March 2017

Its been awhile.

The hardest part about creativity is keeping it over time. Even as I think about what genuine creativity is, I realize that some of the most creative parts of life aren’t recognized as such. Truly, the most creativity any person can have starts with that person being themselves. I’m confident that I am not alone in this – I have and will spent a majority of my life not being fully true to myself. Perhaps it is impossible for somebody to be fully true to themselves, yet we have every opportunity to try our best. And so I reach this conclusion – glory comes not always in the achievement, though it can still be had in our attempts (Anyways, I’ll stop getting off topic now). Lately, I’ve put so much focus on letting the unimportant things go. I’ve spent so much time reconsidering who I am in the midst of my surroundings. Ultimately, I’ve just decided to smile more. All of that said, I am getting better at capturing the fullness of my days, and taking joy in my efforts.

Creativity actually has very little to do with paintbrushes and poems and pictures. Creativity is about living in the right frame of mind, which starts by making every moment joyful. I understand that some times are harder than others, but if you can find something to be thankful for, something to look forward to, and simply something to laugh about, you’ve truly found creative genius.

On the farm, creativity is watering seeds, patiently waiting for them to germinate, wrestling the slivers of doubt as you wonder if you even put seeds in your plug tray, and bursting with excitement as the first leaves burst through the ground.

Creativity is chasing the chicken through their run, excited to hold one in your arms, and entertaining yourself over what the chicken might be thinking as you meet them eye to eye.

Creativity is living – every single day.

 

Farmers’ Note

Hello Growing Club & CSA members!

Great news! Today we received word from the FruitGuys Community Fund that our grant application for a fruit tree and CA native perennial hedgerow project has been approved! What’s a hedgerow you ask? Well, before industrial farming took hold across America, farmers would keep strips of land surrounding their annual growing fields planted with native and perennial plants as areas for beneficial insect, bird and wildlife habitat. These habitat areas would attract life forms that would provide benefits to the main crop, and usually produce some kind of minor crop as well (squirrel meat anyone?). When Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz encouraged farmers to industrialize in the 1970’s and plant from “fence row to fence row,” farmers removed these hedgerows to increase areas under main crop (corn, soy, canola, wheat, cotton, etc.) production. To make up for the pest control provided by hedgerows, farmers had to start spraying pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides instead. Now, as common sense makes its way back into farming, hedgerows are becoming popular again, and we are joining the movement to bring them back!

We have had hedgerows on the farm since we started, but we’ve primarily had them planted with annual wildflowers that only provide limited benefit during part of the year. With this grant, we now have $5000 to do our hedgerows right. We’ll be filling them up with over 30 fruit trees, planting the understory with over 200 California native perennial plants, and increase the variety of wildflowers that are growing. This is going to be a very exciting project for us and a real capstone to all of the work we have done at the farm up till now. It won’t be long until we have the trees and natives planted, so come by for a visit and check them out!

Also, check out the video we made as part of the grant application below:

 

Until next time,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Farmer Trainee’s Journal

This week’s CSA Box

(Please click each item below for a larger photo, description, and preparation instructions.)

Notes for This Week’s Box

See the notes below about celtuce!
Tip: Use the swiss chard stalk the same way you would use celery in soups and stews.

Large Box

Vegetables:
– 1 swiss chard
– 2 lettuce heads
– 1 broccoli head
– 1 bunch turnips
– 1  celtuce stalk
– 1 box spinach
– 1 bunch sweet peas
– 1 head cauliflower

Herbs:
– 1 box watercress
– 1 bunch cilantro

Fruit:
– 2 lbs citrus fruit (oranges and lemons)

Small Box

Vegetables:
– 1 box spinach
– 1 celtuce stalk
– 1 bunch swiss chard
– 1 broccoli head
– 1 box sweet peas
– 1 arugula box *not pictured

Herbs:
– 1 box watercress

Fruit:
– 1 lb assorted citrus fruit (oranges and lemons)

celtuce 

  Ingredients:
-1 qt water or vegetable stock
-3 TB high quality unsalted butter
celtuce stalk
-salt to taste
-1/4 of lemon squeezedHow to prepare:
With a sharp knife, peel the stalk so the light green translucent part is showing. (celtuce tastes bitter raw so make sure to cook it first!)
Next bring 1 quart of water or vegetable stock to a boil. Add the celtuce and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until tender when pierced. (Do no over cook the celtuce – because it will fall apart!) Remove the celtuce from the water or broth and pat dry with a clean towel. Heat 3 TB high quality unsalted butter in a saute pan, when the butter begins to brown, add the peeled celtuce and cook When it begins to brown add the celtuce and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on each side. Remove the celtuce from the pan and keep warm while you quickly cook the leaves, for about thirty seconds or until wilted. Place the wilted leaves on a plate, place celtuce stems on top of leaves. Add lemon to the remaining butter in the pan, swirl to warm through. Pour some of the lemon butter over the celtuce leaves and stem, add salt to taste,  and enjoy immediately.

Place the leaves on the plate, top with the celtuce stems, then add the lemon to remaining butter in the pan, swirl to warm through. Drizzle on some of the lemon butter and serve immediately, finishing with a touch of salt.

Storage Instructions

Leafy Vegetables
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 inch 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

Wrap your rehydrated greens in a towel and store the in the fridge. Summer greens like water spinach, moringa, and yam leaves don’t last long either way, so eat those as soon as you can.

Herbs
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. 🙂

Jennifer’s Ayurveda Tip
Following a vata-balancing diet and routine throughout the winter, as it is Vata season. Vata qualities are dry, light, cold, rough, and Mobile. To pacify and help balance Vata favor sweet, sour, and salty foods. The diet should include plenty of fresh, warm, well cooked, and unctuous (oily) food as Vata is cold and dry.

A few weeks ago I moved from animal team to the nursery. While I was bummed to say goodbye to the chickens, I was eager to learn how to grow plants from seed. I’d say I have mild success in not killing plants, but sorely lack in helping them grow and thrive. It’s been a learning experience, to say the least! For starters, who knew such little pockets of soil could hold so much water? Now all I can think of are my poor houseplants gasping for a drink.

So far, planting seeds feels like a delicate process. Making little holes for the seeds, but not too deep or not too shallow, filling the holes with vermiculite so they can be covered but easily push their way through, gently watering with a sprinkling (not misting) stream three times a week. It can be a lot to remember for a gardening/farming novice!

This past week we focused on building a canopy for the nursery. In the morning we started with a pile of pipes and joints, and by the end of the week we had the nursery tables neatly covered with 30% shade cloth! It was incredibly satisfying to do a little math (can’t say I’ve used that part of my brain in a while), cut a bunch of metal pipes, and finally put together a simple framework to hold up the shade cloth. With the temperatures quickly warming up (I can’t believe it’s already hit 90 degrees!), this shade will be nice not only for the little plant babies growing up, but for myself and the fellow nursery team to work under in the following weeks.

Shortly after my first nutrition course with Elinor, I went home and decided to make something with soaked whole wheat flour. Elinor mentioned during our delicious meal that soaking whole grain flours aids in the digestion process. Soaking also softens the outer hull, making for a more tender crumb. After spotting a pair of beyond-speckled bananas on my countertop, I knew they were destined for soaked whole wheat banana bread. Chika and Tyler were both satisfied taste testers, so I thought I would share the recipe here.

Soaked Whole Wheat Banana Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup yogurt
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
2 bananas
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, milk, and yogurt just until no dry lumps remain. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let rest on the countertop for 12-24 hours.

When your flour has completed soaking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix the remaining ingredients until smooth. Add egg mixture to the soaked flour mixture and mix until combined. Grease and line a loaf tin with parchment paper then pour batter into pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top has begun to brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

This week my team and me have gotten the hang a little bit with the chickens. I am now way more comfortable catching the chickens. It is also getting much easier to catch the chickens and putting them back in the coops. The older white chickens seem to be the ones who give us a hard time. I think the chickens are also getting used to going in and out of the coops. Hopefully by the following weeks the chickens can get better at being rounded up.

This week the weather was warmer than I’ve been used to. It felt like summer was already here. I have to say it wasn’t the easiest. But it is all about listening to your body and making sure you have drank enough water, or if you need to sit down for a bit, or if you just need a moment to cool down. I had to remind my self to do this since I end to just push though sometimes just to get things done.

This week I was able to have some time off work and stayed for the Friday food and nutrition class. Let me just say the food was not only phenomenal it was such a great experience being able to sit with my fellow peers and share the wonderful meal together. I enjoyed sitting across everyone and take in the “mmm” energy.

Now to the food: First of all I’d like to thank those who helped prepare such a lovely spread, the food was laid out in such a lovely way I didn’t know what to chose first. I liked the way Eleanor broke down each entre and side dish to us. It was also nice to know how everything was prepared and what was included in each dish. It was also great to see the different types of dishes prepared for those who ate meat, those who were vegan, and vegetarians. The more options, the more things I could try! Each dish felt like it was planed out so clever and complimented each other. Great job team!

It was such a reward to look forward to at the end of the week and a great start to my weekend.

This Wednesday we discussed having purpose when designing our garden and/or farm.  This makes sense, because you won’t know how/when/what to plant if you don’t have a plan and some needed intention behind it all.

Rishi said something I thought was amusing.  He gave us a little exercise to do in which we were to imagine what would be our intention for our gardens.

“If you have a space, think of what you would want in that space.  And I guess if you don’t currently have a space for farming or gardening, then you can create a magical garden in your minds”

– I loved that-

 

Every thing is created from some intention, and who is to say that my (or anyone’s) magical garden can’t one day be a real thing.  So I’m going to imagine pretty hard.  (And maybe you should too!)

For starters this garden is filled with fruit trees- avocados, mangos, papaya, apricots and my personal favorite figs.  Its a meditative and healing garden with greens growing in spirals rather than rows.  It’s a garden that is so attractive to birds that some would even call it a bird sanctuary because of all of the tropical birds that perch in the trees.  Since water is healing and therapeutic, I would also have a small pond that gets shaded every summer by the tall trees that surround it.

The best thing about this garden is that you are ALL welcome to it…but I might need an investor first!

Since starting the farming program I’ve started looking at things differently. The produce in the grocery store are not just healthy food sources but living, breathing plants tended to by the (hopefully) caring hand of a farmer somewhere. The manicured lawns in my neighborhood bring visions of plant beds and moist, fluffy soil. Every patch of green is just a farm waiting to happen.

When I was writing my application for the Farmer-in-Training program I wrote about my desire to help build infrastructure for communities to increase food sovereignty, sustainability, and cooperative living. I’ve often joked to Rishi that I’m a nomad, without a stable housing situation to make my personal farm dreams happen at the moment. But I am happy to report that I am making good on my commitment to take my farming skills into my community!

My friends have just moved into a new home in Mount Washington and I am helping them set up their garden and compost system. The biggest challenge is their house is on a lot of land that is entirely paved over. We decided to try and build a two feet deep wooden box along the perimeter of the fence with a trellis behind it. Then there’s the problem of drainage: how do we make sure that the water doesn’t get trapped at the bottom causing all sorts of yucky anaerobic respiration? Rishi recommended that we put gaps in the bottom of the wooden box, and then have a layer of gravel to make sure the soil doesn’t get washed away.

Here’s a quick link I found for how to build your own planter box on concrete: https://verdancedesign.blogspot.com/2009/03/q-planter-boxes-on-concrete.html

Meanwhile I’m getting started on setting up their compost system and paying close attention to which vegetables we’re starting to plant for the spring. Excited to share the progress of this project with everyone!

Farmers’ Note

Hello Growing Club & CSA members!

The beets are getting fat, we harvested 50 lbs of broccoli heads yesterday, and 50 pounds of sugar snap peas today. What does it all mean? It means spring has sprung baby! The nights and soil are warm, and the plants are beginning to pop like they’ve been drinking Spirulina flavored kombucha. This time is always exciting for us as farmers, as we love to see the fields bursting with produce (check out the photo of the single mutant-big romanesco below), but it also signals the beginning of the summer churn. From now on, we will be a in a race to keep up with our plant friends as they pump out their delicious goodies. The first set of zucchinni’s went in today, the tomato seedlings are 3 inches tall, and the peppers, eggplant, and okra are just popping up in the nursery. It is going to be a beautiful summer.

In other news, we are getting ready to celebrate the graduation of our previous class of Farmer Trainees (we got a bit late setting their graduation date). Invites have been sent out to all Growing Club Members, CSA Members, and past Farmer Trainees and we are grateful to celebrate the matriculation of another successful class. This class has had some real stars and we are excited to see where they take what they’ve experienced on our farm. Congratulations to Krysta, Cindy, Susan, Brooke, and Cecile!

We have also opened the application for the next round of our Farmer Training Program, which will start on May 8. Applications are due April 14 and can be found at the Farmer Training link in the menu above.

Until next time,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Farmer Trainee’s Journal

This week’s CSA Box

(Please click each item below for a larger photo, description, and preparation instructions.)

Notes for This Week’s Box

See the notes below about celtuce!

Large Box

Vegetables:
– 1 bunch red russian kale
– 1 Sarvodaya (arugula) salad mix
– 1 broccoli head
– 1 bunch mibuna
– 1  celtuce stalk
– 1 bunch radishes and leaves
– 1 bunch sweet peas
– 1 Chioggia beets

Herbs:
– 1 box watercress
– 1 bunch cilantro

Fruit:
– 2 lbs citrus fruit (oranges and lemons)

Small Box

Vegetables:
– 1 Sarvodaya (arugula) salad mix
– 1 bunch celtuce
– 1 bunch assorted kale
– 1 bunch Chioggia beets
– 1 bunch mibuna
– 1 bunch mibuna

Herbs:
– 1 bunch cilantro

Fruit:
– 1 lb assorted citrus fruit (oranges and lemons)

celtuce 

  Ingredients:
-1 qt water or vegetable stock
-3 TB high quality unsalted butter
celtuce stalk
-salt to taste
-1/4 of lemon squeezedHow to prepare:
With a sharp knife, peel the stalk so the light green translucent part is showing. (celtuce tastes bitter raw so make sure to cook it first!)
Next bring 1 quart of water or vegetable stock to a boil. Add the celtuce and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until tender when pierced. (Do no over cook the celtuce – because it will fall apart!) Remove the celtuce from the water or broth and pat dry with a clean towel. Heat 3 TB high quality unsalted butter in a saute pan, when the butter begins to brown, add the peeled celtuce and cook When it begins to brown add the celtuce and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned on each side. Remove the celtuce from the pan and keep warm while you quickly cook the leaves, for about thirty seconds or until wilted. Place the wilted leaves on a plate, place celtuce stems on top of leaves. Add lemon to the remaining butter in the pan, swirl to warm through. Pour some of the lemon butter over the celtuce leaves and stem, add salt to taste,  and enjoy immediately.

Place the leaves on the plate, top with the celtuce stems, then add the lemon to remaining butter in the pan, swirl to warm through. Drizzle on some of the lemon butter and serve immediately, finishing with a touch of salt.

Storage Instructions

Leafy Vegetables
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 inch 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

Wrap your rehydrated greens in a towel and store the in the fridge. Summer greens like water spinach, moringa, and yam leaves don’t last long either way, so eat those as soon as you can.

Herbs
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. 🙂

Jennifer’s Ayurveda Tip
Following a vata-balancing diet and routine throughout the winter, as it is Vata season. Vata qualities are dry, light, cold, rough, and Mobile. To pacify and help balance Vata favor sweet, sour, and salty foods. The diet should include plenty of fresh, warm, well cooked, and unctuous (oily) food as Vata is cold and dry.

This week we let the new chickens out of their coops.  They have been cooped up 24/7 for the past week as we introduced the new flock to the remaining old flock.  The coops have been right next to one another with the burlap curtains up, to afford the chickens a view of one another, without being able to touch one another.  Manju said this helps the chickens get acquainted beforehand so that when they are put together there will, hopefully, be no drama as they establish their pecking order.  So far, so good.

 

Now that the chickens are loose in the chicken area, I have been able to see them in action and am getting to know their personalities.  We had already named some of the chickens: Holly (who is orange and black like Halloween), Jackie (who is Jack O’ Lantern colors), and Fally (who also has a fall color scheme).  On Friday, I realized that my favorite looking chicken, Jackie, is also my favorite acting chicken.  Jackie likes to pose on the tree stumps and has a lot of presence.  She has a gorgeous coat which is black with bright orange peeking through.  I asked my teammate Maya if it was okay if we revised her name to Jackie O.  Maya is 11 and didn’t initially know who Jackie O was, but now she does.  So that’s how my favorite chicken came to be named after a former first lady.

 

Pictured above is our youngest urban farmer intern, 5 year old Sabi, kissing his new favorite chicken at the farm: an orange bantam which got lots of love this week.  As much as the farm is about favorites – grabbing the pitchfork that fits in my hands the easiest, choosing the most cooperative of the wheelbarrows – it’s also about just being here and taking it all in.  In that respect, it is really hard to choose a favorite.  I embrace it all!