human kin rely on to feed themselves that appears to care nothing at all about really feeding us.   A food industry that not only appears to not care about that seemingly significant idea in regards to food, but also doesn’t seem to care that they are quietly (and sometimes loudly) making us and the land and all the other creatures around us sick instead.  And for so many of us, sick and wanting to feel better, or simply fed up with eating from the hands that bind us, look around for something better.  A little blind, we seek and grasp for a way, but we are not really sure what that is because that ship has long since sailed.  We have lots of ideas, but lots of them are different from each other.  And so much fear surrounds us because of this, fear of eating the wrong way, that we still don’t eat the right way because we feel confused, unsure, and mabye not better.  And to hope to fix this broken machine seems mildly hopeless, making it all the worse.

I have my own theories for my own family, but I like to keep them as such, theories.  They work for us and stem from our own personal experience with our own personal bodies and health.  I know what makes me sick, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well as what makes my children’s bodies out of whack, and their minds and spirits.  We come from a long line of food allergies and we have our own set of things to consider.  So, we do.

As should we all.

But getting to that point, the point of knowing what works for you and what doesn’t, of where and how to source the food that will really feed you the best, personally, isn’t easy.  And so, to say you should eat with your heart doesn’t really work at all for most of us, unless we have already cleared a lot of the post-modern cobwebs out from inside, and can hear, loudly enough, that beating vessel for what it wants to tell us.

What to do?

Thinking about this mess, it struck me that we do, indeed, have something we can all agree on, something we can all do without fear or worry or confusion.  That the easiest, simplest, truest thing that can be said about eating and thriving and feeding ourselves well and whole, without complication, is this–eating fresh, bright, and beautiful vegetables, in abundance, is the right place to start. 

Whether you plant your own small (or large) garden and eat your own harvests, or you head to a farmer’s market, easy to find these days, and eat the harvests of other farmers like us, or even if you just go to the regular market and look for the brightest, most beautiful, and fresh looking produce you can find and bring it home, this is the place to start.  Eat them, everyday in every way. This is a powerful and fulfilling way to eat no matter anything else.

Or so my heart and head decided, stewing about this all, beet in hand and then in tummy, the other day.  I know, without a doubt, that this food feeds the whole me.  And the whole you probably wants a bite of this beauty too,  this vibrant, healthy, uncomplicated, sweet kind of food.  There is little bad you can say about the humble vegetable class.  Besides the sometimes unpleasant flavor of less than fresh broccoli, it is all good.  This, I feel sure about, even in a time when sure is hard to come by.  So.

Eat Your Veggies!  With love.

beets, radish, carrot, spring food, local food, seasonal eating

Seeing green (and red)

Everywhere I look, green.  At every meal of the day, collard greens and mustard greens and kale greens, alongside dark green kale rapinis and light green turnip rapini.  There are some purples working there way in as we harvest wild violets for fun and the sprouting broccoli from the field, and the purple cape cauliflowers are heading up nicely.  But mostly, it is green, green, green.

The grass is growing–really growing–a bright and tender green. The willows have new neon looking leaves coming on and soon the other trees will start to put on their clothes too.  Everything is greening up as we get so close to the spring equinox I can barely stand it; I am so excited for more sun, or daytime as it were here in the Pacific Northwest.  Even though we have had snow (!) more than a few times this March, and even though spring for us means rain and rain and more rain, the changing landscape and longer days feel good.  So refreshing.

And yesterday,  in the midst of getting ready for a small birthday sleepover for our second boy, born on the spring equinox eight years ago, we all scrounged up something green to wear and checked our Leprechaun traps for magical creatures and treasure in honor of St. Patrick’s day.

This used to be an “enjoy a–or many depending on what age we are talking about–Guinness or other finely brewed beer” day.  Now it is a fun for the small fries kind of day since they love holidays so much and in our home this usually means some kind of feast.  St. Patrick’s day is the easiest, Irish fare being so simple.  Some lamb maybe, or sausages.  Potatoes, cabbage, onion–all good mid-March farm food.  And that is usually it, our passing nod to Ireland and our own heritage (we have Irish blood on both sides).

This year, since we were having extra children over and because it was Luca’s choice, we had homemade pizza instead.

And this year, as the farmer and I start to think about studying history with the children as they get older, I was particularly struck by this article.  We are finding ourselves hard pressed to keep things simple and pleasant as we delve deeper into these studies, even as we try to take things slow.

Our smallest learn history through stories.  They can get an idea of how people lived in other times without too much blood to worry about.  Sometimes we can investigate further and visit museums or check out other books about various time periods to extend our understanding.  All in all, though, we don’t tend to get into any of the nitty gritty.

But our precocious older child, so keen on growing up faster than he needs to–once he finally reaches the level of maturity his taste for talking about current affairs and the seedier side of history necessitates, I hope to share both the good, the bad, and the ugly with him so that he can learn to critically examine the things that have happened before him in this tale of humankind so that he will then be able to critically examine the things that are going on around him.

The history of Ireland is just one of many stories that isn’t all that pretty.

And as the article points out, the great potato famine provides a pretty important lesson for today.  As the genetic diversity of farmed crops and the seed banks both shrink, it doesn’t hurt to give the lumper potato and the famine in Ireland some of our time.

For the farmer and I, we find that there is still so much to be learned from the past.  So much that we weren’t introduced to in our studies of history at school.  So much misinformation or generalization it is maddening.

So this St. Patrick’s day we looked a little closer at this time in Irish history.  When our kids get (much) older, we’ll discuss it with them too.

For now, while they are still so innocent and young, I am happy to get a pinch before I get dressed for the day when I didn’t go to bed wearing green, and to imagine that at the end of every rainbow there really is a pot of gold.

And it is both of these things that are so important to do as we live this life.  We must look hard to discover both the shining gold and the smoke and ashes of our story.

Call to Action: Farm Bill HB 2336

I really have been meaning to get a proper post up here on the blog.  January was unintentionally quiet on this space, and it felt good and fine, since the farm is at its quietest for that one beautiful, still month.  Since February blew in with a fresh breeze and a bit of upstart in our energies as we begin the work of the new season and start to see new growth on the ground, I have woken up many mornings in hopes of doing some writing, only to be needed elsewhere.  Soon.  I promise.

But today, I wanted to quickly call attention to a bill that is going to the house here in Oregon in just a few days:   HB 2336– The Direct Farm Marketing Bill.  Here is a link to some information and a bit written by Anthony Boutard from Ayers Creek Farm about it and where it is at now and what needs to be done.

We would like to urge you all to call your representatives and help move this forward.  It is a good bill, and will directly benefit us and many other Oregon farmers!!

Now back to work….

Gathering together a new way of farming and eating

This weekend we hosted our second farm potluck of the year, this time in conjunction with Slow Foods of Yamhill County.  Unlike our earlier potluck this season, which was wide open to both farm members and market customers as well as our greater community of friends, this gathering brought in folks mostly from the Slow Foods mailing list along with members of Slow Foods and some of our farm members.   Many of the folks had farms of their owns, some were WWOOF-ers from another farm in town,and all of us were genuinely interested in not only eating and/or growing food locally, but in the greater implication of this act.

It occurred to me while talking with everyone that the new American small farmer can hardly help but also be a food and land activist as well.  While we not only attempt a different model of production from larger-scale agriculture through polyculture planting and direct marketing, we also attempt to take a somewhat man-centered activity–agriculture–and make it once again accountable to the rest of the ecosystem. This means many things, and covers a wide array of different approaches to raising crops and animals; but the common theme is that once again, farming feels as much like an act of stewardship as business.

a happy little frog hiding on a happy little pepper

And this is really the more important missing ingredient in modern ag today.  Large fields of monocuture grains aren’t going to dissapear and probably shouldn’t.  We buy grains for our animals and ourselves, and with the right approach, these fields could be providing just as much food without the chemical load and soil depletion that we commonly see.  And with even a wink and a nod toward the well being of animals, operations like Wright County Eggs wouldn’t be around to cause such huge food safety issues.

And one thing that has become clear to me this year, as more and more of our counties small farms add some portion of organic production to their retinue–a lot of this is demand driven.  The folks here at our farm this weekend are driven by conviction and belief, and this is a large percentage of where sustain-ably produced local food is going to come from; but many growers who have hitherto been fine growing more conventionally can see that the demand for less chemicals and more conservation is pushing them to make the decision to give this new model of growing a go.

And that is where all of us eaters come into the picture.  Our buying habits have more power than we can imagine.  Right now, there are not enough eggs being produced and sold at our farmer’s markets and directly from other small farms in the area–the demand is so high!  And yet, most of the time, if we can’t get eggs from a source such as this, we will still go to the store and buy them.  The egg industry can partly be the disaster it is today because we, as consumers, eat so many eggs.  This is a hard one even for us.  It is hard to see your way around consuming eggs year-round and as often as you would like when there is a such glut of eggs in production.

*nothing* compares to safe, healthy, delicious farm eggs

After we lost most of our laying flock to predators a few years ago, we had to go about a year without having our own eggs and we couldn’t always get them locally.  We would buy organic eggs from the store, raised in the Willamette Valley, but by bigger egg producers than could likely be considered sustainable.  When we got a small flock going again last year, we were happy to have just enough eggs for our family for a while.  Then this year we added enough to the flock to sell eggs again, but while we wait for them to start really producing (they are just now starting) and while we have an otherwise egg-laying strike going on with the older hens whom we moved mid-summer and disrupted somehow, we have not had enough eggs for ourselves again.  This year though, instead of buying eggs when we can’t get them at market, we are eating all sorts of non-breakfast breakfasts.  It has been a challenge for us all, in our minds mostly, getting over the egg thing; but it has been enlightening, and in light of the recent egg recall, it has felt especially important.

And all of this is just a roundabout reminder, to myself and others, to keep up the good fight we are all involved in, all at our own levels and in our own ways, of reshaping farming and food culture in this country, all with an eye towards a system that is more than just concerned with human activity and human desire.  Farming is at the same time so integrally connected with natural cycles and the natural world as it is so supremely anti-natural in what it attempts to do.  To bring these into balance is the goal of the new American farmer and should be the driving demand of the new American eater.  Together, small get togethers at small farms all over the country will be a much larger part of the picture than we ever could have imagined.

gathering

Staying Healthy

I spent most of this week on the farm tending to fevers and sore heads, throats, and tummies. As terrible as that sounds, the farmer was better by day 3, the kids each after 1 or 2 days. We made lots of chicken soup from Kookoolan Farms’ birds with lots of veggies to make a rich, healthy, and healing broth. We sipped tea with some of the elderberry syrup we made at summer’s end for just such occasions, and we took hot baths and rested. In the end, we were happy that it was over quickly and that it wasn’t too bad.

We tend to look to food for our vitamins and minerals and medicines, and I feel blessed to be able to continue to eat fresh, nutritious vegetables through the fall and winter, times when our bodies are called on to fight off the colds and flus that come during this time of year. All growing vegetables and fruits begin to lose nutritive value once they have been picked, and they also will not reach their maximum nutritive value if they are picked under ripe to make it through shipping and handling to stores far and wide. And although each season offers its own set of repeating foods, we hope that with your CSA share you notice a rainbow of colors, from dark leafy greens to bright orange carrots and squash, with red, cream, purple, and white roots. All of these provide a well balanced supply of various vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. There are, no doubt, always many pieces to the pictures of our health, and colds and flus are hard to avoid, but I hope that you are staying well and enjoying the bit of natural medicine the healthy and tasty produce we share together provides!