Small Gratitudes

And now for the fun part.  The part that really brings joy to this season.  The list of gratitudes, the small ones, the ones that lighten the darkness, keep warm the heart, and push away the other countless small complaints–the growing list of necessary car repairs, the broken dishwasher, the unpainted walls, the loss of yet another children’s shoe, the stains on the laundry, stupid stuff,really–that could take their place instead.

In no particular order, this year, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for:

  • a picture perfect downtown, laden with gold and red leaves to kick around while strolling in the autumn, and now, as we approach Christmas, full of twinkle
  • the equally awesome indie stores and restaurants that line that street (as well as other streets in this town)
  • an indoor, year round market to bring our veggies to nearly 52 weeks of the year
  • arugula and delicata squash season!
  • wool to wear and wool to knit
  • wood heat (I swear it warms more than the house
  • the irreverence of 10 year old boys to keep my heart light
  • the intense and complete love of one five year old girl.  I can tell that next year she will have moved a little further along in the growing up category and she is holding on tight.  I am happy to hold on a little longer too.
  • silly, toothless smiles on the 7 year old boy.  His smiles are like sunshine already, but now they are so goofy that you can’t help but smile back.
  • watching the baby learn all the little things babies do and still finding it amazing, the fourth time around
  • seeing this same excitement in my older three children’s faces too.  This boy has sure got a lot of love surrounding him!
  • the amazing and endless love of a good husband
  • said husband’s ability to really let some of my less than stellar qualities roll off his back when they make an appearance…I’m pretty lucky
  • written words.  I would be lost without them, both others and my own.  
  • the mornings I wake alone to a quiet house all my own
  • the mornings I wake in a bed full of this family of mine and we all stay put and talk and share some silliness before the day even begins
  • expansion in all its forms (the farm, the family, the children, ourselves).  It can be hard, and scary, and sad some too, but it is always good.
  • good friends and new friends
  • grandma and grandpa

There is so much more, but the little things in my life are calling me back to them.  There is lunch to be made, dishes to wash, help with projects, stories to read, and a baby who needs a nap.  The small, the day to day, the mundane;  finding magnificence in that can be challenging, but it is well worth it.  May all of you find some of that everyday goodness this Thanksgiving too.

Status Update

 

This is really going to change everything.   We are pretty darn happy.

Details on this new old addition coming soon, but for now, if you happen to live here in the valley with us, feel free to come on over to the farm Sunday night and join us for an open farm night.  Super casual, community gathering, potluck style.  4:00pm.

And if you come, please do bring your own flatware if possible.

E-mail us at growingwild@french.toast.net if you need the farm address!

This Week at Market: The Flavors of Spring

Spring it still is, even though today marks the start of our “summer” farmer’s market, the McMinnville Farmer’s Market.  Farmer’s growing in hoop houses or on black plastic can nudge the season ahead a bit, but with the long lasting springs we have been having last year and this, even our friends who use these growing tools more extensively than we do will most likely still be offering “spring” produce as we start the market season today.  Baby beets, large spring onions, turnips…these are crops a week or two away for us, but have been ready for the last month from other farm’s at our Saturday market.

Otherwise, the main crops that spring offers in abundance are greens, greens, and more greens!

Some, of the lettuce variety.  In fact, there is always so  much lettuce at the market’s at this time of year that we no longer worry about growing too much head lettuce to bring.  Instead we focus on our salad mix, many a local’s favorite and one of our signature offerings.  Right now, we especially love the mix which includes not only baby lettuces in a wide variety, but young greens as well as small brassica florets.  It is so beautiful and delicious!

All of our other greens fall more into the cooking greens category.  This week we are bringing a braising mix full of young greens, dandelion greens, nettles, baby kale mix, full size kale, and rainbow chard.  The color of spring for us is definitely green!

But saute a little green garlic, another spring treat that you really are only going to find at your local farmer’s market, perfectly light for spring cooking with its pleasantly mild garlic flavor, and add this to your cooking greens and you have everything you need–delicious!

But what is really exciting (even though it is equally depressing in some ways) is that we will also have spring rapini at this first market, and maybe for a while longer!  Because it has been so cool this spring, our brassica plants that we overwintered in the fields began to go to seed later than usual.  When these relatives of the ever popular broccoli go to seed, they produce equally edible florets that are yet another spring crop usually only offered by your local market farmer.  Similar to broccoli raab in appearance, but with each kind offering a unique flavor depending on which plant it comes from (turnip, kale, cabbage, etc), these are one of our spring favorites!  We wouldn’t normally have them at this time of year because their push to set seed would be stronger than our ability to harvest them if the weather were just a bit warmer.

But it isn’t really warm nor very summery yet, so relish these spring flavors we will!  They are just as yummy as the produce to come, and for those of you who might otherwise miss out on being able to shop from a farmer’s market when our Thursday market isn’t happening, what a treat for all of you!

Beginnings

Hooray!  Today marks the beginning of another CSA season, our fifth.  This week we have been thinking back to our first year, the beginnings of Growing Wild Farm.  We were happy to realize that a third of our members are founding members, folks that have been part of this farm experience since the beginning.  Another third have been with us for almost as long, joining in our second or third years, and about another third of you are just starting with us this year or joined sometime last year.

For some of you, the start of another year is old hat and our history is part of your own history of eating with us.  For our new members, though, we realized that some of our story may be unfamiliar, so we thought we would briefly share it today.

So, how did Growing Wild Farm begin?

The seeds of our farm started to germinate  within the first year of our marriage.  We, admittedly, married and started our family while relatively young by today’s standards.  The farmer was just 23 (I was 25) and up to that point we were still pursuing other interests.  When we met, one of us was going to be starting a graduate program in literature and philosophy , the other was focused on making music.  We really didn’t have the kind of clear ideas about how we were going to make a living that many people do.  We were both idealists and at that point, we were happy to be doing what we loved and money was not a concern.

But together, we quickly realized that we wanted to start a family.  Long story short, after starting a family and beginning to grow our own food and becoming friends with someone who had spent time working on a CSA farm out here in the Pacific Northwest, we decided that this was the work for us.  It would fulfill both our need to make a living to support our family, as well as our own personal need to do work that we loved and that held significance to us, all while keeping us together as a family.  Having been introduced to Wendell Berry in college, the idea of local foodsheds had always stuck with me, and I had always imagined living in the country in a self-sustaining kind of way.  Once we began gardening, the farmer quickly found that he loved growing food, building soil naturally, and creating diverse and alive spaces where our crops flourished as well as provided a balanced ecosystem for wild things as well.

We read gardening books and permaculture books and some that pertained to commercial growing, moved here to Oregon, and began looking for land.  In many ways, we were so naive!  We had started our married life in Colorado were we knew we could never afford land, spent time in my home state of Nebraska where land was very reasonable, then moved here knowing that land was not too over-inflated, but it was still high close in to the community we had found in McMinnville.

So while we looked at properties closer to Sheridan and Grand Ronde, much farther away than we wanted, Grandma and Grandpa asked us how we would feel about buying something together.  There were many things to consider, especially since Oregon’s land use laws make it hard for you to have two residences on a piece of land with only one pre-existing home.  In the end, we decided we could figure this part of it out down the road since they would be staying in California for a few more years, and we all agreed it was a good idea.

Time was of the essence since they were selling a home to re-invest in the farm.  I was nearly due with our third child.  They came up for a week or so and there was a whirlwind of looking at properties and deciding on one that week!  It was not the long and drawn out search for our “perfect” property by any means, but it was going to be such a benefit to us all, and we would have some land to start our farm, so we were excited!  So that year we closed on the property on my little girl’s due date, she was born a week later, and we moved in when she was two months old.

The farmer started transforming this place even before we moved, planting our first orchard as soon as the farm was ours, coming out to water them while we coddled our new little baby at our home in town.  The rest of that year we walked the property, drew out a map of what we thought the whole place might look like one day (and we are always surprised, when we pull this out, how things are coming together so much like this first plan!), and we started to envision our business.

Again, we were naive in so many ways!  We knew we wanted to be a CSA farm primarily, while doing our one (at that time) local farmer’s market, as well as selling a little to restaurants.  This model has still proven to be the best fit for us and for a sustainable farm business.  However, not having grown food on such a large scale for production before, just having grown a home garden and selling some of that abundance at a very small Nebraska farmer’s market, we were not fully prepared to begin offering a CSA that first year….we just didn’t know that until after we were knee deep in our first season.

It was very hard and frustrating and, quite honestly, humiliating.  We took our permaculture growing method of sheet mulching and tried to apply it to our larger growing space on soil that was heavy, heavy, heavy clay, sold 50 CSA shares, and got really excited to be living out our dream.  That year, getting vegetables to grow in that soil was like trying to pull teeth that weren’t loose.  It hurt.  We kept our chins up, and worked really hard to meet our obligation to our CSA members.  We bought organic fruit from other farms to round things out.  By the end of the year we were exhausted and relieved to be done for the year.  We even ended farmer’s market two weeks early.

The farmer went back to work landscaping for the winter and we re-thought everything.  The truth was we didn’t want to do anything else at all.  We knew this was the work we were meant to do, we loved it and the life of living on the farm.  WE BELIEVED IN IT.  We knew that nourishing our community and the land we were stewards of mattered.

And so, despite that first year, we went forward.  We rearranged our farm model slightly, slowly building back up to this year, where we are right back to the plan we started with.  We have transformed our soil and are now growing on more land, all of it in good health.  Around our third season, we joked that we had completed our two year internship and that we were starting our business in earnest.  Now, in our 5th year we are happy to have a thriving CSA, two markets to attend with one year round, and some great local restaurants who like to buy our produce when we have it.  The farmer has even been able to retire from landscaping and is now a full time farmer!

We have had many growing pains along the way, but that comes with any kind of good learning.  We have been stretched and molded by the work we have done.  We have grown as our farm has grown, and found a home not only on our farm, but through our farm, in our community.

So, hooray!  Today marks the beginning of another season of eating together.  This year, you will share with us the delicious flavors of each season, of food that tastes unlike anything you can find in the store, full of life and nutrition.  We will welcome you to the farm, we will celebrate together this summer.  Each week, we will see each other and share small news with each other, all while communing together over the gifts of the earth, the beautiful produce grown on this farm.

2011 CSA Details!

With just two weeks of our 2010 CSA left, we are ready to move forward mentally to the 2011 season.  Next year will mark our 5th season of farming here in Oregon, and after many growing pains, we have come to feel secure in our work here on the farm.  This year our fields produced a fair abundance of beautiful and delicious produce for our 20 member CSA despite the weather we were given.  This winter we have been able to protect our winter plantings from some fairly cold temperatures already with the help of recycled greenhouse plastic and our new cooler for storage.  We have enough food growing to harvest for our market through the rest of winter and to start our CSA season earlier in 2011 so that our members don’t miss out on some of those early spring goodies!

With all that in mind, it is time to announce the details for that season (here) and start the process of accepting new members to fill our open spots (10 new spots at the current time).  Current CSA members will have their spots reserved for them until January 15, and then we can determine if there will be any more open spots.

Through all of our time here building this farm, the CSA has been at the heart of it all.  It truly is the part of our business that allows us to make this small farm a reality, just as it was designed to do.  It is a great small farm model, and aside from keeping us at the work of farming and allowing us to provide produce to the rest of the community through markets and restaurants, it has given us some of the most wonderful connections we have in our community.   Some members have been with us from our first year!  They truly have invested and helped to build this farm…we are so grateful!  And new members that we have only met this season have been so appreciative of what our farm offers…we are so blessed!