Two Wednesdays ago, Chika, Carolina, and I were appointed salad team. Harvesting, washing and drying, and assembling salad mixes is our task to complete for the CSA boxes. Some mornings the melting frost bites at our fingertips, but nevertheless we have a fun time from start to finish. It’s been such a joy putting the finishing touches on the boxes and garnishing with edible flower petals! They add so much color and excitement.
In addition to vibrance and nutrition, we learned that daikon radish pods (as well as their flowers) are edible when they’re young, and quite tasty! They add a light radish flavor with a bit of crunch. Just like everything else at Sarvodaya Farms, it’s been grown, harvested, and assembled with much love and care.
At the farm there is so much fresh air; yes, the literal air which is lovely and then there are the awesome people. I so enjoy learning about every person that was drawn to Sarvodaya and find their thoughtfulness and insight so reFRESHing. This makes sense of course, because my work for the last twenty years has consisted of listening to people’s stories, and I am always captivated. Outside of counseling, my children will tell you that everywhere I go, I also “interview” people.
In fact, it is the primary way that I homeschool them; by modeling engagement and curiosity with the world and learning about our diverse population and how they live. (Ask them to tell you about when I interviewed the State Trooper who pulled us over one time!) At the farm, what feels like fresh air, is that I am talking with others who have contemplated many of the same things that I have and are taking action in their own ways, which I find both to be great company and inspiration. As well as, simply a DEEP breath, in a life that often gets full with motherhood, and to be honest, a bit suffocated in the OC.
While potting seedlings, planting seeds and mixing potting soil, Cindy, Cheryl and I covered a range of topics from veganism, cultural differences to raves. We all had different experiences and perspectives and great respect for each person’s uniqueness. Their LA vibe is palpable and it reminds me of all there is to experience, including this opportunity to really learn, hands on, how to gently transplant baby beets and kale, into bigger homes, loosening the roots, making their transition easier…how to mix just the right ingredients into a fresh and better than what you’d ever find in a store potting mix…and how to smooth not pat the freshly mixed potting soil and gently lay the seeds in tiny depresses.. learning by doing…alive and sinking into my bones with the hopes of our future mini homestead feeling more doable…FRESH AIR.
Wednesday, Lynn gave a great talk on composting…and even though we actually had a compost workshop at my home with her before, where we made piles, it was a much needed review. She gave a great off the cuff explanation with quick drawings of all of the invisible microbes that create and live in soil and how there are literally billions. I sat there thinking, there you go, the most amazing homeschool biology class coupled with deep hands on experience. As usual I sat there with immense gratitude that we are having this experience…FRESH AIR.
With Valentine’s the day before, I also thought of how in year’s past I have arranged to have horse poop or mulch delivered on Valentine’s or my birthday, unconsciously honoring how much dirt and the process of death and rebirth really makes me happy. I really love this shit. (is that okay to say here? pun intended :)) And thanks to Lynn, now I even know how to ensure decomposition smells like FRESH AIR!
What did you do with the shovel w Elinor? We rinsed it off…let it hang and then we put the wax on”
What did you use the shovel for? “compost.”
What did you do with the compost? “Sometimes we make it, sometimes we flip it, sometimes we move it, we do everything.”
What went into the compost? “Leaves, horse poop, brewer waste, fruit, that’s basically all”
(Lucas chimes in) Did you put sticks in it? “well yeah, at the bottom”
“We found some good oranges, they had stuff on them, but we rinsed them off and ate them”
Why are you making a compost pile? “because there is a pile of horse manure and we added that to the pile, now weeeeeerrrrrrreeeee just letting it sit there” (lots of giggles at extending the word, and tells me to specifically write it that way..then asks me to read it to him and is delighted with more giggles at how funny it is going to sound for everyone)
And what’s going to happen? Iiiiiiittttts gooooonnnnn tttoooo beeeee reeeadddy.” (“It’s going to be ready”— lots more giggles :)))
What do you mean ready?
“Like a ready pile… it’s ready to do whatever you want!”
Like plant seeds in? “Yeah or use it however!”
How did you like this week at the farm? “I liked it”
(“write ‘the end’ mom”)
On Monday I spent most of my time with the chickens. I helped out with getting the eggs, feeding, and putting them up. I also did some harvesting with Chika. We were harvesting spinach. I had a great time.
On Wednesday we couldn’t make it for the morning part but we came for the lesson about composting. I learned a lot from that lesson like how to make a compost pile and how to take care of it. And I am looking forward to learning some more!!!
On Friday we didn’t go to the farm because it was pouring and we didn’t want to be driving in the rain. I was disappointed but I didn’t want to be in the car in rain either.
This week at the farm has definitely been fun.
Monday: I had compost duty on Monday, so right when I got there I started on it. Traci and I were assigned to sifting the compost and storing it in the crates. First we would shovel some finished compost onto a sifter which we had set upon a wheelbarrow, then we would sift it into a wheelbarrow and take out the sticks that were left. We kept doing this until the wheelbarrow was full. Once it was full we would take an empty crate and fill it three inches with compost then we would sprinkle feathermeal on it, then another three inches of compost then we sprinkled kelp meal on it. We then did each of those steps one more time then we put the lid on the box, labeled it and then started on the next one. We did four of those. I also did some smaller jobs around the farm but that was the main thing that I did.
I also tried to eat a worm ( I spit it out) because Tyler said he would do it if I did, but that didn’t go so well
( they don’t taste great )but I’m glad I tried it…kind of…not really…no.
Wednesday: Unfortunately, because I have school on Wednesday, we didn’t make it until after eleven for the lesson, but I’m glad I came because I learned a lot about compost from Lynn.
Friday: Unfortunately, it rained on Friday and my dad used our truck so he could drive safely in the rain.. so we couldn’t come that day (shucks).
Between the tweetstorm surrounding Nordstroms pulling Ivanka’s line and the viral campaign to leave Uber during protests at airports over the Muslim Ban, consumer activism has come into the spotlight as a powerful tool for people to express their views on various issues. In some ways, when people commit to buying organic foods or advocate for labeling of GMO produce, it is part of a larger movement toward conscious consumerism. By subscribing to a CSA for example, we help support local farmers and their organic farming practices, while not giving our money to large corporations that pollute the environment and push out family farms.
Last week I questioned whether or not this type of consumer consciousness is something that is accessible to everyone – whether it’s accessibility of information as to which products are deemed ethical or not, or whether the pricing was accessible to your average everyday consumer. As I’ve thought more about this topic I also wonder about the viability of this tactic in terms of its effectiveness in changing how our food is grown and consumed across the world. While there are many reasons to buy organic foods (more nutritious for my body, I can feel better about supporting businesses I believe in), it doesn’t ultimately do much to stop large-scale factory farms from continuing their harmful farming and corporate practices. This is the ultimate pitfall to conceptualizing the solution as a matter of individual choice.
During our check-ins this week people discussed a lot of the ways that they think they can make change happens, whether it was conversations with their loved ones or discussions happening in the workplace. Many people were of the opinion that you can only change yourself and hope that others follow suit, or that there were some people who might be stuck in a certain mindset and could not be persuaded by logic or reason.
As an organizer, I have a different take on how social and political change happens. I think if we want to see a true revolution in terms of how we produce, distribute, and consume food we have to tackle the structural problems that empower corporations to wreak havoc on ecological systems and contribute to rising inequality. In community organizing we acknowledge the limits of what one person can do, and the possibilities of what can happen when we bring people together to build a better, healthier, more sustainable world. I am hoping that as a farmer I can not only educate people on how they can make better decisions for themselves, but work with other farmers, environmentalists, and consumers to help shape better systems to keep these large corporations in check.
Good evening everyone! I hope everyone had a great weekend! Working on the farm this week was very relaxing. The various tasks that were assigned to us were very fun and gave me a bit of peace. As I entered the chicken area I noticed what I think are apple trees start to blossom. The sight of their flowers filled me with joy and tranquility that I started to wonder why I do not spend more time in nature. Later on as I was working on the fields Katy pointed out the fractal shapes of the romanesco broccoli. It was really cool to see the shapes in person as opposed to seeing them on paper. All the beautiful shapes and sights that mother nature produces helps me find some inner peace. I even notice it when I am tending to my plants at home. Everyday I look at my plants in great detail and I observe their colors, the way they are growing and how they smell. This process clears up my mind and makes me feel good that I am taking care of this beautiful green life form. I am really happy that I have decided to center my life and career with plants. Never in a million years would I have imagined that. These next couple of years will be very exciting and I cannot wait to see what else I learn next.
“This light momentary affliction is does compare with the eternal weight of glory.”
Things get harder, but its too hard to quit. This week was a special one for me, especially because I felt so refreshed. Between school, work, and the farm, its really easy sometimes to give up on one or focus too much on another. Sometimes its just too easy to check out of all of it, especially when I get caught up in the task. Somehow, things changed for me this week. I finally caught up with my breath and I found the rhythm of my steps. Even the things that were insignificant were filled with life. I felt reanimated, and it was as though color had returned to the earth. I think so much of this was the result of realization. At last, I saw why I struggled for so long and what that struggling was for. My turmoil was directly correlated to forgetting my purpose in life, forgetting the fact that I was created to love.
I started the week tired, unsure of how I would survive the days soon ahead. I was frustrated at the idea of mulching the farm, but my frustration doesn’t change my responsibility– it changes my response. Still, I fought my frustrations and mulched the farm anyways. My heart quickly changed from burdened to sweet, feeling like I earned the sweat on my forehead and the dirt collecting in my fingerprints. Its funny that when you fight past your emotions, you realize how much you love what you do, or how much you love the people around you. I think much of what I am saying can be summarized in this way: “We endure suffering, knowing that the end is secure”. I know that I love being at the farm, and I love laboring for all the small parts of Sarvodaya’s ecology. I know that I love people, and I love laboring for them too. All too often, I get strung on my emotions over the little things. For a moment, I think my frustration matters and that mulching doesn’t. For a moment, I think my comfort matters, and that somebody else’s needs doesn’t. But I know that if I look past myself and my feelings, I can see the good in my labor. I know that mulching matters, and that laying cover to the farm contributes to the percent organic matter, it helps prevent weed infestation, it reduces soil compaction, etc.. I know that helping my friend matters, that sacrificing my comfort makes them feel understood, and most importantly, loved.
Its so important to look past what you feel in the moment and peer into what is most important, whether it be loving the farm or loving others. Despite our tiredness, our weakness, our misunderstanding, our shortcomings– let us look beyond our light, temporal affliction because it does not compare with a deep and radiant love.
What I love about composting is the idea of different ingredients and people coming together for a common cause: Great Soil. From the sticks we gather around the farm for the base of the pile, to the sycamore leaves I’ve been bringing from my tree at home, to the brewery waste Lynn picks up from brew pub dude, to the food scraps Elinor contributes from the farmer’s market, and, of course, the green waste from the farm itself; it’s a true community effort. Compost is all about people cooperating: to build the compost pile, turn it, turn it again, sift it, box it and then use it in the garden beds. It takes a community to compost at the level we do at the farm!
I love learning about the history of things and the people behind them. Now obviously decomposition has occurred since the beginning of time. The earliest composting techniques were recorded by Roman quipster, author and naturalist Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79). Pliny authored 37 volumes of books called The Natural History, which were basically the precursor to the concept of encyclopedias. The method Pliny described was letting organic matter sit for a year, but he had no insight as to why it made such good soil. Like modern day composting, Pliny’s work was a community effort: he had a slave who worked as his reader and a second slave who was his recorder. Their names, sadly, have decomposed over time and are thus lost in history…
In the early 1900’s, a British botanist named Sir Albert Howard was one of the founders of organic farming and specifically dubbed the “father of modern day composting.” Howard actually owed much of his composting knowledge to 30 years spent in India where he learned from Indian farmers how important healthy soil was to India’s incredibly healthy plants and animals. He called his style of composting the “Indore method” and it involved alternating layers of vegetable waste and night soil. Albert’s wife Gabrielle was also a botanist. When she died unexpectantly, Albert married her sister Louise. Both of his wives are said to have made significant contributions to organic farming themselves, but this is also, for the most part, lost in HIStory. We don’t hear the Indian farmers’ names either.
Probably the most colorful contributor to composting advocacy was J. I. Rodale who self proclaimed himself “Mr. Organic.” Rodale was a Jewish American playwright and publisher whose real name was Jerome Cohen. He published many books on the naturalistic lifestyle and farming, including an iconic guide to composting. His books were so controversial for their time that the Federal Trade Commission ordered he stop publishing them. Not that he did. He was also one of the first public figures to question vaccinations. Rodale died suddenly in 1971 while a guest on the Dick Cavett talk show. Rodale’s son Robert picked up the cause and their Organic Life magazine continues to be published to this day. There is also a 333 acre organic farm and research institute in Pennsylvania named after the Rodale family that continues their work.
At Sarvodaya Farm we have master composter Lynn Fang who is teaching us the “hot composting method.” The philosophy is that a high internal temperature and frequent turning accelerates decomposition. I’m sure Pliny the Elder and J.I. Rodale would be proud! As for me, I’m happy to be a part of composting history here at the farm.
Quite the header, I know. In fact, in this post I’m not going to really talk about politics per se, but rather, I think its through politics that we get a closer look at the complexity of humanity.
We all want to do what is best- no doubt. This is the struggle between right and wrong and left and right. There is no concrete, black and white answer to really anything! If there were, we wouldn’t be having these problems and we would all just be able to get along smoothly. The trouble is, however, that we are all seeing the world from so many diverse persepectives. We all carry a history with us and we all have dreams and fears that direct our decision making.
It’s funny. I have learned so much about harvesting, aphids (mind the comma, we don’t harvest aphids on the farm), building nursery beds and composting, but I always want to write about one thing and one thing only- our weekly ‘check-ins’. It’s a wonderful time, after harvesting for the CSA’s, that we all get to come together and reflect on something that has been going on, whether globally, nationally or personally. They usually all intersect at some point and influence each other as well. This past week our weekly check-in took a serious turn. With so much unrest in the air and on the television screen, one of the farmers noted that even small children seem to have an opinion on the political scope of our nation (thanks mom and dad). As we discussed how to communicate with children, I brought up the fact that I find it difficult to communicate everything I have been learning on the farm with those who are closest to me. I want to help them, and teach them how to live healthier lives, but they tend to flat out resist me!!! (Again the whole “I am right and you are wrong” disposition). What do you do when you know that people are bringing harm to themselves and to the environment? How do you create real change?
No but seriously, how??
Have you ever thought about this? Like, I mean real change, measurable change? There’s one thing to hold a sign, and that definitely makes a loud statement, but how do you create change in your own micro-cosm of a universe? This is something I wanna learn.
We bounced around a few ideas, and some had more passionate things to share, and we came to the conclusion that statistics and information rarely change behavior. In fact most statistics can be trumped by equally compelling statistics saying the exact opposite. So then what? What can we do? What can we do about the changing environment, about the misfortune of industrial raised livestock, about the GMO’s and the ever increasing landfills? Gosh it feels overwhelming sometimes.
Forgive me for sounding so cliche, but do you remember that quote by Ghandi? You know: “Be the change you want to see in the world”? Well I hate to burst your bubble, but he didn’t actually say that (according to the infallible internet). Here’s the real quote:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”
(I think I like the real quote better!)
It MUST start with us. We MUST look within and be honest with ourselves. Are we the active participants of the values we hold? Or are we just pretending?
Honestly for me, I pretend a lot. I mean I didn’t know a lot about the environment and farming before I got to the farm, but my ignorance is no excuse. I spend so much time focused on the egregious faults of my family and friends (how could they!!!!!) and yet I am often just as guilty.
I think that if we are to create real change it can’t start with us yelling at others, but it has to start with us looking within, and finally taking a real, honest look at who we are. Real authenticity creates real, lasting change.
(the most beautiful compost ‘greens’ I have ever seen)