To Pops, the Farmer.

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I am sixth generation Californian and a first generation farmer. It would be easy to think that I’m the black sheep of the family, the unconventional organic farmer, the one who doesn’t have a ‘real job’ and is wasting away two College degrees. You would think that maybe my parents would be hoping that this is a faze and that I would one day get a ‘real job,’ invest my ‘extra time’ in having grandkids. So, in the spirit of Father’s Day, I wanted to dedicate this post to how these statements couldn’t be further from the truth.

I grew up in a tongue and groove log home. On any given summer morning, it wasn’t uncommon to wake up to the sound of a chain saw and NPR. The thought was always, what wall is Dad taking out now? There were closets that became bathrooms, extensions that became offices, and holes punched out to spontaneously add windows. My Dad molded my childhood home like it was a sandcastle, simply knock out A and add B, and repeat. Near the pool we had a small garden. I remember a cold frame from a sliding glass door, a compost pile that would essentially just attract the deer and always the attempt to grow the staples, tomatoes, corn and fair worthy pumpkins. I don’t remember us being that attentive with the garden, but it was there and every year as the weather warmed, my Dad’s attempt to grow Siskiyou County’s biggest pumpkins resurfaced along with the families of blue bellied lizards.

It was in this setting where I became an authentic product of my parents. It was the backdrop where they taught me how to create life, to use my hands and to use my heart to honor the hours in each day. To have action and interaction with life directly, to wake up, decide to take out a wall and put in a window, and do it. It was with these principals that my heart understood farming. Like a hypothetically sterotypical cavewoman, I thought: soil, water, sun, seeds, food, family, eat, good. These are the elements of life, I understood this from the beginning and wanted to root myself in it.

I know I am this authentic product, because my parents understand this rooting. They not only see the link, but they hold it dear in their hearts. That working to live is the point, because you can’t designate when you’r living and when your not, so live through your work and do the work that becomes your story of living. It’s been overwhelming to see the foundation that my parents have given me become played out in the fabric of this farm’s soil and in the deep soil stained grooves of my hands and to know that I’m doing them proud.

My Dad loves the farm. He visits with the composure of supervisor, always starting off with a walk into the fields, checking in on the tomatoes, the greenhouse and counting the chickens. He also meanders with curiosity, finding bird’s nests, catching snakes, diagnosing water leaks and identifying hawks. I can see a unlocking sense of excitement each time he visits and whether he knows it or not, it’s often his energy that can bring me back to being present with this overall project, which I sometimes just think of as truly exhausting labor. My parents have given me everything. I have always looked up to my dad, my soccer coach, my teacher, my deep hugger, joke repeater, cat lover, house builder, project juggler, car fixer, joke repeater and now farmer.

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Putting in new fruit trees.

Putting in new fruit trees.

 

 

 

Maybe we are at a new paradigm, where a sixth generation Californian, first generation farmer is passing the trade up, into the generations. A family farm that has been sown by youth, to take care of the elders that I love. To pass up the knowledge, to pass up the story and to pass the freshly harvest food around the family table. With all my love, Happy Father’s Day Pops!

Father's Day Dinner on the farm. Of corse, he found a snake!

Father’s Day Dinner on the farm. Of corse, he found a snake!

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In the Groove

CSA Basket - Week #12

CSA Basket – Week #12

If a farming season is like a marathon, then I believe we’re somewhere around mile 19.  Yes we, as the runner may say in third person…. ”Come on legs, we can do it!”  Here on the farm it truly is a we, the soil and elemental unfoldings, the bellies and pocketbooks, the seeds and leaves and fruits, the calloused farmer hands and worn farmer feet.  “Come on gloves, (which look like they’ve already reached the finish line, but have been begged to keep on going) we can do it!” It’s at this mile where you’re pooped, but also very much in the groove. I’ve never run a full marathon, but after a few farm seasons you get the true sense of stamina, pace and drive. To know how hard you’ve worked and know, that now in August, you’ll be asked to pick up the pace, to get up at the same time you did in July, even though the sun is getting to sleep in, to maintain and even, accelerate. You pick up the pace, kick a little harder, because it’s harvest time and the bounty has arrived. Volume! You may think you’re a giving person; now, consider the humble zucchini! They say that wood warms you six times. I feel the same about zucchini: the bed prepping, planting, weeding, nurturing, harvesting and harvesting, hauling out of the field, and warmth of the kitchen as one zips around finding many yummy ways of getting it into your belly.

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It’s mile 19, the BEST part of the season! The beginning of the season opens with jaw-dropping -color-centerfolds. Oh yeah, seed catalogs baby! Now, in the heart of abundance, it’s a succulent recipe treasure hunt of salivating salvation. It’s finding gems like Sweet and Sour pickled Red Onions and Zucchini Bread with Lemon and Thyme.

It’s the time to honor and identify the season too. This year will be marked with eggplant dishes and okra. Last year there were tomatoes abound, salsas and sauces. Moving the abundance into bags and jars, extending the season, you encapsulate the year, define it, and give thanks.

Rolling up my sleeves to clean yet another squash, to reach tongs into a boiling bath of water, to spend extended hours on tired feet (tapping around a kitchen floor), long after the work day is done, in the name of preservation is exhausting. But it’s fuel, it’s drawing out the abundance to have lasagna in the winter months, pickles as the snows thaw and sweet fruit as spring arrives. Another season’s work ahead, one of beauty and paced rhythmic breaths. Feeling out the cadence and getting excited for mile 19 and zucchini! As you lace up your shoes and stretch,  a whisper from the fields, ”On your marks, get set, go” and you’re off!

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Pickles!

Pickles!

Beet Love

This Valentine’s Day I was a red and pink doily framed heart. It may be a ‘Hallmark’ holiday, but it’s all about love folks! I’ve always embraced it, ooy-gooie with X and O sap on top. I had the day off, thank goodness, could you imagine getting called in to be the substitute teacher for a class on Valentine’s Day? Uncontrollable candy highs, fruit punch died lips, a sea of Justin Bieber  valentine card crush confessions, a student nervously waiting for something special from someone special-ok, maybe it would have been a blast. See, I’m truly a sucker for the spirit of it all, however corporate.

It may surprise you, but I managed to celebrate in fine fashion just fine all by myself. With a sparkling kitchen to undo, I had a party of uncontrollable joy, died lips of chocolate cake batter,  happily baking something special for special someones, in a Bieber free zone.  On the menu, Cholcolate Beet Cake. The girls of Green Fire Farm came across this recipe in Farmer John’s Cookbook. It become a farm favorite for birthdays and potlucks. There is something magically earthy in this blend of rich chocolate and ruby red beet. Sexy, dreamy, aphrodisiacal also seem to be highly appropriate adjectives. Not for the faint of heart, a cake fit for a Saint.

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Chocolate Beet Cake

Ingredients-

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 cups or mor pureed cooked beets (about three medium beets)

1 Tbsp vanilla extractIMG_0437

2 cups flour ( I like to use half white, half wheat)

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

powdered sugar for top

** If you’re feeling spicy, the farm girls and I have added hot chili flakes to this recipe with yummy success!!

Directions –

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat pan or 10 cup bunt, with oil and dust with flour.

2. Wash and top beets. Cut into pieces for faster cooking. I like to steam my beets so that color and flavor don’t leach out, you can also boil if you like. Cook beets until they are soft enough to puree in a blender or food processor.

3. Use double boiler to melt chocolate. I simply use a metal bowl over a pot. Fill pot with water and bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Put chocolate and 1/4 cup oil in top metal bowl. Heat until chocolate melts.

4. Combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Slowly beat in remaining 3/4 cup oil, melted chocolate, pureed beets and vanilla.

5. Mix in a large bowl flour, baking soda and salt. Gently combine with chocolate beet mixture. Pour batter into pan and lick spoon!

6. Bake until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 45-30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes to cool. Dust with powered sugar and enjoy with the ones you love.

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What goes around comes around, and the love that I had cultivated boomeranged right on back. For Valentine’s dinner Jonathan took me to the infamous Madeline’s Cafe in Dunsmuir. We shared a beautiful bottle of 2010 Green Fire Farm Cabernet Sauvignon and an exquisite four course meal! It was one of those meals that leaves you completely aglow, a taste bud party, culminating in utter digestion relaxation. And in the aura of our happiness, the waiter informed us that an anonymous couple thought we were ‘so sweet’ and had picked up our tab. WHAT!? What an unbelievably dear act. Ah, the love circle still spins, watch out, maybe you’re next?

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