Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Giving thanks for the beauty of the place we live (I'm not sure why this is sideways!)
I love the Thanksgiving holiday. Not because we eat a lot of good things, although that’s enjoyable, or even because we get together with our friends and families (also a bonus), but because it’s an entire day dedicated to appreciation of the goodness in our lives. Seriously, we should do this more often.
It’s easy to get caught up and carried away in life’s daily challenges. I notice this whenever someone comes to visit us at the farm. We’ve got our heads down, buried beneath the mountain of to do lists, entirely forgetting to look up and enjoy the incredible beauty of the place we work. Often, it takes a visitor to gawk at this beauty to remind us to look up.
This time of year, we take an entire day to look up, so to speak. To pay attention to our blessings and give thanks for them.
some hard won tasty winter veggies
I don’t like the cold. Thus, I tend to have very harsh feelings about winter, especially the whole working outside in the cold part of winter. But as with everything, there’s a silver lining. Local food may be harder won in the winter, but it’s also sweeter. I won’t bore you with the science of cold temperatures on the natural sugars in veggies, but the resulting effect on the taste buds is sensational.
I’m sure this is a life lesson: harder won things are worth working harder to win them? Perhaps (although don’t ask Mallory, who had to take two consecutive hot showers yesterday to warm up). All I know is that ever since we made the decision to keep growing food through the winter, my taste buds have warmed me up to the idea. I say this, of course, as I sit inside my, um, “corner office” (which is actually a closet) inside a heated and insulated house. So there’s that. But the cold rain has let up, the cat finally ventured outside, and I will soon follow.
Here's me on my self care soap box (just kidding--it's actually a woman at the Renaissance Fair selling soap from atop a soap box and I thought it was funny)
I went to a luncheon and talked about “self-care” today. It’s all the rage, you know. And not for bad reasons. It was nice to get off the farm for a change. How’s that for self-care. You know, whoever the wise (arse) was that said, “if you love your job, you never work a day in your life”, he or she was definitely not a farmer. Because I can attest that loving your job and working at your job are not mutually exclusive.
And we. Are. tired. We have a plan to not work so much beginning now until we really kick it back into gear in February and March. We divided up the work between the three of us so that we can produce all winter long while still having our winter rest. Plus, it’s mostly inside structures so we don’t have to suffer the whims of mother nature quite as much. It’s a well laid plan. You know, of course, what they say about the best laid plans… But now that I’ve talked about self-care as a farmer to other women, it’s time to really focus on that for ourselves. Winter is a time for resting, rejuvenating, healing our bodies and spirits. It’s a time to renew our love for our job so we can come at March with the same ferocious enthusiasm you’ve come to know us for.
We’re lucky in so many ways. The seasonality of agriculture, even with some winter production, allows for a period of reflection and planning. How many other businesses get to slow way down to do these things. Most businesses just keep on rolling full speed. I wonder how y’all incorporate self-care into your busy lives.
Winter Harvest Shares begin next week! We still have a few shares available. This one size fits all share acknowledges the extra time you'll be spending in the kitchen with family and friends for the holidays and includes a weekly dozen eggs from our dear friends at Creeksong Farm in Ashe County. The winter harvest share begins November 14th and runs through Jan 23rd (with no deliveries December 26th). That's 10 weeks worth of local organic veggies! In the winter harvest share you can expect to see (in addition to free range eggs) salad mixes including lettuce and arugula and some spicy mix, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes, Hakurei salad turnips, bok choy, kale, chard, collards, celery, carrots, spinach, and even a bit of turmeric. These winter shares will be limited in availability so get registered as soon as possible!
Introducing our new winter harvest share! Mallory has agreed to stay with us this winter so we're growing all winter for you! This one size fits all share acknowledges the extra time you'll be spending in the kitchen with family and friends for the holidays and includes a weekly dozen eggs from our dear friends at Creeksong Farm in Ashe County. The winter harvest share begins November 14th and runs through Jan 23rd (with no deliveries December 26th). That's 10 weeks worth of local organic veggies! In the winter harvest share you can expect to see (in addition to free range eggs) salad mixes including lettuce and arugula and some spicy mix, potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes, Hakurei salad turnips, bok choy, kale, chard, collards, celery, carrots, spinach, and even a bit of turmeric. These winter shares will be limited in availability so get registered as soon as possible!
In my youth I spent some time in various African countries. While vastly different from each other the common thread I found was a much slower pace of life. My “busy” times were akin to the slower times here. You still had time to sit and drink tea with the neighbors, or take a leisurely walk, or read a book.
Here, those things are seasonal. I checked out my first book from the library since March or April. Chairman Meow stopped me in the middle of work to snuggle and take some selfies. All things being seasonal, we are entering into the slow(er) season.
When the sweaters come out of the closet and the shorts go in, when the pets want petted, when there are things that need celebrated (birthday, anniversary, Halloween..). This is the time when our laser focus fades and we pay attention to other things, including ourselves and each other. Nothing feels like a crisis as all the planting has been done (almost), and deconstruction activities happen on a flex schedule.
Welcome, my friends, to October. Let’s down-shift.
Down shifting means slow cooked greens again, such as:
Sweet and Sour Collard Greens
1 bunch collard greens
2 TBS bacon grease
1 chili pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
Remove tough stem and chop collard greens. Melt bacon grease in the pan, add chili pepper, stock and water, bring to a boil. Add collard greens, return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove cover, simmer to reduce liquid so that less than 1/4 inch remains in the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, mix honey and vinegar. Add mixture to collards and cook an additional ten minutes.
A reminder that there will be no Saturday Hickory farmers market this week due to Octoberfest. Regular market hours in Hickory on Wednesday (rain or shine) and Boone on Saturday.
I spent the last several days at play with my nieces, brother and sister-in-law, and my parents. You know how you might tend to worry about a recent retiree—that they might feel lost without the work, that they might petrify. Well I learned long ago from my father, who retired early at 55, that play is powerful. I watched him thrive in retirement because of play. He lives for play. And so did I these past days.
In the words of Jill Vialet, founder of Playworks, a non-profit company that works with schools to design curriculum and activities that offer play opportunities during recess, lunch and after school programs, “play gives us a brief respite from the tyranny of apparent purpose.” Ha! I love that. By this point in the season, with the intensity of the season behind us, farm work can indeed feel like tyranny. And so the arrival of play in my life was well timed.
Baby Bok Choy slaw
3 pounds baby bok choy, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon safflower oil
2 chile peppers, such as Fresno or serrano, thinly sliced into rounds, ribs and seeds removed for less heat if desired
Toss together bok choy, vinegar, both oils, and chiles in a large bowl. Season with salt. Let stand until bok choy collapses to half its volume (it will darken slightly), at least 20 minutes. Toss again before serving.
I’m not an every day coffee drinker. You see, I need coffee to be effective for me on those 4 a.m. Saturday mornings and if I drink it every day, it will be less effective. Or at least that’s my theory. But days like yesterday and today (and tomorrow) increase my coffee need: Heavy days that push on your eyelids so you feel like you’ve never fully woken up. Days where time is tracked only by clocks instead of the movements of the sun. It’s days like these where I need to drink coffee just to exist in the world- the chemical sunshine.
Japanese pickled ginger (Gari)
· 9 to 10 ounces young ginger
· 6 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
· 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
· 9 tablespoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
· 2 squares of dried kombu (kelp), each about the size of your thumbnail (optional)
Use an inverted spoon to scrape off the thin, paper bits from the ginger. Use a mandoline or very sharp knife to cut the ginger across the grain into super thin pieces. They should be nearly see-through. Toss the ginger with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to reduce its harshness. Meanwhile, partially fill a small saucepan with water. Ready a fine-mesh strainer and 2-cup (.5 liter) glass jar. In another saucepan, combine the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, vinegar, and kombu (if using). Set this stuff aside near the stove. About 10 minutes before the ginger finishes mellowing out, start the water pot going on the stove. When the ginger is done, add it all to the boiling water, stir and blanch for 20 seconds to further reduce the harshness. Drain in the mesh strainer but don’t rinse. Shake a few times to expel water, then put into the glass container. Bring the mixture of sugar and vinegar to a boil, give things a stir to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Then pour into the jar of ginger. Push down with chopsticks or a spoon to submerge. Cool, uncovered, then cap and refrigerate. Depending on the ginger, it may be ready to eat in 1 to 3 days. Taste and see. Store refrigerated for months.
It's time to register for the Fall Harvest Share program! Registration closes as soon as we fill up so don't delay (we're already more than half way full). It’s just 7 weeks this fall, with the first fall share delivery next week September 26th and the last delivery November 7th. It’s a one size fits all share at a $20 value and will include the last of the summer bounty of sweet peppers, lots of lush leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and plenty of salad fixings. The total cost of membership is $140. you can register here. For more information, check out the website or give us a holler!
The days ooze by like oil. Viscosity alone moves me through the day. After months and months of intense farm management—trying to hold all the little details in my periphery, I’ve eased into a bit of tunnel vision. My long term and big picture visors have gone up and all I can see is the immediate task list. I just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. I just float along on the liquid days.
Turns out, there’s been a lot of liquid in these liquid days, which doesn’t inspire me to move more than my slow plodding pace. The seasons are going to change, the farmily will scatter, the heavy clothes will come out of their closet to wrap themselves around me…all regardless of me. I’m simply trickling along the oil slick of time.
This time of year brings us fresh baby ginger and lots of lush leafy greens like kale, which makes it a great time to make
Honey-Ginger Kale Salad
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (10 ounce) bunches kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
Whisk together vinegar, juice, soy sauce, honey, and ginger in a small bowl. Add oil slowly, whisking constantly until incorporated. Put kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing, and mix well. Using your hands, massage kale until softened, wilted, and reduced in volume by about half.