summer, i give you, my all and more (an invite for you to give some too)

summer, local food, farming, Hello and hello.

It has been longer than long, it feels, since I have been able to get to this space.  I have been a bit in the weeds, quite literally, but also metaphorically.  Sorting and cleaning the mind while I work outside is almost as good as sorting and cleaning it out at the keyboard.  Much like the sun, which reached its zenith last week, heralding us into summer, our own scales have tipped, dropping us smack dab into the wild side of our year.

Summer.

It is loud.  It is busy.  It is fuller than full, and that is why I love it so.  Me–and all this food growing out here–we’re exploding like crazy from our roots up, up, up towards the sky.  It is hectic, and I may feel like it is altogether too much.  But instead of that, after bursting wide open, I know, I remember, that I will get to fall gently back into the warm blanket of the earth come autumn, that I will get to wrap myself up again come winter with all the hints of the seeds of next year tucked safely in my womb.  I breathe and keep going.

Summer.  It’s so, so good.  Welcome.

And quickly, before I sign off to go back outside with the setting sun to finish washing some of tomorrow’s market veggies (beets! carrots! chard! kale! broccoli! new potatoes! basil! salad mix! lettuce heads! fava beans!) and ready the fruit (gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries!), I want to invite you all, from the local folks and farm members reading to the many new and wonderful far flung readers here in this space too, to take a look at the most important kickstarter campaign of the next 24 hours!

Good friends, great project.  And they need your support to finish this right.  This seemingly humble butcher shop will benefit not just our own local eaters, but you all.  It is a part of the larger, necessary, and oh so important, real food movement.  This involves us all.  And we all can help make this happen, together, bit by bit and place by place.  Thanks for giving it a look!

Their kickstarter campaign: Meat @ Grain Station Marketplace

Picture 1We enthusiastically invite you to join in McMinnville’s growing craft food scene. Our community needs a source for local, pastured meats sold fresh year round. Kyle Chriestenson and Amanda Perron plan to give you just that at MEAT. Our butcher counter will proudly feature pastured animals from some of the areas great small farms and ranches, processed with a passion for quality and flavor. This is the first step in a larger vision, that includes retail, wholesale, deli, and catering. We look forward to growing with the help of our friends and family. Join us in launching this project off to a great start, it will take all of us to make this dream a reality.  Click HERE

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

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….

These three little pigs

found a stout and sturdy home on our farm this week.

This is our third year raising a small batch of pigs for meat for our family and to sell.  Given the rolling nature of most of our pastures, and the shrubby (weedy) growth that most of them have, we can’t raise grazing animals such as cows and lambs very well.  Goats have fit in well with what our land has to offer, gobbling up blackberry brambles and thistle and Queen Anne’s lace flowers like mad.  And we really love their temperaments–so calm, inquisitive, and friendly.   Pigs have proven to be the other good fit.  They graze well on what grass our pastures have, root around and aerate our compact fields, and end up tasting beautiful after gaining weight more from all the acorns our old white oaks leave behind each year than corn from the feed store.  We don’t all love the personalities of all the pigs that we have raised; but some the kids have ridden and had fun playing with, and those that scared me each time I had to deal with them, and were pushy to the point of stealing one of my shoes, at least provide stories to laugh about now.

This year’s pigs, though, are from a special place–our friend Stacey’s farm, Sky Ranch.  They are so much stronger than little pigs we have gotten from other places, and she loves those pigs so much, we are expecting nothing but sweetness from them.  So far, the boy (the pink one) is a little bit shy, but the two girls are up for my little girl’s behind the ear scratches.  We have never named the pigs before, mostly because they are often indistinguishable in appearance (all pink or all black).  This year, though, we have just re-read Charlotte’s Web, so we had to have a Wilbur (the only boy and only pink one).  And although my suggestion of Thing 1 and Thing 2 were absolutely opposed by Acacia for the two girls, we are hoping for something not too sweet and cuddly to be decided upon.

We have come a long way from the days when we were vegetarians, both the farmer and I from our high school years until right around the time we bought the farm.  The reasons for choosing that dietary lifestyle were many fold and certainly changed throughout the years.  By the time we moved to Oregon, neither of us were vegetarian because we inherently felt that eating animals was cruel or inhumane or because we thought it was unhealthy.  We did think these things about all the meat we had ever been familiar with before imagining our farm life, but had realized that animals raised in good and loving conditions could be a healthy addition to our meals.

It seems hard to deny, if you take even a cursory look into it, that there are hoards of problems with meat raised in feedlots or in other confinement operations.  Even with all the new labeling on meat and egg and dairy products in the stores, all aimed to appease a consumer beginning to be savvy about what is really going on behind the scenes of food production, there doesn’t seem like a safe way to eat these products, for our family at least, without raising them ourselves or knowing by name (and visiting if we can) the folks who raised it. These products taste better than any animal products we have ever eaten, and feel full of life giving nourishment, much like our vegetables do.  And we know they were treated well.

So, we are happy to have room for these three little pigs on our farm.  We are glad for the joy they bring us while we watch them root and run around the fields.  Happy to have their help rehabilitating our depleted and misused soils.    And really, really pleased to eat them when the time comes.

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