Friday, October 23, 2009

Saying Yes

We got this in our inbox the other day and I love it - Ricki

LocalHarvest.orgLocalHarvest Newsletter, October 22, 2009


This is a story about trying to do something good, getting stuck, getting angry, leaning over the edge of gloominess, and then, finally, getting over myself. It is a story about the importance of saying yes.

First, a confession: sometimes I think if I hear one more person name 'recycling' as a substantive act of environmental protection, I will lose it. At the same time, I am as much of a ninny about radical change as the next guy. I am absolutely ready to move beyond "Ten Easy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth", but not quite ready to suspend all air travel, live in a tent, or eat squirrel.

What I thought I'd do was plant a few fruit trees. There's a large, empty lot near my house. It was destined to hold condos before the landowner's Ponzi scheme caught up with him. Thinking it might be a number of years before this land gets developed, some local food activists and I thought we'd plant half a dozen apple trees on the perimeter, where they might fit in with the eventual plans for the property. We called it a community orchard. We envisioned people walking by and picking a couple of apples to snack on during their walk: local health food, to go.

All was going well. The bank that owns the property initially agreed to the idea, provided the neighbors in the adjacent condo units were amenable. Meetings were held. Plans were made. People got excited. And then we hit a snag. The banker decided he needed a series of indemnification documents. Price tag: $600.

We can skip over the part of this story where I paced around my office waving my arms and yelling. There was no entity behind the orchard, mind you, just a group of like-minded people trying to implement what we thought was a good idea. The money for the project was being pooled from members of the group, our friends and neighbors. I could not bear to nearly double the project's budget just to ensure that the bank wouldn't get sued if an apple dropped on someone's head. I wanted to drop the whole thing. For a few days, things got bleak in my own head. This thought kept coming back to me: if we can't get a few trees planted on an empty lot, how are we ever going to take on the really big stuff?

Finally I was ready to stop wailing and gnashing my teeth and consider Plan B, offered by an inspired activist who proposed that we locate the orchard on public land, via a new community garden approval process she has been crafting with the City.

Between you and me, I had not wanted to work with a bureaucracy to get these trees planted. It felt too complicated. Trouble is, I still believe that a community orchard is a good idea. So, if making it happen involves getting over feeling lazy and too busy, inexperienced and shy, so be it. I'm trying to make an internal shift from, "That's too hard," to simply, "Okay, yes." Yes to overcoming inertia. Yes to complexity. Yes to not knowing what I'm doing. Yes to getting bigger inside.

As you have probably heard, this coming Saturday, October 24, people from nearly 170 countries are putting together over 4,000 events for the International Day of Climate Action. It is activism on an extraordinary scale, designed to send an unequivocal message to the United Nations Climate Change meeting in December. If you haven't yet visited the website, do. You will find events happening near you and see photos and descriptions of events already happening worldwide. Some are wildly creative, and many are surprisingly moving.

In my town, activists will be collecting pledge cards on Saturday, asking people to commit to whatever climate actions they choose. Essentially they are asking, "What is the biggest thing you can say yes to?" The International Day of Climate Action has the potential to move our national conversation beyond "Ten Easy Things...", but only if we are ready to acknowledge that significant change is often not at all easy. Shoot, just getting a few fruit trees planted may turn out to be a lot of pushing uphill. Even so, it's worth doing. So... what are the biggest things we can say yes to?

As always, take good care and eat well,

Erin Barnett

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Ready for Winter

During the growing season when the days are longer, the farm activities and animals are spread out over the whole farm. The steers are rotationally grazed through the back pasture, and there are two flocks of chickens there also, the meat chickens and a laying flock. Aegis Thor the livestock guardian dog lives with them to keep the chickens alive. There are meat hogs in the pasture south of the house and the milk cows are rotationally grazed through their area next to the hayfield. The horses are rotationally grazed also, through a series of four paddocks.

When we get into winter mode the back pasture is shut down to rest and the laying flock and dog are moved up close to the house. The meat birds and hogs are in the freezer. The horses are moved off of their pasture rotation and into a nearby dry lot where they are fed hay. The milk cows are on their winter lot and the steers are in the meadow in the woods, an area that is the most protected from the weather.

In winter the farm has a more intimate feel. All of the animals are pastured close to the house and we are hay feeding twice a day. The air is filled with the smell of the wood stove and the sound of Lane splitting wood. Nights are long and we bring the TV downstairs into the bedroom to snuggle up under the covers and watch movies, old favorites and those brought home on loan from the library, a luxury we have no time to indulge in during the growing season.

I used to dislike the cold and the short days. But now I find that with this lifestyle we have chosen I have become more in tune with the seasons, and after the busyness of spring and summer and fall, I am ready for the dormancy of winter. Ricki

Monday, October 12, 2009

Saved By the Computer

I had started writing a blog post that I thought was great and then had computer problems for a day. One day later I realized what I wrote was just crap. Saved by the computer!

While I was milking this morning I realized that I had not fulfilled my goal of regularly posting seasonal recipes on the Recipes From the Farm web page on our site. Since our site is about to undergo a much needed major overhaul, I thought I would post here instead.

If you come into my kitchen and look at the recipe collection you will see the vast majority of my recipes are desserts :) although Lane and my boys tease me about this, they are rarely hesitant to eat whatever I fix out of that particular section. Since we are still milking, please enjoy this sophisticated pudding recipe.

I found this pudding recipe a while ago on, it is from the Wildwood Restaurant in Portland, OR, it is killer, and yes, you do need to add the scotch.

Butterscotch Pudding chill at least 6 hours before serving

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar Note - I just used dark brown
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk

4 lg. egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into small pieces @ room temperature
2 tbs. Scotch
1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 bananas, sliced
Whipped cream
1/2 English toffee bits Note- I just served it with whipped cream

Stir the 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a heavy medium saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, increase heat to high and boil without stirring till the syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling the pan. Remove from heat and add cream, the mixture will bubble vigorously. Stir till smooth, set the caramel sauce aside.

Mix brown sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy medium saucepan, gradually whisk in milk, stir over medium-low heat until it thickens and boils, about 8 minutes, remove from heat and whisk in caramel sauce.

Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl to blend, gradually whisk 1 cup of warm caramel mixture into yolks, gradually whisk yolk mixture back into caramel mixture in saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium head, gradually whisk in butter, scotch and vanilla.

Divide pudding into 8 parfait glasses (Note - I just put it in a big bowl). Chill at least 6 hours and up to a day, top with banana slices, whipped cream and toffee bits.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Great cheese, local food and fear ............

We have enjoyed the amazing raw milk gourmet cheese from Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese since moving to the area, and have watched over the years as the number of varieties expanded. As the season at the Bounty of the Barrens farmer’s market began I was excited to see that they had a booth there. I wanted to meet this guy and tell him how awesome his cheese was. Saturday after Saturday someone else besides Kenny was manning the table. Finally, towards the end of the season I asked the lady who was selling the cheese, (who turned out to be his wife), ok, is there really a Kenny. She smiled and said, yes, he has been trying to get here all season but has been busy and he will be here on the last day. And so on the last day of the Bounty of the Barrens farmer's market we finally got to meet Kenny. As a conventional dairy farmer he realized that the likelihood of continuing to do as he had always done would ensure that he would not be able to financially continue to farm, let alone have a farm to leave to his children. So he started doing something he had never done before, he started making and selling raw milk cheese. This impressed me. Here was a guy who had stepped outside his comfort zone. He also realized that he could cut his feed costs, and improve his cattle's health by letting them spend more time on pasture. Aha, a conventional farmer who was willing to research, learn and try new ways to manage his livestock. This guy was cool. Later, as I thought about that conversation, I began to realize that this area is full of courageous people. The couple who came here not knowing anyone, bought land and lived in a shack while they started what is now a very successful CSA. The church that took as their mission helping local farmers and began a small farmer’s market in a town that had not had a farmers market in many years. The group that realized that a farmer’s market could be turned into something bigger, a place for community, and absorbed the little farmer’s market and made it bigger and took on as their mission promoting local foods and keeping dollars in local communities.....

All of these people had to over come their fears to succeed. The myriad fears that plague us all. Fear of change, fear of being laughed at, fear of not knowing enough, fear of meeting new people, fear of being judged… The list goes on and on and can paralyze you if you let it. For inspiration, look to those around you who have followed their dreams and been successful. Try new things. Meet new people. Reach out to others. Share your knowledge. Seize opportunities that come your way. And hey, don’t forget to have fun. ....

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“The definition of insanity is when you are not succeeding but you keep doing the same thing over and over and over, and expect different results.” ....

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