Saturday, August 25, 2012


Tomorrow I head back to university. Back to classrooms and note-taking and studying and professors and peers and so forth. And I'm thrilled. (Really, I am.)

But I'm not sure what it means for this little blog.

I started blogging so I could keep track, publicly, of my internship at Side by Side Farm. A journal - that's always how I thought of it. Something like an internet commonplace book. Now my internship is over but it has filled me with new ideas, new things I want to delve into. This blog has provided me with an outlet - one that I'm not sure I want to lose.

Because (and this came into my head on my last day at the farm, when I went to pick some zinnias and sunflowers for the spring house) I think that what I did at Side by Side this summer will have some influence on the path I take in terms of what I do for a living. The work I did there felt authentic - probably, I think, because I could see the affects it had on all parties involved and, accordingly, the goal was to the best for every party (the land, the goods, the farmer, the CSA members, the community, the future owners of the land...). If I'm going to devote the larger portion of my days and weeks, the sweat of my brow, the consumption of my energy, and years of my life to something - be it an organization, a goal, a project, a career - I want to be aware of every platform and person it impacts.

That's the direction I'm moving in.

At university last semester, I changed my major from English to Anthropology and added two minors: English (I simply couldn't part with it completely) and History. Along with my parents, friend and his mom, I'm working on getting permaculture design certified. My aspirations of having a garden are becoming more and more tangible - I may find myself with my own spot of ground much sooner than I'd thought possible.

So I think there is a good chance I will continue blogging here. The form and frequency of posts may change a little but I'd still like to consider this my journal.

And thank you to all of you who have given me such nice feedback - I really do appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the last day

My internship at Side by Side Farm is finished.

And how is that? How is it that it all happened so quickly? Didn't I just learn how to transplant things? Or what harvest days are like? Or starting seeds? Wasn't that all yesterday?

First thing this morning, Devin and I harvested the revived kale. I flicked and squished Harlequin beetles as I went along breaking off the leaves. Then we went on to the chard and Devin had already gotten the basil. He also cut open a cantaloupe he'd just snatched off the vine. It was unlike any other I've ever had - milky, creamy. We set up shade cloth over some radishes before heading down the hill. Jean had tanks of water ready for cooling and cleaning the greens. I'm familiar now with the process - pour them in, press them down into the water gently, let soak, bunch and shake dry.

This week in the share we had: basil, heirloom tomatoes, eggplants or sweet peppers, hot peppers, baby fennel, okra, garlic, shallots, and the the greens were up for grabs.

I wrote up the chalkboard sign and the notes attached to the CSA member checklist. After picking some flowers for the spring house, we tidied up the wash station a little. "Mission accomplished," Devin said. "You have completed a farm internship." And so I said my goodbyes and headed out. I was a walking feast, with my share, a brown bag of shiitake mushrooms (fresh off the log), goat cheese and eggs. In the full, glorious sun I backed my car up the narrow gravel driveway and was gone.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

nearly done

So here I am. On the very last week of my internship.

I arrived at Side by Side in the fog and found Devin surveying places where the chickens could be moved. He settled on a spot across the fields, behind the greenhouse and just beyond the corn. While he rolled the chicken tractors over, I harvested fennel. After a brief nibble at the raspberry bushes, we set up the fences in a wide oval (or something like an oval). The nomad chickens now have a new large area filled with insects and fresh ground. It should be a feast for them, and yet they stood starring at us, pleading for their food barrel. Devin and I harvested peppers, okra, and eggplants for the share tomorrow, then planted two flats of lettuce.

And as I left for the day, the sun came out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

as the sun went down

After supper last night, I took my two younger brothers for a walk-about at the farm. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

what do you think about CSAs?

This is what Devin asked me one morning, a few days ago. So Ema, what do you think about CSAs? I had no good answer at the time. I was, I suppose, too concerned with soaking the basil or sorting the peppers or something of that sort. My thoughts were running in another direction. So let me have a go at it again.

I embarked on this internship because I wanted to know more about where food comes from - the people who grow it, how it comes out of the earth, the way at least part of the system works (both the natural system and man-made food system), the effort it takes to make it reach my plate. It wasn't and isn't my intention to be a farmer (but I'm open to the possibility). Involvement and knowledge were what I was after.

My naive enthusiasm for agriculture, CSAs, farmer's markets, alternative methods of sustenance procurement of various sorts hasn't waned - it's grown. I want to expand on what I've been introduced to over this summer, become more active in this way of living. Eventually, when I have my own pantry and refrigerator to fill, I'd like to have a garden, buy more from farmer's markets and local purveyors, and be a member of a CSA. Why? These, I've figured, are my main reasons: the health of my own person and the people I feed, a healthy perspective and interaction with the natural world, and knowing the supporting farmers. Investing in a CSA share seems to be one of the main ways to achieve all of these desires. It's work on both ends - producing and receiving - because when you have a share you have to be willing to invent and fail and experiment.

What about you? What are your thoughts on CSAs?

And if you want to know about CSAs, I suggest to get your hands on a copy of this book. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

second to the last

I'm nearing the end of my internship at Side by Side Farm. 

Today is the second to last time I'll be involved in the process of packing the CSA shares. Devin is away (as I type he is driving towards Maine, lucky fellow!), so it was just Jean and myself. I weighed out brown bags of potatoes while she let the chickens out. Then we filled the shares with peppers, eggplants, basil, garlic, and lettuce. On the table inside the spring house there were extra hot peppers, celery, and heirloom tomatoes for the members to select. 

I checked on the seedlings Devin and I started last week. Most of them (the New Red Fire Lettuce did not go so well) have germinated nicely.

Exactly three months ago, on my first morning at the farm, Devin and I planted ginger in the lower hoop house. This is what it looked like today: 

After the shares were all filled they had to be taken down to the spring house. Today we had to organize them: some with peppers inside, some with eggplants. The tomatoes too were sorted: small - medium and large ones. There was goat cheese, eggs and honey set out for sale. I wrote up the chalkboard sign that sits outside the door, a task I do enjoy. While Jean picked flowers to beautify the spring house a bit (and added a touch of lavender oil to the water), I harvested more hot peppers. 

Before I left for the day, Jean ripped out some tall stalks of ragweed that had grown up around the spring house and dragged them to a spot outside of the barn, for the donkeys to munch on. Now allergin troubles have been averted and the equines have a treat.

Monday, August 13, 2012

ultimate chickpea dip

This is one of my most favorite and most often used recipes: chickpea dip. It doesn't have tahini, so it isn't a true hummus, but if you like hummus you'll enjoy this as well.

Ultimate Chickpea Dip

1/2 cup onion (or shallots), chopped
2 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup parsley + 1/4 cup mint (or 1/3 cup basil)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
pepper to taste

In a medium size saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the the oil. Add onion, then after a little while the garlic too. Let cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until translucent. Add chickpeas and cook for 1 -2 minutes. Let cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper. Add in the chickpea mixture, begin to process and while the machine is running add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. It can be served warm but is better cool. I like it on toast with sliced tomatoes, but it goes well with pita, crackers, on a wrap, on a sandwich, with kale, with spinach, with short, just about anything.

Friday, August 10, 2012

starting seeds for winter

Yesterday morning, with the sun to our backs and the frame of an ironing board as our table, Devin and I started seeds for the winter CSA.

We started lettuce, leeks, kale, komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach), napa cabbage, bok choi and radicchio. They will begin their life in these containers. We filled the containers with potting soil, created little indentations with our fingers or the back end of a pen, watered the soil, dropped in the seeds, covered them and re-watered. Each flat is then labeled and transfered to some place that will best suit the seed's needs. When they've germinated and become hardy enough, they'll be transplanted into the greenhouse.

And so I got to play some part in the makings of a winter CSA, though I'll be away at school when these seeds turn into edible things.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

other farm inhabitance

There are more than just birds at Side by Side. There's quite a few mammals too.

Jean has three cats that roam inside and out. The above is Milo, but there is also Lucille and Wilbur.

The donkeys I seldom see, as they reside in the pasture behind the barn. Their names are Max, Eliza and Pearl. 

But the star of the show is Ruby. 

Some mornings she'll come bounding over the fields to greet me. She hunts for small vermin in the weeds and brush, she walks right over loosely draped shade cloth and steps on chinese cabbages, she lounges about on the porch. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

shift and change

Since coming home from Maine and returning to my mornings on the farm, I've found myself taking less photographs. I think this is because I'm more involved in the work we're doing. Now I have my bearings. 

So I have no images to offer you today, only words. 

We got a good bit done. We harvested the last of the summer beets and carrots. Devin will now be able to mow down those beds and possibly prepare them for fall and winter crops. Then we cultivated the fall brassicas planted a little over a month ago. It's really not strenuous work - gently cutting away weeds with well sharpened gooseneck hoes - but it makes a difference. Far better to do it now, before everything triples in size. Once that field was done we moved on to several others, put shade cloth over the fall chinese cabbages, picked cucumbers, surveyed the frustratingly unproductive eggplants, then washed the beets and carrots. After a brief discussion over how to organize the explosive yield of heirloom tomatoes, Devin and I sorted through them, making boxes of large, medium, and little ones. (I'm rather proud of the fact that I'm learning to identify varieties of tomatoes: the cherokee purple and pineapple are probably my favorite two.) 

When I come home from the farm (around 11:00 or 12:00) I am, without exception, filthy dirty. I shed my red wellies at the door, and my socks too. It takes days of washing to clean all the soil out from under my fingernails and I currently have poison ivy on all of my limbs. 

But Devin asked me today what I thought of my internship so far. I have loved it - all of it, every part. Working on the farm has been like being exposed to a new culture. Which is fitting, as I am an anthropology major. It has been eye opening. It has stretched my body: all the weeding, cultivating, carrying large crates of heavy vegetables, all the bending and lifting. It has stretched my mind: Devin is constantly teaching me. Like today while we were putting the shade cloth over the chinese cabbages, he explained to me why he does this, how it effects the overall crop growth, how much the cloth cost per foot, how that differs from the price of row cover, etc. When we weed he'll tell me what the weeds are that we're pulling out: purslane, lambsquarters, nightshade. 

I am not the same person for having spent my summer in this way. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

interesting things, lately discovered

A few links to a few things that I've recently found interesting/inspiring/worth some careful consideration:

Greenhorns: a National Young Farmer's Coalition. 

Tamar Adler's story of how she came to be a cook and balancing that with her love of writing. 

Tracy Chevalier and a new way to look at paintings

I just found out you can freeze tomatoes. This was a revelation to me. 

You cannot beat the ending of Roman Holiday. You simply cannot. 

Andrew Wyeth's studio in Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania is without a doubt a place anyone even remotely interested in his work should visit. It is a beautiful space. 

And a friend of mine recently told me about WWOOF: Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I was excited to see how many listings there are for farms in Maine. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

schools with farms

Now that I am home again and all our holidays are behind me, my mind has shifted to thinking about school - which I'll be returning to in twenty-five days. But I am still working at Side by Side, so I started wondering about a coming together of farming and academics.

Bennington College's Sustainable Food Project was the first thing of this sort I ever came across. In 2010, students put in a proposal (read it here) to create a new student garden that would benefit everyone on campus: the students themselves, the faculty and the staff. The plot they wished to use was part of the already existing community garden. The proposal was accepted, two student interns were hired to tend the garden in the summer and the project took off. They now call their spot of ground Purple Carrot Farm.

Further North, the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine has a sustainable organic farm that is managed by COA students, staff, faculty and farm managers. Beech Hill Farm is an outlet for the students to conduct projects, designs, studies or participate in work-study time but it also serves the community. Produce is sold on site and to several eateries on Mount Desert Island, it's served in one of the college's cafes, and they also have a CSA. The seventy-three acres were donated to the college in 1999 by two alumni.

Devin worked on Fulton Farm at Wilson College and, from what I hear, gained a wealth of knowledge and experience there. (And that is, oddly enough, him in the image above. The fellow to the right.)

Most recently, my one friend who has been touring colleges in preparation for applying told me about the farm at Dickinson College. It's sixty acres several miles off campus. A large part of the (certified organic) harvest is served in the dinning halls, but they also have a CSA (Campus Supported Agriculture) that has over a hundred and thirty members in the community and they sell their produce at local markets and restaurants, plus they donate some to Project SHARE. Beyond the veggies, they also have animal life: sheep, cattle, and hens. The students are a major part of this operation; they can work, intern, volunteer, or incorporate it into their academic work.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; these are merely the farms at schools I've come across. There are many, many more all over the country. And that's encouraging, really.

images: one/two/three/four