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QotW 13

Squash Wisdom

Rays of low November sun glint through greenhouse glass. The air outside is crisp and smells of Earth going to sleep. Leaves blanket the ground in beautiful bronzes, ambers and rusts. In the warmth of the greenhouse, I methodically schoop the hull-less seeds from the squash named “Buschol Kurbis, Curcubita pepo. My skin is layered with that of the squash’s. There is a reverance in my heart, I think about this squash’s season growing out of the field on the ridgetop, across form the tree where the eagles perch.

How many sunrises and sunsets, how many moons did she greet? How many drops of rain did she drink, of dew did she hold? How many bluebirds sang to each other as they flew over? How many turkeys did she see strut by, tail feathers fanned? How many other flowers were born within the same garden, belonging to all the other crops? How many wild seeds feel to the ground in the woods around her this season?

My coworkers have gone to lunch. Here in the solititude of my thoughts I breathe in slowly taking in the sounds of the old ceremony songs playing from the speaker. Soon I come to realize the throughts passing through my mind are born not from me, but from the squash.

She says “You and I are subject to the same laws of Creation. In many ways, we are the same.”

“You, the midwives who helped me usher my embryo into the next phase of childhood in the spring, you are carried in different vessels than I, yes. Yet we are related. Life is a mysterious and complex and there is also a simplicity to being alive. Listen to the energy of life around you.”

“When I reached adolescence, you planted my feet in the Earth. With each passing day of sweet summer, I came into adulthood. All of my kin and I were planted next to each other in a row and bloomed together. Our bodies are dual, both male and female. My thin male blossoms laden with pollen burst forth from stamens as my turgid female flowers bearing reciptive stigmas unfurled. The dual life generating essences united to create. Together we created the children you uncover from the valley of my body.”

“All of this was orchestrated within the web of life. Insects helped manifest my next generation. We traded in service to one another – nectar for pollen transfer. My fruit you hold in your hand began as one of my female flowers who because fertilized in some manner. Perhaps it was a bee, perhaps my brother wind carried the fertile pollen to my stigma. There is all manner that life comes into the world.”

“Some of my flowers were not fertile at the right time to be pollinated. Some of them did not get fertilized. Still, I became what I already was. Because of that the next generation is here, the seeds in your hand.”

“Surrender and become what you already are. Do not panic about your course, just stay on it. You will always have what you need: It’s all charted in the stars for you. Do not worry my relative, you and I are alive in this good life together.”

My heart feelsas if a new cavern was carved in it, a new cavity to hold love and wonder for our world. So much wisdom, holding so much complexity and simplicity all in one, was shared. It makes me wonder something about the knowing that this precious plant exchanged with my own heart. How much is the world around us teaching, all the time? What multitudes of knowlege can we learn from our plant relatives? How many knowings rise in our heart that we dismiss or ignore? I vow, not only to do my part in protecting the plants and the Earth, but to humble myself to be a student of them, always.
Korbin Lyn Paul, Seed Savers Exchange 2018

September 2018 AMA


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Week 25: Autumn Equinox and the End of the Season

This week marked the official turn of the seasons. The weather has become consistently cooler and the completion of the final Heirloom Harvest dinner have begun the transition for fall.

Monday I spent my day working on items for a dinner with Carina. I started off by making a venison stock. Meanwhile I made a red wine blackcap reduction and finished spinning the rest of the berry sorbet. I took a break and went with David to the hospital garden to do some clean-up and harvests. I did my usual by picking kale, checking tomatoes and pulling out old cabbage plants for the not-so-baby goats. David and I finished our time in town by running a few errands and shopping for a few items. When we returned, I combined my venison stock and berry reduction to make a blackcap gastrique to go with the dinner for Carina. Then I moved onto dicing carrots and making a leek dressing for a carrot relish. Afterwards, I made a subiose puree to go with the main course. Once I finished that I tourneed potatoes and seasoned the venison. When Carina arrived I began my prep for a tomato salad. After I served her and David, I moved onto preparing the main course. I seared the venison and then butter basted it with some herbs before letting it rest. Meanwhile, I reheated my purees and sauces, warmed the carrot relish and fried the potatoes. The dish I served to Carina and David was seared venison, fried potatoes, warm carrot relish and a red wine-blackcap gastrique. Once we finished our meal, I served some of the berry sorbet I had made and then spent the evening catching up with Carina about her recent vacation and her plans for the future. The next day we were scheduled to have a potential intern over for an interview. I began my morning by preparing some fresh fettuccine. While the dough was resting I made a venison bolognese sauce. I let it simmer for a while and rolled out my pasta. Jackson arrived early in the evening and I prepared another tomato salad while David and Jackson talked. After that, I served the bolo and we spent the evening meeting each other and talking about my experience here at the farm.

Wednesday morning I tightened up the kitchen for our check-up with the health inspector. This didn’t take long so afterwards I started making the base for the corn ice cream for the upcoming Heirloom Harvest Dinner. It was rainy for most of the day and once I got done with the ice cream base I decided to take a nap. When I woke up, I received a call from the health inspector notifying us that she wouldn’t be able to do the check-up. David and I worked on some leftovers for dinner and I called it an early night. The next day I worked on setting up the dining room. I started by sweeping up before setting up the tables and chairs. Things went by pretty quick so I took the time to set all of the place settings as well. Afterwards, I checked the cabin for our upcoming bed and breakfast guests. It was still raining so I spent the rest of my day doing some reading before heading to bed.

Friday morning was spent working on finalizing the finishing touches before the dinner. I finished spinning the corn ice cream and then waited for Gloria and Rosa to arrive to begin our prep. When they got here I started by mincing some onions and cilantro. After that I helped roll tamales and then assisted with cleaning the kitchen. It was late and I had no problem falling asleep. When I got up the next morning David was serving breakfast for our overnight guest. I sat down and enjoyed it with them before moving to the kitchen with Gloria and Rosa again. I filled the role of tournant by gathering plates, organizing details and dishing up garnishes and items. All in all, I didn’t spend that much time cooking or preparing and it wasn’t super enjoyable. The guests began to roll in around 4.30pm and I brought out the appetizers before checking on our final details. The dinner started around quarter after six with pork pozole soup. People were hungry and after a quick plate clear we moved onto serving the pupusas. These are little stuffed disks of masa that are lightly fried on a flat top. Again, this course was devoured and we then followed up with the entree. It was a composed plate of refried beans, a layered “cake” of various ingredients and a chicken tamale. At this point people were starting to slow down. As we cleared the plates, I scooped the corn ice cream. People were so full that some were declining this course, and we still had an additional one to go. As people worked on the ice cream Gloria reheated hot chocolate and we served the after dinner drink. People didn’t stick around for long and by 9.30pm almost everyone was gone. I spent the rest of the night running around cleaning up so I could get to bed.

Sunday, I slept in. When I got up I worked on breaking down the tables and chairs. Then I put away the rest of the dining equipment – plates, silverware and glasses – before taking a quick lunch break. David returned from picking up some apple juice and so I helped unload the car. After that, I took a long nap and then helped get dinner ready. Of course, we ate leftovers and Korbin stopped by to work on some details for her tobacco harvest before joining us for dinner. The evening went late and after some work on the computer I went to bed to prepare for next week’s garden clean-up.

“…Everyone is Entitled to Good Food”

To me, good food refers to food that is high quality and satisfying.  It’s something that can be categorized by these traits but also has many more meanings.

What is good food?

Although it is hard to narrow this down to a few simple parts, I am convinced that good food falls into two categories.  A term like good food is already quite vague and it refers to much more beyond some categories. But, I hope to explain some of my perspective and share my thoughts on it.

I believe that good food of high quality refers to food that uses high quality – unprocessed, fresh and nutritious – ingredients to create an equally high quality end product.  A perfect example of this might be a scratch tomato sauce; especially if using fresh tomatoes rather than canned. Scratch tomato sauce contains less additives and fresh ingredients resulting in a far tastier and nutritious sauce than its distant cousin Ragu.  But good food isn’t just limited to these factors.

It can also refer to something delicious or tasty.  Ideally this version of good food will also fall into the category of high quality; better ingredients generally yield a better end product.  But since “tasty” and “delicious” are subjective, that may not always be the case. My perfect example of a satisfying good food would be ice cream.  It would be made from scratch using local ingredients and purchases to create a delicious treat that also featured its prime ingredients and their producers.  But to some, maybe Ben & Jerry’s fills this category; that’s okay, either way – homemade or store bought – ice cream is satisfying good food.

This idea – “Everyone is entitled to good food” – is very similar to the concept of food security.  According the United Nations, food security is defined as “the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods…”  But at its core, this component of my food philosophy has two supporting ideas.

Food is something beautiful and sacred and deserves to be shared.  Everyone should be able to partake in this regardless of physical, economic or social position.  A fantastic dining experience – both the service and the food – is something amazing and should not be reserved to the individuals willing to spend excessive amounts of money; and it’s starting to become more prevalent in places across the planet.  Now in even the tiniest corners, like Rushford, Minnesota (population 807), these exciting experiences are created from excellence.

Additionally, good food has the potential to connect people, promote growth, inspire ideas and recall cherished memories.  Hundreds of years ago, during the tobacco harvest season, slaves and owners would gather at the same table to partake in a feast – barbecue – to celebrate the end of the harvest.  Stigmas of racism that normally dominated everyday life were thrown out the window as this delicious repast connected two unlikely groups and cultures.

One of my fondest memories of good food dates back to my childhood.  As a surprise treat to go with dinner, my mother would make pasta salad.  This wasn’t anything fancy but it sure was delicious. Now, anytime I have my mother’s pasta salad, it brings me back to memories of family time around the table and the wonders of being a kid.  If good food isn’t shared with all it inhibits these possibilities.

No one should live their life without some access to good food.  It opens new doors and creates fantastic opportunities. This tenant of my food philosophy is one of the reasons I strive to create delicious and memorable experiences for my  consumers. Our world has many not-so-great parts, but I believe food can rekindle a kind and loving world while it provides a guiding light for all; I believe everyone is entitled to good food.

Here at the farm we have satellite internet.  The recent storm cells moving through have made my connection here spotty at best.  Sorry for the late weekly post update!

Week 24: Just the Beginning (of Fall Clean-up)

The nature of the tasks this week were such that taking pictures wasn’t quite as practical as usual. Don’t fret, there will be plenty more cool things to see as the season progresses.

Monday started with the usual trip to the hospital garden.  The harvests have been slowly dropping off so I spent my time pulling out dead plants and weeding.  When we returned to the farm I followed the same cadence by pulling weeds from the garden.  David and I took the time (and extra plant matter) to make another compost pile for next year.  Then, we took a break for an early wine time.  Ellis was leaving the following day so I took him out to dinner as a good bye present.  The next day I spent more time pulling weeds in the garden.  Afterwards, David and I focused on fixing a trellis in the lower vineyard.  Then, while we were waiting on some painters to come by, we organized the trash to get ready for a run to the dump.  Shortly after I transitioned my day for my evening at work.  Things started off slow but as the evening progressed the night turned out to be decent.

Wednesday morning David and I went to the dump to drop off the trash.  When we returned to the farm I focused on cleaning ground cherries to be processed into syrup.  Once I got that done I moved onto cutting down old grape vines in order to simplify next year’s workload.  I spent the rest of my afternoon on various cleaning chores that included some weeding and gathering of garden refuse.  Then I pulled out old broccoli plants and cut down the remaining asparagus plants.  The following day David and I, with the help of a guest, unloaded a wagon of hay.  Afterwards, David and I ran out of town to pick up some firewood from a local timber frame maker.  I quickly helped unload the wood before work and then went to town.  The night was steady with people, presumably from the recent influx of students to Luther.

Friday I started my morning by unloading another load of wood.  David and I spent the rest of the morning processing pears for canning and preservation.  Then, I cut up squash and apples for the baby goats (who aren’t really babies anymore).  I ended up leaving for work a little early in order to pick up a few items for the upcoming kitchen inspection here at the farm.  Work was quite busy as we pushed through nearly 75 people in only half an hour.  The evening died down to a more steady pace up to the end of the night.  The following day after, I slept in.  When I got up I made pasta for lunch with Korbin.  I also prepared a pepper vinaigrette as well as an eggplant caponata to use up some of the produce we had around the farm.  When she arrived I served up a tomato salad and then followed it with pasta and tomato sauce.  I departed for work shortly after for another busy, late night.

Sunday was spent mostly in leisure.  I helped David can some more pears before doing some chores around the house and preparing a berry puree for sorbet.  Dinner consisted of leftovers from the week and I called it an early night to get ready for next weeks events.

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