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.

Food for thought

A neighbor brought this over for us this week, and I couldn’t help sharing.

I especially like numbers 1-4. Five and six seem like tenets everyone pretty much holds dear, right?  And no one wants to waste food.

But I like that the US Food Administration is promoting these two things when it comes to the nation and food:  thoughtfulness and local buying (not sure when the “and Drug” was added but found this interesting as well and will have to do some research when I am not buried in children with colds, holidays, birthdays, and spring farm work).

Supermarkets and fast food make it so easy to not have to think about what’s for dinner.  And even those of us who give a lot of our attention to what we eat and where it comes from have those nights when we hit dinner-time wishing we didn’t have to think about it (Don’t we?  At least I still do on “those” nights).  My point being, the allure of easy and mind-less is there even for the diligent.

I feel the burden of all the thought I put into how we eat every time I go to the grocery store.  Local, Organic, non-GMO, non-processed…and for us gluten and dairy and soy free…and meat we really only want to get at farmer’s market or from our farm–it isn’t easy to make these choices today simply because they are not the choices everyone is making.

Not the majority of consumers.  Not the supermarkets or fast food chains (even though the marketing is there).  And not the US Food and Drug administration.

If they were, our food culture would look much different.  And easy and thoughtful would coincide beautifully with one another.

Free trade, globalism, commodities, and large-scale meat production are where most of our federal government’s food policy energy goes.  A lot of things have changed in the last 100 or so years apparently.

But there is hope.  And I do hope that we all can be a part of bringing some things on that list back to the front of people’s minds when they are thinking about what to eat.

Food.  Buy it with thought.  Cook it with care. 

Buy local.

(And in my opinion and that of the 1917 US Food Administration, you should also consider using less wheat and unethically raised meat).

Busy, Busy, Busy!

growingwildfarm

Busy, busy, busy! We are busy planning and planting for the fall, winter, and early spring, keeping starts and new plantings wet in the heat. We have a lot of decisions to make in the next week or so as we plan our second season of growing year round. We learned a lot throughout last year, and we are happy to be able to apply first hand knowledge to the plans we are making this year. We are excited to plant some of the things we didn’t get to last year, things like chicories and parsley root. We are taking extra care with our parsnip planting, using soaker hoses to keep them nice and wet, and
while we do this really trying to keep the bed clear of weeds to facilitate a good start on these, they take almost three weeks to germinate! We are so happy with the increased amount of potatoes and onions already growing for winter harvest, and we are discussing and evaluating storage options for the winter.

We have decided not to plant in the new field we planned to use for fall/winter. This field needs more work to be a good growing space, and in the end, it will be better to do that work before trying to use it. Things will grow better in the old field, and although we had hoped to switch to rotating back and forth seasonally, the truth is that our main field’s soil is continually improving, rather than degenerating, so we have relaxed about using it this intensively. On the other hand, our lower field is looking great, and although our plans for growing pumpkins/tomatoes there weren’t realized this year (mostly because of how behind in time we got with that week in June that took me to Nebraska), we are going to get to use this for fall planting, and the soil is lovely. The water rises here right around the first of the new year, so this space will be filled with roots, roots, and more roots that we will harvest for cold storage both for the CSA and restaurants, but also for fall feed for the pigs and winter treats for the goats. Next year, we will likely do pumpkins and tomatoes there as we planned to this year. That looks especially promising after how well our tomatoes did in a similarly wet spot in the main field this year!

We are also beginning to make plans on the new greenhouse for next winter. After going back and forth between putting up a more permanent plastic hoophouse or a glass greenhouse with a foundation, we finally decided on building the glass house with a modified passive solar design. We are so blessed to have help with the designing of this from a fellow farm member and Monday farm helper. Andre continues to learn more and more and building as time passes on the farm, but it is always so reassuring to have a helping hand, especially a very smart and hard working one.

This week has also so quickly brought us into summer squash craziness, and for the first time ever, we have harvested these both today and on Sunday in order to keep up. We will check out the quality of those picked on Sunday, and will not give them out if they do not still seem super fresh, but we are committed to nice, mid-sized zucchinis and summer squash this year, aiming for consistent sizes for the CSA and market. With warm weather and the nature of these plants, sometimes overnight and especially a day or two can result in a mammoth squash. And although these are great for the little
piggies, there will be plenty of those by the end of summer squash season!

And as I mentioned last week, it is time for a farm open house and CSA potluck! We are busy with various summer plans just like the rest of you, so we ended up deciding on AUGUST 8th as the date for our first get together of the season. Mark your calenders, and don’t worry if you already have plans, we will definitely host another get together in October as well! And as it is the time for summer activities, we encourage you to check out the upcoming fundraising concert event on August 1st to benefit the efforts of Waste Not of Yamhill County, a group working against the landfill expansion as well as for alternative methods of waste disposal that could be employed at the existing dump. For details about this upcoming event, visit http://www.wastenotofyamhillcounty.org/.

This is an issue that is of vital importance to our community, so whether or not you can attend the concert, do take some time to become familiar with the efforts of this great
group.

Hope for the Future

Two things have been at the forefront of our minds this last week, two things that we hope have the potential to affect the future…for the better. Politics is something often talked about in our home, but not something I ever feel inclined to talk about on this front or even with many friends. It is such a sticky mess to get into, a place where people feel so strongly and where issues tend to be almost as divisive in this country as religion is in other parts of the world . Still, since we don’t fit nicely into most boxes, politics are no exception; and finding ourselves neither red nor blue makes us less likely to offend and more likely to be considered crazy or naïve. So the big question here isn’t McCain or Obama (even if we do lean), we are too cynical to believe they don’t both represent a broken system and besides, we won’t be giving any votes to anyone who voted for the bailout. What interests us much more is what we are making decisions on about here in our town, county, and state. We do believe good things can happen on this level. So we hope to protect our groundwater and keep some farmland around by voting Yes on Measure 36-119 prohibiting the landfill expansion within 2000 feet of floodplain, we are voting for Kris Bledsoe to bring a new voice to the county, and for Michael Paine for the position of Soil and Water director Zone 4, another small direct market sustainable farmer (Gaining Ground Farm in Yamhill). Higher up the chain…well we tend to vote for third parites so we know those recommendations won’t go far! Whatever way you go, the important part is taking part in your democracy on all levels. Our hope is that we will actually be represented on the local level..it seems clear that the folk in Washington mostly have their own agenda.
The second thing we have been working on is a couple of youth education events. These, we hope, hold even more promise for a brighter future than the ballot. Our farm hand, Jessy Aguilar, represented us and veggie growing in general at Memorial school this morning in an effort to connect kids to their food and farmers, and today a group of homeschoolers will watch a CSA harvest in action, again with the help of Jessy so we can work full steam ahead. Our hopes…that talking about food with farmers, seeing a small farm and food growing from the ground will inspire good eating/purchasing choices and future farmers!! Really, as many changes as we wish to see on the federal level, we know that change on the local level is as powerful and effective at creating a better world as anything. On the most basic level, our own selves, our homes, our communities, can all be a mirror for the rest of the world.