Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Poem: Clearing

by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

A George Carlin 1986 classic (even more true today):

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Quote for the Day

“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.” 
~Alice Waters

Friday, June 26, 2015

Farm Friday

One of my first zinnias
Despite good intentions, I wasn't able to manage posting a "Farm Friday" last week. I has been one of those months, with one thing after another, so I'm including a few things from the last two weeks:

  • Dried plantain leaves in dehydrator - for chickens in the winter and for herbal concoctions
  • Had my faithful SUV in the shop (a first for serious mechanical problems after over 12 years/218,000 miles)
  • Made a big batch of broccoli soup
  • Made beet chips - yummy!
  • Pulled weeds in the winter squash garden - it was perfect right after a good rain because the crab grass came up without a problem
  • Added plants to one of the raised beds - pots of perennials (salad burnet and lovage) and annuals (basil) that I grew from seed
  • Planted in front of the farmhouse the ornamental (and edible) mini-pepper plants that I grew from seed.
  • Started trading with another vendor after the Saturday market ends. We exchange what didn't sell:  She gets fresh veggies for her family; I get fresh bread. This works out great for us - and I hope for her.
  • Had a great Piedmont Sustainable Living gathering. The topic was to share your favorite homesteading/sustainability tool. We had great food and everyone left having learned something new.
  • Cleaned and prepped the farmhouse for guests which led to a cancellation because...
  • Our well at the farmhouse went out and had to be repaired. Turns out the pump was about 30 years old and lasted about 20 years past the typical pump so we can't complain.
  • Connected with a local B&B so that I didn't leave our guests without a place to stay. The inn had a vacancy so I shared the information with them. 
  • The motor on our house A/C burned out and had to be replaced. Going without for a couple of days wasn't that big of a deal as we keep our house at 80 degrees in the summer (but with outside temperatures in the 90s, that feels relatively cool).
  • Summer produce is starting to come in. Right now we have squash and zucchini.
  • I've been invited to be one of the managers at a new farmers' market. We will be rearranging our schedule as a result but I'm excited about the potential of the new venue. A couple of local organizations are supporting it and it will be a chemical-free market - yay! 
  • I spied a new book at the library and, after reading the introduction, know I'm going to love it. It's particularly timely as the "big boys" (i.e. those who have money and power) are whining about how the "organic" farmers (i.e. the small chemical-free farms that are just trying to make a living) in our part of the state aren't playing nice and are sharing information about damaging chemicals in our food and how the food system is broken (life is so unfair to them...):
  • The best news is that I finished our farm cookbook and it's available for purchase on Amazon (I'll be putting out a Kindle version soon). This was started as a winter project and didn't really have a set deadline for finishing it. Since we'll be speaking at an event in July, I pushed forward with it and we'll have copies available a the event. Here's the cover:

Have a great week!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Recycling Problem

The Washington Post reports that the recycling industry is in trouble and in the red. What was once a money-making enterprise is now a money pit. Recycling has become costly for municipalities and other organizations, partly because of the way recycling is done, but also due to rising fuel costs, less demand for the materials, and contaminated batches of recyclables. 

The article points out that making recycling easier and easier has led to more contamination in the system. When people don't have to sort the materials, they're not as careful with what and how they recycle. In addition, well-meaning people throw in things that aren't recyclable with the idea that it's worth giving it a shot since maybe it is - and someone will make that decision down the road.

Even with the type of recycling where it must be sorted, people don't read the signs or are just lazy. In our community, we don't have curbside recycling so the materials must be collected at home and taken to recycling centers that have shipping crate sized receptacles to sort the materials into. The problem is, people don't think. They'll toss newspapers into the paper-recycling bin - in a  plastic bag. Or, if the clear glass bin is full, rather than taking it home or to another facility (which isn't that far away), they toss them into the next bin which is really for brown glass. I guess they think the recycling fairies will sort it all out, never mind that it's pretty obvious that there are separate bins because there are no fairies. Nor do they consider the extra cost involved with having to do the sorting.

Recycling is not the answer - and most Americans don't want to hear that. They want to believe that they can continue to live as they do - shop when they want, buy the latest-greatest-coolest new products - yet still be "green." Tossing items into the recycling bin makes us feel good. We've done something to "save" the environment. And by using the recycling bin, we've removed ourselves from the responsibility of the things we toss in. "We've done our part," is what we think.

Recycling isn't the perfect solution many of us believe it to be. The answer to the problem of diminishing resources and the increasing need for landfills is to reduce our consumption of everything in the first place. After we have reduced our consumption, we need to reuse the items we would normally recycle, such as glass jars. Instead of buying salad dressing, make your own and refrigerate them in repurposed glass jars; instead of buying a new glass container at Target or another big box store, use a glass jar that would otherwise be tossed in the recycling bin.

Despite the problems with the system, we still need to recycle - once we have reduced our consumption. Want to know the best way to recycle? Follow these tips

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Ripe Wheat
Ripe wheat (source)
Recently we had a customer purchase some of our chemical-free produce to help a friend who was battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatment. This person understood that chemical-free food was what the friend needed to regain her health. However, once the food was purchased and the customer was walking away, Bill overheard this same person comment that now that the shopping for the sick person was done, it was time to get the personal shopping done. This person seemed to make no connection between food and illness; that is, it's only important to eat healthy, chemical-free food once you are sick.

The connection between chemicals in your food and cancer isn't new. Back in 2010, President Obama's cancer panel released a report highlighting the importance of eating chemical-free food to avoid cancer. (Read a summary here and the report here.) Yet we regularly meet people who don't make the connection.

Another issue I run up against as a vegetarian is the idea that I don't get enough protein. The inevitable first question upon learning I don't eat meat is "How do you get protein?" According to this article in Forbes Americans eat twice as much protein as they need. Plus, animal protein carries a higher risk of cancer; getting it from plant sources significantly reduces the risk of cancer.

Bottom line if you want to reduce your risk of cancer:  eat chemical-free food that is mainly plant based.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Quote for the Day

"If governments won’t solve the climate, hunger, health, and democracy crises, then the people will."

 ~Dr. Vandana Shiva

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Social Justice Saturday

I haven't done a "Social Justice Saturday" post in a while. I'm posting this one because animals need justice, too. They're part of our world and are living, sentient beings who are being wronged if they happen to be "farm" animals. Big Ag participates in the worst animal cruelty there is and the way to stop it is to stop buying their meat. While many people consider it futile to try to change the way corporations treat animals, we need to recognize our power. Think about what's driving the non-GMO trend - we the shoppers. But, as the video points out, unless we're aware there's a problem, we can't do anything about it. (And this is why Big Ag is upset with small farms like ours - because we're educating the public about their practices.) Watch this brief video then share it:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

One of the hollyhocks I started from seed last year
Just a few brief and thoughts today:

The Good

This site has ideas for using free materials to garden, showing that it doesn't need to be expensive to raise your own food.

The Bad

When I opened the latest edition of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, a free publication we receive on the farm, I saw something that made me shake my head. Seems the USDA is now getting into non-GMO certification. While for some, this might sound good, but it's not for small farms. Why?...

The Ugly

Whenever the USDA gets involved in something like non-GMO certification, it means it will become expensive and very difficult for small farmers to receive that certification. We've already seen it with "certified organic." With certified organic, the big dogs ("Big Ag") have taken over. Seems they've come to realize that if you can't beat them, join beat them. Beat them by creating so many hoops to jump through that they eliminate the competition. With what we call the "o" word, we can't even say we use the same methods - even if we specifically point out that we're NOT certified organic. A farmer friend almost got slapped with over $30,000 in fines for saying he used those methods. Big Ag can afford to fill out the paperwork, pay the fees, etc. Small farms can't. I much prefer the independent, voluntary certifications such as Certified Naturally Grown and Non-GMO Project. Plus, if you buy your food locally, you can actually talk to the farmers in your area to learn their philosophy and growing methods. While corporations can fake it, individuals can't.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wellness Wednesday


We grow a wide variety of greens on the farm. This article from Time points out that, while kale is the darling of the vegetable world right now, there are a number of greens with more nutrition. Here's a quick roundup of the top 10 - for nutrition details, visit the site:

  1. Collard Greens
  2. Romaine Lettuce
  3. Parsley
  4. Leaf Lettuce
  5. Chicory
  6. Spinach
  7. Beet Greens
  8. Chard
  9. Chinese Cabbage
  10. Watercress

Just because these greens beat out kale nutrition wise doesn't mean you shouldn't eat them. Eating a wide variety of greens (as well as other fruits and vegetables) means you get the benefit of the best that each one offers.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

Over the weekend, we had a meal that was, with the exception of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, entirely from our farm. We had a salad made with the last of the romaine lettuce, our first tomato, salad burnet, and arugula and borage flowers. Next we had sauteed shiitake mushrooms, sauteed beet greens, and roasted root vegetables. The root vegetables were simple to make. I peeled and cut beets, turnips, sweet potatoes (from last fall), and onions into bite-sized pieces, tossed everything with a little olive oil and fresh rosemary, and then roasted all in a large baking pan in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes until everything was tender and done (I stirred it every 10-15 minutes). Give it a try! Seasonal eating is good for your body and good for the planet.

Bon appetit!

Monday Morning Amusement

Cats never cease to amuse me:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Quote for the Day

Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.
~Lao Tzu

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Farm Update

This time of year it seems hard to keep up with everything, but that's a good problem to have. Although we had a delayed spring (for the garden, at least), it has been a very productive season. Here's a photo Bill took of our booth at the farmers' market this morning:

Here are a few things that happened this week:

  • Used the dehydrator to preserve some herbs and shiitake mushrooms
  • Experimented with transplanting lambsquarters - it looks like it worked
  • Had my first zinnia's blossom
  • The Japanese beetles are back!
  • Had my first laundry fail - had an unexpected (but much needed) thunderstorm
  • Made the usual deliveries
  • Got our first Air BnB reservations
  • Had our farm stay winner stay in the farmhouse with her family
  • Learned that the air conditioner at the farmhouse isn't working (have the technician scheduled for Monday)
  • Discovered that Igloo coolers can be repaired (our old one had a broken latch, broken hinge, and broken handle). Ordered the parts, easily installed them (once I found the right bit to fit the screws), and kept the cooler out of landfill. Kudos to them for offering replacement parts.
  • Put the final touches on a writing project.

Have a great week!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Wild blackberry canes on our farm
The Good

Some Swiss retail giants have decided to stop selling glyphosate (aka Roundup) after the World Health Organization determined that it is a probable carcinogen.

The Bad

We need to start treating our oceans like the precious gifts they are. Overfishing, plastic waste, and other human-created situations are having a negative impact on them. Of course sea life is damaged by our abuse, but we're also hurting ourselves. Read about the problems in our oceans and steps needed to reverse the damage.

The Ugly

As I pointed out in a earlier post, we're at the point that Gandhi talked about where they fight us (that comes right before we win). This is what took place at a recent meeting of the board for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
Mr. Mills [a district representative - our district] spoke about a troubling new issue emerging in southside Virginia involving organic farmers forming a coalition and publicly criticizing traditional farmers in newspapers and social media. He said that previously, organic and traditional farmers have co-existed without any issues and that each has recognized the other’s right to farm as they see fit. He suggested that his fellow traditional farmers be aware of this growing issue and work to educate the public about traditional farming methods. He also stated that it is important for farmers to be positive about agriculture as a whole and to not allow a wedge to be driven between traditional and organic farming. He suggested that other Board members be aware of this potential issue in their district.
Mr. Kordek [representing “pesticides – commercial structural] agreed with Mr. Mills and shared that the pest control industry has similar image issues. He stated that the organic wave has a strong message and that it does not take away the value of traditional agriculture. He mentioned that Dow Chemical has stated that you can have the luxury of organic when you do not have the responsibility of feeding the world. He said that if VDACS can be doing anything to help promote a positive message on traditional agriculture, he would like to see it come before the Board.
Mr. Sturgis [board president and a district representative] echoed Mr. Mills and Mr. Kordek’s comments and stated the importance of educating the community about traditional farming. He said that he has spoken to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation education class for the last two years on the Eastern Shore and that it been a valuable opportunity to educate the community about what is needed to support production agriculture. He stated that both organic and traditional farming are great. He noted that by 2050, it is predicted that there will be 9.2 billion people in the world and that it is important to get the information out to the community on what will be needed to feed those people.
Commissioner Adams stated that the agency understood the importance of the issues being discussed. She said that when she and other agency staff attend events, they are sure to emphasize that they are there to support all types of agriculture. She stated that the agency’s message is that agriculture is here to try and feed everyone and that, although it is everyone’s personal choice what they eat, all kinds of agriculture are needed to feed the world. (Source)
This is wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin. I'm assuming the "organic" farms he referred to are NOT organic (we only have a couple of certified organic farms in the area, one of which doesn't even sell food). The farms I think he means call themselves (we're in this category) "chemical-free" and "sustainable." We never call ourselves "organic" because we are not certified organic nor do we want to be. However, after reading these minutes, I realized that farms like ours are the traditional farms. The majority of the farms should be called "industrial" or "chemical." You cannot call yourself "traditional" if your history only goes back about 50 years - compared to the rest of agricultural history which goes back thousands of years. 

Another thing that bothered me about this (if you exclude the idea that Big Ag is spying on small sustainable, traditional farms), is that the board that is supposed to be representing ALL agriculture (the board members actually point this out) has set up an "us versus them issue". And that our advertising and educating is "troubling" is...troubling to me. Also, funny thing is that not one single board member represents our kind of farming - sustainable, chemical-free, traditional. Don't even get me started on the "responsibility of feeding the world" when 1) most American crops go to feed animals, not people and 2) 70% of the world's food comes from traditional, not chemical/industrial production. Besides, it's not our responsibility. Unless there's a crisis where we step in to temporarily help in a time of crisis, countries can and need to feed themselves. All this shipping food and agricultural inputs and tools around the world is NOT sustainable.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

A couple of years ago I received a grant to publish a cookbook to distribute to the clients of our local food bank. In addition to healthy recipes, I made sure to include tips to boost nutrition. Below is some of the information I included - good advice for everyone:

Add More Vegetables to Your Day
Fresh Vegetables

1. Discover Fast Ways to Cook

Cook fresh or frozen vegetables in the microwave for a quick-and-easy dish to add to any meal.  Steam green beans, carrots, or broccoli in a bowl with a small amount of water in the microwave for a quick side dish.

2. Be Ahead of the Game

Cut up a batch of bell peppers, carrots, or broccoli.  Pre-package them to use when time is limited.  You can enjoy them on a salad, with hummus, or in a veggie wrap.

3. Choose Vegetables Rich in Color

Brighten your plate with vegetables that are red, orange, or dark green.  They are full of vitamins and minerals.  Try acorn squash, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, or collard greens.  They not only taste great but are also good for you, too.

4. Check the Freezer Aisle

Frozen vegetables are quick and easy to use and are just as nutritious as fresh veggies.  Try adding frozen corn, peas, green beans, spinach, or sugar snap peas to some of your favorite dishes or eat as a side dish.

5. Stock Up on Veggies

Canned vegetables are a great addition to any meal, so keep on hand canned tomatoes, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, and beets.  Select those labeled as “reduced sodium,” “low sodium,” or “no salt added.”

6. Make Your Garden Salad Glow with Color

Brighten your salad by using colorful vegetables such as black beans, sliced red bell peppers, shredded radishes, chopped red cabbage, or watercress.  Your salad will not only look good but taste good, too.

7. Sip on Some Vegetable Soup

Heat it and eat it.  Try tomato, butternut squash, or garden vegetable soup.  Look for reduced- or low-sodium soups.

8. While You’re Out

If dinner is away from home, no need to worry.  When ordering, ask for an extra side of vegetables or side salad instead of the typical fried side dish.

9. Savor the Flavor of Seasonal Vegetables

Buy vegetables that are in season for maximum flavor at a lower cost.  Check your local supermarket specials for the best-in-season buys.  Or visit your local farmer’s market.

10. Try Something New

You never know what you may like.  Choose a new vegetable – add it to your recipe or look up how to fix it online.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

Yesterday I was trying to use up some farm food that was in our refrigerator. I ended up creating a couple of new dishes after being inspired by other recipes. This one was really good:

Shiitake Mushroom and Swiss Chard Casserole

2 white spring onions, chopped (whites and part of the greens)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, diced
1/2 teaspoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos (can use soy or tamari sauce)
1 bunch Swiss chard (remove stems and chop chard into bite-sized pieces)
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup hemp seeds
8 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried lemon thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used pink Himalayan)
Freshly ground pepper (a few grinds)

Preheat oven to 350. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in large skillet. Saute onions over medium heat for 2-3 minutes; add garlic and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and Bragg's, then cook for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms are soft. Set aside in a large bowl. Add 2 more teaspoons olive oil to the skillet, then add the chopped Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Add the chard to the mushroom and onion mixture, stir in the cheese, hemp seeds, herbs, salt, pepper, and eggs. Pour into a greased casserole dish (about 9" x 13") and bake for 35 minutes or until set and lightly browned.

Bon appetit!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Something to make you smile:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Quote for the Day

"It's been proven by quite a few studies that plants are good for our psychological development. If you green an area, the rate of crime goes down. Torture victims begin to recover when they spend time outside in a garden with flowers. So we need them, in some deep psychological sense, which I don't suppose anybody really understands yet."
~Jane Goodall

Friday, June 5, 2015

Farm Friday

Dill and oregano doing well in the garden
This time of year, it's always so much easier to give a list of the week's highlights. Here's a few things I did:
  • Consolidated freezers so we could unplug and clean one. Will cut down on our carbon footprint a little.
  • Visited a friend's local B&B and she visited our farm stay, something we've talked about doing this for a long time. We'll be working together when we know of visitors who have lodging needs we can't fill.
  • Also shared another friend's natural products line with the B&B,
  • Received some canna lilies, hummingbird vine (aka cypress vine), and "pink things/old fashioned roses" from someone's garden thinnings. I'll be planting them around the farmhouse and our house.
  • Continued transplanting starts to larger containers; put some in flower beds.
  • Made our usual deliveries
  • Working on my bug bite salve; have lots of jars of infusions in my kitchen!
  • Harvested and dried plantain for later use
  • Dried some of my herbs (tarragon, dill, oregano). I'll continue drying herbs as they come in and will package to sell again this year.
  • Gave Bill the tomato plants I started from seeds I got in a seed swap at a conference. He used them to fill in spots where other tomatoes didn't survive. The type was "Italian Beefsteak 'Grandma.'" We've never tried them before.
  • Listed our farm stay on AirBnB
  • Got some much needed rain. The gardens are looking great - although the weeds like the rain, too.
  • Hosted the Grace + Main leadership dinner last night (the ministry that works with homelessness and hunger issues in the inner city).
  • Got my first Azure Standard shipment. So glad we finally have that option in our area.
  • A customer's question motivated me to start offering gift certificates for our farm.
  • Prepping for market tomorrow.
  • Worked on our local CROP Hunger Walk, which will take place October 4. 
  • Will be hosting a group on Sunday for a farm tour and then a salad to sample some of our produce.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good news is that Denver has approved front-yard produce stands. Neighbors can sell to neighbors; true community and cooperation can result.

The bad news is that Monsanto is attempting a merger with Syngenta. If approved by all parties involved, it would mean Monsanto would monopolize the world food system.

The poultry business, already ugly, has gotten uglier. Competition is so stiff among the poultry house owners that they're killing each other's chickens.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Another reason why, if you can't make it at home, maybe you shouldn't be eating it:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday Morning Amazement

Who knew cinder blocks could be so beautiful (as well as functional)?
Go here to see more inspiring ways to use cinder blocks.