Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A constant process of being humbled

Thinking about simplicity has lead me to consider what it means to lead a simple life. I am often flabbergasted by this concept. What's simple about living in our times? No matter what path you choose, it seems as if you are always going to be shrouded in complexity. Let me illustrate, if you will: say you choose to farm as way to make a will be eating the less-than-perfect produce that your customers would reject. You can raise livestock to produce meat, milk and eggs.

You will lose crops to pests, weeds and disease, you will lose livestock to illness and age. You will have success and failure. You will be working all the time to preserve, process, produce, and prepare the stuff of life. In comparison, it appears ever more simple to pick up some butter from the grocery store than to milk the cow, separate the cream, churn the cream to butter and then mold the butter in the press before storing in the refrigerator.

If you are heading to the grocery for your foodstuffs, you are confronted with choice, so much choice. Do you choose the items for your cart based on price, taste, farm of origin, production techniques, or the ability to collect everything at one location? If you are trying to live a simple life, you are also probably looking for convenience, but at what price? The complexities do not disappear, they merely change.

 Is it possible to live a simple life, to embrace simplicity? What does this mean for a farmer, for my neighbor, for you? Can we be busy, productive and simple in our living? Can we shop for something indulgent and still live with simplicity as a tenet. Or maybe, simplicity is a state of mind where we allow ourselves to make decisions without guilt or fretting, permitting the work of decision making to happen with a sense of peace....thus simplicity.

I just finished reading This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman (daughter to Eliot Coleman). It is a memoir about her childhood, homesteading next door to the Nearings and the unraveling of her family. Eloquent, with beautiful language about the days and seasons on a farm, her story made my heart ache. She unfolds for us the veil on her family, unwrapping the layers so we might share some of her sadness and healing. I hope the work of writing this piece allowed her the freedom to let a little bit of sadness drift away.

So often I worry about whether I am offering the proper balance of farm life and real world for my children so they understand the value of hard work and the benefits of good food within the context of functioning in our society. Obviously, this book played right into this fear. The simple choice is to put my tools down when my children need me but the complexities of needing to complete the tasks of the day are always pulling on me. Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your story and your family and for permitting a moment of self-reflection.

I have been charged with the role of sharing a piece of sad news. We have had our largest crop failure to date. The winter squash crop, over an acre at the time of planting, was attacked by squash bugs and consumed almost entirely. My dear husband has been struggling with this crop loss, a humbling experience, indeed. Testing your patience with the work of farming, your ego, and ultimately, the disappointment on the faces of your CSA shareholders throughout the fall as they sadly miss the joy of pie pumpkins and butternut squash. Needless to say, this has been devastating. We rely on the squash to round out the fall shares and to feed our family in the fall and winter. In all our previous 10 years, we often have more than we know what to do with. This year, we are reminded again that farming is a constant process of being humbled. We are sorry for the lack of squash and hope for a better crop next season. As an olive branch, we have purchased some squash from our friends at Checkerberry Farm to fill the share out this week.

At first it seems so good seed, prep the field for optimum fertility and weed control, germinate healthy seedlings and plant them in the ground....then it gets complex. The cut worms attack the seedlings, the weather doesn't cooperate and seedlings fry in the summer heat and drought, then the striped cucumber beetles and the squash bugs set in. We spray, but not enough and not at the right time to tame them. Their population explodes like we've never seen and ends so simply...the squash bugs win the battle for control, even following the fruits back to the dooryard to finish off their snack.

A few items of note:

2nd Annual Turkey Processing Workshop
On October 15 at 10 AM, you, along with 9 other students can come to the farm and learn how to slaughter -- eh hem -- "process" your own Thanksgiving turkey. Get this: for $115 bucks, you choose your own turkey, learn to kill it, pluck it, and gut it, along with many of the finer points of the trade so that you can raise one next year in your front lawn! You'll also walk away with a sack of potatoes, onions, herbs, and beets, AND an amazing conversation piece for your Thanksgiving dinner. We're really excited about this because a) we enjoy hands-on teaching with our hands-in a bird; and b) Maine's new regualtions restricting on-farm sales of poultry processing forbids us from selling you a turkey that we kill for you. There is no reason you can't do it yourself though! Sign-up yourself or sign-up someone you love! Send Stacy a message to register and mail a check to us at Broadturn Farm.

This week's harvest:
Boston head lettuce (YUM!)
Hon tsai tai
Carnival Squash from Checkerberry Farm
Tomatillos (sorry for any confusion last week...we decided to wait for the cilantro to be mature enough to include with the tomatillos)

If you Google "hon tsai tai" you won't come up with thousands of recipes. But after cooking it a few times, I would put it somewhere between Pac Choi and Kale: you should cook it down until the stems are nice and tender and ideally use it in a stir fry. I heated oil (canola and sunflower), added some garlic. I chopped up the Hon Tsai Tai along with some course salt, which tends to extract more juice once you add it to the pan. I threw in the chopped up greens and stems, and splashed some soy sauce and ume plum vinegar. As it was cooking down, I toasted some walnuts. Then I had to go pick up Emma in Portland, so I turned to stove off, and left, thinking I would return to mushy greens. (Yes, sometimes our recipes take left-hand turns like this, and no, if we ever were to write a cook-book, we would not include "pick up daughter for 40 minutes.") ANYWAY, it turned out to be absolutely delicious as a side dish to roast pork and potatoes. I do think that it deserves more cooking than Raab which likes only a brief scorching to make it tender. Tell us what you did on our Facebook page!

Wolfe Pine Farm has begun sign-ups for Winter CSA shares. Keep eating delicious Maine food all winter!

Click here for an informational piece from our neighbor who is completing a nutrition project, as part of her studies at USM, to disseminate information about the nutritional content of vegetables to our members. Thank you Kathy for sharing...especially the delicious recipes!

And finally, the photographers from our 2 most recent weddings have posted some lovely images from the events. Tatiana and Graham's wedding and Hilary and Josh's wedding can be viewed here.

Blessings on the meal,


  1. Very well written Stacy, thank you for sharing. I'm Sorry for your squash loss, or to give it a hollywood name and lighten the mood a bit, we could call it squoss. Admittedly, although my mind is saddened for the loss of your hard work and financial hit, my stomach isn't bothered so much by this missed crop, I'm not sure what it is about squash, but it's one of the only vegetables I can't seem to wrap my tastebuds around.

  2. I hate squash bugs. They took our Delicata squash this year. Too bad the chickens don't like them!