I’ve allotted myself just 20 minutes to sputter out these words. I’ve put on my calendar that I’d like to share information on this virtual connection to the farm at least twice a month this season. I plan, I budget my time, I run through my day thinking about what words I might say in advance of the actual project deadline. This is a lot of what it is like to run a farm. Planning, more planning, and some sort of actualizing that might imitate the plan… and you’re off to the next thing.
Last night I was at a beautiful little gathering of good women and a fine chef to discuss making a home apothecary. I left the workshop with some new recipes, and also a reinforced idea that my lifestyle is a novelty that isn’t understood. Because I put myself so fully into my work, it is not really ok with me to not be understood. And I’m not very good at speaking up for myself in those type of situations.
There is a double edged sword to explaining the life of a farmer – I should leave it at explaining my own life. I find incredible satisfaction and depth in the work I do. My head and body are always busy, I get to work beside interesting and motivated people, and I’m seldom bored. If I am, it’s my own fault because I’m not awake enough to reach deeper into where I’m at. On the other hand, describing a farmers’ life can sound like a list of complaints. This is not that. Farming can be simple work, it can be tedious, it can emotionally and physically draining. My work day starts at 5:30am and I often try to plug in an hour or two or more after the crew leaves my house at 7:45pm when we’re done dinner. There are even longer days once farmers’ market season begins. I typically work about 100 hours a week May-October. It’s only April and I haven’t picked up my pleasure book in two weeks. This winter’s to-do list still has items from 2012 on it. (On the other hand, I set my own schedule and traveled quite a bit last winter).
Someone asked “how I do it?” I think they meant “How do I actualize the lifestyle?” that I do. I choose it. I then sometimes feel like my own energy for this work is dismissed once it becomes apparent that I don’t have children. Not having children doesn’t mean choosing and activating my lifestyle is a cake walk. It means that I can prioritize differently. This spring I got up in the middle of the night to feed bottle lambs. I may not have done that if I did have children of my own. I also value eating dinner with our crew – another decision I may choose differently if I had a more traditional “family.” Canning tomato sauce is important to me, so I pick a Sunday, or several late evenings, during the bitter end of tomato season and I do it. Burning propane to heat the greenhouse during this cold winter didn’t feel good to me, and now my seedlings are feeling further behind the spring game than I’d like. As a farmer my life is no different than any of yours. I choose and prioritize what feels good to me, and go for it. I make compromises, cheer the successes, and try to shake off the failures. I don’t think any of our lives are easy. Some of us may put more sweat equity into our dreams. All we can do is make decisions and go…
And I find a plan really helps. The following is the rough outline that I and two crew mates made for the coming season. We’ll be flexible, but it gives us something to go off of that helps to maintain our sense of balance and leaning into our ideals.
Sunday: The crew is off, except one fine woman who takes care of animal chores and milking. Lee and I take care of house stuff, paperwork, grocery shop for everyone, and sometimes make it to the beach.
Monday: AM - Big group project; communication with wholesale accounts; PM – Group field walk / learning moment; small harvest; Beth and two 2nd year employees check in about independent projects; we seed micro greens, 1-2 people cultivate or prep planting beds; 3pm-5:30pm Beth does paperwork
Tuesday: AM- Harvest PM- 3-4 folks wash and pack, 4-5 folks transplant
Wednesday: AM – Finish Harvest PM – someone delivers goods to Portland, direct seed in the field, finish transplant related tasks (covering, irrigation, etc.); On-Farm CSA pick-up and open community event “Farm Happy Hour” 4pm-6pm
Thursday: AM- Rockland farmers’ market; hand cultivating PM – greenhouse seeding, micro seeding, late afternoon harvest, post market clean-up and paperwork
Friday: AM – Harvest PM – wash and pack; prep beds for planting, cultivation, flaming, row cover; transplanting
Saturday: Portland farmers’ market; crew works on overflow projects until noon.
and then there are regular chores – making dinner, cleaning up after ourselves, record keeping, animal care, greenhouse care… emails, moving irrigation pipe, fixing the broken part on the tractor, ordering more packing supplies, going to the bank, talking with the family who shows up in the middle of the field…
And now I’m fifteen minutes over my allotted time. Next. I move on happily. And feeling enough completion to do so.
This time of year we are starting to eat a lot of spinach. With the summer onslaught of greens not too far ahead of us, I appreciated this recipe in the recent M.O.F. and G. (March-May 2014) issue. (all text below is a reprint)
Collards are rich in cancer-preventing compounds. Like Swiss chard, beet greens, rhubarb, spinach and sorrel, however, they also contain a small amount of oxalic acid, which may be problematic for those prone to kidney stones. Dairy products, as in the custard recipe below, bind with the oxalate so that the body does not absorbed it (http://www.uwhealth.org/files/uwhealth/docs/pdf/nutrition_kidney_stones.pdf).
Note: One pound of collard greens should produce 1-1/2 cups of chopped stems and 2 cups of chopped leaves.
Green Custard (6-8 servings)
In a medium-sized skillet, heat
1 Tbsp. sunflower seed oil or olive oil
Sauté in it until limp
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 heaping c. sliced mushrooms
Spread the mixture in a buttered 9- by 12-inch pan.
Rinse, pat dry and finely chop to measure
4 c. fresh collard leaves
(Save the stems for salad.)
In a large bowl, mix the chopped leaves with
1 c. small-curd cottage cheese or crumbled tofu
1 c. thick yogurt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. powdered mustard
In a big bowl, beat until fluffy
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black or white pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Combine the greens and egg mixtures. Spread over the onion/mushroom layer in the pan and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 325 F.
1-1/2 c. freshly grated Jack and/or cheddar cheese
Continue baking for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and custard is set in the center. Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve with a salad and hot yeast rolls.
To cut to the food delivery chase: visit our Facebook page for a link to our sign-up for custom order or pre-packed food available for delivery this week. You can also email us to get on the general mailing list. We are delivering to Rockland, Portland, and have an on-farm pick-up this week.
Last week a couple of dozen agrarian elders met at Big Sur in California to discuss the future of the organic community. Each of those in attendance had 30-50 years of organic farming experience. I read the names of those who attended carefully one by one, wanting to honor the integrity of these good people. I was surprised myself by realizing that I knew of, or met, at least half of those who were at the meeting. In thinking about that 30-50 years experience, I both humbled myself in my youth, and felt some strength to know how plugged in to this organic community I feel.
Just last night, Lee and I hosted a dinner party of farmers and farm advocates. I found myself in the middle of our long table of eight, with my attention going back and forth between the conversations on either side of me. While to my right was a discussion of health care, to my left was a conversation about a few specific conventional agricultural crop practices and the relationship between those decisions and that of organic growers. The irony of the conversational overlap was not lost on me.
I’ve been farming full time since the summer of 1998, but only without work for other farmers in addition to my business since 2011. This growing season will be the first time I’ve farmed on the same piece of soil for four years. This morning I was feeling that significance, as I start to see myself build systems that until now I’ve only dreamed about, and as I think about that group of agrarian elders, and the depth that was at our dinner table.
This raising food is a continual evolution, as well as revolution. As always, we look forward to sharing what we’ve got, and are happily engaged in the process of growing more.
Posted in CSA, farm family and community, veggies, winter | Tagged community and food, csa shares, dandelion spring, farming experience, food as health care, future of organic, organic agriculture, organic community, portland, Rockland, straw farm | 2 Comments »
Full Diet CSA families, regular on farm pick-up folks, and readers..
(posting this as an open letter to our customers. if you’d like to be added to our email list for on-line order forms, please email your request to : email@example.com)
All of the animals and farm crew are warm and toasty.. as best as we can tell. Negative twenty degrees yesterday morning is the coldest ambient air temperature I remember it being in about ten years. Sometimes I think it feels too on the surface to talk about the weather, but when I acknowledge that the air around us is what we feel on our skin, and breathe in our lungs every moment of the day, it seems like nothing is more important. When it gets especially cold, or hot, this every day air flow can feel a bit stressful. We are all doing the best we can.
Today’s mission is to move some of the drifts (8’ high in places) away from the greenhouses before tomorrow’s rain arrives. Wacky weather.
Our plans for 2014 are coming along well. Matt and Marcy are picking out lots of new crop varieties. Third year is a charm, as I was able to get on an early order list for ginger planting stock. We will fill all of our 17’ x 98’ greenhouse with ginger this coming year. Exciting! We’ll grow more sweet potatoes, and following the example of fellow farmers in VT, try growing them outside without the benefit of a greenhouse. Fewer tomato plants are on the list, but I’ve graduated to putting them all in greenhouses, which should equal a higher yield and better quality than our outside plantings.
As for the winter greens in the greenhouses…. it has been really cold. Below 20 F they start to be compromised. With all of their coverings it can get close to zero outside and they’ll be fine, but this weather has been a big challenge for them. Most of the greenhouses are currently iced closed, and I’ve let them stay that way, not wanting to peek until we get slightly warmer weather. I briefly considered heating one greenhouse to keep a supply going for us, but heating a plastic bubble in this kind of cold and wind would be very expensive – perhaps $275 a night by my best estimate. I couldn’t do that. So – season extension has it’s limits. Our climate tells us that this is the time of year for turnip, carrot, potato, and hearty meat dishes anyway.
A related, positive note, is that our low tunnels – mini greenhouses built over beds in the field, are picture perfect. We planted them to carrots, onions, beets, chard, and other crops through the fall. Tucked in, insulated by polyester, plastic, and snow, they aren’t getting light, but hopefully are staying warm enough to keep the plants growing points alive. We’ll open them up starting in March and see what we’ve got!
Best New Year’s wishes to you – from the snow covered field, and our chairs by the woodstove,
Beth and Lee and crew
We are tucked in, feeding animals, ordering supplies, and packing food for weekly pickup’s. Wishing you warmth and an abundance of good wishes for the New Year!
Dear Dandelion Spring and Straw Farm Customers,
We’ve been quiet in our public presence during this transition season of darkening light. We’ve been attending conferences, catching up on field work, and focusing on self renewal. It has been good. We are sorry that those of you who missed the last few markets have been questioning where to find our goods.
There are a lot of details in this post. Please follow the headers for the info. you are most interested in.. or read it all.
Where can you pick-up food?
Portland, Deering Oaks farmers’ market, this Saturday 7am-1pm
pre-packed boxes pick-up
At the farm!, Newcastle, Wednesdays 3pm-6pm
Rockland @ Hello Hello, 4pm-6pm, 11.26, 12.10, 12.23
Portland @ Monument Square 7:30am-9am, 11.27
Portland @ Piccolo Restaurant, 10am-3pm, 12.14, 12.21
** you must pre-order for these pick-up’s using the following links **
vegetables and meat
reminder emails will follow
pre-orders are accepted up to 36 hours before delivery
We have a few left. Fresh. delivery to Rockland on Tuesday (11.26) and Portland on Wednesday (11.27). $4.50/lb. We are guessing they are 20lb or heavier birds. Call 380-4199 or email (DandelionSpringFarm@gmail.com) to reserve a bird. We’ll confirm your order.
Farm Pop-up Winter Holiday Celebration
We’ll be in Portland at Piccolo Restaurant (formlerly Bresca) from 10am-3pm onDecember 14th and 21st
we’ll have, yarn, soap, dried flower and fresh woodsy arrangments.
and all of the regular vegetables, meats, and dairy, too!
Ilma, of Piccolo, will be selling her amazing cakes
See you then!
Sign-up now to receive a 15% bonus on Credit Style shares.
Purchase in increments of $100.
great gifts, great for the farmers (who are making large purchases), and an easy way to set-up your food supply for 2014. Help us in reaching our goal of selling 100 of these shares in the next six weeks!
Check out the website for details:
send a check, or purchase via paypal
Call Beth with questions : 207.380.4199, or email: DandelionSpringFarm@gmail.com
(shares will be available for 10% bonuses starting 1.1.14)
As I’ve been typing the outdoor world has transitioned from heavy wind and rain to sun. The onions and leeks we transplanted last week will be happy (and hopefully ready for you first thing in the spring!), and now us farmers have more carrots to dig.
We are thinking of you, and look forward to seeing you at market, or the farm (or both!) very soon! And, we are looking forward to helping stock your holiday with carrots, sausage, yarn, and more!
Under the full moon,