The Harkonens

The Harkonen Family

Today I’m giving a shout out to our friends Timo and Laura Harkonen, two of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

Timo is originally from Finland, and was a former classmate of mine.  He came to the U.S. to attend university and play collegiate tennis.  He later went on to earn an MBA and an M.Div.

Laura, who grew up in Arkansas, met Timo in college.  She was studying aviation science and went on to become a pilot.

Timo and Laura rescued two special needs orphans from horrific conditions in Brazil and went on to adopt them.  Under their love and care Richard and Janey have blossomed.

Laura and Rowan

Janey and Rowan

Richard going head to head with one of our goats

Richard going head to head with one of our goats

With their backgrounds, education and skill sets Timo and Laura could both have safe six figure jobs somewhere.  Instead they’re living in Nyankunde, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Laura is a pilot for Missionary Aviation Fellowship and Timo is using his business and pastoral skills to assist their community.

The conditions there are difficult.  The entire family has been sick with tropical diseases numerous times.  Timo is recovering from typhoid now.  Laura flies dangerous relief missions, often landing on makeshift runways.

They turned down a much safer assignment to Australia to go the Congo, in part because they felt their children would adapt better there and in part because they wanted to go where the need was greatest.  Before going they had to successfully complete immersion courses in French and Swahili, accepting the challenge of learning new languages along with all the other challenges they would face.

People like Laura and Timo never make the news.  Instead it seems we only hear about sensational crimes and misbehaving celebrities.  But my guess is that for every story like those there are dozens of untold stories like those of the Harkonens.

For more on this awesome family, go HERE.

New Markets

I’d prefer to sell all our produce directly to the people who are going to eat it.  With the great majority of our sales, that’s what we do.  We have lots of people who buy from us regularly and we’re usually able to find a home for our almost all of our produce that way.

But now we’re between seasons.  The summer crops are fading away and because we got a late start on our fall plantings, the fall veggies aren’t in yet.  So we don’t have much variety to offer people.  Instead we have huge quantities of peas and beans–more than we can sell to our loyal supporters.

So this week, for the first time, we sold produce to a local independently-owned grocery store. We also sold some to our local university, which will feature it in their “Local Food Day” next week.

Even though we will continue to try to sell the things our farm produces directly to the people who are going to eat it, it’s nice to have some other outlets for it too.  And we’re very pleased that they are willing to do business with small family farms like ours.  That doesn’t happen at the chain stores.

Peas Aplenty

I spent much of yesterday harvesting purple hull peas.  We have a great crop of them this year.

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Purple stained fingers.

Purple stained fingers.

For better or worse, our gardens are safe for creatures.

For better or worse, our gardens are safe for living creatures.

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We’re pleased that our local university will be serving them in their cafe next Tuesday as part of “Local Food Day.”

Last night Cherie fixed us an delicious dinner of cornbread, rice and a purple hull pea stew, which is one of my personal favorites.

It’s a great time of year.

Mr. Fabulous

Our son and his family took in a stray kitten. Because of his prominent tail, they named him Mr. Fabulous.

Not long after taking him in they contacted us to find out if we were interested in having him. The cuteness of Mr. Fabulous’ spunk had worn off quickly once he started getting into the food in their pantry every night.

Cherie asked me what I thought of taking him and without giving it sufficient thought I answered that we could use a barn cat. We were having trouble with mice getting into the feed we store in the barn and I thought maybe a feisty cat could solve our problem.

Mr. Fabulous has been with us over six months now and he has yet to spend a moment in the barn. We put him out every night and he seems to enjoy his nocturnal prowls. But every morning he’s waiting at the door when we open it and this is how he spends his days.

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We probably still have mice in the barn.

Date Nights

Eric Schlosser has had a pretty dramatic impact on our lives.  Cherie read Fast Food Nation while she was recuperating from a severe bout of food poisoning.  The book inspired her to change her diet and started her down the road toward an organic sustainable lifestyle.  Her journey inspired me along the way and eventually I got on board too.  Obviously we’ve made some very significant changes to our lives since she read that book.

So when we learned that he was coming to speak at N.C. State University in Raleigh we decided to make that a “date night.”

On our date nights we try to find something fun and interesting to do away from the farm. We’re fortunate to have several colleges and universities within a couple hours of here and that’s where nerds like us can usually find the kind of night out that we like.  This year we’ve seen Charles Eisenstein speak at UNC and Carrie Newcomer perform at Duke, for example.  As was the case with Eric Schlosser’s talk, the events were uncrowded and free to the public.  Next month we’re going to see Vandana Shiva at Wake Forest. Also free.

Mr. Schlosser was discussing his latest book, Command and Control, which examines the history of the handling of our country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and specifically the near-disasters that have occurred. I haven’t read the book but I have added it to my long list of wanna-reads.

There are plenty of loud and expensive ways to spend an evening away from home.  But I’d guess that nearly everyone has within a reasonable driving distance of their homes plenty of enjoyable, entertaining and enriching “date night” options that cost nothing other than the gas to get there. I’m glad that we do.

Pear Time

There are plenty of great things about this time of year. One of them is ripe pears.

Last year we had great production from our Kieffer tree. This year it only has a few pears on it.

But our Asian pear tree is producing abundantly and I’ve been enjoying a pear or two from it every day.

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Asian pears are my favorites.  They’re ready to eat right off the tree, with the crunchy texture of an apple while exploding with juice with every bite.

This is the time of year for planting fruit trees.  I try to put in one or two new ones every year. This year I think another Asian pear tree would be a good idea.

Rest

With each passing day the sun comes up a little later and goes down a little sooner.  The pace of farm life, while still very busy, is starting to slow down.  Nature is moving toward a period of rest.

Rest is an important part of the natural cycle.  Plants become dormant, animals go into hibernation.

We incorporate periods of rest into our garden rotations here.

And I try to build a time for rest into every day.  A few years ago I started the practice of taking a 20 minute period of rest after lunch.  Sometimes I nap.  Other times I just lie resting.  Either way I find the break refreshing and I’ve become so accustomed to it that I feel tired in the afternoon if I don’t have it.

In some religious traditions a period of rest is a sacred time.  Like the rest of the natural world, we need our rest.

It’s very difficult to incorporate a time of rest into the hectic workdays of most lives. I can’t imagine taking a 20 minute nap in the afternoon when I was practicing law.  If I felt tired then I’d just have another cup of coffee.

But now I’m an advocate of rest.  If you’re not already doing this, try stopping and resting quietly for 20 minutes in the afternoon.  Taking a 20 minute break won’t make much difference in the amount of work you’ll be able to accomplish in a day, but my guess is that the folks who find a way to do it will feel a lot better and probably end up being more productive than those who don’t.