In this season of fall and thankfulness I read an article by Umberto Pasti, a writer and horticulturist. I love it, all of it. I’m basically going to just put chunks of quotes from that article here because he says everything. There’s more in the full piece (http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/02/umberto-pasti-gardening-advice/), but here are my favorite bits.
He says, “To rebuild a little chunk of the flowering earth: This should be every gardener’s goal. You must begin with a light heart and open eyes — as one does when entering a forest — while keeping in mind, at the same time, how tortuous and tiring is the path that lies before you. To become a gardener means to try, to fail, to stubbornly plug away at something, to endure serious disappointments and small triumphs that encourage you to try and fail again. But it means, above all, perking up your ears, sniffing, identifying the rhythm and the secret voice of a place, so that you may abandon yourself to and indulge it. To make a garden is to surrender so completely that you forget yourself. It is to obey.
Only after you have really looked should you begin. Do it with honesty. Plant what you really like — what the happy child inside you, not the doubtful adolescent into whom life has transformed you, likes.
Making a garden is not a task or an action whose goal is the creation of a garden. It’s a condition, a form of being. Your garden is you, as you make it, draw it, think it. This is why the errors are important: not only because it is thanks to them that you learn what not to do, but because in them you express something profoundly yours, your identity.
Listening to your garden, abandoning yourself to its voice, means abandoning yourself to the wildest, most secret voice inside yourself.
Meet the gardener who is within you: Befriend him. For gardeners, paradise doesn’t exist elsewhere; it is here. It’s called the world, and the place from where it springs goes by the name of reality. You, too, come in, with the force of your hands and the power of your imagination, breaking your arms and your back, fantasizing. This garden will reconcile you to the idea of death: The light of this outrage will illuminate the mystery of your life. Nature rewards the bold.”
Yeah! What he said. Thanks for everything,
When I was a kid, and thought about how I wanted my body to be treated when I died, I didn’t like any of the options. It really freaked me out to think about “the worms go in and the worms go out, they eat your brain and spit it out”. I didn’t like the idea of being burned up, either. It would smell bad, and I felt like I would disappear at the end, too quickly. What I really wanted was to be preserved perfectly and shut up in a glass case like sleeping beauty.
I’m telling you this because although I got over that particular childhood fantasy, thoughts of decomposition and death still freak me out sometimes. A friend of mine from college is working on this idea called the Urban Death Project, which is a giant composter that would become the new way that we deal with our human remains. It would bring ritual and the full circle of life back into modern death management. The first time she told me about it I thought it was cool, conceptually, but I also thought it was a little “out there” to advocate for such a radically different way of dealing with death, and to question our current practices around such a taboo subject so brazenly.
What’s really crazy, though, is how removed we are from decomposition in modern life. Our trash gets carted away when it starts getting stinky. Baby poop goes in a plastic diaper which is then encased in a plastic diaper genie bag and carted away once a week. We pounce upon any kind of germ or poop or dirt and clean and disinfect it — there is a big taboo on dirt and poop. When I was a kid and had fully integrated the western concept that all poop is dirty and dirt is bad, I would never have dreamed of eating something that had been anywhere near any kind of poop.
With farming, though, you start closing that loop. Truck loads of stable bedding arrive at the farm and we all jump on the truck and rake it into a pile. We can’t really imagine having a farm without it and there is nothing weird about getting up close and personal with it. You start thinking of poop as a prerequisite for growing food. It starts to feel like a special form of craziness to take animals away from the fields and put them in factory farms, making it so incredibly difficult to reclaim that poop and put it back on the crops where it belongs.
Poop is a part of food, just like death is a part of living. Bugs (another taboo) are a big part of what turns dead things and poop and other yard and food waste back into something usable — compost. This intimacy with decomposition has been illuminating and demystifying. I don’t even necessarily think of decomposition as gross anymore, or as horror movie fodder. It just is, and it’s kind of cool, and the end products of it — compost, or other soil amendments — have their own beauty, which gives the process itself a certain elegance. Compost, stable bedding, and worm castings even smell good, and I’ve seen firsthand how they can make plants green and vibrant and healthy, and how they retain water that would otherwise run off, and that makes them even more beautiful to me. There becomes no good or bad process, only good or bad management of it and good management is always beautiful and virtuous.
We’ve been having some problems with losing quail lately. We inherited some that were in bad shape and recently we’ve been finding dead ones every now and again. So, the other day I buried one underneath a fig tree. As I was laying it in its grave I thought about all the bugs that were going to decompose it, and all the nutrients it would give to the fig tree. And suddenly the idea of dying, of turning into compost, of that whole process happening to myself one day, felt completely not gross and a lot less scary. Even thinking of other people dying felt less scary, and more natural. And it felt really super crazy that I ever wanted to be preserved and put under glass. I mean, what would people do with me? My body would just become clutter. I would much prefer to turn into something useful, something beautiful, like compost, like a plant.
Hello CSA members!
Well another week has passed and the farm is looking more and more beautiful as the winter veggies rise up from the ground. We’ve been busy clearing out the last of the summer vegetables, and we have lots of new plants coming in to be planted in the next week to fill those spaces. The cold night temperatures have killed off or damaged a lot of our tender plants, but so far the damage hasn’t been too bad and we are chugging right along. With all of our interns trained and skilled, work has been swift and easy, and we are enjoying a bit more of a relaxed work schedule. With Thanksgiving coming up, we definitely have a lot to be thankful for, and hope we can give bring the abundance from the Earth for many months and years to come.
As we go deeper into winter, expect to see a lot more leaf and root vegetables in your box. The cold temperatures prefer plants that hug themselves close to the Earth for warmth, so its the leaf and root being that do best. To keep warm, be sure to eat all the roots, they have especially warming qualities and taste excellent baked and in soups/stews. With the greens, get your stir-fry on (especially with the Asian greens) and eat plenty of salad during this salad season.
Keep warm and keep well!
(Please click each item below for a larger photo, description, and preparation instructions.)
NOTE: There are many new items this week and it may take us a bit to update all the new item descriptions. We will update descriptions for unusual items first.
– zuchinno rampicante
– green zucchini
– japanese cucumber
– french breakfast radishes (radish tops are edible too!)
– detroit dark red beet (beet tops are edible too!)
– mixed heirloom eggplant
– hachiya persimmon from a home in Pasadena (make sure to read the instructions for eating these in the description)
– mango from The Growing Home (make sure to read the instructions for eating these in the description)
– sweet limes from The Growing Home (make sure to read the instructions for eating these in the description)
In case your greens are wilted by the time you pickup your box, please follow these instructions:
– Fill a small bowl or tub with 1 to 2 inches of water
– Cut a 1/2 inch of the bottoms of the stems of your leafy greens
– Place greens, with stems down, into the bowl of water
– Leave the greens in the bowl overnight and by morning they should be rehydrated
The best way to store your herbs so that they keep longer is to cut the stems a little and place them in a glass filled with about an inch of water. Cover the leaves loosely with a bag and keep them in the refrigerator. Replace the water inside when it gets cloudy. This works great with basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, and many other herbs.
Please feel free to share your recipes with us and also any storing tips you may have. 🙂
Fall at the Farm
Here in Southern California, we don’t get to experience four clear seasons with vastly different weather. We can get 85 degrees in December while other states are enjoying a white Christmas. But arriving at the farm at 8am every week I finally need a sweater! For those who are CSA members, I’m sure you have noticed a marked change in your produce as well. I noticed on the board today that out of 14 items, only the rampicante, zucchini and cucumbers were items that had been on that list when I started in September. The daikon and cilantro are thriving while the bush beans had so much frost damage they had to be taken out completely. The sweet potato and water spinach plants that had previously been so vigorous and green started dying off and have been replaced with cool season veggies.
By far my favorite vegetable to welcome us into fall has been the amazing kale grown at the farm. I like kale but this variety is delicious and not tough like most kale you buy at the store. Myself and the other interns munch on it while we work it’s that good. And the row of cilantro – wow the smell is heavenly.
Seeing the crop changes at the farm, I’m reminded about how we no longer eat seasonally. “Pumpkin spice” flavored everything is not seasonal eating. I buy the fruit my kids like to eat whether they are in season or not because they are available. But I think that’s the beauty of a CSA box. You are receiving the freshest, seasonally appropriate produce because that is what is growing in the current weather. And it might not be food you would normally buy walking down a grocery store aisle. It makes you think outside the box and explore new recipes. Today, Manju had us try a sweet lime. I’d never heard of such a thing. It’s not a lime at all but I can see where it gets the name. The taste is amazing but you must eat it immediately after cutting it open because once air hits it, it starts to sour. Perhaps that’s why it isn’t sold widely in stores since it doesn’t work that well for cooking or juicing. But at the end of a workday, cutting into one and eating it outside at the farm was a beautiful thing.
Hope to see everyone on Saturday during the tour and member party. Try some of the kale!
This week I’d like to extend an invitation to you…to support Sarvodaya Farm! Of course there are a lot of ways to support Sarvodaya and all are wonderful and appreciated. You could buy a weekly CSA box, which is full (really, really full) of delicious and nutritious food. You could be a member of the Growing Club and you might be one already. You could tell friends, acquaintances, neighbors, grandparents, etc. about the farm and what we’re doing: making a place which to quote this website “creates a healthy ecosystem and habitat, where all beings are provided for and fruits & vegetables grow as a by-product of healthy soil, abundant wildlife, and happy people.”
Or, you could donate to a small grant effort that we’re trying for through an organization called Seed Money. Here’s the link: https://www.seedmoney.org/en/projects/26177-Sarvodaya-Farms
This grant works like a crowd-funding project for the first $400 and then the organization can match that amount, so your contribution would directly effect Sarvodaya’s net gain. With the (hoped for) total of $800 we could build a sweet greenhouse! A structure to start seedlings and grow tropical plants would be an awesome addition to an already awesome place. If monetary donations are not feasible for you right now, please consider sharing the link on your social media outlets. Everything helps!
Thanks in advance,
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about strength. It hadn’t crossed my mind in the three months I’ve been coming to the farm until Manju asked me last week if I felt like I was getting stronger. I do. I hadn’t thought about it, but I am much stronger than I was in September. This past week I yielded a pick axe at the Quaker Meeting House in Claremont where we are removing the grass lawn and planting an orchard in its stead. It was my first time ever plummeting a pick axe into the earth, but it felt damn good. We dug up four inches of compact dirt and rocks to pave the way for a new walkway. Typical to my stubborn nature of “anything you can do I can do also”, it felt good keeping up with Rishi and Tony with what is typically seen as a a “man’s job”.
We have to get rid of all the grass at the orchard by mid December, so we are also working hard to lasagna mulch the old lawn. This requires a layer of cardboard stripped of tape over the grass (to keep it from sprouting back up, which you wet down), then a layer of mulch, more cardboard, horse bedding, compost, and more mulch. It’s a time consuming process that requires lots of hauls back and forth with the wheel barrow, and I love it! It’s an absolutely blast getting to do this work alongside these wonderful people.
It’s inspiring the change that can take place slowly over a period of time without your noticing. Every day I’m at the farm I’m aware of my positive, can do attitude. I leave the farm exhausted and optimistic. It’s the slow change that happens over time to my body and confidence that goes unnoticed day in and day out. It’s not until someone asks you, “do you feel stronger?” that you realize you do.
Today I’m learning and writing a bit about sunflowers. They’ve been on my mind simply because they have been bringing me lots of joy of late. There is one in full bloom in my front yard (pictured) and one near the front gate at Sarvodaya that I see regularly. I grew the one in my front yard from seed and the anticipation of watching it climb skyward, then peek a couple petals out and finally open was really enjoyable. I give it a nod of thanks every time I come home.
sunflowers have petiolate leaves, that is their leaves have a stalk attaching them to the main stem. Leaves are dentate (toothed) and sometimes sticky. The flowers include the large rosette of petals surrounding small flowers in the middle, which bloom in succession towards the center. When the blooming ends the flower bows over, which manages to keep the newly formed seeds drier and reduce the possibility of fungal attack.
I’ll definitely be growing more sunflowers and enjoying them in the coming seasons.
Many people dislike the hachiya persimmon because they think it is an awful tasting, highly astringent fruit that makes your mouth pucker for minutes on end. These people have never actually eaten a ripe hachiya persimmon. If you try to eat a hachiya when it is still even slightly firm, your will be very sorry.
A ripe hachiya persimmon is absolutely soft from pointy-end to stem. Leave your hachiya’s outside on a table with the stem side down. Every day, check and see if any persimmons have ripened. They will begin to soften at the pointy-end, and then continue softening up to the stem. Remember, they must be COMPLETELY SOFT all the way up to the stem. Once completely soft, you can eat it. Bite into the whole fruit. It is absolutely gooey, messy, sweet, and delicious. The juices will run down your chin and pieces of flesh will ooze onto your table. This is not a “gentleman’s” fruit (who’s a gentleman anyways?
Hachiyas are great for making all types of desserts and especially for baking breads or cookies. Check out some of the baking recipes below. My favorite recipe is something I invented last year during hachiya season. Check it out below in the recipe section.
Rishi’s Hachiya Chia Butter Pudding
– 1 to 2 ripe hachiya persimmons
– 1 tablespoon chia seeds
– 1 tablespoon cow’s milk butter
– 1 tablespoon raw coconut butter (available at health food stores)
– 1 teaspoon salt
1 – Soak chia seeds in water for 20 minutes or until they become gelatinous
2 – In a sauce pan, melt butter and coconut butter together
3 – Scoop the flesh of hachiya out, discarding the skin
4 – Mix together hachiya flesh, chia seeds, melted butters, and salt
5 – Enjoy the always amazing flavor of delicious healthy fats mixed with delicious fruit sugars. As Homer Simpson says “MMmmmmmmm…. fat and sugar.”