June 23, 2009

Always Listen to Your Mother

Joined by our four wonderful girls, we enjoy life on the farm as often as we can.

I must come clean.

Even though this sentence can be found in the About Me part of this blog, it is not entirely true. Most weekends, we are joined by our two younger daughters -- Maddie, 11 and Maya, 8 -- over whom we still hold some sway, which is tenuous at best. (As a friend/therapist reminded us recently, our job as parents was pretty much done when they were 4 or 5 years old.)

The older two girls -- Julie, 20 and Amelia, 18 -- are off on their own now and can't be bothered with this organic farming experiment that the old folks are on.

Therein lies their mistake! (Bwah-ha-ha)

A recent case in point:

Julie, our 20-year-old, recently called me to tell me that she was being sent to a trade show in Chicago as part of her new job. She called me as she was on her way to the show. She was panicking. She felt out of her element and at a loss, lacking in background. This is the young woman who has traveled the globe, commands the respect of her peers and colleagues at Loyola University, and can talk her way out of just about any situation -- in two languages! But she never really wanted to pay attention when the subject was organic farming.

I pause to take a moment to revel in the satisfaction that rarely comes with motherhood.

Her new job, you may ask?

Representative for the the Agricultural and Fisheries Division of the Quebec Delegation in Chicago.

The trade show she was attending?

The All Things Organic international trade show.

Can you say karmic justice?

June 18, 2009

Guess Who Likes Beet Greens?

When one grows one's own food, one tends to get a bit more careful about what one discards when preparing said food.

Let's take beets.

A little background...I have been trying to grow beets for three years now. Each year, I have planted at least two rows (usually four or five) of a couple of varieties of beets. Out of a cumulative 100-plus row feet of beets, mother nature blesses me (in a good year) with maybe one meal's worth of beets per season, i.e., about six beets.

This year was different. I planted only two rows in a new spot, added loads of compost, a little boron (which, I found out, beets need) and was pleasantly surprised to get a meal's worth about two weeks ago with the promise of a few more meals left in the rows for subsequent weeks.

Don't get me wrong, the rows were by no means full of beets, but they were exponentially better than in any prior year.

But back to the greens.

We brought home that beautiful, first, beet harvest. As I contemplated cutting off and discarding the greens that I had waited three years for, I felt a little silly. Why throw these beautiful greens away? So, I cleaned them up and sautéed them up with a little garlic, salt and red onion. I placed them as a bed under fresh tomatoes and herbs and grated parmesan cheese on top. Much to my surprise, everyone really liked the addition to the salad! Even my Mom commented that she really enjoyed the greens. I was thrilled.

So, you can imagine my utter dismay when, upon arriving at the farm last Tuesday evening, two large female deer were leisurely grazing INSIDE MY GARDEN. Apparently, a storm had damaged the fence and they were able to get in. Even worse, however, is that they evinced a particular fondness for the beet greens. Up and down the two rows of beets, all that remained were half-eaten beets and deer hoofprints.

Balance was maintained in the universe, I suppose. I had my one meal's worth of beets yet again this year.

June 9, 2009

Re-thinking That "Green is My Favorite Color" Entry

So, I've mentioned previously that I'm hopelessly in love with Spring. Well, yes, after a winter in Nebraska and Iowa anyone would be, I suppose. But, heady with all the new life of the season, I forgot about the other green things that come with the season, namely, weeds.

But, before we tackle them, let us enjoy the memorable fishing experience that Maya had with our beloved GodCarol (yes, she is very close to the Almighty). We stocked our pond three years ago and had not fished a single item out of it, mostly because we are not fishermen. Carol happens to be an expert and shared her knowledge with Maya and actually caught a decent fish! Thanks, Carol! Now we know that our pond has fish in it. And we have Maya, the eight-year-old, to teach us what to do to repeat the event.

The problem with Spring is that many folks want to usurp it for their own purposes. It's not just the time that life returns. It is also the time when the school year ends, children graduate, (I've got one in the above picture and will have more in the years to come, as you can see), and, because of said graduations, relatives arrive to visit, dinners must be prepared, couples argue about said relatives and dinners, other couples get unnerved about the family presence itself, other members chafe at each other because they are not used to each other, other members contemplate the meaning of life and relationships and everything under the sun.

All of which brings me back to the weeds. The weeds at the farm are almost out of control. (I'll get to them eventually, don't worry.) But I am reminded of a National Geographic article I read about ten years ago. It featured an African farmer who grew a crop for grain. It was full of weeds. When some well-intentioned Westerner asked him why he allowed the weeds to grow rather than killing them with some Round-Up type of herbicide, the farmer responded that he harvested the weeds and fed them to his cattle. Given the desert conditions, he was glad to have the weeds to feed to his animals.

Another anecdote that came to mind while contemplating the omnipresent weeds was the one where the neighbors of a certain homeowner got together to comment on said homeowners lack of mowing. The response by said homeowner was that he was "growing children that year". This is our thought as we notice our grass growing at home. Mowing is not high on the priority list when you have live, little beings clamoring for your attention.

But back to tackling the weeds...just last weekend, one of said relatives, my sister, Dec, spent a couple of hours cleaning out the Brussels sprouts, cabbages, and cauliflower. They should do well now. We also mulched the tomatoes and peppers and eggplant before the weeds can take over. I still need to clean out the herb garden and the asparagus bed. And don't get me started on the potatoes and squashes! Ugh!

I guess it's the price one pays for growing things that you want amidst things that you don't want. But those things you don't want are part of the life that comes in the spring. :)