Using our Gifts

For by the grace given to me I ask every one of you not to think of yourself more highly than you should think, rather to think of yourself with sober judgment on the measure of faith that God has assigned each of you. For we have many parts in one body, but these parts do not all have the same function. In the same way, even though we are many people, we are one body in the Messiah and individual parts connected to each other. We have different gifts based on the grace that was given to us. So if your gift is prophecy, use your gift in proportion to your faith. If your gift is serving, devote yourself to serving others. If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching others. If it is encouraging, devote yourself to encouraging others. If it is sharing, share generously. If it is leading, lead enthusiastically. If it is helping, help cheerfully.

St. Paul

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End of the Season

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We’ll be picking and preparing produce for the farmer’s market today. Tomorrow is the last one of the year.

It will be nice to sleep past 4:30 on Saturday mornings again.

It’s been an excellent year for us at the market, thanks to an ever increasing number of people who are choosing fresh locally-grown food, and hopefully in part because we’ve been able to deliver delicious high-quality food each week. We had failures–deer destroyed all of our purple hull peas and most of our tomatoes and heavy rain ruined most of our sweet potatoes–but most of our gardens came in beautifully and week in and week out we’ve been able to fill our table. Most weeks we have sold out.

Fall has been good to us and we still have lots of food growing in the gardens. Tomorrow we’ll have radishes, Swiss chard, turnips, spinach, 3 kinds of kale, collard greens, arugula, 7 types of Asian greens, sweet potatoes, mustard greens and broccoli, as well as Cherie’s homemade granola. Like us, our customers will eat well.

Things will start to slow down for us now. We’ll still be delivering produce to drop points twice a week, but the rush of the season will be over.

Now we can get serious about that long list of winter projects we’ve been saving up. And we can get some rest.

Agrarian Sensibilities

Agrarianism promises a path toward wholeness with the earth, with each other, and with God, a path founded upon an insight into our proper place within the wider universe.

No doubt, an argument for agrarian life will sound old-fashioned. Most of us, after all, are urbanites, and so represent the culmination of a migratory trend that is unparalleled in human history. The exodus from country to city, now accomplished in “developed” countries and well on its way in the rest of the world, is seen by many as the necessary prerequisite for human freedom and progress. But given the enormity of implication and consequence that follows from a loss of intimate and practical connection with the earth (consider the general ignorance about our interdependence with other organisms), should we not at least pause to consider the cultural significance of the eclipse of agrarian sensibilities?

Norman Wirzba, from the Introduction to The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

Garlic

I have a farmer/friend who says garlic is the all-American crop–plant it during the World Series and harvest it on the 4th of July.

What a Philistine.

We planted our garlic on Columbus Day, because that’s what you do.

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For people who have never gardened before, and who find the thought of it intimidating, I often recommend that they start by growing some garlic. It’s easy to grow and easy to take care of–the pests and wildlife that can make growing vegetables so challenging aren’t interested in garlic.

Garlic is ideally suited for raised beds and containers. We grow a lot of it, so we plant it in long rows. But for household use you don’t need much space.

To plant, just break the bulb into cloves and stick the clove into the ground, pointed end up, about 2 inches deep. Space the cloves 5-6 inches apart, in rows 8-10 inches apart (if you’re planting in rows). Alternatively you can plant them 2-3 inches apart and in the spring harvest every other plant as green/spring garlic (scallions).

You can plant the garlic you buy in a grocery store, but if you’re going to the trouble of planting your own you should probably make the extra effort to get a higher quality garlic. Buy some bulbs from a farmer at the market (each bulb has about 8 cloves on average) or get them from an online source. Good seed garlic may seem expensive but keep in mind that garlic is something you only have to buy once. We bought our seed garlic once years ago and since then we’ve been planting garlic we save from our harvest.

Once the garlic is planted, cover with straw. This will help protect the plants and suppress weeds.

Tucked away and ready for winter

Tucked away and ready for winter

Often (here at least) the plants will begin to emerge in the fall, then will go dormant during the winter. They’re tough plants so the winter doesn’t kill them. When the weather warms up they’ll start growing again.

We aim to harvest ours about June 18.

It’s hard to beat freshly dug homegrown garlic.

And according to my friend at least, there’s still time to get it in the ground this year.

Moving On

Remember our beautiful sunflower garden?

August 18

August 18

Well, even as the trees erupted in colors, the sunflowers faded to gray. Summer passed the baton to fall.

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October 26

We planted the sunflowers as a summer cover crop, following our spring lettuce and Asian greens. Once the sunflowers were mature, we turned our small flock of Dominiques into the garden with them. The chickens have been fertilizing the area and eliminating pests and weed seeds. Lately they’ve been compensated with sunflower seeds.

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Yesterday I mowed down the dead sunflower stalks and moved the chickens.

After

After

Next I’ll till the garden and sow a winter cover crop. The chickens will now go to work their magic in a different garden.

Leave, or Not?

I’m afraid I may have planted our Brussels sprouts a little late this year. Though the plants are healthy, winter is fast approaching and they haven’t grown as much as I would like.

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Which leads me to a question: should I remove the leaves on the stalk, and if so when?

We’ve never removed the leaves to speed up growth of the sprouts. I’ve always allowed the sprouts to mature naturally, removing the lower leaves as I’ve harvested the lower spouts. (By the way, don’t throw away the leaves. Brussels sprouts leaves are delicious cooked greens.)

But I know that some folks do remove the leaves, insisting that doing so helps channel all the plant’s energy into making better sprouts. I seem to recall reading that if you intend to harvest the entire stalk at once it’s best to remove the leaves, but that if you intend to harvest the sprouts as they mature from the bottom up, then it’s best to leave them on.

I know there are some first-rate cool weather gardeners who read this blog, so I’m posing the question to y’all: Leave the leaves or take ’em off?

Mushrooms

We had a large group of school children come visit the farm earlier this week. We had gorgeous weather and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Ready to leave for the hayride farm tour

Ready to leave for the hayride farm tour

When we do our tours, especially if there are a lot of children, we try to mix in fun activities along with education. The idea is to allow them to have some fun, while hopefully learning some things as well.

The kids always enjoy feeding and petting the animals. But this group, especially the grownups, also seemed surprisingly interested in our mushroom cultivation.

As I’ve mentioned before, we grow shiitake mushrooms in oak logs. Fortunately the logs were producing mushrooms at the time of their visit, so they could see the end results. Maybe we even motivated some of them to start growing their own.

This is from last month

This is from last month

We’re fortunate to have an abundance of wild mushrooms on the farm too. Last week we were thrilled to discover that the chanterelles had returned.

Beautiful chanterelles

Beautiful chanterelles

Chanterelles are amazingly delicious and, to the best of my knowledge, they can’t be cultivated. So they are gourmet treats.

Unfortunately just as they were started to appear we went into another hot dry spell, so they retreated. With some rain forecast later this week we’re hoping for a reappearance in force soon.

Gourmet mushrooms growing wild, or in oak logs we seeded inexpensively, are just another of many perks of this lifestyle. You’ll pay a pretty penny for mushrooms like these in upscale restaurants. For us, they’re free gifts of nature.