Archives for the month of: September, 2009
“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” — Walt Whitman
 
“Farm to Market” reminds me of a road in Skagit County – people would come and dine on fresh kumomoto oysters from down the hill at the Taylor Shellfish Farm, and on the wonderful halibut beautifully presented and mingling with the flavors of plum chutney and honey balsamic to a lovely tree crowded view of the creek below the restaurant on their way to a beautiful day of touring the tulip fields near LaConner, and since they had likely stumbled upon us via the scenic route (Chuckanut Drive being the proverbial representation as car commercials are filmed there) would want to know how to get to where they were going – Chuckanut Drive through the foothills of the Cascades that reach to the salty water, and down to Edison (where they have the best pie) and then you hang a left on Farm to Market Road, which tours you through the prolific agrarian landscape of the Skagit Valley.
 
It is also what came to mind last Saturday morning as I was traveling eastbound into the sunrise on my wat to market, admiring the big blue stem (which, incidentally is high in protein and makes a good forage for horses and livestock) as the heavy air was gradually easing back.
farm to market
 
It really is such a fine way to start the day. The truck was laboring forth with preserves, Shane’s little wooden barn, freshly baked crackers, lemon cucumbers (yes! I actually took a little produce!), and enthusiasm for the day… with the addition of the randomly acquired roadside bouquet that has taken to adorning the table, and seems to make the coffee taste better and the day more light.
passenger seat
 
The wheels have been turning in my mind – the markets on Saturday are easily the most enjoyable for me, as people get to casually peruse and enjoy the social environment fostered by the venue.  The frustration lies in the flow – or the lack there of. I have a vision for creating a buzz, for generating interest, for instilling my excitement. Since it’s just a vision it’s best left to the brainstorming, but, if learning more about the local markets of North Iowa is in your spectrum of interest, please continue to check back – good things are to come, with the efforts and endeavors of a group of very committed people!
 
To the farm and garden! So, I have been harvesting a multitude of tomatoes daily now – it’s wonderfully exciting as I finally have enough so as some make it out of the garden – before it was of no use to think they could make it further than my hand, which directed them to my mouth. All in the name of quality control! I have also been harvesting my shell beans, and then got to thinking, I wonder what the proper technique is for harvesting and drying shell beans? Well, I did my after-the-fact research (although there are a few left on the vines), and discovered that one should wait until after the first frost to harvest the pods, as the beans will then be dry. Hmm. Good to know. 🙂 The beans are beautiful, though – Calypso, Tigers Eye, Jacob’s Cattle, and Rattlesnake. Black, white, gold and crimson, purple and maroon – stunning!
 
Progress continues to be the status quo on the farm, also, which elates me to no end. We picked up seed for rye, winter peas and vetch for winter cover over ten acres at the seed house about 3 weeks ago now… and it’s all planted! Really, it’s true, and I know there might be a few doubters out there given the pace at which things often progress, but we really did it!
 
color planter
 
We have been really fortunate to have my brother’s help lately – here he and Dad are loading the drill for the September planting. He has also been hauling loads of bales away from the canary grass hay field that will eventually be transforming into a quintet of prairie potholes. I look longingly across the dredge ditch when I can take my eyes of monitoring the cantankerous nature of the 4-bottom plow at that field with notions of turning it next. I will have to hope for a mild fall, or bundle up, however… but it’s all a matter of perspective since, after all, at one point I plowed ten acres on that side of the farm with the Massey-Ferguson and a 2-bottom plow in November.
 
Only two weeks remain to visit Tiffany, myself and the other fabulous vendors at the Downtown Mason City Market (8-11am) – hope to see you there!
 
“he saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, addings, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings — all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth, full of terrible memories of failure and fears of failure, yet, in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.” — Jack Kerouac
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“Nothing was ever in tune. People just blindly grabbed at whatever there was: communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Back, Buddha, Christ, TM, H, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporated and fell apart. People had to find things to do while waiting to die. I guess it was nice to have a choice.”
Charles Bukowski (Women)
I can hardly believe how much I had forgotten that I am most thoroughly riveted with the wit, wisdom and sarcasm embraced by Mr. Bukowski. How true it is that we find distraction, and if so fortunate, an embedded passion that drives us, and carries on in spite of us. My friend, Lisa, recently reiterated a statement and philosophy fulfilled and thriving in the life of a good friend of hers: “if your life’s work can be completed in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”  Beautiful. True. Impellent.
This past week was not full of marketing ambition, but of sharing the bounty of garden and local foraging with a diverse crowd – which to me is far more rewarding – if I could give everything in my garden away to those who know the effort and toil required, the wealth of heart and soul that is poured into the land and the raising of plants from seed, who understand the full empowerment of knowing how cared for the land is and in turn how wonderful and reciprocating the plants are in appreciation with the explosive flavor of the fruit – that is satisfaction, that is remuneration.sweet corn
Out the kitchen window it appeared that sweet corn shucking was a bonding experience for the circle of folks involved. Activity was abound in the house for the duration of both Thursday and Friday. Thursday was filled with flour flinging and apples – Phyllis, Tiffany and I in team effort created a dozen beautiful apple pies that had the rustic beauty of giant galettes – I will never waste time trying to make a magazine worthy pie crust again, as these had so much more character, so much flare. I also learned the importance of chilling the pie crust before trying to roll it out, and that if you add a little vodka to the crust mix, say a tablespoon, it will encourage it to brown beautifully. We also boiled pots upon pots of potatoes – blue, red, yellow – on a questionable-at-best new gas stove… Phyllis was not a happy camper – so much so that she allowed them to come at 3:45p on Friday to replace it! In the midst of the cooking extravaganza with guests filtering in… unbelievable in phenomenal transitional cheffing  and hilarity.
culianry art

Thursday evening was epic in scope, and soul gratifying in affirmation. That evening I ventured out to the prairie with Paul, Sofia, Dick, Craig and Graham. Paul was giving a descriptive tour to Craig and Graham (both currently of NYC) who are filming for a documentary they are producing about meat in America – Sofia, Paul and Phyllis’ grand-daughter, stole the show with her broadknowledge of monarchs and how to identify their gender. I learned, also, that the monarchs have a favorite forbe on the prairie and that is the Meadow Blazing Star – of no relation whatsoever, I also learned that Patagonia, AZ is the hummingbird capital of the world, with 41 species embarking upon the locale. The evening was appropriately interrupted twice with intermissions in the meal and clean up for proper sunset appreciation – indeed it was spectacular, and as antiquated became more entrancing – we should all be so lucky!fashion sense

Friday morning arrived, and the harvest was on – squash blossoms, sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, pattipan squash, lemon cucumbers and edible flowers were among the measure. Phyllis eased us into the morning with a proper cup of coffee and fashion sense to be adorned by all – including Paul and Sarah. 🙂 The day was full of cutting, chopping, baking and frying; camera crews, random conversation, laughter and winks. I mixed a large pot of colorful and addicting potato salad by getting into it bare handed up to my elbows – I convinced that’s why it tasted so good! Jobs were delegated throughout the day – Daryl chopped cucumbers, the guys (Craig and Graham) got in on tomato chopping, as did Annie (in the squash blossom cooking photo) who kept us rolling with laughter – Annie and Tiffany were also responsible for the incredibly popular creations of fried squash blossoms – complimented as appetizers by the grilled Santa Fe peppers (fresh from Tiffany’s garden five miles as the crow flies) stuffed with cream cheese, sweet onions, olive oil, salt and pepper – grilled by me… who had no idea of what I was doing other than to just make them look good – lucky for me I have an eye for good looking food! 🙂 Presentation plus as a former customer reiterated. So much fun for us all, and the weather could not have been more cooperative.wine table

Not to be glossed over was the fact that we had wonderful company for the evening’s celebration of  Niman Ranch pig custodians/farmers, folks who value painstakingly the sustainability and humane causes and chefs who inspire and humble through the taste buds. Steve from Chipotle, Theo (raiser of pigeons) from Whole Foods, a star studded line-up for culinary folk including Rick Moonen, Andrew Hunter, Kent Rathbun, Harold Moore, Brian Wubbena – and so many others who I have grown to have such an affinity for over the course of this season. Thank you to the wonderful hosts, the Willis’, and the companionship and camaraderie of those I was fortunate enough to share space and energy with. A truly magnificent experience, and all rooted in the garden.

“the free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it – basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.”
Charles Bukowski (Tales of Ordinary Madness)