Because We Are.

A merry Meredith meal of radish top soup and kale salad — Thank you for sharing!

The CSA members this year are composed of such dear friends and vivacious families… one of them being the Merediths, Rick and Nancy. The Merediths shared this photo with me a while back and I’ve been meaning to incorporate it into a blog piece. The picture is so beautiful and as a sweet little touch, a heart shaped rock on its side being held up by the salt and pepper. Nancy is a collector of heart rocks and this one I found and gifted to her from the Himalayas. In my heart this makes it all come full circle, and in turn, becomes the fuel to continue and keep this beautiful circle in strong, prosperous and gleeming fluidity.

Another facet I’ve been wanting to share with readers: Literature. Summer time is not that of novel reading for busy farmers. Time is scarce and to keep track of a story plot, along with a growing garden plot has it’s difficulties. What summer time has meant for me in the last few years is short stories, essays and poems! It’s amazing what people write. How they take in through the senses and express out in the same words we often speak, but their arrangement and pattern in thought becomes authentically revealing and luminous. From the beginning, and in the theme of ‘full circle’, I’ve wanted to share a piece that is special to me. I came across this Rosalind Brackenbury poem in a book “You are there for I am,” by Satish Kumar.

       Because We Are.

I am because we are, the five-toed,

the elegant-fingered, the ones

whose brains flower like coral

whose dreams span earth and move out-

I am because we animals

love to rub and huddle, because

our tongues love to lick skin,

nuzzle and enter each other’s

mouths, clean milky young,

taste sweat from necks and slick

fur flat, lap water from clean pools:

because we love to swim, sleep, eat,

lie in the sun, move to the shade;

and because we are the fish

flying in ballets through shallows

and deeper, where the ocean floor

hollows and darkness begins;

I am because of centuries of thought

and centuries of dream, because of poetry,

grass, music, growing corn,

because of wine from grapes

and bread from flour,

because of a million hands

because of cave paintings

and the true line drawn,

the bison on the wall,

doe in the clearing, because

of shooting stars and sudden floods,

ships going out, footprints,

because of men and women

coming together, lying down

together, coming, again and again,

because of father, mother, brothers,

lovers, children, everyone making

enough love, because of skins, eyes, hands

and words, because of closeness,

because of breath: Because

of the touch in the night

the surgeon who saved me

because of intelligence

because of care

because enough people

loving enough people

for those centuries

forever, I am. We.

-Rosalind Brackenbury

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Alli-yum!

Alliums, a genius genus, are one we can’t get enough of. Alliums have power in the kitchen! They can bring you to your knees (as they saute in butter) and at times cause breath unease. The species are many, but you may know them best by their common names of garlic, onions, scallions, shallots and leeks. Alliums are a staple in daily meals and they’re a joy to grow. At Green Fire Farm we grew beautiful onions and patrons to the local farmers’ market swooped them up quickly.

Onions take much devotion. They’ll take 100+ days to mature when sown from seed. I started my seeds in little trays in the living room window at the end of February and planted them out as the first brave Homeward Bounty transplants in mid April. When young, they’re no match for bullying invasive weeds. So the pampering begins with constant and detailed weeding. Onions grow side by side and swell with the sun and rain. They’re very proper in their little que, green tops marching in place to the hum of earthworm vibrations and the ever present 3 o’clock Shasta Valley wind.

The sweet, fresh onions are some of my favorites, my Dad’s too. Coming home after a long day on the farm, he  will greet me with, “How are the torpedo onions doing?” It’s as if the torpedo onion will go local food viral, here in Siskiyou County. People will come from far and wide, like from Yreka or Dunsmuir, and Gazelle to witness, fight over, possess the amazing (they ARE pretty amazing) torpedo onion. I can see myself at the People Food Choice Awards – “And I would like to thank God…for making the torpedo onion!” Now you might find yourself thinking, “So how are the torpedo onions?” They’re doing great and will show up in CSA boxes in a matter of weeks.

Onions, garlic, leeks, we can almost regard them as condiments- herbs. They accent and enhance, but don’t take the show or the cake, but sometimes they do take the pie. The very fine folks who make up this year’s CSA membership may be getting on the verge of onion overload. So here are some recipes that request onions to take the protagonist’s post.

Walla-Walla sweet onions cleaned up and ready for CSA baskets.

Sweet Onion Pie – Provided by Macheesmo.com

Visit the website for pie crust recipe, use your tried and true favorite or just buy a shell –

Filling:
4 large onions (3 1/2 pounds), sliced. I would recommend a sweet variety, such as Walla-Walla or Siskiyou Sweet.
6 ounces bacon, finely chopped
1/2 stick butter
1 Cup sour cream
2 large egg yolks
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Cut onions into even-sized slices. Chop the bacon into tiny pieces. For veggie folks, add kale, spinach and or squash in the place of Wilber.

In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat and add bacon. Once cooked, add all your onions. Cook covered for 20 minutes. This is when you sigh, for the most amazing smell has filled the room. Ou’ de onions & butter. Que fantastique! After 20 minutes, a lot of liquid remains. Keep on burner another 20-30 and cook with lid off to evaporate some of the juices. Let the onions fully cool, accelerate by placing in the fridge.

In a bowl, add cream and yolks. Once the onions are cool, add it all together. The idea is to not cook the eggs when adding them to the onion mixture! Season with salt, pepper and herbs of choice. Grated cheese would also make a good compadre. This is pie after all, if you’re on a diet, forget about it!

Place filling in shell and bake for 80 minutes at 375. Onions take persistence, so does this pie and they both always pay off! YUMMMMMM!

O’Brien Onion Soup –

Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 T butter

4 large onions – again, I recommend sweet types

O’Brien Onion Soup

1 cup white wine  – our household adapted it using beer and it come out great!

6 cups stock – chicken or vegetable

1 T salt (if butter isn’t salted) and pepper to taste

Chop onions up into thin slices. Melt butter in a large wide pan; the wider the pan the quicker it will cook, allowing the onions to cook at one layer thick. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the wine or beer and bring to a boil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the browned bits. Continue to scrape as you pour in the stock. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil then drop to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Place toasted french bread or croutons in oven safe bowls, add soup, top with cheese and broil on high for 4 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

***Don’t forget, onions are a grills best friend! It’s summer time, so I’m sure that grill has been getting some action. No grill is complete without thick slices of sweet onions. We use Montreal Steak seasoning on our veggies for embelishment. Just be careful when flipping those beautiful onion rings, because they will slip through the grill plate and you’ll just get a burning ring of fire.

Going to Seed

Spinach going to seed. Female plant on left, male plant on right.

Seeds! As stated, this is ‘a homeward journey to grow food and SEEDs to share with the community I love’!      It didn’t take long, in my first introductions working with agriculture, to become very curious about seeds. There was an intriguing first impression -a strong hand shake. The weight of wisdom in the palm of my hand as I would cup them and individually sow each seed into trays in a greenhouse or directly into their beds in the field. They were authentic in the truest sense. They held everything, the will, comprehension and enlightenment all within, as well as the patience to retain it for the perfect moment. I knew I wanted to journey with them-to play and to learn. There will be a lot of that this year, how exciting.

I’m growing out a nice array of crops for seed this year. Most notably, two crops through a seed contract with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a small seed company located in Virginia. Grady, at Green Fire Farm has maintained seed contracts with them for many years and encouraged me to make a big move this year and connect with them. It has been really special the way the way things have worked out and here I am, a farmer with two seed contracts: Dean’s Purple pole bean and Reverend Marrow’s Long Keeper a variety of storage tomato. With one of the longest growing seasons in Siskiyou County, afternoon winds and isolated location, I feel there’s great potential for the Shasta Valley area to be a very successful region for seed crop production.

Dean’s Purple – purple pole bean

Reverend Marrow’s Long Keeper – storage tomato

Some other crops that are now bolting, a term used when a plants starts sending up flowers that will produce pollen and then seeds, are pak choi, tulsi, cilantro and spinach. I’ll be saving seed from fleshy fruits too, such as tomatoes, peppers and watermelon. Saving seed is a journey in persistence. It goes beyond growing the plant, caring for it and seeing its leaves and fruits develop. If you’re saving the seeds you go further and get to interact with the bold flowers, pods and bees, bees, bees. In a good season, plants mature and then fully dry in the field. There are seed extraction and cleaning steps and drying, then testing for germination rate. Persistence, persistence, from seed to seed.

Pak Choi pods forming

Pak Choi

Under Siege

All we know is the uncertainty of the unknown. It’s not always easy to remind ourselves of that revealing fact. In fact, we create structures, calendars, organize, orient and project our todays into tomorrows. We place rocks nicely in a path and think, if life takes me on this path, great, what a nice walk way I’ve shaped. There are many times when you find yourself on a path you didn’t even think to manicure and there you are, quickly placing stepping stones and trying your best to walk sure footed. And to add to the analogy, when you do find yourself on an unpredicted path one can sometimes stand there stunned. You knew in your core that there was a wedge of a chance of being redirected to this route and you maybe didn’t do all you could to prevent it or prepare. A plot fit for Shakespeare, a nonfiction wrapped in restless nights.

So here I am, creating a new walkway off the dirty plaid farmer cuff. Ahh, farming with its wondering roots and acres of outcomes. This unhypothesized path, full on bug take over!

Crikey Folks! What we have here are some genuine organic vegetable eating forms of wildlife! Just look at those voracious fangs and tenacious appetites-a force to be reckoned with, and I reckon we better reckon with it. To be honest, I’ve never had to deal with pest pressure like this before. I’m not sure if it’s due to a mild winter or a muggy, but not really hot summer or both. What I’ve identified thus far are earwigs, cabbage moths, flea beetles and aphids; freakin’ aphids! It has been quite interesting, because it has just been in the last two weeks where I’ve noticed apparent damage and an evident spike in pest population. All the spring planted and directed seeded crops grew and thrived untouched.

I do have to say that one of my least favorite elements of farming, beside the element of having your crops being ‘harvested’ by bugs, is the act of killing them. I would much rather focus on growing strong and healthy plants that are less prone to attracting such bullies. A part of me completely understands. Yes, this food is yummy. If they knew how to share I wouldn’t have a problem. But there are times for the fight and this goes with the job. The arsenal of ‘this is what my grandma used to do’ has been opened and is being put to the test.

Earwig trap

The good news is that the big bad bug killing farmer is making ground and I hope to see a white flag waving when I next poke my nose into a head of maturing cabbage! It seems like the earwigs are meeting a nice, dare I say somewhat pleasant end, by being attracted to the sweet ferment of beer and then drowning. And not just any beer, homebrew fresh from the tap is being used in this operation, only the best to lure these buggers. I’ve also been making rounds of hot pepper and garlic spray. I’ve been using ground cayenne peppers from Green Fire Farm and adding garlic to water and letting it steep for a few days. I’ve been spraying this on newly emerging seedlings to deter the flea beetles. Just because an operation is organic, doesn’t mean that it’s ‘no spray’! And my latest, piece de resistance, a job like this needs ultimate girl power – Ladybugs! Yep, Homeward Bounty now has 3,000 employees.

There will never be a moment in this year’s farming endeavors where I moved beyond being humbled, being in awe. It could be a discouraging day on the farm and then I get greeted by this on my drive home. Maybe this unpredicted path isn’t too bad.