Week 32: Final Reflections

This is the end of one journey but the beginning of another.  My time here at the farm has felt brief but as I consider my final reflections the experience seems profound.

The nature of Pepperfield effortlessly introduced me to a new collection of connections.  As a result, I met local producers, food and hospitality providers, community leaders and countless others.  Each one, touching on my journey and – knowingly or unknowingly – leaving a lasting impression; each new connection fostering the growth and development that I sought for so long.  Decorah was, and still is, a receptive, welcoming community that took me into the fold without hesitation. This last 32 weeks threw me into the active social scene in Decorah. I attended more parties and social gatherings than ever before.  Likewise, the people of Decorah have created something special: a progressive, loving community aware of each other and their surroundings. Similarly, it was this same community that acted as the conduit for so many unique culinary adventures.  But it wasn’t just food centered experiences that occupied my time.

During my time here I encountered work (and play) so fantastic that it’s hard to recall all of it.  But I do remember how fast it all started. Within months of arriving I had already secured a few jobs around town.  And soon after, even more. I saw the whole gamut from weddings to parties – and trust me everything possible in between.  Meanwhile at the farm, I was busy working away. Nearly 150 varieties were represented in our grow out this year and I had a hand in each one.  Farming isn’t an easy job and by the end of this season I had amassed some pretty impressive figures. In a two acre garden I managed to haul over 8300 pounds of manure, transplant 2577 times, plant over 4139 seeds and mulch 2863 square feet of ground.  This was exclusively the work I completed; these values would be much higher if tallied for the entire farm. My point is, I was quite busy. Simultaneously, I was still able to enjoy the nature around me. I took on foreign tasks like foraging for mushrooms, slaughtering a chicken and eviscerating animals to be used for eating.  The combination of experiences were truly rewarding as a person but also as a chef. (I can’t nearly cover everything from this season, but you can check out the happenings of all 32 weeks here!) Moving forward I will cherish these experiences but also everything that I learned in the process.

At its roots, coming to Pepperfield was always about learning.  From the beginning, my purpose was to learn how to grow food from the ground up.  Likewise, I hoped to take some time to myself and readjust my mindset. As I look back at what I learned at Pepperfield, it’s hard to imagine that I managed to learn all that I did.  Each day brought lectures from botany to esoteric philosophies challenging me on all fronts to observe, learn and retain. As a result I made one of the most profound discoveries of my life: food is a means of connection.  Not only does it unify us as people, but it brings us closer – physically, mentally and spiritually – in one way or another, no matter how abstract. And, as I explored these possibilities of food, I began to feel awake, alive and almost transcended.  

What started as a quest to slow down evolved into something even greater; changes to my body, mind and spirit, began to materialize.  Then, I began to achieve a more relaxed lifestyle. The tension, built from so many years of pain, anger and frustration began to melt into a serenity within that I can only describe as internal compassion.  I became aware of my choices and their consequences; I found peace with my mistakes and shortcomings. Similarly, I began the process of forgiveness with myself and began to reach out to share this with others in my life.  I felt an immense amount of liberation as I began to identify the origins of my problems and charted a new course to resolve them. I may be leaving Pepperfield, but I hope to continue feeling as creative, relaxed and motivated as I had previously.

Don’t forget, we’re on the road for the next week touring various BBQ shops across the nation.  More info on that tomorrow from the road. Stay posted, stay hungry (but not for to long)!

QotW 18 – Basic Needs: Food and Security and Love

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.
M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

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Week 31: The Penultimate week at Pepperfield

If you missed out on our recent update about some of our future developments, we encourage you to check it out here.  As I began to realize that this was my penultimate week at the farm, the whole experience I shared with the people and nature seems almost surreal.

Monday started with an early trip to the hospital garden.  I worked on cleaning up some of the beds while David harvested kale.  When we returned we took a quick break for lunch and then I worked on making some squash fettuccine.  It was nearly three pounds of pasta and took me the rest of the evening.  David and I worked on leftovers for dinner before calling it a night.  The next day I made a tomato sauce.  As it simmered away on the wood stove, I worked down in the garden pulling gourd vines off the fence.  Afterwards, I transitioned to the main squash patch and worked on pulling vines off the fences.  Then I switched to cutting down the old Jerusalem artichokes.  I took a quick intermission for lunch and then headed to town for my shift at work.  Things were dismally slow.

 

Wednesday morning I continued down in the squash patch.  I finished the last of the fence cleaning and then moved onto raking up the debris and weeds leftover from the growing season.  This ate up the rest of my morning.  I took a quick break for lunch before getting ready for town and my final shift at the job.  Unfortunately it wasn’t very memorable as we closed nearly an hour early after only serving 15 tables in six hours.  The next day I finished the clean up in the squash patch.  Then David and I went to the hospital so I could have a meeting with the nutrition director about an upcoming knife skills class.  It went pretty swiftly so I went out to the garden to help David tidy up a few things before we left to go back to the farm.  David and I finished the last round of leftovers and finished our day with a session in the sauna.

Friday was pretty laid-back.  I went to town midday to bring my car to the shop.  Meanwhile, I presented a 45 minute lecture and demonstration for the Winneshiek Medical Center kitchen team about knife skills.  Afterwards, I made use of my time at the hospital to work on cleaning up a few more beds.  I got back to the farm sometime in the early evening and decided to go to town to get some food.  I made a quick stop at the Armory and grabbed some tacos before heading back for an early night of sleep.  The next day I started my morning by stacking the final load of wood in to the wood shed.  Shortly after, I ran over to the neighbors with David to pick up some chairs they had borrowed.  David went to town for the evening and I stayed behind at the farm.  I did some work on a few projects before calling it another early night.

Sunday morning started late.  Mid-morning I made lamb braise and let it simmer away on the wood stove.  I spent time reading and relaxing while it bubbled.  Later in the afternoon David and I went to concert feature macabre music.  After we went to Carina’s to catch up and have a glass of wine.  As our conversations streched into the evening, we were invited to stay for dinner.  Carina put together a great meal of roasted chicken, sweet and sour cabbage and roasted vegetables.  This meal and time with both Carina and Micah was refreshing and fun.  It was a great ending for the week.

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Future Developments

Greetings C3!  As the last weeks here at the farm come to a close, we have begun to reflect on  future developments.

2018 Apple on tree at pepperfield

We will be travelling from Iowa to Florida on the 13th of November via car.  This journey will span over 2800 miles, nearly 10 states and seven days of travel.  Nathan, along with his mom, will traverse the United States on a tour of barbecue.  As this unfolds, we will closely document each step through video, picture, text and soundbite.  (Don’t expect the usual posting schedule or content; things will be crazy!)

Moving forward, our future developments include moving the weekly updates of Nathan’s experiences to the back burner.  Don’t worry though, we will be supplementing that section with new content.  Once again, thanks to our patrons, the maintenance costs for this year have been covered.  This will allow us to dedicate future pledges and contributions to creating new content and testing out new ideas.  Interested in connecting with the C3, learn more about how you can here!

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