Thursday, May 31, 2012

week three

This week, my third week interning, started out atrociously hot. But we got so much done.

Transplanted salad mix, scallions, sweet potatoes, squash, lettuce. Moved basil from the green house to spaces around the tomatoes. Transported a tower of cages across the field on the back of a truck. Tied up peas. Took down peas. Started the Pick-Your-Own garden.  Ran the wheel hole down aisles of beans. Found and killed Colorado Potato beetles (nasty little things). Mulched. Caged tomatoes. Weeded.

And my zeal is only growing. I feel that I'm now really getting into the rhythm of things. I'm certainly  more comfortable with all the tools we're using (not quite ready for the rototiller yet, but we're getting there) and the kinds of weeds and where to step v. where not to step. My pasty pale white skin is showing signs of darkening.

This past school semester left me rather worn out. Now, I am feeling so much more alive.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

buying local: soup'r natural

As an end of the school year celebration, my family and I headed to Soup'r Natural for supper last night. There is good food to be had there and soup/salad combos - something I really enjoy - are like the cornerstone of their menu. And it's a menu that changes throughout the season, so that it's in accordance with local crops. Right now one of my favorites is available - the strawberry fields salad.

It you're in the area (it's located in Hereford, Maryland) I would absolutely recommend stopping by.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

something new: summer reading list

Like I said before, this blog isn't going to be solely about my internship. There's too much else I love to do and want to share.

Firstly, reading. For the past couple years I've been keeping track of what I read - it reminds me of what I was thinking about at a particular time or what new ideas I was introduced to. So I'll continue to do that here, on this page. But I'd also like to share my thoughts about the books I read, since being away from school I don't really have anyone to discuss them with or papers to write.

To start...

You know those questionares that ask you all about your favorites? Your favorite color, season, food, etc? Well, this is what I put for my favorite book (if I really have to narrow it down to just one): To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

The week after school ended I needed a novel to read and decided to pick up To the Lighthouse again. The first time I read it, about a year ago, it blew my mind. There's very little dialogue and the external action is secondary to the internal workings of the characters. So it's basically a novel of people's thoughts, feelings and reactions. In a way, it seems like a photographic negative.

There's one scene, a dinner scene, about in the middle of the first third of the book. The thing that drives the scene isn't what the characters are directly telling each other but how they're interpreting everyone's non-verbal communication and the way their thoughts are rambling, what connections they're making. It's very real and raw but - from what I've read - unusual in literature.

In short, To the Lighthouse is the story of a family and their company at a summer house on the Scottish Hebrides. But it's really much more than that.

Monday, May 28, 2012

at the farmer's market

This past Saturday I got to spend my morning at the Shrewsbury Farmer's Market, behind the booth, helping to sell goods. Any time I've gone to a farmer's market before I've enjoyed myself. This time doubly so. It's fun to see people get excited about lentil sprouts, kale, and tomatoes - to discuss how to cook beet greens and garlic scapes.

If you're in the area and you missed it, Side by Side will be set up at the farmer's market in New Freedom next Saturday and again at Shrewsbury June 9th.

(And I realized the other day that I've taken a curiously large number of photos of radishes. The one above is a new addition to my collection. See more here.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

hilling potatoes

Wednesday afternoon the sky turned grey. I heard an occasional roll of distant thunder.

After transplanting a decent amount of eggplants and putting row cover over some peas, I believe, Devin and I turned our attention to hilling potatoes. "This is real farmwork now," he said. It was definitely the most intense physical work I've done in a while - more so than any kind of exercise.

First Devin went down between the rows of potatoes with the rototiller, to loosen the soil. Then, with our hoes, we pulled the soil up and around the potato plants - sometimes covering them completely. The higher the hill you make around a potato plant, the more potatoes you get.

At one point I looked ahead, realized how far I had to go just down the row, and that there were twenty-some more rows to go, and felt a little overwhelmed. But Devin said you can't do that - can't look ahead or behind. You have to keep focused on where you are at the moment.

I came home Wednesday afternoon totally invigorated, totally sure of why I'm doing this. Devin's enthusiasm and drive are are really inspiring. And I think I'm also getting a clearer picture of what I want kind of work I want to do and what I want to pursue and why.

An hour after I left, the rain came.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

first harvest

Wednesday morning I arrived at the farm early. It was my first time being involved with a harvest. We picked peas, carrots, kale, beet greens, radishes, cilantro, and spinach for a something-or-other (quesadillas, I think) Joel, the owner of Juliana's in the Village, will be concocting at his restaurant.

And at 7:30 in the morning that was excellent light.

Right where I was standing while taking the photo above is the wash station. For the greens, we dunked them in cold water and then, depending what type they were, took them for a spin in the largest salad spinner I've ever seen. Everything else was washed off, bunched up or put into bags. They were delivered to Joel later that morning.

Lunch was just as plentiful. It consisted of some of what we'd harvested - carrots, beet greens, cilantro all sauteed together in sun dried tomato oil. Then Devin cracked a few eggs into it (eggs from the resident chickens, of course), spread some goat cheese (from Charlottetown Farm) on warmed tortillas, spooned some of the egg/veggie scramble on it, folded it up, and viola! Devin said that is why he got into farming - the food. Such good food.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

starting seeds and planting ginger

For the second Tuesday in a row it was grey. No more rain, but everything was still moist. Devin and I started out by weeding a spinach bed, then we moved inside to the greenhouse attached to the house and began starting seeds. After giving me instructions, he left me on my own and went to prepare the other greenhouse with the rototiller.

I started melons, squash, lettuce, onions and quinoa. Above are the onion seeds. Below are the quinoa seeds. Beautiful, aren't they? 

And these were my companions in the greenhouse. Newly hatched.

Once the seeds were in and put "under the lights" in the basement, Devin and I planted the ginger. The roots had been waiting for months, in bins under the house. 

We planted them in the "downstairs" (lower field) greenhouse - each root hand placed about 6 inches apart in a deep trench and then cover them up. They'll be ready for harvesting in October. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

community supported agriculture

When I tell people about my internship - when I say I'm working at a CSA - they often give me a look of confusion. I'm working on a farm, I'll explain. But a CSA is a particular kind of farm with a particular purpose.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture (although I've also seen "Shared" used in place of "Supported). It's meant to directly connect the farmer and the eater. Generally, it works like this: Before the season begins, people buy shares in the farm. Later on, as the season progresses, they receive a weekly box of goods - typically consisting of mostly produce. There many variations on this model though. Sometimes shareholders can work on the farm or there are pick-your-own fields. Some are free-choice, and I know of one CSA, Essex Farm in New York, that is full diet and year round.

Devin lent me a wonderful book about CSAs that I'm still making my way through: Sharing the Harvest. In it, the first person (a lady named Robyn Van En) to own a CSA in this country is quoted as saying that the mathematical equation is "food producers + food consumers + annual commitment to one another = CSA and untold possibilities." On some of the advantages are outlined. For farmers, they get to bring attention and financial support to their farms before the season begins. For consumers, they get fresh food, new vegetables and chances to learn about different forms of cooking. And both people get to meet each other - an incredibly rare experience in are current food system.

One day last week, while we were weeding a bed of carrots, I asked Devin what he thought I should include in a post like this. And, really, it seems I should have either recorded his answer or he should write all about this himself. The main points he addressed were diversity, community and stewardship. A CSA brings people together because of a common interest that in turn nurtures the land. And it's also about cooking, he said. Every week (Wednesday, in Side by Side's case) shareholders receive their box of goods and have to make what they will from it. From what I've heard and read, you have to be willing to experiment when you take part in a CSA. (And the truth of this we shall soon see, because as part of my internship I'll be getting a share.) Farming is hard work, but it's hard work that is worth it for all parties involved - the farmer, the shareholders, the community as a whole, the environment, and future generations. as a search tool for CSAs. Visit their website to find one near you.
And go here to learn more about Side by Side.

Monday, May 21, 2012

buying local: sunday brunch

This past Sunday, my parents, brothers and I had a special brunch out at Juliana's in the Village. Not only is it a fantastic little spot with yummy food (and owned by my cousin), but they also do all the can to source foods locally. Side by Side is one of their suppliers. 

I had a breakfast quesadilla with raw milk cheddar, potatoes, two fried eggs, and salsa. And I heard their bacon is the best that can be had. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

one week down

And so my first week at Side by Side is finished. I'm sore - sometimes when I stand up I feel like my legs have aged forty years. I have bug bites on my back. My fingernails are neglected. The backs of my arms have two rosy spots of sunburn.

I've weeded, planted, started seeds, started mushrooms (super easy, just so you know), let chickens out for the morning, helped to herd escaped donkey's back into their pasture, watered, run a wheel hoe, been show how to identify weeds, put signs out for market, eaten carrots straight out of the ground (real baby carrots), seen how the water system works on the farm...Every day for the rest of the summer I know I'll learn something new.

It's just Devin and I, out in the fields. Right now he has no other workers. We talk as we work and I've found he's an incredibly knowledgable and enthusiastic person, about all manner of things. He seems to be a natural teacher - he's very patient and is always willing to explain things, to let me get my hands dirty (literally).

Devin left it open everyday this past week and he said it out right too: if I ever felt that this wasn't the thing for me I was welcome to say so and be done. But that's not going to happen. I intend to keep going. He's absolutely right; it is hard work. Still, it's hard work that is worth it - for me, for him, for the shareholders, for the land.

Very soon there will be coming posts about other subjects too though: reading and cooking are mainly what I have in mind at the moment. Keep your eyes peeled, as they say.

(Above are the farm's "upstairs" fields and greenhouses. The blue truck is now a shed.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

farmer's market

If you're in the area this coming Saturday, stop by the New Freedom Farmer's Market. Side by Side will have a stand, along with other local farms, bakers, butchers, growers, etc. It's an awesome way to support the farm without committing yourself for the whole season.

More info here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

planting tomatoes

Our first project of the day: planting two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, creme brulee and pineapple

Before beginning at Side by Side (before yesterday, in other words) I would say I only knew the very basics of planting - and I usually killed most things I planted. Aesthetically, I adore nature; I take walks specifically so that can peek at neighbors' gardens, at the field on the edge of town, at trees catching evening light. I have books on flower folklore and am glad that I know what little I do about plant varieties. I go out into my grandfather's garden and snip his herbs to use for supper. But that wasn't enough. I want to have a good understanding of and interaction with this planet's ecological systems. Not just for this summer but for the whole rest of my life. 

So today I got a lesson in tomatoes and tomato planting. You could plant them upside down, Devin said, and they'd still survive. We didn't do that, however - we put them right side up, deep in a hole that had the bottom broken up and a little bit of what he called "agri-knight" (which included crushed mollusk shells and kelp) sprinkled in it. Then the dirt was packed down and well watered. Sporadically throughout the rows - these tomatoes had peppers and lettuce as their neighbors - we planted borage. Devin says things like that - like putting in plants with acknowledgement to how other plants will shade them, with how water moves - make all the difference.