Archives for posts with tag: sutainability


“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
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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)

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

Festive greetings from a weed friendly gardener! The garden is lush and green and the sweet clover, red clover and dwarf pack choy are adding their brilliant colors to the mix. The inflorescence of the grasses lends a nice artistry to the aspect when the wind gently tosses the grains about in the breeze. Lambs quarter, oxalis, Shepard’s purse, pigweed, smartweed, and the newly added purslane add a splendid biodiversity to the various vegetables, fruits and tubers patchworked around the garden. Not the picture of permaculture efficiency, but the artistic merit is entirely gratifying if one is not focused on economics. The sunsets have been breathtaking when not hidden behind storm clouds, and the brilliant yellow light that lays upon the landscape at dusk humbles one to stop in their tracks to absorb in appreciation.

neighborhood

Last night we had the great good fortune of experiencing the most wonderful in ambiance, camaraderie and flavor – satiating in an array of aspects. My father and I attended the Slow Food event at Paul Willis’ farm near Thornton, IA. Paul raises hogs for Niman Ranch and is entirely passionate and enthusiastic for the endeavors in which he invests his energy – consequently he attracts many of the same type of people. I was so fortunate to catch up with old friends and acquaint myself with new. Paul and Phyllis were great and gracious hosts, and the pot luck dinner provided by the energy of “local” efforts – both in measure of personal preparation and ingredients made for an entirely satisfying and gratifying experience.

 

paul

The evening wound up with a grand tour of the prairie and wetland on Paul’s property. Over 100 species of plants in one space is awe-striking and inspiring – the purples of Ohio Spiderwort and alfalfa to the yellow of the Golden Alexander and the white of the Yarrow, plus so many more that have already escape the grasp of my thought – ah, just instills a little peace in one’s bones that there are folks whose visions and actions are carrying us and pressing us on in the right direction.

Today, the market! The North Iowa Farmer’s Market to be exact. I continue to experiment with recipes and ingredients and presentation of my wares. You will find a variety of preserves abound on the table, as well as artisan homemade crackers and gluten-free treats that seemingly melt in your (well, mine, too, as I have deemed myself quality control!) mouth. For fresh produce I have wild greens (most commonly referred to as weeds, but I will post a couple recipes that will make you feel differently about these fabulous and nutritious alternative edibles!). I will finally have my jewelry for sale in addition to a hand crafted model-scale barn that was created by my stepfather. Always treats for tasting, and if you can’t join today, then perhaps tomorrow, as that will be the first of the Saturday markets in Mason City – you will find us downtown from 8-11am in the parking lot just west of City Hall; 10 1st St NW.

crackers

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”  — Aldo Leopold

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

pineapple sageOh, what a phenomenal day! A brief interlude of showers, but overall sunny – in aspects beyond weather, as well. We went to the NRCS office today to discuss and plot the implementation of the prairie and wetland reconstruction project, and then it was off to my favorite retail venue: the Albert Lea Seed House. There we visited with Tom, who always has an opinion on investments and politics… get the wheels turning! I happily lollygagged about the greenhouse and trees and found myself a little pineapple sage that I thought would find a happy home in my garden. Also get myself set up with some more onion sets, as I felt that only Walla Wallas were not enough… Bermuda Sweets and Vidalias would be a nice addition. I also learned today from a woman who was also perusing the onion sets that the white onions keep much better than the yellows. I fortuitously found the elusive blue jade sweet corn that was sold out through the Seed Savers Exchange website – completely unexpected and entirely gratifying! dwarf pak choy
Did a little walk through and weeding of the uprising seedlings – the French heirloom lettuce Rouge di Hiver Romaine (organic) is looking strong and so far well protected from the multiple rabbits that Max seems more entertained to watch than to pursue. A great surprise of the day was the emergence of the dwarf pak choy that I broadcast seeded – that made my day!
radishes
The multiple varieties of radishes are looking incredibly strong as well.
yellow snow pea
And the golden sweet peas have made it through the mulch and are upward bound for their trellis… ah, what a little patience in the garden will provide. 🙂

It was pretty muddy out there, so sowing seeds was a touch challenging, and therefore I did not entertain much of it. I did, however, interseed borage and dill with my strawberry patches, because I remember reading reference of them having a nice symbiosis, although the literature is out in my truck, and I’m too tuckered to dig it out… I will relay the details in the next article.

Another pointer I wanted to pass on that I have picked up this season: typically your seed should be sown to a depth 10 times the size of the seed – a good rule of thumb.

Gladfelter was entirely entertaining again today. There are three pairs of geese loitering in the wetlands; two of them have goslings. There is one pair that is extremely territorial and aggressive, and they even stooped so low as to harass the blue wing teal today… they have no shame. There were also a couple of deer skittishly lurking about the east side of the big hill. Even got the chance to see a kestrel perched on a power line today – love that wildlife!

deer at gladfelter
Domestic chores included a lovely batch of spiced sweet potato butter – if you are in need of some let me know and we can work out the details – in my opinion it’s hard to beat, and every batch is a little different, because I just throw in what I think would be good – a couple shakes here, a smidgen there… you know the routine.