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
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
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!
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!
This picture captures for me, the essence of my farm experience. Even though I tire of the suburban/urban landscape that I live in, as I walk around and capture with awe and stillness the many ways that spring is popping on the farm, I am overwhelmed by the energy and vibrance of beauty. And the power of what we focus on.
On Friday, Rishi gave a very thorough tour to visitors from South Central who were inspired by the farm. And it reminded me of how important it is to keep planting the seeds of peace, magic and beauty, rather than focus on or fight “what’s wrong.” Those seeds blossom, attract and inspire. Planting them feels like exactly the end of the system I want to be on.
The high vibration of these wild peas simply being their exquisite selves, effortlessly unfolding and shocking us with their riot of color, the wildly relentless and hardy weeds underneath…demonstrate the impulse for aliveness, nourishment and healing in us all.
This is why I connect gardening to healing and why my vision for our family and my work is to bring people into spaces like this…reconnecting to the deep longings and wisdom within us.
Like this below….people coming together over lovingly prepared food, feeling the warm, welcoming energy of community. A return to the sense of kindred community I often hear people long for without naming…
Sitting with everyone, in my favorite kind of kitchen (where crumbs are just tossed back to the earth), over delicious and nourishing food, my understanding is visceral.
These are the pieces, the seeds coming together, showing me their interconnectedness…
Every day at the farm, we are being given the tools and the model for making our vision a reality..and we are immensely grateful.
This week on the farm was our first week doing our nursery chores without any guidance from Rishi. It was really cool getting the fertilizer ready and the seedlings watered. This week we also got some seeds in a seed tray. We planted tomatoes, peppers and something else (I forgot ).
It was a lot of fun and I look forward to next time on the farm!
This week at the farm we demolished a mulch pile! We put mulch everywhere. We put some in the back where the chickens are, in the chicken run and behind it. We also added to the path that was being made on the left side of the farm.
Oh this week we let the chickens out! It’s been fun figuring out their personalities. I’ve already named six chickens including two of the black ones. There are Holly, Jackie, Falla…those are ones that Laurette helped me name. Then there is Sweetie, she’s the small bantam hen. Then there are Crowna and Calli, two black hens, Australorps.
On Friday, we had a feast and a book discussion with Elinor. I really liked the vegan tamale casserole!
I look forward to next week:)