Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
June. Named after Juno, the Roman goddess of childbirth and fertility. The weeds that escaped our hoes in April and early May have all grown up and are having children of their own now. Usually, June rolls in on a saucy heat wave, announcing her presence like a child demanding your attention, stamping her feet and screaming “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!”
But Juno was evidently distracted by the floods, because June just sort of slid into the raucous party through an already open door and sat down. I hardly even recognized her. Sweatshirts in the mornings and evenings, no desperate popsicle breaks, breezy, sunny skies--even the squash seems to be confused and isn’t growing so fast. A subtle and perfect June will have us all complacent and unprepared for that blast of July that is sure to come, but since there’s nothing we can do about that, let’s just enjoy the sweatshirts while we wait.
The cucumbers have been enjoying the perfect weather of the last few days, which means we have some overlap of production between the greenhouse and the field. Which means it’s a great time to make a batch of Jason’s Aunt Ella’s Shake Pickles:
Aunt Ella's Shake Pickles
Cucumbers-1/2 gallon, sliced
2-3 onions, sliced
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1/8 cup salt
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp alum
1/2 tsp celery seed
Fill half gallon jar with sliced cucumbers and onions. Mix together. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers. Put in refrigerator. Shake once a day for six days.
Early tomatoes and plump blueberries: the sunny side
May is too early for a tropical storm. Plus, we’ve already had too much rain. But mother nature did not get that memo and you can’t argue with mother nature, so it’s time to practice the art of letting go and moving on. Oh, and don’t forget the art of keeping on the sunny side.
So I try to keep the losses in my peripheral vision and focus instead on those early tomatoes! And the fact that it doesn’t matter that our blueberry irrigation system needs a bunch of repairs because the blueberries love all this water and we didn’t even need to turn the irrigation system on.
Yes, the arugula and little gem lettuce threw a temper tantrum (turns out they’re not aquatic plants), but we ate the first ripe tomato last Friday and the blueberries are beginning to change color! And, I can shake off all that regret for not growing strawberries this year because this is exactly the heartbreak-inducing weather that did in our strawberry-growing desires last year.
Also, as soon as the sun comes out there will be fantastic tubing potential on all the rivers that were previously too low to navigate! So yeah, there is always a silver lining if you keep the losses out of focus and look instead toward where the sun will be when it finally comes out.
With the rains comes lots of lettuce and Jason is on a mission to make salads into main courses. We have seen strawberries at the market, which inspires one of our favorite salads:
Strawberry and chevre salad with balsamic vinaigrette and toasted walnuts:
Baby lettuce mix
Plain chevre (goat cheese)
Balsamic vinaigrette (see below)
Slice strawberries and goat cheese on top of salad mix. Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven (or stir them in a cast iron skillet on the stove top until dark brown). While the walnuts cool, make the balsamic vinaigrette:
The standard ratio for vinaigrettes is three parts oil to one part vinegar. But it's a flexible ratio.This is also not something for which you need to take out the measuring cups — eye-balling the proportions right in the salad bowl or jam jar is perfectly acceptable behavior.
Balsamic vinaigrette will take you far in life. This is made just with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the balsamic adds just the right touch of sweetness when tossed with salad greens. If you're feeling fancy, you can add other ingredients the mix, like a dollop of grainy mustard, some minced shallots, or a tablespoon of fresh chopped herbs. If you'd like a little more sweetness, whisk in some brown sugar or honey.
Drizzle your vinaigrette onto your salad and top with chopped toasted walnuts and voila!
Jason tried to mention that the weather pattern is reminiscent of 2013. I jammed my fingers in my ears and hummed a little tune and stomped my feet a little. We are not going to drown! Although I don’t consider myself much of an optimist, I’m trying to ignore any similarities with 2013 and believe that the sun will come out tomorrow (now that’s in your head too!).
I’m squeezing my existence into the moments between the rains. It’s slippery work, but there are some of those moments. The sun even comes out sometimes (bet your bottom dollar…). Just enough for me to empty out the rain gauge and mash my fingers in my ears and hum a little song about the sun coming out tomorrow.
All this rain isn’t all bad though. Greens loves the rain. Which makes this prime weather for some kale chips! The secret to great kale chips is preheating the pan
Garlic roasted kale (a.k.a. kale chips)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale , stems removed and chopped
1. Arrange oven racks in center and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425°. Place 2 large baking sheets in oven for 5 minutes.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Divide kale mixture evenly between hot pans, spreading with a silicone spatula to separate leaves. Bake at 425° for 7 minutes. Stir kale, and rotate pans. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until edges of leaves are crisp, but not burnt.
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light November 2010
I love office supply stores. I can’t help it. All that organization packed in so neatly into one big box, all categorized and labeled. What’s not to love? Uncle Harold once said, “Anything you love, they can take away.” And take away they did. They took away my beloved Staples store and left me with nothing but online office supplies. It just doesn’t smell the same.
But it did make me smarter. If they can take away my office supply store, they can surely take away my other love: Paper Mate Ink Joy 700 RT 1.0 medium point. So I went and got me a mess of them. I mean, I do work in an office about a half day a week or so. I’ve got to have my favorite pens! How else would I type this blog every week?
Veggies tattoos are a serious thing, y'all
The clouds were innocent today: white wisps against the bright blue sky. I felt like I was in an idyllic painting, or one of those inspirational greeting cards. We were planting our 24,850th transplant, our bodies folded over themselves in some farm tweaked version of a yoga pose, discussing our work as identity. You know, the lighter stuff.
I recall taking some psychological “test” where the only question was to complete the sentence “I am…” any number of times as they came to your mind. Ostensibly, it is interesting to see what order you put the things that make up your identity; the first thing being the most important factor of your identity to you, etc.
If I took that test today, well, I’d probably cheat since I know how it works, but I imagine that even if I didn’t, the word “farmer” would appear somewhere very near the top. When you’re passionate about something, it sort of takes over your whole identity. I mean, everyone here either has or wants a veggie tattoo (yes, including me, although I'm a little too reserved to just go all out like the above picture). Did you know that’s a thing?
Thinking along those lines, I wonder if my second answer would “eater.” Because you just can’t work so closely and extensively with veggies without dreaming of dinner. I spend hours doing it. And then I spend more time scouring our cookbook stash, pile of cooking magazines, or the internet for new recipes using those veggies. Eating is one of the major reasons we got into farming. Eating…the gateway drug.
And now, here we are, planting our 24,850th transplant, our bodies folded over themselves in some farm tweaked version of a yoga pose, admitting our addiction to farming as if it were the first step. Hi, my name is Shiloh, and I love to grow food. And here’s my veggie tattoo (just kidding, I don’t have one of those…yet).
Let's celebrate this beautiful cake that Mallory made from farm beets and wildflowers
Today is a great day to celebrate the Tumbling Shoals Farmily. It’s Emily’s second day, after all, and the farmily is complete. I’ve been thinking about that Jerry McGuire movie from (cough cough) “a few years back”—you know the scene. The one where he uses sign language and says, “you complete me.” Aaaawww, don’t cry.
This is how I feel today. The farmily is complete. The sun is shining, we’ve removed and put away the frost blankets (that yes, were still in use on April 30th), and we’re plowing (pun definitely intended) through our planting list. It feels complete. Optimism abounds. And we’re as pleased as canned peas to be working here (I just made that simile up, but I bet you couldn’t tell).
This is something that’s critical to us: that we’re pleased to be working here. I don’t just mean me and Jason, although that is important also because why else would we be doing this, but the whole farmily. Farming, as with any small business, is about relationships, and the relationships with our employees are some of the closest relationships we form. In order to be complete, we all need to be happy to be here. And this season, it feels like we’ve struck gold.
So let’s celebrate. According to google: “dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities.” So….let’s dance!
Saturday, April 21st is the Wilkes County Farmers Market AND the downtown Hickory Farmers Market opening day!
Managing a diverse farm is a lot like daily choreography. We begin with the big picture—the general list of tasks that we need to accomplish. This, we create on Sundays. Then each morning we look at the day’s as well as the upcoming temperature, cloud, precipitation, and wind predictions, and pull items from the general list that will make sense to accomplish that day. Then, of course, we plan how those tasks are going to flow most efficiently—which tasks need to precede which tasks, and how many people are needed to accomplish them—who will be doing what simultaneously.
When it goes well, it’s as lovely as a well choreographed dance. It flows impeccably from scene to scene until we’ve come full circle back to the big picture having crossed off many tasks from that list. But, of course, you know about the rapidly changing weather predictions. And there’s always that one awkward movement that didn’t quite appear like it did in your head and throws the whole thing off balance.
It’s a constant occupation. Like a marionette master, you’ve got to pull each string just right and at just the right moment. It’s one of things we really love about this kind of farming. There’s no boredom, no stagnation. You’re always evolving, learning, growing.
The sun and warmth returned to us like an old lover returning from a long voyage, resurrecting the joy and laughter in our hearts. A lover we can’t help but adore, no matter how long she leaves us. Weather can do that to a person, you know: beat you down like a lily in a hail storm and make you question everything, only to return and lift you up like it was nothing. And you can’t even jilt her. She brings with her too much promise.
Irresistible promises like fresh greens, and thriving plants, and crossing things off lists. Yeah, the weather can do that to. See how talented she is? With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of weather suitable for catching up. And with this year’s family nearly all in place here, we’re crossing things off lists.
The feeling of crossing things off lists is almost as cherished as the feel of the sun on our long cold faces. It’s relief, and power all in one: the realization that we can do this!
Eat your colors! Join our harvest share program
I got back from the “Body Pump” workout the other day feeling SO good. I mean my legs barely carried the rest of me out of there and I collapsed in the chair when I got home, but later, after rest, and even the next morning, I felt really good! This is something I know. Not just from reading about how exercise and healthy diet can improve overall feeling of well-being, but from my own personal experience.
Why, then, is it still so incredibly difficult to drag myself out to the gym to do something that makes me feel so good? Am I just that shortsighted that I can’t project out even a single day? When I’m feeling good, I can easily connect the dots in reverse to understand that “Body Pump” made me feel this way, but tomorrow, it’s like I’ve already forgotten. I hem and haw and drag my feet and reach deep for that will power I know I left somewhere.
I know sticking to a healthy diet can feel the same way. That’s a bit easier for organic vegetable farmers, because organic vegetables are what we have on hand all the time. Plus we’re isolated out here on the farm and don’t have a lot processed food “temptations” poking their cute little heads out at us saying “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” But I can sympathize how hard it can be to eat healthy even though it makes us feel so good!
Let us help you with that! Join our harvest share program and have fresh organic local vegetables and fruit on hand all the time (starting in May). It works a bit like a magazine subscription: you purchase your share now (when we’re purchasing all of our seeds and supplies and paying employees to grow your food) and receive a box of fresh organic in-season produce each week for 20 weeks (beginning in May). With veggies already in your fridge, you’re much more likely to stick to a healthy diet. Learn more here! Contact us with any questions, and sign up here.
Benefits of the Tumbling Shoals Farm Harvest Share (with lots of quotes from “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan):
Benefits to you:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables! (it’s like a pre-paid fitness club membership-if you’ve already paid, you’re more likely to use it, with all those fresh ripe nutritious veggies already purchased and in your fridge, you’re more likely to get more of them into your diet!)
- Eat the freshest organic produce around: “Recently a handful of well-controlled comparisons of crops grown organically and conventionally have found appreciably higher levels of antioxidants, flavanoids, vitamins and other nutrients in several of the organic crops. Of course, after a few days riding cross-country in a truck the nutritional quality of any kind of produce will deteriorate, so ideally you want to look for food that is both organic and local.”
- Improve the diet through diverse, seasonal eating: “[When purchasing locally] you automatically eat food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious…eating in season also tends to diversify your diet-because you can’t buy strawberries or broccoli or potatoes twelve months of the year, you’ll find yourself experimenting with other foods when they come into the market….The CSA box does an even better job of forcing you out of your dietary rut because you’ll find things in your weekly allotment that you would never buy on your own.”
- Planning meals made easier: “What’s for dinner” gets easier when you are eating seasonally because you begin with what’s in your box and build the meal from there. Instead of “what in the world should I make for dinner,” it becomes, “Let’s find a good recipe for squash (or carrots, or broccoli, etc)”
- You support the local food chain and the local economy (it’s like voting with your tongue!). Your support keeps your local farms in business and contributes to the local food security
- Shake the hand that feeds you: “[In the industrial food system] a wall of ignorance intervenes between consumers and producers and that wall fosters a certain carelessness on both sides. Farmers can lose sight of the fact that they’re growing food for actual eaters rather than for middlemen, and consumers can easily forget that growing good food takes care and hard work.”
- Build a food community: attend Tumbling Shoals Farm events and meet others on the ark of local food
Benefits to us:
- We get to know who we’re feeding: “Accountability becomes once again a matter of relationships instead of regulation or labeling or legal liability. Food safety didn’t become a national or global problem until the industrialization of the food chain attenuated the relationships between food producers and eater.”
- Because you’ve purchased your share ahead of the season, we have income right at the time we are purchasing all our seasonal supplies, but don’t yet have another income stream
- Knowing how many families we’re feeding ahead of time makes planning how much of each crop to grow a lot easier!
- Building a food community: We love getting together with other people interested in food and cooking and eating. Let’s eat together!