Harvesting to Summer

So much happens on this farm – but there's also a simple and daily repetition that makes us all feel like nothing is actually changing…Feeding the same animals, performing the same tasks: cultivating, hoeing, raking, watering and transplanting, and cooking our meals.

And in this routine, we’ve got Harvest. Two days a week we spend our mornings cutting, clipping, washing, sorting, packing, and stacking vegetables. The farm van is packed, and on Tuesdays Gloria drives the produce to a drop off site in Mendocino County where the farm's CSA members come to pick up the goods. On Fridays Steven shuttles down to SF to do the same with members who live there. At the farm, a table is set up for local share holders who stop by to select their portions from a row of public baskets…

This farm does not attend a farmers market - they believe that setting a price on their food diminishes its true value and moves the consumer away from understanding where the food really comes from.

Yeah, this philosophy is fundamental to a biodynamic farm which happens to perform purely on manual labor, no subsidies and absolutely no pesticieds - organic or not. Additionally, as a biodynamic farm, there is no finanical investment in any product foreign to the farm (with the exception of hand tools, seeds and the work horses!) that could help increase the production of the vegetables - this means no peet moss, no pre fertilized soils, nor sprays to ward off bugs, weeds or mildew. And no fossil fuel operated machines to till the land or harvest the crop. All this creates a cyclical micro environment in which everything produced is reused and everything used comes from what was once a part of the farm - animal product, turned soil, bolted vegetables from the previous season...everything is resourced for the next growing period. This is a beautiful way to maintain a healthy balance with the land being tilled and the food being consumed - something a lot of us around the world could begin to re learn. Yet more time on maual labor and general preparation for growing equates to a smaller (more precious?) yield but not necessarily lower operating costs.

Yes, I'm learning a lot about the fundamental techniques of growing food - but the share-holding audience we serve is Small, Privileged and Secluded.
What's in season?
mustard greens
pak choy (think bak choy)
tat soi
beet thinnings

Oh, and we totally sheared some sheep a couple days ago. No electric razors on this farm - the shears are hand operated and cut right through the wool.


Welcome to The Valley

Likely, there's one picture too many, included below. But i couldn't help it. I also broke the promise of animal pictures - because I've only snagged 2 so far.
Next time.
I miss home, but my new one isn't so bad! Enjoy the shots;) xo

Also! I went to a rodeo this week - woot woot!

And, Steven gave us the chance to try driving his plow. The sharp metal cutter weighs just under 200 lbs and is pulled behind two Belgium work horses, named Laura and Pete. With Steven holding the reins, and one of us at a time holding the heavy wooden handles, we circled one plot several times, each round turning up soil and cutting a 2ft trough into the ground. We broke a sweat, felt dizzy and sick and then watched as Steven, a 60 year + man took his turn without loosing a breath. He's been doing this for over 30 years, while men behind him have performed the same technique for hundreds. Impressed.


Hot Buttered Rum

I actually have no idea what to write! I've only been here four and half full days and apparently that's not enough to process the transition.
I did get thrown directly and immediately into the working-mix waking at 630 Wednesday morning the day after the previous evening arrival.

From 630am to 7ish, we drink as much morning caffeine as we can, work till 830 - developing the compost piles; apprentices with assigned chores feed the animals, or bring them to pasture. Breakfast runs till 10, then work again in the greenhouse transplanting seedlings, sowing seeds for new seedlings, or in the fields mulching the already planted vegetables to support water retention during the dry summer, and suppress the feisty weeds.

With a pre established schedule, an assigned apprentice will break at 1130 to begin preparing lunch for 1pm. Back out to work at 2… Assigned apprentice breaks at 530 to begin preparing dinner (a rotation between lunch and dinner with breakfast prepared as an 'everyone pitches in' affair) to eat at 7. By the time we've eaten, had a beer or two, washed the dishes and maybe played a hand of cards, it's bed by 10!

The small town of just over 1,000 counted residents  - the 14 Indian tribes aren't included in this total, which would bring the number closer to 3,000) has the basics: library, town meeting hall, IGA grocery store, coffee shop, Trading Post for used clothing…. And an abundance of open valley land surrounded by a sprawling spread of mountains, tops of which are heavily dusted in snow.

Our half work-day Saturdays are a blessing without disguise - afternoon naps happen without trying, and staying up late on a Saturday night was impossible, even after we'd made it into town to see a screening of Godzilla (not to be confused with King Kong).

Did i mention the Apprentices? They are truly AMAZING. Matt, Kim and Becca are welcoming, good hearted, funny, kind, hard working and totally dedicated to farming and the homesteading life (Matt and Kim are featured in the photos, Becca will be captured soon enough:)) and are introducing me to some good blue grass tunes and reminding me that i need to re-learn the skill of playing a musical instrument. The Decaters, Steve and Gloria who own and operate the farm are busy each day, and finding time to get to know one another will be a work in progress.

And Yes! There are the obligatory pigs, sheep, lambs, cows and work horses, plus two domesticated cats, and two dogs - my favorite is Sophie a bundle of love and seeker of attention. The barn animals are Adorable (!) and when I've got my camera on hand during a sunny day, will be sure to catch some photos and post.
till then… hope you're all well xo

to prove it Does snow in california!

look close to find more snow!

bedroom before
bedroom after:) work in major progress


~ Israel, apparently (the platoon) ~

I think it's a combination of two things: one the internet has surfaced, blossomed, exploded and fire-worked, since I was a teenager in high school. Two, I've simply ahem, aged. The result: stumbling upon some pretty amazing teenagers who express themselves in extremely creative and articulate ways. Awesome kids have existed forever, but growing up, the seclusion of my small town didn't necessarily foster that kind of voice - that I am aware. Nor did we have the chance to explore kid's activities in Japan, or Israel or England because the window of internet wasn't yet prominent.  Nor was there a place to foster ideas through blogs, music sharing etc... not to mention the access to Al Jeezera English. Old thoughts by now, but still something to think about...
And this has nothing to do with plants, ps.
Last night, I read a letter to the editor of Good magazine, by an 18 year-old, who simply nailed in 100 words or less, the state of our generation's distress in relation to the big question: So, what do you want to do? 

Dear GOOD,
I am an 18-year-old high school graduate who was accepted to several top-rated universities Instead, I decided to move to Israel and enlist in the Israeli Army (though I have no Israeli ancestry and don't even speak Hebrew). Why? Because I was so disheartened by the prospect of completing a degree or several degrees and then working at McDonald's. I am quite disappointed that my attitude toward work isn't in line with what GOOD is projecting in the Work issue.
Much of the Work Issue suggests that we find work that matches out interests, pays us well, and makes us happy. While this is a great dream, might it not be more important to find work that makes us step out of our comfort zone, pays enough to support us, and makes us happy to go to bed each evening, tired? I think it is the downfall of America that we are raised to believe that we are also owed. Why don't more Americans pursue a skill in addition to an education? What is so bad about getting your hands dirty? Where is the harm in doing something that you don't particularly enjoy so that you can make ends meet? Of doing something that you do enjoy instead of being pressured to get a liber-arts degree that you cannot use? America is one of very few countries where this sort of talk is heard. And we, the socially aware, who perceive ourselves as the world-changers and philanthropists, don't even find ourselves a little bit spoiled?
Tomorrow, I am going to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to clean a bathroom. the toilets will be overflowing and mud will be caked on the walls. I don't think anyone wants to clean bathrooms, but I do what I have to do so that my platoon can eat breakfast on time. What is to terrible about doing work that means that I will eat breakfast on time?
Elyse Weissberger
Kibbutz Kinneret, Israel
(previously from Los Angeles, California


And When You're With the Flowers Morning After Morning

~ Cal - i - forn - i - a  ~

Damn, Life has a funny way of working out when you least expect it. How's it go? Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans...
How cliche. How true!

An application two months ago. A phone call tonight. Between the span of those two events, a person can fall in love, become happy in the cold, begin making future plans for a northeastern summer with weddings, vacations on the Cape, city farm jobs, and even sign up for a 12 month home delivery magazine subscription.

So there's this farm. In California. Live Power Community Farm. And they're pretty remarkable. A family friend recommended I check them out after his daughter spent some overnight time with her elementary school. And yeah, what a place. The name probably gives away some of the special details: the focus on animal power to plow fields. Little if any, fossil fuels, please. And there's definitely some solar power hanging around. Not to mention animals! And some school related stuff with little kiddies coming around for visits.

The apprenticeship starts in March. But I've been given an allowance and can arrive in April. It ends? In December. Nine whole months. But don't get me started on the fact that they supply food to over 160 families in Medicino county *and* the Bay Area. Also, that Gloria, who I spoke with on the phone this evening, had the most calming tone - she sounded tired, defeated (from working, I'd imagine) and stable, warm, stern and forgiving all at the same time.

And then of course there's this: a beautiful interview with both Gloria and Stephen, her husband, the two speaking freely, and clearly comfortably without preaching, about why they love what they do.

I've three weeks to decide. Three. Seems like plenty of time?


Superfluous Blogging and the IFPRI

~ World ~

All fun and whimsy blogging aside, there is as a matter of fact, a reason that I'm keeping tabs on food - food interests among other people, and food interests of myself; a long term goal related to agriculture, travel, food, policy (perhaps?) and the tasty politics, *is* in formulation. Vague still, but in progress: farming, fighting pesticides, caged animal feeding operations, (CAFO's), hormone raised cattle, genetic engineering (GE crops), in combination with World Travel (!); plus a side of marketing skills that were somehow gleaned during those hefty-price-tag college years of mastering an undergrad degree in business management and design. 

All those simmering ideas in the brain cauldron are totally waiting for the 'ah ha!' moment.

And one just happened.
And it seems worth sharing - a piece of the puzzle in this boggling blog whose one central food theme  lacks the specific and minute. 
Thus far.

So,  just now, I was reading this (thanks, dad for your email services!), another acute and articulate (of course) nytimes perspective about the...well, obvious issues (still) surrounding the structure - or lack there of - of agriculture farming in India.

And while reading that, this - the International Food Policy Research Institute - popped on my radar. In one of those other moments in which for the hundredth time, a name, a place, or idea is put smack in your face, but only now, in this final repititious stage does the insignia stick, I saw the potential of the IFPRI. 
For my future!
Yay! Goals!

What lies ahead  - maybe research only. Maybe inspiration solely, Maybe itching-in-your-skin, want-to-be-a-part-of-it-feeling, simply. Time will tell.

But amen to some direction and the ability to forgo another dose of stammering next time some one asks the gun loaded question: 
So, What Do You Want To Do?


C L O V E R on Wheels (Food That's Ready to Go! Literally.)

~ Boston & Cambridge, MA ~

In Boston, I live a block from China Town, a skip to the dredges that is the Financial District, and a hop to the Train Station Food Court. The food options are numerous, but hardly vary. Ask a neighbor where to get some lunch around here, and you'll be directed to the nearest Hogie. I love the vegetable steamed dumplings in China Town, but... their doughy weight leaves me craving some food with crunch (or nutrition!)

SO yay for Clover! the Food Lab on wheels. Originating at MIT, with a restaurant also in Harvard Square, the slightly anonymous, if unthreatening white meal on wheels is plunked in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Massachusetts...yeah, the Financial District, but a nice treat to the 'hood. (Okay, so there's also one located in SoWa (?!), which I just learned, is the Industrial section of Bean Town, south of Washington Street. Go figure).

As for the MENU du jour... well there's nothing posted on the Clover website. But the chick pea fritter was tre bien, they also feature a bbq seitan; I think I remember an eggplant fritter on there as well... Vegetarian!; breakfast, of course with muffins, turnovers and the necessary breakfast burrito. Plus, some rockin coffee for you caffeine lovers out there who could use a good Pour Over in the A.M to get your morning off right.

And! Ask the fine lads and ladies behind the counter about where Clover sources their produce? Local farms. 
Gold Star, Clover. Gold Star.