Archives for posts with tag: farmer's market

 

“And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present, and
can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be turn’d to
beautiful results,
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death,
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are
compact,
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each
as profound as any. ” — Walt Whitman (The Leaves of Grass)
 

The surprise of beauty and liberation. Before today, this impetus to muse was not so apparent or compelling. First and foremost, I apologize for my lack of elaboration on the seasonal evolution and my gardening hard knocks education – thank you to all who remain vigilant in checking in. And to those who continue to encourage my free willed, indignant at times, humble ponderings and philosophizing of the nature of the whole.

So, today I had this epiphany of sorts. That nature in her splendor exhibits no perfection and by doing so is incredibly and magnificently such. Imperfection equals perfection. How bizarre. I mean, my entire life has been this see-saw back and forth cognating on how to be perfect, how to act perfect, how to do all things with perfection. But where does one find perfection if not only in the mind? And, really, as any good perfectionist knows, no matter how perfect or precisely above and beyond accomplishments land, there is ALWAYS room for improvement. Always. How asinine to beat one’s self up over this perceived under-achievement. Ludicrous. Delirious. Obscene. And yes, at this moment of 31 years, 11 months and 336 days of youth I am struck by this notion of true perfection lying in the simplicity of imperfection. I have been thinking way too much all this time.

Of course, anyone who knows me really does know that they have tried to tell me this for years. I am truly amazed at how something so profound just won’t sink in until you are good and ready. In honor of this said enlightenment, the market tomorrow morning will host me along with my “less than perfect” onions. This being due to the fact that some are dirty, some have more dry skin than others, some are lumpy or misshapen or just had too much time in the rain – but each and everyone is more than delightful enough to sass up a burger or enliven the plate sautéed in real and wonderful butter (preferably homemade from raw milk… to be continued). I have been stating for the last couple of years that the general public just needs to get used to their produce not looking monotonously perfect. Indeed, the most exquisite and healthful plants and fruits and vegetables are all lumpy or misshapen or slightly irregular – it would be those that have not been sprayed or genetically modified or held with a critical hand and critical mind, no doubt transferring that critical energy to the misfortunate who indulge. I won’t have it. I love all of the plants that come from my garden. So much so that I struggle with selling them to folks I do not know. It is not a moral high road, it is simply that there is a lot of me in each of them. If I determine one is not “good enough”, then perhaps that is only a reflection of what is within. Ah, liberated by imperfection.

I have definitely been struggling this summer, hence the lack of creative juice. Too much outgoing, not enough savoring the moments. I have simply come to this conclusion that doing more is always being less. Now I have to start living accordingly. I am making great strides. I have not even attended the market four out of the last five weeks because I have made choices that build me rather than require my energy moving in a one-way fashion. Weddings and an herbal symposium and a trip to Chicago with the loveliest of friends. So much good food for the soul. These moments fill me with aliveness. Addicting. Thank goodness. You know, it really reaffirms the importance of making time to do the things that remind you to savor and feel the moments of being human.

And if this photo isn’t evidence of inner peace and love of life, I don’t know what is! Paul and this fantastic pie full of team effort – Phyllis’ expertised guidance in crust creation, my rolling of the dough, Mary’s imperfectly perfect pieces of apple with just a hint of cinnamon and the most necessary freshly grated nutmeg. A rustic beauty, and even more of a delight for the tastebuds!

Mom came to the market a few weeks back and helped me out the day that I went to help Paul and Phyllis and Mary make pies. She brought her infamous home-ground wheat buns with flax meal, local honey and love, and as you can imagine they stole the show. 🙂 We also got a little press in the local paper that day. There are 3 photos and we even made one of them. That’s plenty of on the radar for me for this season. http://www.globegazette.com/wow/article_d671baa2-a17d-11df-844a-001cc4c03286.html

This would be another imperfection that is serving me well, and then some. The imperfection of the USDA (let’s not get ranting on that soapbox… this could become a novel in just one post!) and their inability to do much more than parlay to the lobbying contingent under the guise of well-being and health for citizens. So to keep the likes of raw milk out of the hands of the ignorant who cannot make choices wisely for themselves. Well, to hell with that. Obviously that is just one more rule that does not apply to me. 🙂 Or Tom since he is the one of which we have photographic evidence of procuring the finest the black market has to offer. We made homemade yogurt in a crockpot, thanks to Genesis and her most fabulous link: http://www.nourishingdays.com/2009/02/make-yogurt-in-your-crock-pot/ AND I made butter for the very first time… and it has never tasted better! In fact, my tastebuds are just ruined. That’s the risk one takes.

The most delightful part of engaging with the dairy farm was the girls. Each with her name on her eartag. Meet Jupi. Quite the meet and greet that evening. I feel so lucky. 🙂 And open and falling into my heart and out of my head a little more every day. I practice and practice and practice and then remind myself some more. That life is lived from the heart and in the moment. With some well placed dirt under the fingernails.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”  — John Lennon


“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” — Elizabeth Cady Stanton

A lovely afternoon in the garden planting sweet potatoes and still trying to make a dent in that blue angel food cake that Aunt Kathryn (Dad’s sister) made for the celebration of his life – a favorite of his for birthdays as a child. As you can see, it goes with everything including white wine. This picture was taken on May 9th, the day following a most wonderful gathering of friends and family in the most unlikely fashion. I tell you, I have never in my life felt more grateful for my place in it. This was a day of the most beautiful outpouring of love and support and sharing of spirit. Neighbors, making me most grateful to be amongst this amidst conventional farms, as much as I do not align myself with the tenets of such practices, our neighbors are real and present and a big part of our farming support system – we have a reputation of eccentricity to uphold, and I’m sure they won’t let us let them down. 🙂 I received two phone calls that morning from folks that Dad had meant something to – and they shared their stories and we laughed and we were brought together – a great and generous gift – thank you, Dad. The day following was a bit more lovely as far as the weather was to be concerned and after the scare of a hard frost the night before, I felt fairly safe and justified in my confidence that it would be the last. The potatoes took it on the hop and the flint corn looked questionable, but both came roaring back with intentional vigor, not to let a little frost inhibit the manic energy of the annual.

Kathryn and Tom helped me planting. These sweet spuds had much doting over – there was just no way they were going to not thrive… even though they seemed to threaten such for the first week. The garden is ALL PLANTED!! This is such a wonderful and amazing statement to be able to make. I have never been able to honestly say it in years priot. Not only is it planted, but it is maintained, AND somehow it managed to consume the same 75′ x 75′ as last year – with lovely plots of flax and oats and sunflowers (thanks to Meg’s planting last year – these are self planted beauties!). I have a good crop of Nicola potatoes – one of the only potato varieties with minimal impact on the glycemic response – this studying holistic nutrition (for those of you not aware, I am currently in the professional training program through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in NYC for my certification in holistic health counseling) has created a whole new criteria for growing and selling at the market. If I don’t feel it would benefit my health, I have huge reservations about selling it to anyone else. This means I am not making more preserves because I don’t like the sugar. I mean, I am crazy about the sugar, and that in and of itself is a big red flag to me. So, yes, white potatoes, not entirely bad, but have a lot of room for improvement, and this is where the Nicola comes in. If you want to familiarize yourself a bit more, check out this link: http://breastcancer.about.com/od/cancerfightingfoods/a/potatoes.htm – I am growing these potatoes mainly as a seed potato crop for the Albert Lea Seed House. They are pretty rare as far a potatoes goes – I’m looking forward to taste testing soon!

My brother, my nephew, the dog – these guys hang out and grill and play the guitar and sing while I’m in the garden. Next to the chorus of meadowlarks, bobolinks and red wing blackbirds, it is the sweetest sound. I have no doubt that the plants grow stronger and ever more resilient because they are exposed so the beautiful vibrations and energetic wave lengths. We are eating well this season. As are the folks at the market! I am having a swell season at the Mason City Downtown Farmer’s Market from 9-12 on Saturdays. I even had a good day in the pouring rain last week – as in I was under a tent and still my skirt was wet up to my knees! I have some new jewelry pieces, which I have been having great fun with and a great response to, and my horseradish didn’t last long – I am hoping to process another batch this week. I have taken Swiss chard, four kinds of kale, loose leaf lettuce, rhubarb, onions, purslane, wild spinach (aka lambsquater), arugula and sweet snow peas for produce, beautiful bouquets harvested from the old farmsteads in the neighborhood, the prairie across the road and some ditches worthy of traipsing around in for phlox and sedges and alfalfa also decorate the table the the arms of some lucky folks. If I’m diligent in my preparation I have homemade crackers, too. Hmm, that’s a long list. I am surprised to accomplish it most weeks on top of studies and an actual pseudo-real job (3 days a week 8-5… still pulling weeds and washing produce, however).

So, perhaps there are those of you out there wondering what is going on with the farming and conservation efforts. Well, the rain has put a bit of a damper on things… hoping it will hold off enough of June for us to get our last two (that is out of three!) fields of annuals planted by the deadline for field certification. We are making our father proud keeping in the tradition of experimenting with new crops. This year we put in 8 acres of teff – an annual (at this latitude) grass originating from Africa, where there it is primarily grown for grain. You can find it in aisle 13 at Hy-Vee West in Mason City if you want to experiment with it in the kitchen. 🙂 At least it was there the last I checked. I picked up two bags of teff along with six bags of millet at the Seed House that is to be planted down by the cottonwood trees.

The eight acres of teff is a nice fuzzy green – we were fortunate in the timing of planting – I think it got in about one day ahead of the seemingly endless precip. Went out to check the eight acres of prairie that Dad planted close to this time last year and it’s coming along nicely – there are a lot of black eyed Susans looking close to bloom and a few patches of native grasses amongst the bushy, brilliant green clumps of reed canary. Wish I could say the same about the 40 acres of reed canary hay. Just one 8 acre plot over (across the winter rye) the field has been absolutely decimated by what we are suspecting to be armyworms. What on earth are the armyworms here to teach me? This is the question. This field has been established for close to ten years – Dad must have put it in before he got so anti-monocropping, which he subsequently engrained into my brother and I. So, we are currently in touch with some entomologists at Iowa State and Illinois and I am sending specimens off in the next day for verification. Hoping we can mow the stems and with any luck the next generation will move on to another field (preferable not one of ours). One fellow thought this could well be described as a “freak” incident, which I am definitely hoping to believe. We refuse to spray, not only because this is the chunk of ground we have under organic certification exemption, but also because we are just so damn hell bent against such blasphemy. 🙂 All will be well – we will manage, in the mean time we scratch our heads and try to figure out how to protect ourselves from a repeat episode in the future.

I’ll leave you in these wee hours with a picture of one of my most treasured places. Gladfelter in the low light of the setting June sun. Ah. Even for an endlessly busy girl it’s distracting enough to pull over to the side of the road and just sit and breathe it all in.

“Sometimes I think the world has gone completely mad. And then I think, ‘Aw, who cares?’ And then I think, ‘Hey, what’s for supper?”
— Jack Handey
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
Henry David Thoreau

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” — Edward Abbey

kayaking coffee

Autumn. She’s here in full force – the cold rain a stark reminder of progress according to seasons at this latitude. It has been a long time since I have posted. So many things have manifested since my last opportunity. A lot of kayaking. That was my saving grace, the integration of balance – a little after the fact as “burnout” left its lingering mark – but, nonetheless a learning experience – after all, I remember a quote along the lines of “we only learn our limits by going beyond them”.

stephanie

This is my best friend, Stephanie. On a still and beautiful morning at Crystal Lake when we were in “training”. She spent a number of years as a naturalist professionally, also, so we compliment each other well in our curious  and curiousity of nature, and can usually identify for one another the flora and fauna of the little ecosystem. I say in training because since the last time I wrote I turned 31 and I participated in my first triathlon/adventure race. Really, during the race I was realizing I had been terribly negligent in actually training – more for the running and bicycling portion – the kayaking was the relaxing and enjoyable part, as usual. About 27 miles in total. Stephanie, her sister Laura, and myself. We stayed together and finished together – it was a great way to spend a morning – completely outside… even if 15 miles of bike riding on Iowa blacktops surrounded by corn and beans gets a little monotonous.my last saturdayWe had our last Saturday market together the week before my birthday-  there is our good friend, Carol, perusing the offering: winter squash, Red Russian kale, lemon cucumbers, Ukranian Beauty eggplant, heirloom tomatoes. There is a lot of good energy around this Saturday market, and a lot of people working very hard at helping it evolve into an event – with more traffic, more vendors, more entertainment and engagement. We are moving in the right direction. We just really need to get a buzz about it – keep spreading the word – write to the editor, attend community events – such as the Taste of Iowa that was held at the fairgrounds last week. Stay in the loop. Stay active. Bring your friends. There is ALWAYS delicious food (of course there aren’t any of us that are involved that are not below stooping to using the stomach, tastebuds and conscience to lure interest!). I was graciously invited to attend the fall meeting of the Regional Food Systems Working Group help at the Iowa Arboretum this past week (if you have not visited the arboretum south of Ames, it’s a must-do for the priority list!). It was so fantastic for me to be there listening and absorbing all that is happening in the state of Iowa for the local food movement. There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the Food to School Program. In our area we are arriving to the necessity of a dedicated local foods coordinator. There is so much to be done. The momentum is here.rainbow salsa

Speaking of local foods – the tomatoes are here in full force. I have been a slave to the kitchen many mornings – creating sauces (sometimes with roasted vegetables like Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash, eggplant, carrots, onions and zucchini) and salsa, like the one pictured above, affectionately referred to as rainbow salsa. Red, yellow, orange and green tomatoes make a lovely combination in flavor and aspect. This batch I tried to make particularly spicy with jalapeno and Habanero peppers.gingerAnd today I finally potted my ginger. I read an article stating at how easy it was to get ginger to root from a store bought rhizome, and I have to contend it is easy… if one has good, fresh stock. This was my third attempt. I bought this ginger at the co-op in Ames. It has been sitting in a jar in the bathtub upstairs for a good 4-6 weeks patiently waiting for me to come across an appropriate container, and the to actually alot time to tend it. Finally. I did. Maybe in a year I will be harvesting my very own fresh ginger! A key ingredient in that ever popular strawberry jalapeno jam. 🙂

“How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it.” — Edward Abbey
“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

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

How all encompassing this quote embraces the multitudinous fashion of life – the growth in the graden, the growth of the soul, the endless sea of innocent facination with the world.  Reckless, these days, would be a wonderful and à propos description of the chaotic and wild nature of my garden. Biodiversity reigns, chaos ensues, and in the midst a beautiful and basic synergy intertwines. crystal lakeRegal and breath taking sunsets have in simple measure inspired something to look forward to and to be hoped for each day anew, reminding me with diligence the importance of taking time to appreciate the moment, to absorb the beauty. They are especially wonderful after long, cool, bug-free afternoons and evenings in the garden. I have learned a great deal in this vast experiment – some of the variables by choice, some by deferring to higher priorities… a few of which kept me from tending to my flock for three weeks. This past week I have gained valuable insight about who thrives on weed pressure, and who withers in recalcitrance at the competition. The tomatoes are beautiful… branches heavy and sprawling with fruits – I have had the wonderful fortune of plucking Nyagous (brown) and Royal Hillbilies (pink) – also a handful of cherry romas, snowberries almost ripe and pear tomatoes (my all time, melt me in my tracks, favorite… my neighbor, Chuck McLaughlin, would leave handfuls of these tomatoes on my tricycle seat when the family would take airplane excursions – a most delightful recollection!), but these small tomato varieties don’t stand a chance at making it out of the garden, as they go directly into my mouth for my tastebuds to enthrall in.  The huckleberries paid no mind to the weesd either, but I thought they were awful (they weren’t those delectable mountain types), so I ripped out all the plants I had pampered and turned them into green manure.

The onions, they had no time for this nonsense of competition – to hell with that, we are calling it a season… and in the process of my partial-green-manuring project (to some people this would seem like weeding, but in my opinion, it’s all just semantics) I mananged to locate most of them that my brother had not already absconded with, and they are waiting to be put into storage or to be transformed by an experimental recipe – much like the sweet Walla Wallas that complimented the green tomato chutney experiment of this evening. The potatoes seem to have their own interpretation of the weeds, as well, with the All Blues being the most sensitive, to the La Rattes in complete ignorance of the fact that most gardeners would keep these companions clear, thriving heartily in spite of the wild neighborhood.

rootsThese horseradish roots belong to plants that are in a patch nearly as old (ah-hem, young I mean!) as I. And, as long as I set up my operation outside with the breeze from the right direction, I can refrain from adorning my goggles from my chemistry lab class when I process it into spreadable goodness. It’s powerful stuff! Have also been doing a great deal of seed harvesting – cross pollinated Asian cabbages, hemp, dill, rat tailed radish, golden alexander, golden sweet peas just to name a few. There is an entire drying operation in full swing in my parents’ basement that also entails a variety of herbs and yarrow from the prairie. I think my mother and Shane might be a bit excited to have their space back soon, without the obstacle course of projects that seems to be inherent in my presence! 🙂

seed savingThe markets have continued to challenge and entertain me. I am completely enjoying the opportunity to network with folks I never would have met otherwise, but I still find an undercurrent of frustration tugging at me from time to time. Today, however, I indulged in not stressing, not doing much other than enjoying my day and showing up at market – I sang and played my guitar, I worked on some jewelry, I slept in, I made a wonderful breakfast and a blueberry sage sauce. I smiled constantly and really enjoyed this magnificently September-like day.

I also entertained notions of just driving. It’s like that little gypsy bug just sidled up next to me with wanderlust in the pocket, whispering in my ear “just drive. preferable west. ” Ah, I think this is a rascal that I may perhaps never fully find my thumb on, and while even though I am absolutely enamored and fascinated with my intense love for this place – this place in which my sense of community, my roots, and my passions mingle tirelessly – I expect my hunger for change and travel and adventure will always tease me away from time to time. I have learned at this point, however, that the coming home part of the journey is at times the most gratifying and rewarding – poignantly captured in the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom'”

quoteworthy

So, I was out of town all week the previous with my father to Zion, IL (between Milwaukee and Chicago) researching treatment options, and I couldn’t stop thinking about composting. I turned the ice bucket in my hotel room into a compost bucket because I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the banana peels from my free-with-room continental breakfast… and, yes, I dug my father’s out of his garbage to add. We ate at the dining facility and the thoughts continued to whir through my mind… just think about how little garbage actually has to be generated… if only they would compost the food scraps and napkins… I wonder how I could manage to carry mine around with me without grossing everyone out by the smell… and how could I avoid it squishing around and getting all over my things. And, of course this led to Dad and I having a brain storming session about the “composting purse” – I think we are on to something! Even if I’m the only one who ever uses it… the compulsion may be just too great… however, this could lead to habits such as going table to table asking for their food scraps… yikes! Hey, networking anyone? 🙂

orange

Needless to say, it was an energy intensive week for both Dad and I, and filled with great information. I was in dire need of a little plant fix, though, and since the garden was a good 8 hours away for me I finagled my way into getting Dad to join me at the botanical garden. It was a bit of an overcast and sprinkly afternoon when we got there, so we strolled a bit near one of the ponds watching a child harass the ducks – trying to pet them while this child’s parents joyfully chided him on – and through the English wall garden and Japanese bonsai display before a bit of a deluge chased us inside to the greenhouses – there we wandered about the tropical jungle plants (took me right back to Belize!) and also through the arid dessert experience (ah, Baja!) – there was a succulent plant from Madagascar that had medallion shaped leaves and I was mentioning how easy I thought it would be to take one to propagate, even though I know that’s not kosher – and low and behold I looked down and there was one of those very leaves on the ground… I snatched it up and stuck it in my bag, and now it’s in some potting soil amongst my bedroom jungle! Thank you Chicago Botanical Garden!

market table

This is an example of what the market display looks like – Tiffany’s candles on the left – beeswax, and they smell divine like honey – mulberries next to them, my jewelry on display and some baked delicious goodies – produce is on another table.

The garden is the epitome of chaos at this moment, which is why I’m not posting any photos of it’s current state… that would really be admitting my negligent lack of care! It has been nearly two weeks that I have let it all run wild… and you can tell! The mosquitoes have also contributed to my absence, as every time I attempt an appearance, they attempt to carry me off… I’m just going to break down and wear repellant tonight when I go out to harvest for tomorrow morning’s market. I believe this coming week I will tackle some of those weeds and liberate the tomatoes and beans – the 8 foot tall sunflowers seem to be holding their own – my friend, Megan, who’s contribution can be found on the celebrity farmer’s page, is the one responsible for planting those beautiful and thriving ardornments.

roadside bouquet

I can tell my energy is a bit chaotic and scattered as well, as I feel is depicted in the photos I’m sharing with this entry – while I like them, they are not typical of my style. Alas, carry on we do! This is a shot of one of my weekend roadside bouquets – I just can’t help myself but to stop, oh, about five times along the way to Mason City to hop out of my truck (which itself is a bit ordeal like since my parking brake is nonexistant and it’s a manual… turn of ipod, turn off truck, take keys out to avoid that awful buzzing, don’t forget scissors, traipse into the ditch and snip away… ignore gawking passers by…) It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite rituals, and they are delight on the table at market!

This week I managed to process a gallon and a pint of horseradish. Contrary to what some folks have tried to tell me, I have learned that if your horseradish patch is old/mature, you can harvest at all times of the year… mine/Dad’s qualifies… I believe 29 years it has been in existence. Also prepared another batch of strawberry jalapeno jam and harvested rhubarb for another marmalade later this weekend… I mean, is there ever enough time?! This morning’s baking experiments include vegan gluten free cookies made with sorghum, fresh ginger and ground pepper and of course, homemade crackers – this week’s version: hemp seed, flax seed, wheat. Hope to see some of you in Mason City this afternoon or tomorrow morning!

“As time went by, I realized that the particular place I’d chose was less important than the fact that I’d chosen a place and focused my life around it. Although the island has taken on great significance for me, it’s no more inherently beautiful or meaningful than any other place on earth. What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside the heart, not whether it’s flat or rugged, rich or austere. wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame. Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.”
Richard Nelson (The Island Within)

“Let go of what has passed.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.” – the long version of the translation of Tilopa’s “Six Words of Advice”

Lots of sporadic rain has led to me spending only minimal time in the garden. I must first point out that I have strayed in permanence from my no-till operation – the expanse of weeds was enough to bring me to the verge of emotions – pulling the starter on the roto-tiller was the most immediate way to mitigate the consumption of being overwhelmed… so I tilled for a couple hours, diligently making multiple passes over weeds reaching for my waist, and it was empowering and gratifying – I haven’t regretted it for a second!

Black raspberries are coming on nicely in this area – I went to Pilot Knob both horseback riding and the for a purposeful berry hunt with Tiffany, made a lucrative haul – now what to do with them? I’m thinking something along the lines of a black raspberry and ginger glaze… let the creativity run wild!

tiffany touring

I had, last week, the good fortune of helping at my dear friend, Tiffany’s farm. We pulled giant ragweed and thistles and wild grape vines that were entangled in the apple trees. She has beautiful gardens, as is exemplified in my capturing of her giving the grand tour to Paul Willis on one of my trips to be artsy. We share a canopy at the Farmer’s Markets in Mason City on both Friday and Saturday, and have become completely enthusiastic and supportive of one another in our multiple endeavors and thought processes – it is just a blessing to have such beautiful people come into our lives, and I am so fortunate for having the opportunity to cultivate such a friendship.

blessed sunrise

Sunrise in my most treasured place in the world – the marsh directly north of my father’s farm. It inspires quiet contemplation and a tranquility that will just settle into your bones. Over the past couple of weeks I have been doing a lot of meditative introspection and have come to a couple of solid conclusions. First of all, that to fall back in love with the place you are from is a unique experience, and that there is freedom in the acceptance. And there is grounding in taking action to reitterate the notion… like finally getting my Iowa driver’s license – it was the last article I had been clinging to of my transient segment, and to finally allow that chapter to close and embrace the beginning of the next has been liberating. My other major acquisition in contemplation has been the absorbtion of understanding with the heart – that thinking too much is dangerous, analysis and worry are paralyzing and debilitating, that trying to understand the whys of how others work is only another illusion of control – that true balance comes from an open and trusting acceptance that we all have our reasons for doing and for being and in embracing others completely, one must have a blind faith in each other. I strive constantly for enlightenment, for the ability to love purely and honestly without contention, without control, and it seems that this is an ongoing cycle of progressions and regressions – with the elation of progress urging us on to a humble acceptance of the world around us and the regressions there to remind us of how far we have come.

and we plant

And as the internal transitions ameliorate, so, too, do the tangible and physical. Another truck load of plants, most with character and stories to be treasured, have found a settling in the yard of my father’s place. One day, the lawn mower will be obsolete! More fabulous and thriving lillies dug from behind the restaurant of a good friend, and a “weed” with a gorgeous purple flower pulled from the tree pot of another friend’s employer… then there are the miscellaneous plants and flowers that come with clearance sales and my addiction to perennials of all kinds. It’s almost a challenge to be patient for the coming years in the anticipation of the jungle running wild.

So, today is another market day – it is off to Mason City for the afternoon. Did some baking – homemade crackers, this time with the omega 3 and 6 boost of hemp seeds, and then some gluten free sweet potato muffins with nutmeg icing for an experiment in the kitchen. Somehow managed in the maelstrom of the activity of the week to put up a batch of each strawberry jalepeno jam and sweet potato butter, AND to get my special order jewelry fabricated – still working on mastering the 25 hour day however. Thanks to all for the continued interest, inquisition and support of my purposeful undertakings – regaling in all my endeavors is enjoyed exponentially more when shared with those of curious intrigue – I am blessed to have such company on this journey.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Apple Computer Inc.

“I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”  Helen Keller

We have done it! We have taken that long and arduous stride of action towards our dream, our passion, our goal – that foot was caked in lead – and, fortunately our perseverance is prevailing, even if Mother Nature is getting her druthers from time to time.

prairie seed

This beginning I speak of is that of planting the prairie and establishing the conservation segment of the farm. Over the next few years an evolution will occur of regression in mimicry of her roots. It is a fruitful and diligent task to establish mesic prairie, potholes and wetlands in an area that was once topographically marshland now dredged and tiled for the ambitions of agrarians. One that we are up to, however. The “beginning” was a day last week – we mixed our expensive forbes and grasses in the old watering tubs we had for cattle and my horse, loaded the Brillion, and Dad set to planting as an impending storm approached – full of energy, color and movement – not so different than ourselves.

looming horizon

This system moved into the area a couple of hours early – this photo was taken around 2pm. I got the equipment put away and the shop and barn closed up, and when Dad came home we stood at the end of the driveway, in awe of the lightning, and swept by the cold wind rushing down from aloft – it was absolutely exhilarating. Since that day our project has been on hold, because the next portion to plant is in the peat ground east of the runway and it does not dry up with any expediency. Yesterday I was back on the Massey with the little tiller fluffing up a beautifully tilthy seed bed, so with any luck today the planting will resume. I also spent some time on the 2520 with my worktunes and NPR keeping me company while I drove in what felt like incessant circles mowing what will soon be worked up in an attempt to kill the existing sod so that more prairie may be seeded in the autumn.

The garden is growing so emphatically. She is in a constant shift of motion and energy – right now the cabbages are showing off striking yellow blossoms, while the golden snow peas and rat tail radishes are providing the abundance of fruits. The red romaine lettuce is enjoying a break in the heat and humidity, and continues to provide the contrast in color. The borage that I planted amongst the strawberries and dill is vigorous, and the purple blooms arrived recently to my enthusiasm. I finally broke down. I am no longer a weed-free gardener (as in expenditure of energy), and have gravitated to a more weedless version of my experiment. It will never be perfect, so to speak. but it gives me a goal to keep in mind – and I think the plants are ever so appreciative as they now are allowed to bask in the full glory of the sunshine. Once again, those weeds came in handy, and I am resolute in my interpretation of them as both cover crop and green manure. 🙂

I have finally gotten my jewelry shop up and running on the internet. This is a fantastic speed bump to have traversed, as I have been putting it off for quite some time. For those who are curious, the shop can be found at www.capriciouslyquixotic.etsy.com – the interpretation of the name being something along the lines of whimsically idealistic – which I feel I am a victim of with a far greater frequency than I care to admit, although to those who know me this comes as no surprise. A sample of my work lies below.vail

As if I needed another reason to have a preoccupation with the atlas, right? Torturous and inspiring to the gypsy soul. 🙂 Another fun sidenote is that I now have a grasp on the functioning of the acetylene torch which tickles me to no avail!

Looking forward to a minimal week of markets – both the Clear Lake and Mason City markets for Saturday, the 4th, are cancelled, so if you want any goodies for the weekend, the Friday market in Mason City will be the place to find myself and my wonderful and enthusiastic counterpart, Tiffany (she has been bringing beautiful and delicious kales and greens, and her fused glass jewelry is spectacular!!).

“By the choices and acts of our lives, we create the person that we are and the faces that we wear. By the choices and acts of our lives we give to the world wherein our lives are lived, hoping that our neighbors will find our contributions to be of worth, and hoping that the world will be a little more gracious for our time in it.”  -Kenneth Patton

Oh, I must start with expressing my deepest apologies for my lack of diligence in keeping everyone up with the growing of the garden. The past week has been on the verge of personally challenging, and that is what I am using as my excuse to ignore the computer. Trust me, though, I fuss about the garden and in the yard and am always brainstorming the latest and greatest blog entry – it just hasn’t hit the press until today is all. 🙂

the garden

 So, this is one of the most recent photos of the garden in all her glory. Notice how green it is? Well, I let the perfectionist in me go a little wild last week and she was a weeding fool (at least in the eastern third)! Yes, it’s still a major mental hurdle, allowing the biodiversity to flourish instead of keeping the grounds pristine and neat and tidy – even though I believe with all my heart in the beauty and functionality of the philosophy allowing weeds to enjoy a realm to thrive in as well. And, as luck would have it, weeds have been my best seller at the farmer’s market. These plant I embrace as a culinary delicacy, and a healthful addition, but it’s a bit challenging I have discovered to encourage others to see the rationality of that explanation. So, I resort to purporting the health benefits and describing flavors, and there have been a handful of takers. Last week I purveyed a wild greens blend of lamb’s quarter (spinach flavor), oxalis (horseradish flavor) and pineapple weed. I also tried to sell my gorgeous French heirloom romaine lettuce, Rouge d’Hiver, without much luck – my family is eating phenomenally well as a result! 🙂

rat tail radish blossom The rat-tail radishes are big and blossoming. They really steal the show. I’m so excited to try the unique radishes that grow like green beans. Because my garden is so eclectic I have been brainstorming ways to market it better. It seems that most of the markets in the area that I have attended demand the standard fare, and people tend to shy away from things they are unfamiliar with as a general rule. As a result I have come to the conclusion that I need to find the folks that are culinarily adventurous, embrace them completely and invite them to become a part of what I am dubbing the “Gourmet CSA” – if you are looking for the standard in spring greens, for your carrots to be orange and for your corn to be yellow, you can find unlimited resources – but if you want to sink your teeth into the sweetest cob of Japanese sweet corn, if you want to wow your friends with purple carrots in your salad, if you want to make a green tomato sauce from ripe tomatoes, well, Ame de la Terre is where you will find it! I also plan to include in CSA boxes the homemade and healthful delights I have been experimenting with in the kitchen – like the wheat and flax seed crackers, the gluten and dairy free Italian herb crackers, whole grain based treats, and recipes to play with for those interesting garden finds. So, if you are interested in participating in this type of CSA, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m hoping it is the kind of thing that can go year round with things like preserved tomatoes and root cellar items… as well as my push for a greenhouse for continued growing. It’s certainly a work in progress!

barrel lilly

… as is the entire yard. This is a photo of one of the beautiful tiger lillies given to me by a friend. I have lined the entire ditch between the driveway and the runway with the lillies acquired from Clear Lake and from my grandparents’ place north of Crystal Lake, plus I stuck in some phlox and other unknown-to-me-perennials in the hopes that mowing will soon become a thing of the past. If you see my father, please tell him what a good idea it would be to replace the lawn with short grass prairie… this is one of my big pushes of the moment! The hostas in the trees are flourishing and competing nicely with the abundant Canadian thistles and nettles – they can be such health hazards. 🙂

mirror

Nature continues to be my salvation. Gladfelter yet mesmerizes – the other day alone I watched a blue wing teal with her heard of ducklings scattering across the pond, saw this mirrored reflection (prior to being manipulated by my photo program!) at dusk and while I was out of the truck to snap this moment, was greeted by two muskrats swimming about in curiosity.  I have also started kayaking once again on Crystal Lake, and what a phenomenal outlet that is becoming – I am immediately reminded of the charm of that haven – yesterday morning on my paddle I saw two pairs of wood ducks, a pair of cardinals, a muskrat and a mink! The mink was the most adorable creature as he moved smoothly out onto the jetty and took up his lookout position peering out from behind a rock with only his head in view – he noticed that I had a beat on him, and he high tailed it back to the safety of the trees. Ah, nature, you are amazing!

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”
— Peter Marshall

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”  – Wendell Berry

meg in garden

 

For Memorial Day weekend I had the great pleasure of inviting one of my nearest and dearest friends into the experience of the garden. Meg made the trek north from Kansas City and we completely indulged in some quality time on the farm. It was incredible for me to get to share what is happening, and to watch it evolve with the love and care of two people as opposed to just myself. It floursihed! Saturday afternoon of the holiday weekend we planted potatoes: all blue, La Ratte fingerlings, yellow finns and mountain rose – in plots neighboring plots of bush beans and soy beans and marigolds and onions – this garden is more and more becoming a beautiful patchwork – I am so happy to have gone away from the traditional rows.seeds

 

We went back to the garden on Sunday (after Canning 101 in which we prepared a small batch of Clove-Peppercorn-Pear Sauce) to survey our accomplishments and with the explicit goal of getting the rest of the potatoes in. As Meg walked through the garden she noticed something quite disturbing… someone had been here! The potatoes were no longer nestled into the rich humus, but rather carelessly strewn about the top of the bed… and was what more curious… not a single bite mark or scratch to the seeds. Hurridly I got on my knees and tenderly placed each potato back in the divit it was removed from.  Tragically, also, I recognized this as the work of peskey raccoons – we also soon realized the seeds of soybeans and Japanese sweet corn had been pilfered as well. Immediately I changed tracks – an electric fence had to be built and functional before the day was out. I am ever so grateful for Meg’s presence and diligence in planting, because while I was building she single handedly accomplished our set goal for the day. Our great artistic feat came with the placement of my old rusted bicycle frame that I had salvaged from my friend, Matt’s, burn hole – the garden really is becoming a place representing my community. I also have flowers I have transplanted from my friend, Hayley’s home, as well as my grandmother’s, and I plan to add poppies from my brother’s.

We went to the market in Clear Lake Saturday morning. It was an incredibly fun venue. I took for tasting samples Honey Sweetened Fingerprint Cookies with Wild Violet Jelly (a wild harvest creation), and also homemade wheat crackers to top with cream cheese and Spicy Jalepeno Strawberry Jam (perhaps to be renamed Afterburner!) – people seemed to completely enjoy them, and I had many requests for the treats to be sold in addition. Hmmm… endless possibilities! dandelion

 

The look of the blog site is evolving, also. The recipes page will be the home to the recipes I use for my tasting samples at the markets – I’m not much of one to follow a recipe true and fast, rather it’s a jumping off point for creative liberties… but they will allow for the basic premise of reconstruction. The page entitled “Celebrity Farmers” is a place for those who come to participate on the farm to leave their stories and photos – it gives everyone a unique view through their perspective of Ame de la Terre. I, too, am excited to read those posts! Also coming soon will be a page dedicated to the items that will be featured at the coming week’s markets, as well as a link to Chasing Fireflies, which is my jewelry and recycled design elements endeavor that is in it’s infancy.

To close I wanted to share a photo that was just a quick snapshot. Meg and I witnessed three times in the period of 24 hours geese running down the road in front of us with their goslings… only to abandon their children for the safety of cover… an interesting observation in the different parenting styles and self preservation philosophies!run goslings

“A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has his mind precisely against what is wrong with us… What I am saying is that if we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of earth, but also the earth’s ability to produce.” — Wendell Berry