Monday, September 28, 2009

The More the Farrier

Both Colchester Farm, the CSA farm where I lived, and Oakley Laurel Farm, the CSA farm of which I am a working member, have livestock. At Colchester there were cows and chickens, but at Oakley Laurel we have horses. Robb raises horses and gives riding lessons in addition to having the CSA.

Our CSA is a mostly closed system of nutrient recycling. The horses eat the grass and the the manure is used in composting to return nutrients to the land. Occasionally though the horses need some outside maintenance. Today was one of those days. This morning Robb's farrier came out to re-shoe the horses.

A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of a horse's hoof and the placing of shoes to the horse’s foot. A farrier couples a subset of the blacksmith's skills (fabricating, adapting, and adjusting metal shoes) with a subset of veterinary medicine (knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the lower limb) to address the care of the horse's feet. (Wikipedia)

According to the, the American Farrier’s Association (AFA), “The AFA has focused on improving equine welfare through excellence in hoof care and farriery.” (

Who knew? On top of being an expert in hoof care, Robb’s farrier also knows how to make kimchi, a Korean dish made with pickled vegetables which is buried in the ground for up to three weeks before you eat it. A true renaissance man if I ever met one.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Educated Feline

I wonder if my cat has realized yet what kind of place she has moved into. This is a place of books. I have four floor to ceiling book shelves filled with a strange combination of fiction and non-fiction. What would you like to read today, Remaking the North American Food System? No, that doesn't suit? How about the newest Anne Tyler? Maybe you would like The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down or maybe you would prefer Staying Healthy With Nutrition. It's hard to say what will strike my fancy next.

All I know is that whenever I go to read a book, Arabella lays down in the middle of it. "Ummm mother, what do you think you are doing?" she seems to ask. She would like me to know that she certainly doesn't approve of reading.

Please don't tell her that the library books sale is tomorrow....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Working Members

It hasn't really been all that long since I left Colchester Farm, but there is just something about taking care of plants you know you will be eating for dinner later. I miss it. While watering the bok choi, I think about stir-fry. Weeding carrots brings to mind the carrot cake I will be enjoying later in the season. I believe the anticipation of meals to come is one of the things that make the CSA model of agriculture valuable.

I believe strongly that CSA farms should require some level of member participation. If you have never seen where your food is growing, how do you feel any ownership for the farm? I am a working member on Oakley Laurel Farm. Once a week I drive out to Castle Hayne and work with Robb Prichard. There we are growing fall crops like bok choi, broccoli, leeks, and, my favorite, brussels sprouts.

Unlike me, other members may not enjoy digging in the dirt, but there are so many ways to participate. Maybe your job could be orienting new members. Maybe you could pick up the boxes and drive them to the distribution site. We choose to be CSA members because we want fresh, local foods. We believe in creating systems of farming that foster values in the physical, social and economic aspects of farming. Shouldn't we see it in action?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why Farming is Like Kettlebell

So it isn't very often that I get to get really good and dirty anymore. I never thought I would miss being filthy, but I do. When I worked on the farm, I used to meet my mom at Applebee's for dinner. I have never been so dirty in my life! Head to toe I was covered in dust, dirt, weeds and the occasional green bean that would have stuck to me. The looks people would give me when I would get there...

Anyway, since I have been back in Wilmington I just haven't had much chance to play in the dirt. I have gotten most of my exercise at the local YMCA where I am a member. Today was my first day back at Oakley Laurel Farm. (yeah! dirt!) There is no electricity there so everything has to be watered by hand. I used an old fashioned metal watering can to tote the water from the rain barrels to the crops. As I was walking I was sticking my other arm out to balance the weight of the watering can when it struck me, this is the same movement I use to stabilize myself in kettlebell class. Maybe I was in training for ultimate watering and didn't even know it.

According to Wikipedia:
The kettlebell or girya (Russian гиря) is a cast iron weight looking somewhat like a cannonball with a handle. Kettlebell workouts are intended to increase strength, endurance, agility and balance , challenging both the muscular and cardiovascular system with dynamic, total-body movements.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Veggies...what are they good for?

Only my favorite recipes make it into "My Recipe Book". Here you will find tried and true recipes like Spicy Black Beans & Rice or Old Bay Roasted Vegetables. There has to be something really special about a receipe for it to make it into the book.

One of my all time favorites is Brussels Sprouts with Nuts & Cranberries. My obsession with Brussels Sprouts came late in my life, but it hit me hard. I made them so frequently this year that they very well could have been a factor in the breakup of my last relationship. "What do you mean you are sick of brussels sprouts?"

A cooler weather crop that is subject to aphid and cabbage worm infestations, I have never successfully grown Brussels Sprouts but that does not stop me from enjoying them. The only hitch in my get-along is that organic Brussel Sprouts are EXPENSIVE. Currently I am stocking them on the shelf at the store for $6.49/lb. But sometimes a girl just can't help herself and so, despite the expense, I will bring home these tastey little morsels.

Brussels Sprouts with Nuts & Cranberries

  • 1/2 cup nuts, toasted

  • 2 tsp olive oil

  • 1 1/2- 2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed & halved

  • 2 medium shallots, halved & sliced

  • 3 cloves garlic, diced

  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

  • 1 tbsp honey
    • Brown garlic & onions over medium heat in olive oil. Add Brussels Sprouts, cook 5 minutes. Stire in the cranberries, honey & 1 cup water, reduce heat and simmer approximately 7 minutes. Stir in nuts. Season with salt & pepper.


      Sunday, August 30, 2009

      Maybe It's Not So Strange After All

      Introducing Ms. Arabella Strange Linthicum.

      Since I have started living on my own again I have been a little lonely, well a lot lonely really.

      I grew up with a Golden Retriever and have thought more than once about getting a dog. The problem is I work too much to make a good doggie parent. I have always heard that cats are more independent, but I have mild allergies so I thought it wouldn't work out. Then I heard about Russian Blues. They are a breed of cat that purports to be less allergenic than other cats.

      I adopted Ms. Strange (aka Arabella; Jelly Bella; Bella; Evil Cat, etc.), a Russian Blue mix, two weeks ago from Marley's Cat Tales. Though a welcome addition to the household, she can be somewhat of a handful. She stalks, scratches, bites and tries to disembowel all her toys. Generally she act like all cats do, including lions. Isn't it strange that we intentionally keep animals in our homes? On the other hand she's good company, and she can purr.

      Thursday, November 27, 2008

      A new label to look for?

      The goal of the USDA Organic Final Rule was to create a consistent organic standard that the consumer could understand and rely on. With the implementation of the Final Rule in 2000, if a product was labeled USDA Organic it had a definable meaning.
      What the USDA Organic standards does not do, what it cannot do, is support local farmers. By its very nature the USDA certification standards make it nearly impossible for small farmers to participate in the organic certification procedures. For many farms, like Colchester Farm where I interned this summer, the cost of the USDA organic certification is simply too high. In order to be organically certified Colchester would have had to hire an additional staff member in order to maintain the rigid documentation that the Final Rule requires. Instead Colchester used the label "pesticide-free" despite the fact that they use organic growing practices. For some consumers the "pesticide-free" label is enough, but for die hard organic shoppers this ruled out purchasing food grown at Colchester, organic growing practices or not.

      Certified Naturally Grown is a new label that focuses on the small farmer. In fact Certified Naturally Grown attempts to uphold even more stringent ideals than the Final Rule. According to their website:
      We have used the USDA National Organic Program Final Rule as the basis for CNG's Certification Standards. Our farmers must also conform to the USDA's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

      However, Certified Naturally Grown is not in any way affiliated with or accredited by the USDA National Organic Program.

      Sustainable agriculture doesn't start and stop with a commitment to allowable and non-allowable materials and practices. Certified Naturally Grown farmers reflect a commitment to work within the natural biological cycles that are necessary for a truly sustainable farming system - a system that works in harmony with the micro-organisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals, to maintain and increase the long-term fertility of soil, leaving it even more vibrant and alive for the next generation of farmers.

      Currently there are less than a thousand farms holding the Certified Naturally Grown Certification. I am not sure that this grassroots certification will take hold, but it has its heart in the right place. I would like is see this logo become recognizable to consumers. The transparency of the organization is admirable and its commitment to sustainability ideals rather than just low input farming distinguishes it from the USDA's organic standards.