Monday, February 28, 2011

Building the Greenhouse Part I

steel rods for the greenhouse awaiting their curve

When you set out to build a greenhouse you are on a romantic quest. The end aim of which is a place for infant plants to grow, for light to dwell, for warmth and potency mixed together in a kind of happy haze. To do it you must wed yourself to geometry for a time, and then to industry.
There is something gleeful in setting out to make a portion of a curve materialize in a few pieces of wood and iron. The pursuit of the geometric ideal, by means of power tools and screws- all to the end of bending by force steel rods to coincide with this arch.
Euclid alone has looked on Beauty Bare” wrote Edna St. Vincent Millay
It hums and buzzes in the mind as you grunt and struggle with the hoop bender. So ironic that poetry is batting about the mind during such a brute effort.
Not everything in our group endeavor at fashioning our greenhouse arches was…graceful. Spouses bickered a bit…Parents were frustrated at times with fumbling children…work had to be done, and done again…but as we worked for physical consonance of this steel and that arc we were required to leave off these divergences and pull together in this work- converging despite ourselves.

“Let geese gabble and hiss but heroes seek release from dusty bondage into luminous air”

Know your Farmer. Know your Food.

Not every emotion experienced while farming is one of bucolic tenderness towards all living things. Recently I found myself mildly wrathful at the sight of a wilted head of desperate broccoli at our local gigantic super market. (super denoting size, not quality.)
How do we stand it? The veggies that look to be beaming and blooming with health and vitality are poisoned, laced with the pesticides and chemicals used to grow them on mega farms. The organic section (if you can find it) hosts a few limp veggies that lay there beneath the fluourecent lighting, as if gasping for their last breaths, hoping beyond hope that their packaging will sell them…like some malnourished hollowed-eyed orphan in a Dickens novel.
It is absurd that we continue to accept the current food system, with all of its trucking of vegetables and fruits from thousands of miles away. The very beings of vegetables cry out in protest. They are not created for so much post-harvest handling.

Why do we continue to support the warehouse system of distribution-where grocery stores will not so much wink at a small farmer, when they can buy whatever they need, in whatever quantity from a large warehouse of mega-farmed food? It pains me that in small rural communities, like the one we live in, with small farmers and dairies just eking out a hold on their land, in the hours between their 9 to 5 jobs and sleep…that our first thought for where to get eggs, veggies, fruit, and milk…is the vast and massive Meijer's. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Meijers' existence if only for its extensive ice cream selection…but I acknowledge that this is a bit of a contradiction in my self-sufficiency seeking self…and deep down I know that I never really frequent the grocery store for REAL food.
Our chickens, pigs, sheep, and dairy goats give us our eggs, meat and cheese…John down the road a piece delivers our milk. Every morning we have the pleasure of deciding whether to shake the bottle or just pour that nice heavy cream on top into our tea. How much things have changed, and in such a short time, so that it is considered radical to suggest sourcing one’s food directly from the farm! Why do we accept the ubiquitous existence of the middleman? Where the middleman helps us out, by all means, pour him a beer and pat him on the back…but where his existence threatens our health, our pocketbooks, and our stewardship of the land that surrounds our cities and suburbs cut him out!
We have grown unaccustomed to sourcing our staples from small farmers. The small farmer has grown unaccustomed to being thought of at all…but there are many people who are beginning to tire of confronting limpid or poisoned produce in the local grocery store, and who fear for the effects or irradiation and ultra-pasteurization of meat and milk on their families’ health.

I say hurrah to this!

The moment we begin again to think about the fact that vegetables begin their lives in soil, and meat and milk have as their origins a living breathing animal, we start to wonder about the soil itself, its health, and the living conditions of the animals that provide us our meat and milk…and we begin to realize how very important it is to meet the person and persons responsible for tending the soil, and the animals…and that when we take the time to invest in these small farmers, these guardians of the micro biotic world of the soil, we are committing ourselves to sustaining the communities that we live in, enriching them, and acknowledging that we are part of a greater whole than just ourselves. But such unselfishness is indeed radical.

It may mean walking away from the big box stores and getting your shoes dirty on a little inconspicuous farm nearby…where someone makes growing food an all-consuming passion. It is not radical, however, in the sense of moving to a nudist colony or eating hummus. Its more like the leap you make when you allow yourself to fall in love…

Know your Farmer. Love your Food.

We need you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Vistas

The Little Flower Farm menagerie survived their trans-state migration gracefully. If you tell a goat that there is a nice cozy barn waiting for her at the end of her journey she will load herself into the moving van and insist on setting out immediately.
We will begin frost seeding new pastures tommorrow, taking advantage of our recent delicious thaw.

We combined the two laying flocks, and the resulting sorting out of the pecking order went smoothly. There was simply to much to do on the new farm...expedition parties were dispatched...
I do not recommend guinea hens as a unique way of introducing yourself to the new neighborhood.
Freshly baked muffins are much...quieter.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lavender Shortbread

To properly celebrate the recent thawing...and to set daintily on the plate beside you as you begin seeding your early brassicas:
(this recipe is why we will always grow plenty of lavender on our farm!!)

1 and 1/2 C butter (room temp)
(and we mean butter, real butter...the kind that makes for Grecian figures...)
2/3 C Sugar
2 Tbsp finely chopped lavender florets
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 1/3 C flour
1/2 C cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Line the bottoms of two baking sheets with parchment.
Cream together the butter, sugar, mint, and lavender until light and fluffy. (3 min.)
Add flour, cornstarch, salt....
Divide the dough into two halves and flatten into squares or circles. Chill until firm.

When firm, cut into circles or rectangles....prick all over with a fork. This is the lovely part. It makes your cookies look so British, and taken with tea you could do no better over the pond, as they say.
Bake 20-25 min.
Another splendid way to enjoy them is while soaking up to your chin in a deep rose-scented bath contemplating the seeds that you are going to order for your 2011 garden...or packed in wax paper packets for the kids' pockets as they go and make forays amongst the chickens into the mud patches popping up in the yard as the snow melts...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 Season Officially Commences!

There is such a strange cautiousness that all of the sudden comes over the farmer in February, as he is bent over his seed flats about to break open the first packets of onions, early brassicas, and herbs.

All the wrestling with faith floods back upon him...outside is a frozen tundra, inside he is rolling over in his mind the miracle that he is called upon once again to believe in...that these tiny seeds hold within them not only enough nutrition to bring them swimmingly through their infancy, but also the promise of the mature plant spanning feet wide, yeilding again and again it's bounty come summer.

When we began our seeding this week, I paused above a giant tub of potting soil...moist.

It is a universal fact that a toddler and dirt cannot long be seperated from eachother when in close proximity. And our hesitancy and musings were dashed to pieces when the 2 and 4 year apprentices amongst us joyously plunged their arms in up to the elbows...murmuring soft contented sighs of "Oh! I love the smell of it!".

They voice was we are all thinking.

It is amazing to think that our livelihood is bound up in these little specks of seeds...more amazing still to watch them poke up through their thin layer of soil within mere days...
When they have gotten a good start, they will be moved from the comfort of the woodstove out into the greenhouses.

In the meantime, there is a tingling hum of vitality that flows from our germination room into the rest of the house...reminding us of our work ahead, and of the coming warmer greener days of Spring.