September 2017

A couple of months ago, three other women and I moved approximately 2300 pounds of food waste into compost piles.  By hand.  And afterward, I wasn’t alone in feeling a surge of pride, strength, and self-sufficiency as a woman – as well as a sense of kinship with all the amazing women out there feeding the world.

Women are, and always have been, the givers of food.  Around the world and throughout human history, they’ve usually been the ones who provide most of the food for their families – not only in cooking, but in production.  Women are also intimately tied to water procurement.  In regions without in-home water supply, it is women and children who usually haul water from community wells, springs, or rivers.

In the United States, our cultural conditioning teaches us that women are physically weak and delicate.  Despite women doing crossfit, mixed martial arts, and marathons, the general pervasive cultural attitude is one that acts as though these women are the exception, not the rule.  But this gendered way of looking at strength and endurance isn’t held up by history.  All over the world, throughout human history, women have demonstrated strength and endurance – usually through demanding routines for procuring and providing the basic necessities for their families.

There is something very satisfying in the feeling of connection to this history and to all the women in the world at any given moment who are planting, harvesting, hauling water, processing and preserving food, tending animals, and (often) managing children at the same time.  Composting in the heat, just us women, helped me remember our collective strength.

Boxes of rotten produce and compost piles

A lot of food waste comes from our markets and distribution system; about 30,000 pounds a year comes to Sarvodaya Farms’ Pomona site.

A short while ago, I was reassigned to the nursery and chickens.  In the nursery, we water baby plants.  Very baby plants get a soft misting spray.  Older, adolescent plants get a rain shower.  We were told that it is really important, whether watering a tree, a vegetable, or anything else, that water must be delivered slowly.  A torrential downpour flattens baby plants, even uproots them.  It can wash away soil.  And most importantly, it doesn’t percolate properly down into the soil.  Much of it runs off and is wasted.

As I slowly and methodically water plants, I meditate on slow living.  Slow cooking, slow waking, slow weekends.  So much of our culture’s unhealthy patterns is because we are too busy… and not just too busy, we’re too fast.  We wolf down food that was cooked in minutes as we drive on the freeway.  We don’t give any attention to the food we’re eating and ensuring its full nutrition is given to our bodies, and we scarcely pay mind to the beings who gave their lives and labor to nourish ours.  We eat densely-calorically-packed fast food so quickly that our stomachs don’t have time to signal to our brains that we are full.

We hop out of bed in the morning to a strident alarm, often sleeping as late as possible, and rushing to get ready in the morning.  People bustle from sleeping to waking, two very different brain states – rushing their children through showers and backpack-packing and lunch-packing and breakfast and into the car.  We don’t pause to let our brains fully wake up, to gently process dreams and envision the day we want to have.  We don’t sit quietly with a cup of tea and gaze at the sunrise, or the dew, or the opening flowers.  Quick, quick, we tell ourselves – we must get to the job, clock in, and start to labor.

On the weekends, we attempt to cram most of our personal lives into two days.  We clean our homes, we run our errands, we try to connect to our spouses and children and family and friends… we rush from this social event, scheduled activity, or child’s extracurricular to that one.  No relaxing is allowed, life is too busy for this.  There is too much living to cram in too small a window of time.

We pour activity over ourselves like turning the hose on full blast, day after day, week after week.  Some of our babies and adolescents are flattened by the deluge.  Some manage to cling on.  We do it until our soil is eroded and we feel uprooted and unmoored and lost, deeply unsatisfied despite all our events, activities, material goods, and achievements.  Our water table isn’t replenished, and we wonder why, deep down, we’re always thirsty.

Somehow, we have to resist a culture that strips us of our joy and peace, because joy and peace don’t increase our Gross Domestic Product much.  We need to learn how to let our time collect and pool so that we can renew ourselves and care for others.  We need to learn again how to live slowly: how to let our minutes and days trickle gently into the roots of our soul.

cat laying down by water hose

Kitties Know How to Live Slowly

Farmers’ Note

After the multiple weeks of sustained heat, most of our earlier summer plantings have pooped out, and this week we have been busy turning over beds to our fall plantings. Down went the rampicante squash, the tomatoes, the basil, and the eggplants and into the compost pile. Luckily, I had the nursery team start a multitude of fall crops a few weeks ago, so we are ready with new transplants and have already filled up all the beds we cleared. In went the 3rd cucumber crop, the 2nd shishito pepper crop, a new bed of lettuces and bok choys, and a bed of kabocha squash. Next on the agenda are the broccolli, the cabbages, the cauliflower, the radishes, the daikons, and more.

Its always a bit of a rushed time when we transition over to a new season, but its also a time filled with beauty and hope. The new beds fill our heads with dreams of the future harvest, and we feel the tingle of excitement in our toes as we plant. We will have extra plants available soon for CSA members who want to grow some of these plants at home too, so lookout for the addon list! Have a great week!

Farmer Rishi
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.)

Large Box

Vegetables:
– zucchini
– tomatoes
eggplant
– pumpkin
– salad box
water spinach
– corn
– shishito pepper

Fruit:
– mangoes

Herbs:
– garlic chive scapes

Small Box

Vegetables:
– water spinach
– tomatoes
– corn
– shishito peppers
– gita long beans
– salad box

Fruit:
– falsa/jujube

Herb:
– basil

Notes

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.

I learned to can fruit a few weeks ago. I was shown to wipe the rim of the jar for the sake of cleanliness and to allow the lid to seal properly when it’s being pressurized. It’s such a small detail, and not really a necessity, but for some reason, it made sense to me and it felt like a punctuation of completeness. This tiny, ritualistic step stuck with me that day and as I walked to my car that day I started to think about all the little things we all do that make us feel complete. Whether they are necessary or not, big or small, crucial in this moment or not, we still do them for some reason or another. I wondered, do little things like wiping the rim of a glass jar REALLY matter? I mean, WHO cares? They probably make no difference to the naked eye, but for some reason, for me, wiping that rim marks a sense of completion and a presence of quality and love.

I began to reel through a list of small things I do on the farm and for each one, I felt a sense of wholehearted engagement. It completes me to whisper sweet nothings to the farm crops, to tickle each fertile fig, pat down the kale leaves to the beat of a pop song, or tousle the tresses of yard long beans. I have no proof that my actions make a difference to the crops, but I feel more whole, more alive, and more like I’ve left my love-print on each sprawling vine when I do these small, ritualistic things.

So, is it needed? Probably not. Do I do it anyway. Yes. Why? Because it fills in gaps where there were dry crevices, it makes me giggle on the inside, and it makes me feel like I’m connected to a larger rhythm of nature. Here are just a few more of the ritualistic sweet nothings I do on the farm.

To the chickens I say “Hi Cookies” and blow them air kisses.

When I transfer tomatoes into four inch pots, I drop soil and turn the pot counter clockwise eight times before I move onto the next.

  1. I knock 4 times on the outhouse wall before entering. For courtesy and because 4 times feels more definite than 3.
  2. When watering the seedlings, I water across the rows from back to front and then do a second round in a clockwise circular motion towards the center. I just want to makes sure they can’t complain of not making contact with the shower head.
  3. When I drop produce boxes on site, all boxes are arranged like a fan with names facing out. They just look happier that way.
  4. At the Farmers market, I stage all the Asian pears with their tops pointing straight up. Pears Gone Wild.
  5. The eggs are placed nose down (as always) and filled from one end to the other. Being unbalanced is…well, funnier looking.
  6. For wheatgrass seeding, kelp and feather meal layering, from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner, I diagonally spread the seed or meal evenly like barber stripes. Taste the rainbow.
  7. When seeding new crops, I poke seed holes from the bottom left corner to the top right corner of the seed tray. Then fill with vermiculite from top left corner to bottom right corner and then offer a generous coating all over the tray like parmesan cheese on lasagna. Mmmm, lasagna.
  8. I scoop up the chickens under the nook of my left armpit when I’m putting them back into the coop. Left side, the side where I hang my purse. Just feels right.
  9. Tie my apron strings around the back and then a taught bow in the front, just left of center. Also exactly where my political beliefs stand at 7 o’clock in the morning.

 

I do all of these things on the farm. They are part of my ritualistic routine. They may not have real purpose or any real impact on the ROI of the farm, but they make me feel complete, intentional and whole hearted. I figure, if nothing else than my own quirky relationship to the farm, these could be the signs of a tender, loving existence.

Last week, the ram picante trellises came crashing down. The wind and freak storm behavior we experienced in the Pomona Valley and surrounding areas did quite a number to these beds. In 100 degree heat at 9am on Friday morning, in addition to doing our own tasks on the farm, 8 of us pulled together to lift and secure these towering poles.

I started to think about why these two came down and the other trellises remained stable. They could have been top heavy and therefore easy to topple over (probable). An animal might have jumped on them (unlikely). Whatever the reason, they came down. What’s more important is that whatever our jobs were that day, we all came together. I’ve been thinking about how so many things can go wrong on a farm. Pests, weather, our own mistakes, not enough time to maintain, irrigation explosions or tearing, chickens acting up and rooster attacks. It’s all part of the job of being on a farm. It’s also, incidentally, the same ingredients of any relationship or any commitment.

Things go wrong. Seemingly strong structures just fall over. Big and small pests burrow through your system and eat away at our prized possessions. But part of being in a relationship is working together to make things right again. Setting traps on those pests or sneaky feelings of uncertainty and looking at them head on, together. As I hear stories of my friends and their lessons in love, I wonder if our generation realizes that their relationships don’t even last as long as it takes to seed and harvest a head of lettuce. So when the Ram Picante beds came crashing down, it was kind of a gift. To notice that we helped something grow for so long and it had the luxury of being fed, nurtured, and tended to. That it produced so much good for so many people and we learned from its strengths and weaknesses. Even if things don’t work out or they come crashing down, it’s okay. It always teaches us something, but only if we let it.

I said this yesterday while creating a fresh compost pile. I’m on the compost team and it smells. I’m not complaining, that’s just the truth. Will told me to just get in there and do it. Iris told me that “it will get better”. I hear their words echoing in my ear every Monday morning. I’ve been on the compost team now for about 3 weeks and yesterday it occurred to me that they were right, but I’m also waiting for the smell and gross factor to, finally, not hit me so hard. But I have to admit that despite my bellyaching, and puckered face, and gross factor goosebumps, I love it. It snuck up on me. Those things I hate, I secretly am attracted to. They make me feel alive and youthful. I want more of it and I want less of it always, and all the time. And so I decided to list some of these reasons out for you, dear reader.

Oh, compost, how do I love/hate thee. Let me count the ways.

  1. You smell. Like all the time. Quit it.
  2. That slopping sound of slippery fruit on you?…yeah, that sound. Not pretty.
  3. The original roach coach that you are.
  4. The steam that comes out of you like fresh buffalo dung against hot earth. Mmmm.
  5. Your smell reminds me of how grateful I am TO smell.  Years ago, I had major sinus surgery and lost so much of my olfactory system. I emerged from surgery only able to smell strong, fetid things like duck farms (near my home) and dog poop instead of subtle, fragrant things like roses and baby skin. Thankfully my nose has recovered quite a bit. (I’m able to smell pleasant things now.)
  6. When the smell gets stuck in the back of my throat, I have to take a minute not to hurl. Water break, anyone?…anyone?
  7. The green bug air force you attract. Is that really necessary?
  8. You act like a high maintenance 2 year old…first you wanna sit here, then we gotta turn you over, you’re too hot, then too cold, then you wanna move over to that pile, then the maturing pile, then the compost bins with feather and kelp meal snacks. Aaa, but you’re cute and so natural.
  9. Your green and brown mold and the juices that squirt out of your fruit, leaving bags of rank cider vinegar. Ewww, stop getting all mushy on me.
  10. But, you keep me young and grounded. I feel like I am getting back to a place where time doesn’t matter and aging is an illusion. Your demonstration of the cycle of life teaches me about the eternity of living.

 

Farmers’ Note

This week we (the people and the plants) all basked in the wonderously cool 95 degree weather. After the brutality of last week, we were all too glad to be sweating only from our foreheads and not various other unmentionable places. The farm did suffer a bit of damage last week, with high winds knocking over the trellises of our two Rampicante squash beds, and the heat blistering the leaves of some plants. This week, we’ve been sprinting to turnover a number of beds that have not been producing, since we are at the point of the season where its too hot to put in fall crops, but won’t be hot long enough for some of the summer crops. Hopefully we can pull off the transition without to much of a hiccup. Last year we definitely began to struggle to fill all of our CSA orders at this time of year, but between the nursery, additional beds, and a better running system, I think we’ll do much better than before.

In preparation for fall, I ordered a new farm tool that should help us grow our root vegetables a bit better. Its called the Earthway seeder, and its basically a unicycle that plants seeds. You push it along the bed and it drops seed down evenly in one line. Hopefully, this helps us with planted radishes, carrots, and beets, all of which can be hard to get the spacing right on. I’m looking forward to a bountiful fall. Enjoy your veggies this week!

Farmer Rishi
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.)

Large Box

Vegetables:
– zucchini
– tomatoes
eggplant
beets
– nopales
– gita long beans
– kale
– shishito pepper basket

Fruit:
– mangoes
– fig, falsa, jujube assortment

Herbs:
– basil
– garlic chive scapes

Small Box

Vegetables:
– zucchini
– tomatoes
eggplant
– kale
– gita long beans

Fruit:
– fig, falsa, jujube assortment

Herb:
– basil

Notes

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.