Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Drop Sites

River Market Co-op, Stillwater

White Bear Lake (private residence on Forest Ct. Near Kowalski's market)

Mississippi Market (W. 7th location) St. Paul
If you would like to host another dropsite in a more central location in St. Paul please contact us at

Minneapolis (private residence on Xerxes St. near Linden Hills Co-op)

Bloomington (private residence on Blaisdell St. near Normandale College area)

Fabulous idea for 2012, thanks to member Maureen Gray: If a drop site's members can organize amongst themselves and send one member out to the farm each week to pick up shares and bring them back to the drop site for all the others, on a rotational basis, the T.C. delivery fee will be waived and your farmers will be utterly grateful for more on-farm time to spend tending the vegetables!! Just another way our members ROCK IT!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lemon Aid

I happen to have the good fortune of a mother-in-law who is adept at giving gifts you never new you REALLY really wanted, needed, coveted, and delight over. The first January she sent us a box of glowing Meyer lemons fresh from the Lemon Ladies Orchard in California we bent over the yellow treasure with sighs of satisfaction and utter surprise while the frigid wind and treacherous ice raged outside the window. Grandma's lemons in January has become something of a tradition now, accompanying the slow return of the sun and all the seed catalogs that cheerfully pack our mailbox with their promises of juicy strawberries, gilded tomatoes, and crispety crunchety snap peas...oh for that first snap pea! They are our first promissory note of the goodness of live growing things to come...The CSA members begin to rowse from their holiday hibernation too...and the applications begin to trickle in. How I love the noble Minnesotan CSA member, who, when the New Year has dawned, optimistically and forward looking, goes on the hunt for the perfect farm to support and savor. Of course, there is no perfect farm, and we are still two and a half months from planting out into the earth...but there is certainly a farm for everyone, and every farmer is bouyed by this early show of support, when he shoulders the old anxiety that is planting schedules, plowing plans, seed ordering, starting, and research. I wonder if our urban farm-family members ever fully realize what a lift they are to us in the beginning of a new year. They are our meyer lemons amidst the frigid gasps of Late Winter.

Click on our CSA applications and Meat Share info/order forms to the right here...on the sidebar to join us for our 2012 Season!! Revel in the absolute TIZZY or excitement!

Seed Catalog Scones

2 Cups flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/3 C sugar

1/2 tsp salt

(whisk together all of the above)

then add:

Meyer lemon zest from one lemon

1/2 C chocolate chips (for the decadent or dreary days)

or 1/2 C dried currants

Cut in

6 Tbsp unsalted cold butter.

Whisk together

1/2 heavy cream and one FARM-Fresh egg

Add to mixture. Gently knead against the side of the bowl. Pat into a circle, cut into wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush a little water or milk or cream on the tops of the scones and sprinkle a little sugar in the raw over them for a delectable crackily finish. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Sigh.

Storybook Farm

Recently we went to visit Kate Stout at her North Creek Community Farm in Prairie Farm WI. Kate is a veteran CSA farmer entering her 19th season as a Community Supported Agriculture farm. Naturally we hung on her every word. She had an ever- ready smile and good natured retort for the girls as they would run up to us midsentence in their adventures exploring the hay loft, the horse stalls, and the hoop houses pretending to be Laura and Mary Ingalls. “That’s probably why I became a farmer” Kate grinned, “All those children’s books we were reading, Little House on the Prairie and all the rest of them…”
Mary Azarian is one of our favorite illustrators…and it is a genuine pleasure of mine to watch in wonder as our little farm begins to shed it shaggy coat of rubbish and over growth and resemble the wonderful farms and households humming with handwork crafts she so beautifully illustrates in her books. She makes her prints largely from wood harvested on her own farm, in Maine where she still takes commissions for hand colored prints via email and mail.

Trina Schart Hyman’s drawings are the benchmark for a home filled with whimsy, practicality and simple beauty. I still aspire to have window sills crowded with geraniums in clay pots and zinnias cheering my front walk. When, in her “Little Red Riding Hood” mother is packing a basket of freshly made bread, home churned butter, and a bottle of wine to take to Grandmother’s the reader finds herself salivating with each word and glance around the cozy kitchen, carved chairs and quilted table cloth.
In a world that has long left the horse and buggy days in the dust…except for in out of the way pockets here and there where the Amish diligently plod on…it was the Ingalls family and their wagon ride across Wisconsin and the prairie states that gave my girls the ambition to override initial trepidation when it came to appro aching our own horses upon their first arrival on the farm.
It is a strange wonder to me that we fill our children’s heads with storybook farms, with cows that play tricks on their British farmer, with horse drawn maple sugaring days, and little lambs cavorting in the sunshine…we read aloud about Laura and Mary living in their sod house and receiving one pair of mittens and one stick of stripped candy for Christmas, we encourage them to try making butter with some heavy cream and a mason jar…watch them thrill to to simple discoveries of the freckled boy Dickon, the sickly Colin, the unearthed key, and the secret garden coming back to li fe…and then when they come of age we promptly disregard these golden years of idealization and cozy dreaming and tell them to snap to it and find themselves a cubicle somewhere which affords them the benefits of health insurance, dental insurance, and life insurance, with two days off a week to recover their wits at the lake or the park or the couch before going at it for another week, and so on. At the very least it makes for a fractured life, in which the aspirations of childhood are snuffed out in favor of a collective view of “security”.

The other day I burnt a batch of pancakes listening to a father and daughter duet on a new CD recently released by Marine on St. Croix fiddler Brian Wicklund:
“Someday my darling when I am a man,
and others have taught me the best that they can
They’ll sell me a suit
And they’ll cut off my hair
And send me to work in tall buildings.
It’s goodbye to the sunshine and good bye to the dew.
Good bye to flowers and goodbye to you.
I’m off to the subway I cannot be late. I’m going to work in tall buildings.”
Recently our good friend left her spinning wheel at house to “see what would happen”. Around the same time we decided for the sake of true industry, peace, and present-ness that we would cancel our internet service. One can’t be in two places at once…and the constant presence of this blog, those emails, and other rabbit holes had my mind down too many paths at one time, and not very present to the inquiring wide eyes of the two sprites I happen to live with. The result of this abrupt unplugging was that, with the frenetic desire to occupy myself in the evening I lunged at the wheel and within one half hour was stunned to find that I had learned to spin. Ask anyone who doesn’t know anything about anything about spinning and they will inevitably mutter something sheepishly about Rumplestiltskin. They might not know how in thundering tarnation one turns the coat of a fat sheep into a spun yarn, but they do know for certain it was a vital piece of a favorite story they remember from long ago… (Which makes me think we really ought to rally to bring back common knowledge of these household crafts if for only to make our own fairy tales more accessible and vibrant to us again…but I digress…)
Rumplestiltskin is exactly who or what came to mind as I struggled to figure out how to connect two separate pieces of roving in spun thread…just when I was about to drop kick the wheel out the back door onto the lawn I became aware that it was speaking to me. As it refused time and time again to cooperate with my notion of how it ought to work that dear wheel seemed to speak to me and say “you must let me spin. You must trust me at my job and busy yourself with yours and then you will see what we can do.” I was quite put into my place I can assure you. But I relu ctantly set the wheel spinning quite fast, worked at the business that belongs to the space between my two hands, that of drawing out the fibers and keeping the twist out of them for the brief second it requires till sliding onto a new section…like magic the bits of carded fluff were twisted into yarn which was cheerfully winding round and round the bobbin. Now what I mean about all this Rumplestiltskin business is this. The same suspension of disbelief that was required in me as a child to hear the story to its end about the little crankity man with the fiery red hair who spins straw into gold for the despondent maiden was kept in that heart’s cupboard where I found the scrap of faith to allow the wheel to spin sufficiently and turn my old Dalma’s wool into yarn. There is more that is true about our fairy tales than is not. When Joel Salatin spins true tales about the secret life of perennial grass, putting all their energy into their roots, 95% sunshine and "thin air" and 5% soil eyes widen with a newfound appreciation for the magic of the natural world.
The more our life comes to resemble something from a story book the more familiar it seems to appear to our children, and the more evident it is to them that there is vital work going on here that we can share.
Here’s to “Once upon a time” and “forever after”.

visit: for a visual feast.

and to listen to "In Tall Buildings" as performed by Brian and Clara Wicklund and the Barley Jacks

Sign up for a dynamite share with Kate at:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Small is Beautiful

Admittedly at times I run the risk here of sounding like the back of a wheaties box. You know the type of prose: packed with superlatives, adjectives drenched in emotion, and before you know it you are bent over your cereal bowl all verklempt over Magic Johnson's no-look pass.

The nature of our work here on the farm is ever to find "heaven in a grain of sand" and to muse on the wonder that is the oregano seed one minute (bitsy) and the sprawling plant the next (delicious.)
Most spectacular-ness around here comes in very small comfortable packages. We live in a village of 600. And we are weekly finding reasons to hope for such littleness for all the rest of the world. Our postage stamp of a post office is one such reason: our mailman will sign for our packages himself if we don't answer at his knock, and tuck them inside the back door...because he knows that we are most likely out in the pasture with the horses or sheep. At the post office they will tape up our packages, open up early, and if we don't answer the telephone at 6 am on the morning our chicks arrive, one of them will drive them up the hill to us and explain "they were worried about the little guys" and "tried to give them a little water". I've been blown away time and again at how well those folks at the Post office have come to know and care for each and everyone of us in this community...and wasn't surprised to learn that when district officials came to brief staff on the new merging of our little post office with the Scandia one just north...a complete dressing down of the whole branch...1/6 of the town showed up to voice their support for the little office. A similar thing happened to the little Marine on St. Croix branch of the Washington County library...a room which shares space with the city office in the historic town hall building. When the county announced plans to close the branch due to financial concerns residents banded together and proposed to run it themselves....we're 15 minutes from Stillwater and most of us pass through at least one nearby city fairly often on our way to shopping or work...but the point of fighting for a post office that has been here since 1848 or a library small enough not to lose your children in, but large enough to check email, borrow a book on the life of Julie Andrews, chat with Sarah, the librarian about fjord horses, and ask Jim how his trip to Asia went as he reads the day's paper is that this world really is what we make of it. If we sit back and let it slip away we will lose the community ties that make the day to day life the stuff of memories and momentousness. May we never get so comfortable that we lose the ability to tap into our inner activist from time to time as needed!
I field emails every week from all around the country, from New Mexico, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, California, and Wisconsin...written by people who are nostalgic for the small farming communities of our American past. Mostly written by young people, with new families, with bright shiny old fashioned ideals. The collective longing for a small tightly knit community coincides with the desire for smaller locally based economies, churches, and agriculture. We count ourselves wondrously blessed to be planted in a community radical enough to fight for permanence, aesthetics, and smallness. It is the perfect place to plant a CSA farm.
"When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization."
- Daniel Webster

Sometimes it's hard to convince people to invest in a farm...without sounding like you're selling them something they think they want because it's fashionable, but will grow tired of next year or the year after. But for whatever reason people sign up at the beginning of the growing season with us, at the end of 18 weeks they have experienced agriculture as a well-spring of life-blood for a true community. To it's limit, farming represents the very first step to any sustainable community; it offers food to feed our bodies, and those of our neighbor's and work to share betwixt us both. The impossibility of any given task on the farm spurs us on to shared endeavors, new histories built upon old traditions, real goods, which become fodder for all kinds of arts both practical and for their own sake. Farming is the ultimate appreciation of place. The acts of tillage, and animal husbandry crush a man to his geographical spot in a steadfast embrace. Sometimes that embrace feels more like wrestling than love...but you will always know where to find a farmer...and that is true hope for any village of 600...continued population.
A couple months ago we were somewhat covertly dropping off our chevre shares and eggs to fans at the nearby Stillwater library, largely due to the promotion and passion of a devoted librarian- Sue, friend and fighter for small local farms here in the Valley. As I slipped behind the encyclopedia shelves and unloaded my goods on the table, with curious patrons looking up from the internet stations to eye the goings on, I whispered to her: "This feels rather we're trading in the black market or something. Though, I have to admit the library seems very appropriate as the incubator of small farm support" Her reply was glowing and passionate "Absolutely! This is exactly what a library like ours should be doing!" She paused to admire the week's cheese. And promptly urged 3 other people to sign up for shares. Places like county libraries, or local post offices can bring to mind all the negative connotations of bureaucracy, red tape, regulations...but where we live, these words take on rosier hues because of the people that people them and make them places of real human contact, support, and exchange. They have continued to inspire us with the understanding that small is indeed beautiful. And the largess of the human heart can shrink a place down to it's proper size in 10 seconds flat.

When Sue, the librarian, sent us a gift of handmade envelopes made out of discarded library books, tied with a string and accompanying another vibrant note of support, I smiled with delight at the colliding of two spheres of our "small is beautiful" life...and promptly picked up pen and page to scribble epistles to friends new and old and greet the New Year with stamps and solidarity. I like to think I'm doing my bit for the folks down at the post office.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big successes. I am for those tiny, invisible, loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of human pride." --William James

this, and other golden quotations tacked up on the Small Farmer's Journal page right now...