Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

The Daily Show is one of the programs that I have set up on my dvr to tape anytime a new show is on.  I love Jon Stewart's brilliant wit and the cast of characters on his show are all amazing.  I also like the fact that though it's fairly obvious that he's a liberal, he criticizes both the right and the left,  not to mention the teabaggers. He doesn't give anyone a free ride just because they might share similar political ideologies.  And his show is not always about politics.  The physicist, Michio Kaku, is a frequent guest that I enjoy seeing.

So, when Jon announced the Rally to Restore Sanity, I started racking my brain trying to figure out how to get to Washington DC for the big event.  A few nights later, Arianna Huffington was on the show to promote her new book and announced that she would provide bus transportation from NYC to the rally.  Yay!  The next morning, her website had instructions which I sent to friends that I knew were interested in attending.  I thought I was signed up, but didn't realize until a couple of days later that I had not received the confirmation.  The Huffington Post had given a deadline of Friday without a time and most people had assumed that meant end of day Friday, but they closed the registration at 9 am. Oy!  My friend, Emily, is an attorney and sent them an email complaining and they responded allowing her to register so she added me as her guest.  Yay, Emily!!!!

Friday afternoon, Farah and I discussed what we would bring with us on the trip (foodies that we are).  So, when I got home Friday night, I went to the supermarket to get things that would be good without having to stay too cold.  I bought smoked salmon, cream cheese (chive and onion) and asparagus, crackers, sugar snap peas and a big bottle of water.  I packed my little cooler with paper towels, knives to spread the cream cheese and made sure I had the ice packs in the freezer.  I steamed the asparagus and put it in an olive oil and balamic vinegar marinade in a little plastic container that fits perfectly in my cooler.  Then I put everything in a plastic bag in the fridge so that in the morning, all I had to do was pull out the bag and pack my cooler very quickly. I also called my dogwalker to walk Yufi on Saturday morning and made arrangements with my friend Carol down the street to walk and feed Yufi Saturday evening as I didn't think we would be home until late.  Lastly, I made arrangements for a car to pick me up at 4:45 am (yikes!).

When I went to bed Friday night it was like Christmas eve when I was kid:  difficult to get to sleep because I was so excited and thinking about the next day.  We met up at CitiField at 5 am as the buses were scheduled to leave at 6 am. The line stretched halfway around the stadium and then back again. Emily is a frequent concert-goer and has become adept at finding the best way to get in to events.  She found an entrance area that no one else seemed to know about and we were able to get almost to the front of the line and were some of the first to board one of the 200 buses. Thank goodness, because it was freezing!

The wristband we received for the bus.

We arrived in DC at about 10:30 and had to get from RFK stadium to the National Mall. This part was a bit confusing and disorganized, but we found the Metro, bought tickets and made our way to the Mall. It was a gorgeous day - sunny and cool - perfect for an outdoor rally! There were a lot of great signs and placards  and as we got closer to the Mall, it became more and more difficult to make headway through the crowds. By the time (noon) we finally got to the center part of the Mall, it was almost impossible to move. I had brought a sand chair and ditched it because it was just impossible to carry through the crowds. People were standing on lampposts and sitting on top of the port-a-potties and many had climbed trees. It was an incredible and inspiring spectacle. John Legend was playing when we first got there, but we couldn't even see the jumbotrons at that point.

The port-a-potties offered a good vantage point
We made our way to the left side of the Mall and got to within 200 yds of the stage. Sometimes it was hard to hear, so I'm very grateful that Comedy Central posted clips from the rally so that I could hear what we missed. I remarked to my friends that the crowd really represented a cross section of America (even our group - one friend is Jewish, one friend and her mom are Muslim and my friend's husband and I are the token WASPs). The crowd was mostly respectful of each other and everyone was having a good time. We had several reasons for going: (1) we're fans of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (2) we felt that we were making a statement simply by being there: it really is time to restore sanity in our country. The fringe right and fringe left have very loud voices and get all of the media's attention. I think think (or hope) that the majority of people are a lot more moderate in their views. While I identify myself as a liberal politically, I have some views that liberals would think are very conservative. (for instance, I despise the ACLU, I think they have become too radicalized). Though Jon Stewart is personally a liberal (I think) he gives a pretty good unbiased view of politics. He is an equal opportunity offender and goes after everyone - Republicans, Democrats, teapartiers, etc. - and treats them all fairly and with respect.

My favorite part was the Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) rendition of Peace Train, interrupted by Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train and then completed by the O'Jays Love Train.

We missed Jon Stewart's closing words because we got separated from my friend's husband (he is a bit absent minded and is known to wander at events like these) and we were searching frantically for him. Cell phones didn't work until we got pretty far from the stage (there was signal, but the calls/texts didn't connect), so we missed that.  Here's the text:

“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies. 

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic. 

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema. 

And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here [Washington] or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it--impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make. 

Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers. 

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst. 

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted. 

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."

I like that word "conflictinator."  Jon explained on the Rachel Maddow show that the term comes from the cartoon, Phineas and Ferb, that his children like to watch.

Anyway, we got back to the buses around 4 pm and since we hadn't eaten since breakfast on the bus, we were all starving and maybe a bit cranky. We had brought food and had an impromptu picnic on the bus and napped on the way back to NYC.

It was a great day!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm

I arrived at the farm early after a bike ride that took me about an hour and 45 minutes.  I had to stop several times to (a) catch my breath and (b) look at the street map to see how much further it was to the turnoff.  The ride there was actually not bad though the area around the Queens/Brooklyn border was very industrial and rather nasty.

Several of my friends were supposed to meet me there.  Sherita sent me a text saying she couldn’t make it because she had been out too late the night before.  Dory had been planning to take the G Train which was not running so she had gotten her bike out and discovered it had a flat tire that she was unable to reinflate.  Oh well, they didn’t really miss much, so I was almost glad that they didn’t come as I would have felt badly.

Farah and her husband, John, came out and we walked around on the roof.  The farm is on top of the roof of a building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and has an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline.   There are actually three different roofs: one that does not seem to be in use at this time that leads to the stairs to the other two roofs.  It was obvious that we were there at a time that is between crops.  They had harvested a lot of their veggies and had just planted seeds in probably 2/3 of the space.  Also, we had a very bad hailstorm that had ruined their new seedlings, so they were basically starting from scratch. There are only 15 rows (each being about 30’ long) as well as a bed of herbs and a very small chicken pen with four chickens. They had several rows of peppers that they were still harvesting, a row of mustard greens, a couple of rows of radishes, a partial row of carrots, a couple of rows of eggplants and the rest was just starting to sprout.  The farm has CSA members according to their literature and they have a small store.  Sherita told me that they sell their eggs for 50 cents each (!). The store didn't have too much on hand when I was there: a few handfuls of mustard greens, a small basket of peppers and a selection of their herbs.  Their herb garden was actually the best part. They had tarragon, sage, parsley, thyme, two types of basil and dill.

There were quite a few people there visiting and Rockaway Tacos was serving both fish and tofu tacos, but we were not so interested in eating just then.  The weather was quite fine – sunny with a hint of coolness – so we hung out on the roof chatting for about an hour about the documentary I had seen on the previous Friday night.

So, although the rooftop farm itself was a bit disappointing, it was nice to hang out with Farah and John for a few hours.

2012: Time for Change

Sherita and I had made plans to meet up during the week after she left the farm.  She was planning to go to Texas to help her mom out for a while, but knew that she wanted to spend a couple of weeks in NYC prior to leaving.  She sent me a text to see if I had any ideas/suggestions (of course I did!), but I wanted to see what she had in mind.  She suggested seeing this documentary, 2012 Time for Change, and I am very glad that she did.  She got the tickets and I told her I would treat her to a bite to eat beforehand.

We went to Pipa, one of my favorite restaurants in NYC.  Pipa is a tapas bar connected to ABC Home and is eclectically decorated with a number of chandeliers and mirrors.  I have celebrated my birthday there, gone there to celebrate the end of a Trend Seminar, spent many happy hours there eating and drinking with various friends.  Sherita is on a gluten-free diet (allergies), so I knew that they had plenty of options for her. I suggested their calamari as it is quite different from the calamari usually served at restaurants (it is coated in honey and is very spicy). Unfortunately, I forgot that it's breaded so Sherita could only have a few bites.  Besides the calamari, we ordered cheese, asparagus, skewered hangar steak (for Sherita) and a couple of glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon to wash it all down. Yum!  On to the movie.

Earlier in the day, I went on moviefone to see if there was anything about the movie.  Nothing more than where it was playing (only one place in the city?) and the showtimes.  Okay.  Then, I went on imdb to see if there was anything there.  Here's the description: "the film follows journalist Daniel Pinchbeck on a quest for a new paradigm that integrates the archaic wisdom of tribal cultures with the scientific method."  Hmm, that sounds a little pretentious!  On the postcards handed out at the movie, there's a description that is actually much better:  "we can redesign post-industrial society on ecological principles to make a world that works for all."  Now that makes sense!

The documentary is fairly ambitious and wide ranging for being only 89 minutes long.  The journalist being followed is Daniel Pinchbeck, author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. I haven't read the book, but apparently it's not about the doomsday scenario that you can read about all over the Internet. It's more about the idea that 2012 is a time for a new era or a new beginning for humankind. Here's his bio from amazon:

I grew up in the New York counterculture of the 1970s and '80s. My father, Peter Pinchbeck, was an abstract painter, and my mother, Joyce Johnson, is a writer who participated in the Beat Generation. She was dating Jack Kerouac when On the Road hit the bestseller lists in 1957 (chronicled in her book, Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir). As a journalist, I have written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, etcetera. I am currently the editorial director of the Evolver Project (www.evolver.net).

The film starts out talking a bit about the use of psychedelics used to access a higher consciousness.  It almost makes me want to try mushrooms! Recent studies have shown that there seems to be something to the idea of a universal consciousness.  So, those of you that pooh pooh the claims of the book, The Secret, should maybe think twice about that.  Oprah has even participated in some experiments in this on her show.  If you google the term "universal consciousness," 608,000 entries come up.  Holy moly! Authors from Deepak Copra to Dan Brown have explored this subject and it's something that has interested me for a long time.  Well, if I end up trying mushrooms, you can bet that I will write about it on here.

The filmmakers interview several people about Buckminster Fuller, who I vaguely remember hearing about in the past.  He's the inventor of the geodesic dome (among many other things) and was a prolific writer as well. Wikipedia credits him with popularizing the term "spaceship Earth."  The film explores several of his inventions but the geodesic dome is the most important.  Many people think that the current environmental movement started in the late 60s, but maybe "Bucky," as he was known to friends, gave it a kick start when he invented the domes in the 50s.

I had just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma a couple of days before the movie.  The last section of the book is about a meal that has been foraged by the author (almost completely), part of which is mushrooms.  I have always loved to eat mushrooms of every kind, but never really knew much about them.  The book was an eye-opener about how they grow and what they actually do for the environment.  So, it was interesting that the movie goes into mushrooms in depth too - and not just about making psychoactive teas from them either.  

Did you know that mushrooms, combined with hemp or hair mats can naturally process petrochemicals and other toxins to make them clean?  Heaven only knows why this process wasn't used during the gulf oil spill.

Another topic covered by the film is sewage treatment. Who knew?  I think that the film's Brazilian director, Joao Amorim, has a sewage treatment project  in Brazil.  In looking for information about Joao, I discovered that there was some kind of retreat in Brazil and if I had known about it in advance, I would have been there for sure!

Another idea I found interesting was bartering your time with others (the film delves into the world currency situation a bit).  Check out this site:  http://timeinterchange.wordpress.com/ 

If you're interested in more information, check out the following related links:




Ciclo Sustainable & Kiahkeya present

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Urban Foraging with "Wildman" Steve Brill

Prior to leaving for the farm, I had made plans with my friend, Farah, to join her and her husband, John, on an urban foraging adventure in Central Park.

I had first read about Steve Brill in Cathy Erway's book, "The Art of Eating In" and was interested in finding out more about urban foraging.  Steve Brill is America's self-proclaimed best-known forager. He has published a few books and takes groups on urban foraging tours in Manhattan's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, Queen's Forest Park (my neighborhood!), Stone Barns in Westchester - actually a surprising number of locations in NJ, NY, CT, and PA.  He is quite the character and you can learn more about him here:  http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/ 
Farah and John had gone the previous weekend on his Stone Barns tour and had very much enjoyed it. 

What is urban foraging? you ask.  It's going into a public space like Central Park, and being able to identify what may look like weeds but is actually edible.  Personally, I'm not sure that one could survive on what we found growing wild in the park, but I guess that in dire circumstances, it would suffice.
Anyway, you make your reservation on line and there are instructions for what you need to bring with you - little of which I actually ended up using.  I took with me a big bottle of water (I did actually use this), my camera, a notebook and pencil, gardening gloves, some bags with which I could take samples home (I didn't), and a harvesting knife.  Farah and I made our plans on Friday to meet up near her place at 11:00.  As usual, the subway was a mess (typical weekend track work), so we decided to take a cab uptown to the Upper West Side.  There was a group of about 20 or so people and we were almost the last people to get there.  Our tour was through Central Park's Ramble, which is at the most northern edge of the park.

Steve started off, with all of us following him rather like ducklings and the first stop was at a patch of Common Mallow.  At each stop, he talks about the particular plant, what it's uses are, what it looks like and passes some around for everyone to taste.  (Farah warned me that John had tried a little bit too much the previous weekend and ended up with some unpleasant stomach issues, so I tried very small amounts.)  Anyway, Common Mallow has a small fruit that looks like a miniature wheel of cheese.  The leaves are edible too and can be put in soups and salads or used to make a tea to soothe the digestive system.

Here's a list of what we looked at prior to breaking for lunch (all are edible except where noted):
Yellow Watercress  - a type of mustard.  Greens from the mustard family are anti-cancer agents.
Poor Man's Pepper - very spicy, but tasty leaves. I think this was my favorite of the day.
Sow Thistle - looks like a dandelion but has a milky sap.  Steve noted that Dandelion Wine is actually made from the flowers of the plant. 
Star of Bethlehem - looks like field garlic, but is poisonous. The leaves are flat with a white stripe and the root/bulb has no smell.
Wood Sorrel - looks almost like clover but has heart shaped leaves.
Epazote - this grows wild in Central Park, but you can buy it at the greenmarket. The leaves are narrow and toothed (or serrated).  You can use like parsley in beans and guacamole and it's often used in Mexican dishes.  It also helps to keep intestinal parasites at bay.
Juneberry Tree
Lamb's Quarters
Chickweed - tastes like corn and is filled with vitamins.

Poor Man's Pepper - actual size is about 50% of above
At this point, Steve asked if we were ready to break for lunch.  Coincidentally, there was an event in Central Park that day called Raptor Fest, which was happening right where we stopped for lunch. (We had stopped at Pret a Manger on our way to the park and purchased our lunches for later.)  This was perfect as, at this point, we were almost more interested in seeing the birds than continuing on the tour.  They had a wide variety of birds, all of which were gorgeous: Peregrine Falcon, Turkey Vulture, several Hawks and several kinds of Owls (see my favorite below).  They had quite a few of the birds out on leashes in a holding area and several more in transport cages.  They would bring the birds out in front of the grandstands and talk about them and have them fly from one person to another.  Well, unbeknownst to us (at first, anyway) there was a wild hawk circling very high above us, so when they had one of the hawks out, instead of flying to the other person, it flew into a nearby tree.  They raced after it and got it to come back to them and brought out a different bird.  The wild hawk had settled in another tree nearby and was watching the proceedings. When they brought out the next bird, it flew off and didn't come back.  Luckily, they all have radio collars, so about an hour later, we saw some of the park rangers carrying the escaped bird back to the area where they were having the show.  At that point, they actually stopped the show which worked out perfectly for us as it was time to resume our foraging with Steve.

Barn Owl

So, we continued onward with Steve.  Here's a list of what we looked at next:

Wild Plaintain - mash the leaves to relieve the pain of mosquito bites
Foxtail grass - I see this all over my neighborhood.  This plant, when the foxtail has dried, you eat the seeds that are left.
Artemisia - also known as sweet wormwood - can be used to relieve the symptoms of malaria.  The herb, tarragon, is part of the Artemisia family.
Black Nightshade - the berries are sweet.
Black Birch Tree - if you chew on the small twigs, they taste like wintergreen or root beer.  The juice obtained by chewing acts like a low-dose aspirin and is a natural relief for the pain of teething babies.
Chicken Mushroom - so called because the flesh of the mushroom looks like cooked chicken breast.  These must be cooked - they can not be eaten raw. Easily found on and around trees.

Steve Brill with a Chicken Mushroom
Garlic mustard - a very invasive plant, you can eat the smaller leaves, the seeds and the roots are like horseradish.  Best harvested in May and make a great pesto.
Sassafrass - use the roots, boil covered for 20 minutes to make a detox tea
Field Garlic - not to be confused with the Star of Bethlehem (see above)

    Osage Orange - the "fruit" of the tree repels cockroaches 
Prince Mushroom - has pink gills and must be cooked for about 15 minutes.  A good book on mushrooms is "Mushrooms Demystified" by David Arora.
Purslane - commonly found at the base of trees, it has small leaves and is high in iron.  I've seen it often in my neighborhood.
Black Walnut Trees - obviously, the nut can be eaten, but it's inside a fleshy outer skin that is easier to remove when dried.  (You will stain your fingers black while peeling the fruit away from the inner nut.)

That was the last thing we looked at on the tour which ended near the Harlem Meer (a big pond) at the northeastern corner of the park.  We walked back through the Ramble, a little tired, but the surroundings were beautiful.  We decided to stop and have a drink at the Central Park Boathouse and watched the sun go down on a perfect day.

The Garden of Eve - End of the Week

On Friday morning, we started to prepare for the Garlic Festival that would be held at the farm over the weekend.  Everyone worked frantically to prepare everything for the big weekend.  I started the morning in the Garden Center, helping them to put out plants and re-arrange a bit to make sure that everything looked as good as possible.  Then, I got on the riding mower and mowed so that Eve could lay out where the booths for the vendors would be set up.  After lunch, Sean and I set up the tents and tables that the farm would have for their own booths.  Later in the afternoon, Chris, Sean, Ted and I all scooped garlic flavored ice cream. Yes, you heard correctly - GARLIC flavored ice cream.  One was plain garlic and one was garlic with chocolate chips. They came from a local shop called Snow Cone that makes really tasty ice cream, but I don't think I would ever willingly order garlic ice cream. At first taste, it was very creamy, but the aftertaste was not so nice.  The ice cream was frozen solid and all of us had sore hands after scooping for what seemed like hours.  Late in the afternoon, we all helped to load the trucks for the Saturday CSA dropoffs. Despite the Garlic Festival, Jon had the CSA drops and Chris had the Westhampton greenmarket to attend to on Saturday.  I think we were all pretty wiped out by the end of the day Friday.

Saturday was a gorgeous day: sunny and warm, just perfect for an outdoor festival.  I was shocked by how many people showed up.  The town of Riverhead actually sent a cop to direct traffic as it got quite crazy.  There were a wide variety of booths: organic candles and soaps, flavored/infused olive oils, clothes, jewelry, and all kinds of food. The farm's booth displayed ten different kinds of garlic (who knew there were so many?) and Ted was amazingly patient with the customers and their questions.  In addition, there was a "train" and a "bounce house" that we all took a turn jumping in at the end of the day.

Sunday morning, after breakfast, I did a last cleanup of the kitchen and "The Chateau" where I had been staying and then walked over to Briermere, which is about a half-mile up the road.  Briermere is justly famous for its pies and around Thanksgiving, the line of cars to pick up pies stretches down the road.  I wanted to leave a blueberry cream pie for the apprentices as they were all so welcoming and inclusive, I wanted to do something nice for them. And, of course, I couldn't go home without a pie from Briermere!  So, I got an apple pie to take home and was wondering how in the heck I was going to pack up my bike with my bags and other stuff and now a pie to balance on top of everything else somehow without crushing it! 

I stopped back by the farm to say goodbye to everyone and I was really sad to go.  It had been a wonderful adventure and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Garden of Eve - The Work Week, Part 2

Towards the end of the week, the ladies start their morning by cutting flowers and taking them to the processing barn to arrange flowers for the farm's garden center and for the farmstands.  This picture does not do them justice.  The field looks so beautiful in the sun and the flowers are so vibrant!

This will give a little better idea of the vibrant color.

On Wednesday, the morning began with major drama:  the dogs, Milano and Casper, got into a huge fight and had to be physically separated for most of the day.  Jon quickly went to try to get them to stop and then Sean jumped up too to try to separate the dogs.  It was very scary.  My theory is that they were still out of sorts from the thunderstorm the night before, so it didn't take much to set them off.  With their white fur, it was easy to see that they were both bleeding, though surprisingly, it was Caspar that seemed to get the worst of it. (Suprising because she is physically larger than Milano.)

We continued to harvest after the fight, but after a while, I left the field to go back to the farmhouse to make dinner for everyone.  I had been promising Sambar soup, which I had made with the help of my friend, Farah, for my office last fall - to great acclaim.  So, I got to work, chopping....and chopping...and chopping.  Everyone trooped in for dinner and it was a big success.

The next day, Thursday, was pretty much the same.  I hadn't made lunch yet, so I went back to the house and made lunch for everyone: chicken and ham in a cream sauce served over pasta.  I didn't add enough milk, so the sauce was a little too thick but still edible.  Sean is a vegetarian, so I sauteed a bunch of vegetables, kinda like a ratatouille, that also seemed to go over fairly well. Everyone comes in for lunch so hungry that I'm not sure if it matters what you put in front of them.

Thursday night was Farmer's Night Out at a local bar.  Chris drove Sherita and I to this place up the road where we met Jon and his girlfriend, Amanda, along with other farmers from the area:  the couple that owns the chicken farm where Jon works on Sundays and another guy that I think had chickens as well as vegetables.  It was karaoke night and we discovered that Sherita can really belt out a song!  She was incredible and sang a couple of songs: Janis Joplin's "Come On" and 10,000 Maniacs version of  "Because the Night."  Wow!! She was amazing.  It was a fun evening.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Garden of Eve - The Work Week, Part 1

To continue ....

The farm has a few box trucks that they use for deliveries to the greenmarkets and out in the fields to bring the harvested produce back to processing barn.  There is a list each day of what needs to be harvested which I think is determined by what is needed for that week's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) drops and for the greenmarkets and the farmstand. So, for instance, Rafa might say, we need 240 bunches of radishes or 20 bunches per caja (crate) or 12 cajas of radishes.  Each bunch consists of six radishes that are bound by a twist tie. The radishes at the farm are such a luscious shade of pink - almost a magenta - that it immediately made me think of a great lipstick or nail polish. They are not round like what you buy in the supermarket; they are about the size of your thumb only thicker and are white at the top by the greens and then become the deep, beautiful pink color.

So everyone picks their spot along the row and fills up their crate or works with another person to fill up a crate between them.  Once the crates are full, they are loaded onto the box truck and then you move to the next area that needs to be picked and start all over again.  Here's what we picked during week that I was there:  radishes, arugula, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, sungold cherry tomatoes, red plum tomatoes, yellow plum tomatoes, chocolate cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, purple kale, green kale, green beans, purple beans, golden beets, regular beets, soy beans, swiss chard, leeks, dill, mixed greens (mustard greens, baby kale, arugula and three or four other types that I don't recall). The farm also has other crops planted that weren't ready for harvesting yet.

A little bit about the process:  I was a little surprised by how some of the things were harvested but many were things that I have never grown before.  The soybean plants were pulled up root and all. I had never seen soybean plants and was surprised to find that soybeans grow very close to the center stalk of the plant, similar to regular beans. For some reason, I had envisioned them growing under the ground like peanuts.  The leaves of kale were snapped off from the plant and twist tied together in bunches of six.  The baby lettuces were also pulled up by the root and bunched together in a bunch about the diameter of a half dollar. Once they get to the processing barn, the whole caja is put in a tub of water and raised and lowered several times to get the dirt out of the leaves.  Then the cajas go into a huge refrigerated section of the barn (just like in your supermarket) where they are stacked according to where they are going, i.e., CSA, greenmarket, etc.

The days during the week were much the same - get up, rush through breakfast and get out to the fields. Oh, and let's not forget something very important - especially when eating unprocessed bran per my doctor's suggestion:  the morning trip to the toilet.  Because it seemed that we started at the furthest reaches of the farm and worked our way back in during the day, this was a crucial thing to do prior to leaving for the fields.  There is no toilet or porta-potty except at the processing barn which seems to be about 1/2 mile from the far end of the farm.

The first morning, I was hurrying as everyone had gotten up before me, and as we got out to the fields, someone asked me "do you have your harvesting knife?" Harvesting knife? What's that? Eve told me all I needed was some closed-toe shoes and maybe some gardening gloves.  Sherita offered to loan me hers but it was all the way back at the farmhouse.  Well, that was ok with me because guess what? I had to go to the bathroom. This was my first morning and I hadn't quite figured out that crucial stop yet.

I was awakened at 12:30 am on Monday night/Tuesday morning by headlights shining in my window.  Who in the heck is here at this hour, I wondered?  Well, the next morning, I found out that the boiler was fixed and we had hot water - all due to that middle of the night visitor. Yay!

The next morning, Tuesday, I got up a little later than the apprentices because I was stiff and sore from the hard work and also because of the inability (still) to take a hot shower. I headed out to the field and realized that I had left the harvesting knife back at the farmhouse so went back to get it. On my way back out to the field, I took the opportunity to use the bathroom one last time and stopped at the porta-potty.  Everyone else was out picking tomatoes so I joined them in rows where the tomato vines came up almost waist high. The tomatoes are so beautiful that I wanted to take a photo with my cell phone camera and at that point, realized that I didn't have it with me.  I knew that I had it when I left the farmhouse, so the only place it could be was in the porta-potty.  Well, not in the porta-potty, but I figured it must have fallen out of my pocket onto the floor of the porta-potty. No big deal - I would get it when we went back in for lunch in a few hours.

 About 30 minutes later, Farmer Chris (as the apprentices called the owner, Chris, to distinguish him from the apprentice, Chris) came out and asked me if I had lost my phone. I said, yes, how did you know? He had found it in the porta-potty and had called the people that I had last called to find out who the phone belonged to.  He said, "I think you'd better call your mom because she sounded a little worried."  So, I called my mom and asked why she was worried. She said "how would you feel if some strange man called from your daughter's phone asking if you knew who the phone belonged to?"  My mom is blind, so her phone is set up to announce the caller's name, so needless to say, when she heard a guy's voice instead of mine, she was a little disturbed. Chris explained that he was the owner of a farm and told her where he had found my phone, so she relaxed a bit.  She told me that I'd better call my sister because apparently, Chris had called my sister first who then called my mom and tried to convince her to call the police to find out about my whereabouts.  Fortunately, mom convinced her to hold off on that.  Mom suggested that in the future, I let her know the name and phone number of the place I'm going to be - just in case. Huh? Just in case of what, exactly?

Tuesday night we were invited to dinner at Eve's and Chris's.  I had been warned by the apprentices not to expect much.  (Eve, if you ever read this, I'm sorry if this next bit hurts your feelings, but sometimes, the truth hurts.)  Sherita, Sean, Chris and I all piled into Chris's car and we drove over.  Ted was meeting us there as it was just a short walk from his yurt. Jon would not be joining us because he was off on farm business somewhere else (yeah, sure!). Farmer Chris had made guacamole so we started off with the guacamole and chips while we were waiting for Eve to finish cooking. (I realized later that I really should have offered to help her - as I usually would have) We sat around the table and chatted and Forrest, Eve and Chris's son, sat down in Chris's lap and made himself comfortable.  Then, Eve served the next course which she explained was broccoli rabe/leek soup which she had made based on a recipe for lentil/leek soup. She had not made enough for all of us, so I offered to share a bowl with Sherita. Broccoli rabe is one of the few vegetables that I do not care for, so I wasn't so interested in the soup. However, I'm always willing to give new things a try, so Sherita and I both dipped our spoons in at the same time and made identical faces of dismay at the taste. It was so bitter and awful, that we just pushed our bowl away and didn't eat anymore.  The guys were made of sterner stuff and all finished theirs - despite Forrest's hilarious statement that the soup was terrible.  Then Eve served the next course which consisted of turkey chili and sweet potato fries. Again, there really wasn't enough for everybody, but at least the sweet potato fries were really delicious. I had thought that the apprentices must be exaggerating - surely Eve's cooking couldn't be as bad as they had made it out to be - but unfortuantely, it was. Oy!

The one interesting thing we talked about at dinner was the farm dogs: Casper and Milano.  They are Maremmas - bred to guard sheep in Italy - and were just gorgeous. They look very much like Golden Retrievers, but are a bit leaner and are almost white.  I was very interested in how they had discovered the breed and learning more about them so we talked about them for quite a while.  Apparently, they do not take very well to training as they are independent and bred to figure things out for themselves.  They are very smart and stay out in the fields all night - to protect the chickens and to keep deer and other pests out of the fields.  Apparently, there had been several massacres of the chickens which is ultimately why Chris and Eve decided to get the dogs. The dogs are very affectionate with people, but don't let this fool you - they are serious killers.  Other pets are not safe with them and they have pretty much exterminated the rabbits and other rodents on the farm.


That's it for now....I'll try to finish up the week in the next post.