On Seeds, Literal and Metaphorical

Mat moving the first two varieties of garlic.

Some of my seed garlic hanging in the corncrib.

Last week brought one of my favorite tasks on the farm - the garlic harvest! Though garlic is only one of many crops that grows underground, for some reason it always seems so magical to me when you pull them out and see the nice big heads. I think this must have something to do with the fact that they’ve been in the ground since last October - they were planted a whole NINE months ago. They were in the ground when the windchill reached 26 below in January, and they still managed to poke their little green shoots through the straw mulch this spring. Anyways, last fall I amassed a small amount of sixteen more varieties of garlic apart from the four the Boersons grow. I started a spreadsheet to keep everything straight, and then I planted a whole 200-foot row in addition to the other six that made up the main garlic crop. So the afternoon before a whole crew was due to assemble to harvest the garlic, I grabbed a notebook, baling twine, tape, and a marker and set about pulling up my test plot. Making my way through the varieties, I counted how many germinated, how many were seed-worthy specimens, estimated the average number of cloves per head, etc. When they’ve hung in the corn crib long enough to have dried out, I’ll cut them down, weigh them, label them, and taste them. I’ve already decided that one variety didn’t perform well enough to grow again next year, and I’m on the fence about another. In October, I’ll take out my bagged and labeled seed garlic, pop all the cloves off the stem, then plant, mulch, and label my beds. A year from now, I’ll start the process again, and no doubt I’ll still find myself amazed to pull a fully formed head of garlic where last fall I left just a small clove. 

The as-yet-unnamed Mulefoot gilt.

Young Two-Spot in profile.

My seed garlic is not the only “seed” I’ve begun to stockpile in anticipation of my move to Hazel Hill Farm this fall. This other seed stock, however, is of the four-legged variety. Besides my vegetables, another component of next year’s farm landscape will be three sows and a boar. One of these sows is already a full-grown, proven mother who’ll be coming with me from the Boersons’ as part of my salary. She’s a Large Black Hog (LBH), a rare heritage breed that originated in England and is recognizable by its long body and big floppy ears. My second sow is still a gilt - the name for a female pig that has yet to farrow, or have a litter of pigs. She’s a Mulefoot hog, an even rarer breed, this one notable for its distinctive uncleft hooves. My third sow is TBD, but will be a Tamworth, because my boar is a Tamworth. When you say boar, a huge, fearsome pig with big tusks comes to mind, but mine is a newly-weaned pig pushing 50 lbs. He’s the stoutest fellow from a healthy litter of twelve, and has been named Two-Spot by young Shep, an imaginative but very literal namer, because of the two black spots on his rear end. With three different breeds of sow, this means that by replacing the boar every year or two, I’ll always have two different crosses and one purebred pair. So-called “hybrid vigor” means that the crossed pigs will be a bit stouter and grow a little faster than their pure counterparts, and having a pure line will mean I can grow my own replacement stock. Rotating boars between breeds means that I can constantly be improving my stock, a process aided by the fact that a pig has a relatively short gestation period (under 4 months) and can be safely bred at a relatively young age (around 8 or 9 months). 

My plan with the pigs is to sell both feeder pigs and a few whole and half hogs in the first few years as I rotate them through the overgrown pasture and scrubby forest. As I improve my infrastructure, my plan is to breed selectively for traits I want, improving my herd as I start to grow out more and more pigs to full size, offering pork shares perhaps as early as the second year. In the long term, my goal is permaculture prosciutto and other dry-cured meats, in which the pigs I have bred specific to my farm with eat only food grown on the farm, and will be cured on-farm, resulting in a hyper-local artisanal product with potential for shipping and sales to high-end meat and cheese counters across the midwest (Zingerman’s, we will meet again!). This is many years in the future, however, and in the meantime, my breeding stock is growing in leaps and bounds. 

Freshly plowed fields at Hazel Hill.

On the farm, too, things are shaping up. I’ve been making the 2-hour commute pretty often this summer, and the late summer and early fall will see more and more frequent visits as I continue to break sod, get my barns ready for animals, and try to complete as many building projects as possible before the ground freezes for good. Things are coming along nicely, and I’ve even gotten the paperwork ball rolling on things like organic certification and a low-interest microloan from the FSA (Farm Service Agency). These things too feel almost like seed stock for the new farm - a little piece of paper now that will enable big things later. Besides the Boersons and my own family, there have also been a few notable contributions to my “seed stock” that have bolstered both my confidence that I’m trying to do something worthwhile and that there are amazing people out there who believe I am onto something. A few weeks ago, an incredible family I know in the area called and asked if I would consider house-sitting during their vacation in exchange for a young Jersey heifer calf. Having already decided to keep her older sister, they couldn’t see into keeping a third cow, and was hoping she might be useful in my growing menagerie. It was a great call to get, and I would have fed their animals and watered their garden for much less! 

In a similar vein, a longtime family friend emailed a few months ago with another extraordinary gesture. She had been following my farming journey through the blog and had decided that she would like to contribute what was left of a memorial fund for her son to the farm. He would have really appreciated what I’m trying to do, she told me, and she thought it would be a fitting use of the funds. I was blown away by the gesture, and knew I had to come up with a fitting way to use the money so that it didn’t just disappear into the stream of cash it takes to start up a business. I decided to deem it the “Perennial Fund,” and use it to establish the perennial crops on the farm that would have taken a backseat to other faster-bearing investments. This way, an important facet of the farm would get a jump-start, and there would be a lasting and tangible way to honor this amazing young man on the farm. The rhubarb, asparagus, berries, and nut and fruit trees will yield for years to come, and might otherwise have been postponed or done halfway. If you’d like to contribute a few dollars to the Perennial Fund for Hazel Hill Farm, you can click the button below.


Acorn, bean, sunflower seed, popcorn kernel, apple seed.

Seed garlic, breeding stock, seed money. The imagery and symbolism of seeds has always captivated me - the sheer potential encapsulated in such a tiny package, the resilience, the stored energy, the connection with the past and the future, the portability and prerogative to exchange information. In these dog days of summer, when the sun bears down hard and the plants are bearing heavily, the emergence of the garlic makes me feel supported by the earth itself and  gestures like these make me feel supported by the community of people I have around me, near and far. I am working harder than I have ever worked before, and will only work harder still as Hazel Hill springs into being, but I go to sleep happy and exhausted and wake up energized and ready to do it all over again. Gathering my seeds, saving them, sowing them, giving thanks. 

On the Cheese Counter

Photo courtesy Bianca Verma

A visit to your local cheesemonger, if you’re lucky enough to have one worthy of the name, can be a many splendored thing. A good cheese counter is not necessarily the one with the most cheeses or the most expensive cheeses. A good cheese counter has one or several people behind (or in front of) it who delight in introducing you to a new cheese, finding the perfect cheese for the occasion, and maintaining (curating, even) an assortment of cheeses to satisfy any range of discerning and curious customers. A delightful cheese (en)counter this afternoon prompted me to think about five amazing cheese counters that have been crucial in my enculturation (hehe) as a major turophile. Obviously, a childhood full of good Wisconsin cheddar and a few months making and selling cheese did plenty to feed my obsession, but today I offer to you a brief history of my ongoing love affair with cheese and cheesemongers.


1. Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge, MA ca. 2009

While my college years saw my discovery of the delights of Indian food, the inexhaustible range of craft beers, the joys of semi-disorganized wine tasting (Floreat Eliot House Wine Society!), one of the most culinary life-changing experiences during my time in Cambridge might have been a series of bike rides down Huron Avenue to the renowned Formaggio Kitchen. Leading the way was my initiator into the world of MFK Fisher, IPAs, and ripe cheeses, one Zach A. We lock our bikes outside and enter a small storefront packed with all that is good in the world. A cheese and deli counter in the first room, stacked high with rounds and wedges, flags denoting age and provenance sticking out, almost grazing the bottoms of the whole hams and salamis hanging from the ceiling. Zach, having worked at a cheese counter back in Philly, took charge, speaking with the cheesemonger with authority, tasting, questioning, selecting the perfect cheeses for our needs. It was the first time I had seen such a thing. Sampling five cheeses to choose two? It seemed revolutionary. In return visits, Zach continued to be the vocal, knowledgeable interlocutor, but slowly, as with beer, wine, and ethnic food, I began to learn my tastes and the language necessary to convey those tastes to the person across the counter.

2. Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Chicago, IL ca. 2011

The year after college, living with three lovely ladies in a lovely lakeside neighborhood in Chicago. Local cheese counter only three short blocks away. Periods of employment, underemployment, unemployment, and overwork. Whether I was just looking to spend a few dollars on an afternoon treat or shopping for the perfect accompaniments to our midwestern iteration of Wine Society, the cheesemongers were always ready to find the right cheese. Not quite as overwhelming as Formaggio, the smaller scale of the counter meant that on a quiet Thursday afternoon I felt comfortable enough to ask a few questions, taste a few cheeses, and make a purchase. No stranger to budgets, these young mongers were always willing to cut me a tiny slice of an expensive cheese, and I grew to enjoy going in with a specific question. What will pair with the dry German wine I have in the fridge? What about my beet chutney? My enthusiasm for Pastoral was only briefly dimmed when I interviewed for a job as a cheese counter attendant and was rejected after a three-hour “stage,” including a pop quiz at the end in which I was expected to name and describe all of the cheeses I’d tasted. But in the end, every occasion was an occasion calling for cheese.

3. La Cave a Fromage, South Kensington, London, ca. 2012

My nine months in Europe was full of unforgettable cheese experiences. That fresh pecorino sandwich shared with two friends sitting in the stoop of a centuries-old house during the annual chestnut festival. I’ve been trying to relive that cheese for the two years since with no luck at all. Funky talleggio, heavenly burrata, creamy gorgonzola dolce, farmstead toma. Freshest mozzarella di buffala straight from Naples eaten with the greenest, zestiest olive oil from olives that only three days before I had stripped by hand from the laden branches of a gnarled tree. In South Kensington, I learned to ask my now-favorite question: what’s ripe? I confirmed a long-held suspicion that there are few cheeses that I will not eat with some gusto, and that true cheese connoisseurship can become a very expensive undertaking. I discovered that I relish a soft-ripened cheese right on the brink of spoilage, when the insides ooze slowly at cellar temperature and faster in a warm kitchen, eaten in (I imagine) a French style, daubed on an airy, crusty baguette. The cheesemonger knows which cheese is at its prime and which is about to pass it, and sometimes they’ll even cut you a deal on the very ripest. 

4. Rubiner’s Cheesemongers, Great Barrington, MA, ca. 2013

During my stint last season at Chubby Bunny, every other Friday was payday, which meant every other Friday involved a trip up to Great Barrington to deposit our paychecks and go out on the town. Sometimes this involved live music and a beer at the Gypsy Joynt, sometimes sourdough pizza and beer at Baba Louie’s, sometimes a quick pass through the co-op before heading back out of the Berkshires into the wilds of northwest Connecticut. When we got to town before six, that meant a duck into Rubiner’s before closing time. A smallish fancy shop in a partly-fancy smallish town, the visits to this cheese counter were less about the actual cheesemonger and more about the farmstead products for sale around the counter. Not that I was actually buying much (again, fancy store), but I was definitely taking mental notes. Cured Italian salamis the size of your thumb for $2 a pop - quick to cure, easy to sell at a farmers market! The rustic-chic aesthetic that accompanies a local artisan product for top-dollar. Rubiner’s offers a farmer discount, which is novel and much-appreciated, but more important for me than my meager purchases was the food for thought about my own potential approach to marketing my products. Can I sell a few things to rich people at justifiably high prices while growing the majority of my food for a local customer base at affordable prices? Every cheese counter, gourmet shop, co-op, and farmers market stand is now a study in image, aesthetics, labeling, and marketing. 

5. Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Ann Arbor, MI, ca. 2014

In my many trips back and forth across the eastern half of this expansive country, I’ve made it a habit to punctuate the drive with a few days in Ann Arbor, thanks to the presence of Bianca, almost-doctor, appreciative food audience, and official photographer. Each trip was marked with a visit to Zingerman’s to marvel at the selection, taste a few cheeses and make a small but delicious purchase. Now, as my winter in Ann Arbor comes to a close, it seemed only fitting to celebrate with cheese. So, on this cold but sunny Tuesday afternoon, we walked in with a mission, and the cheesemonger was happy to accept it. We wanted to have a great little (indoor) picnic for $30 or less, mostly cheese, a smidge of meat. “Are you in a hurry?” Asked a totally dedicated Ben. Over half an hour later we had sampled a handful of cheeses and narrowed it down to the perfect combination that combined my love for soft, gooey, or funky cheese with Bianca’s preference for hard, nutty, Alpine-style cheeses. He sliced us the most delicate of slices in keeping with our budget. We sampled olives, and took a bit of two different kinds. He tried to sell us cipollini in balsamic, but my homemade ones were better. I sampled cured ham, including a slice of Jamon Iberico that I believe is the closest to gustatory perfection anything has ever been. (Ben said when I finish my first permaculture prosciutto, I should bring some by for a tasting.) A thin-sliced paesano roll completed the spread, and when we went to pay, we discovered that we’d stuck exactly to our budget! $29.56, which delighted Ben just as much as it had us when we gave him one last good-bye on the way out the door. 

Today’s visit to Zingerman’s was everything one could want from a visit to a cheesemonger, and much more. He listened to our needs, assessed our divergent tastes, cut generous samples and watched for our eyes to light up as we tried each new cheese. He was enthusiastic in sharing his passion and knowledge, and seemed genuinely interested in hearing about my salumi experiences and farm dreams. He even deferred to a more experienced hand-slicer to ensure beautiful thin slices of country ham. How many times can you say you went shopping and came back elevated, inspired, satiated, and even surprised? I think it’s time for a trip to your local cheese counter, if you’re lucky enough to have one. 

On Liberal Oases and Serving Foodies

For a bit longer than a month now, I've been living and working in the vibrant liberal oasis of Ann Arbor, Michigan. When deciding where to "winter," Michigan is not a state that springs to mind. In fact, if the CNN report that I saw out of the corner of my eye at the gym is to be believed, this winter has been the "most miserable" winter on record in Detroit. So why in the world have I found myself in the middle of a seemingly never-ending polar endurance test? Good question. Some especially frigid days, I wonder that myself. Most days, though, here's my short answer: I needed a place to pass the winter, and Ann Arbor is a liberal oases full of local food, great restaurants, a relatively low cost of living (relative to other places I was considering, not to the surrounding area), and coincidentally happens to contain one of my best friends.

The term liberal oasis is one that gets thrown around in regards to many midwestern college towns, but few earn the title the way that Ann Arbor does. Madison might be larger, but the sheer volume per capita of markers of progressive values here in Ann Arbor is staggering. Of course, world-class universities draw progressive employers, but a few dozen tech start-ups doesn't explain the level of foodie saturation in Ann Arbor. Besides a year-round farmers market and an old-fashioned food co-op, Ann Arbor boasts not one but TWO Whole Foods, at least three other natural foods stores, and the culinary juggernaut that is Zingerman's. Zingerman's "Community of Businesses" includes a world-renowned deli (read: cheese counter!!), bakery, creamery, and restaurants, among many others. Just like a great university, a great cheesemonger draws other ambitious food purveyors - an artisanal salmon smokehouse, a hot sauce maker, a tortilla factory, and of course lots of great breweries.

What this food paradise means for me is plenty of selection of great food, easy access to real farm eggs, lots of temptation for expensive fancy cheeses and cured meats, and a very discerning clientele. When I got my serving job at a local brunch institution with an emphasis on local, natural, and organic ingredients, I thought it was a great fit. Then the training started. That commitment to quality also extends to the waitstaff, who are expected to know the ingredients of all 100+ items on the menu, but also the provenance of all of the meat and other specialty items. Needless to say, the training was more intense - and more regimented - than for any other job I've ever had. Tests following every training shift on restaurant policy, salad ingredients, crepe garnishes, etc., led up to a massive test on the entire menu I had to pass before I could take tables by myself.

For all its culinary pleasures, Ann Arbor might be both the best and the worst place to be a server at a popular, upscale restaurant. Over and over again in our training, we are reminded that the customers at "Resto X" (name protected for no real reason that I can explain) are very discerning, and we need to know where we source the many special and artisan products on the menu. Notwithstanding the specialized menu, 2014 is already not the best time to be in food service - not only is gluten on the tip of the national tongue, but more and more people are reading trend pieces about farmed versus wild-caught salmon, nitrates in cured meats, and why your greens have to be organic. With the exception of the national gluten scourge (a topic for another day), I love that Americans are getting more interested in where their food comes from and how it's grown/raised. I think more people need to ask whether their beef has been injected with hormones, their corn is GMO, or their arugula is carrying pesticides, but while that might make it a better time to be a sustainable farmer, it does not make a server's job much easier. Now, not only do I have to memorize the hundred items on the menu, but I need to know which items have panko breadcrumbs mixed in and that no, we don't have a separate gluten-free fryer, but I also have to figure out whether each particular customer is a severe celiac (yes, I acknowledge there is such a thing) or just an avid follower of television doctors or supermarket tabloids.

Here in Ann Arbor, there's a bit more than the casual Dr. Oz watcher to contend with: the average consumer is not your average consumer. Sure, there are plenty of sorority girls who come looking for a good egg white omelette or a nice fluffy waffle, but there are many more Ann Arborites who want the cupping notes on the different single-source French press options. Serving a "foodie" is not necessarily worse than serving a civilian, but it certainly requires a bit more skill, either in sheer knowledge or in bullshitting agility, both of which I happen to possess when it comes to food. So during my brief stint here in this liberal culinary oasis, serving foodies may be my purgatory, but the attendant gastronomic pleasures just might make up for it.

Young Farmers Conference 2013

Last week found me in Tarrytown, NY for the Young Farmers Conference, an annual event for young and beginning farmers held at the Stone Barns Center, home of the famed Blue Hill restaurant. Because of the limitations of the facility, they have to restrict how many people come, so unlike MOSES last year with 3,000 participants, Stone Barns was at capacity with about 300. That means every year people get turned away from their lottery-based sign-ups and those who make it are super excited to be there. Instead of doing a full play-by-play of the whole event, I'm just going make a few lists here before posting some pictures. The whole 3 days was filled with new ideas, both from the workshops and presenters and from conversations with other participants. No doubt I'll be referring back to things that I encountered at YFC in future blog posts!

Workshops I Attended:

  • Sustainable Hog Production (full day seminar)
  • Why Every Farm Should Have a Sugaring Operation
  • Agroforestry
  • Beekeeping for Beginners
  • Electric Fencing
  • Welding
  • Whole Animal Butchery

With the exception of the full-day seminar, these workshops were each an hour and a half, which was time enough for an introduction to the topic, some specifics and Q&As, and a nudge in the right direction for more resources and information.

Speakers and Full-Conference Events:

  • Staged reading of the verbatim play "Farmscape" and Q&A with playwright
  • Krysta Harden, USDA Deputy Secretary
  • Wendell Berry in conversation with daughter Mary Berry
  • Chellie Pingree, congresswoman and farmer from Maine
  • Kathleen Merrigan, former USDA Deputy Secretary and person behind the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative
  • Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill
  • Cheryl Rogowski, amazing, socially-conscious farmer and MacArthur genius
  • Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, groundbreaking NY farmers
  • Social hour, barn dance, and lots of meal-time conversation over really good food

Fun facts, tidbits, things to think about from the conference:

  • From Tom Frantzen: while we may not agree with the methods used by industrial agriculture, we need to recognize that when it comes to efficiency and profitability, they do everything for a reason. When we prioritize humane treatment, quality of life and sustainability, we inherently make compromises in other areas. This is one of the "brutal facts" that we need to confront.
  • Pigs can be used to eradicate invasive species like multiflora rose!
  • The Practical Farmers of Iowa are doing amazing things and I need to spend a few days poking around that website.
  • You need to boil 40 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of maple syrup, which means that syrups is one of those crops that really needs a certain scale to be efficient. Small-scale aggregators who drive around buying raw sap from farmers and boiling it down using super-energy efficient burners is a solution to this problem.
  • Lacking this infrastructure, plain maple sap can also be a marketable commodity! Think of the popularity of coconut water and of local food - these combine perfectly in maple sap, which can be guzzled outright or used to brew coffee, make soda, cook, etc. Think of the possibilities!
  • To be considered Agroforestry, there need to be three levels of production. For example - canopy (trees/lumber/fruit), forages (grasses and legumes), animals (pigs, cows, bees, etc.)
  • A 1% increase in organic matter in topsoil sequesters an additional 10 tons of carbon per acre.
  • You can use a close-planted stand of evergreens like an overgrown/abandoned Christmas tree farm for an "outdoor living barn" to shelter cold-hardy cattle like Scottish Highlands during the winter.
  • Nurse bees, who take care of the eggs and larvae in the hive, are the youngest of worker bees and don't yet have stingers.
  • On each flight, a bee will keep collecting pollen from the same species as the first flower it encounters.
  • The pesticides that are thought to be a possible cause of colony collapse are fat soluble and may be stored in the wax (fat) in beehives, so using a method where the bees rebuild their wax from scratch every year, like top bar hives, might be effective in slowing the demise of the honeybee.
  • An electric fence is only as strong as its ground, which should be much bigger than you would think. The point is to be enough conductive metal in the ground to attract the current going through an animals nose and to the ground through its hooves to complete a circuit, which is what actually makes the shock.
  • You should always recharge deep-cycle batteries before they drop below 40% of their charge for maximum utility.
  • Never buy a used welder from a welding shop - they use them all day every day! Buy from a place where it gets more gentle/occasional use.
  • Having even a small welder means easy on-farm repairs and fabrication for tractors, greenhouses, etc!
  • Coppa is an alternative to prosciutto that still has beautiful marbling but due to its size only take a few months as opposed to over a year for a whole ham.
  • Finally, according to Wendell Berry, our generation will always be living on the "margins of a bad economy," which means that we're going to have to "learn to use the things that other people have given up on - including maybe land."

I'm off to the airport for a holiday visit to family in Argentina! More in the new year!



Farm Week: November 11-15, 2013

This was the last week of the season here at Chubby Bunny, which was certainly a bit bittersweet. On the one hand, I can't imagine another week of frozen hoses and frosty harvests. On the other hand, I'll really miss the people here and living and working in such a beautiful place. This week, besides dealing with the aforementioned frozen hoses during frosty harvests, we mulched the garlic and did some general clean-up around the farm. Besides that, there were many people to spend a last few hours with, and lots of general "last times." The other three apprentices will all be back next season, so the goodbyes for them are only temporary. I'm sure I'll be back to visit soon, but it's not the same as knowing I'll be back in April.

Leaving is certainly hard, but I'm looking forward to so much this winter that the car is already packed and I'm ready for a thousand-odd mile marathon home. Next weekend, I'll be meeting up with two of my favorite people in my favorite city, Chicago. Then I'll get some quality time with family in another of my favorite places for my favorite holiday - I can't imagine a better place to spend Thanksgiving than southwestern Wisconsin. December brings a very exciting farming conference at Stone Barns, followed by almost three weeks with my grandmother and many many cousins down in Argentina. I'm definitely not the biggest fan of extreme heat or beaches, but after these last few weeks of cold feet and hands a palm tree Christmas doesn't sound all that bad. All in all, the next six weeks bring so much to look forward to that I won't have too much time to spend missing this place - yet.

Thinking about: transitions, efficient packing, westward ho!

Reading: nothing!!

Eating: goodbye dinners, cowboy steak and corn pudding, shepherd's pie, sweetest spinach, the last of the eggs


Farm Week: November 4-8, 2013

The season continues to wind down here on the farm, and though it will be hard to leave here after next week, the cold cold mornings are making it that much easier to say goodbye to trailer life and
frozen fingers and toes. We've gotten a fair number of frosts already, so we're just harvesting the very heartiest of roots and greens still. We've gotten all of our cover crop seed in the ground, tilling under crop residue and broadcasting a mix of rye and vetch. We did our last chicken slaughter on Friday, and it started snowing midway through the process! Thankfully, we were able to move the evisceration station into the half-emptied tomato greenhouse, which was warmer and protected from the very gusty wind.

This weekend also brought some last-minute visitors to the neighborhood. Four of my six blockmates (roommates) from Eliot came up to spend what amounted to about 24 hours at Katherine's parents' house in Canaan. We had a great visit, catching up on over three years of adventures since graduation. I was able to do my favorite thing, which is cook food for people I love, made even more special by the fact that I also helped grow the very food I was cooking. I sent them all home Sunday afternoon with bags of leftovers, jars of stock, and bellies full of chicken noodle soup. Sunday morning, they came to the farm to see what I've been doing for the past seven months, and to try their hands at milking Patches. Zach, Nina, and Allison both had a ball milking and giving Patches some love, and Katherine was entertained enough just watching and snapping photos. We all decided that three years is much too long to wait for another reunion!

Thinking about: long drives, soup weather, old and new friends

Reading: Mostly NYT Monday Crossword puzzles, but also Wes Jackson's New Roots for Agriculture, John Cheever's Oh What a Paradise it Seems

Eating: roast chicken with carrot and radish salad, roasted delicata squash, sauteed kale and garlic, and roasted beets and celeriac, chicken noodle soup

Farm Week: October 7-11, 2013

Things are winding down a bit here at Chubby Bunny. We still have a few weeks left of CSA deliveries and pickups, but other than our normal harvests and deliveries we are starting to get to those "when we have time" types of jobs. This week we seeded a rye and vetch mix on the open parts of the field, around the crops we're still harvesting and even over some of the crops that will be in place through the winter. We hand broadcasted the seed, then used a shallow chisel plough to incorporate the seed on the empty fields. The mornings have been cold and foggy, but there have been a few days of beautiful weather, and the fall colors are hanging on for a little longer. We had our penultimate CRAFT visit this week, to a 400-acre farm further south in Connecticut that sells pick-your-own berries, pumpkins, Christmas trees, and wine. It was a lovely farm, and the pumpkin season was in full swing. You can tell that they really know what their customers are looking for in a farm experience. The current farmers are the fifth and sixth generation on the land, and they've really done quite a bit to keep the farm relevant and financially successful. Even when you don't go into one of these visits very interested in that particular farm's specialties, you still end up being able to learn quite a bit.    

The big news this week was a visit from Maija, a good friend since high school. She's the first person from the "outside world" to come see me on the farm, and it was really fun to bring her around to see some of our local haunts. She worked with us on the farm for a few days, and her friend John, who has been farming up in Maine for the last few months, came down to join in the fun. Besides the show and tell aspect of having visitors, it was also nice to have an appreciative audience to cook for. As much as I enjoy cooking for myself and the occasional potluck, I really love cooking for other people, and it was nice to have hungry mouths to feed. Maija is leaving shortly for a yearlong stint in Melbourne, Australia, so it was nice to be able to spend some time together in person before she moves halfway around the world with two other of our friends from high school. I can't wait to hear all about their adventures!

Thinking about: old friends, new paths, holey wool socks

Reading: Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, another mystery novel, Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness

Eating: beet tzatziki with homemade yogurt and mint; roasted garam masala delicata squash, carmelized fennel with kale and cumin pork patties; spinach, pepper, onion and cheddar fritatta; the first delicious taste of our milk- and grass-fed Jersey bull

Farm Week: July 29 - August 2, 2013

I traveled quite a bit this week! I spent a delightful weekend visiting my friend Bianca at her parent's house  outside of Syracuse, NY. Besides seeing where she grew up and visiting some delightful little towns in the area, it was nice to be in a home and take a real shower. I got back Sunday night super refreshed and ready for another week of work.

Besides crossing state lines this week, we've crossed some calendar lines as well - August seems to have snuck up on us somehow! July somehow felt like it was still early in the season, but August seems to fall on the other end. Summer is winding down. The weather this week even seemed to tip a bit in an autumnal direction. The nights are getting cooler, and the daily dip in the stream isn't as eagerly awaited. We're only about halfway done growing vegetables, however, and the work continued this week in the fields. Besides our usual harvests, we're steadily uncovering more of our weedy crops, sometimes just in the nick of time, it seems. Our celeriac is saved, and the weeds are slowly dying in the wheeltrakcks. Where on Monday there was allegedly kale and chard, by Friday was a rainforest of leafy greens once again. Our backs might be sore from that battle, but we'll be very glad on Monday when we start the harvest cycle anew.

Thinking about: bellwethers, predators, free/cheap book addiction

Reading: Herbert Jacob's Practical Guide for Beginning Farmers (1951), Michael Pollan's Cooked, Fireside Feasts and Snow Day Treats (can't resist a cookbook)

Eating: delicious leftover homemade Indian food, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, new potato pancakes, wilted chard and eggs