An Update On The Farm

We have been on the farm for a year and four months! And we have just wrapped up our first year’s CSA! We want to thank all our friends and family for your love and support and prayers.  We truly could not have made it through this first year without you.

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Our first year here has been amazingly blessed. We have raised chickens (for eggs and meat), goats (for milk and meat), turkeys, ducks, pigs, our Duchess of Kylo (our dairy cow) and calves (for meat and eventually for milk). We had our big garden, full of greens, potatoes, radishes, beans, beets, squash and so much more. For a family who recently came from East Los Angeles, we feel as if we are in an amazing school of agriculture–all hands on, and the test is whether or not we can feed ourselves!

CSA Pick-up Day
CSA Pick-up Day

We also have enjoyed all the events on the farm. Getting to know our neighbors and community has been so incredibly lovely. The concerts and workshops and farm days have been so fun. Thank you for coming out and supporting local agriculture and for being our friends. Friendship is the greatest treasure in the world.

Bonfire and Jam!
Bonfire and Jam!

Our first year has also had its share of challenges. The biggest challenge has been water. Who would have thought, coming from the land of drought (California) that’d we would still be facing water problems? This year has been one of the driest in recent recordings. So, having all these animals and plants that rely on us for water has been interesting and intense.

Last summer our well went dry twice–once in July and once in September. Within a day or two, however, the well recovered. This summer our well went dry in July and still has not full recovered. We have been radically conserving water, limiting ourselves to flushing, teeth brushing, hand washing, drinking, and cooking. Thanks to friends and neighbors, we have been able to do this. People have been so generous to let us shower, do laundry and other essentials at their houses. We have hooked up a hose to the neighbor’s house more times than we care to count! It has been very humbling. We are so grateful. This kind of community is unheard of in our world. We know we are blessed. When it does rain (which has not been nearly often enough in the past four or five months) we have saved rain water for use in irrigation.

Although the drought is affecting everyone (just ask cattlemen who are trying to grow hay!) our well is struggling more than our neighbors’ for the simple fact that it is a dug well. It is the original well for this house–which is 200 years old. It is only 15 feet deep. Believe it or not, that depth has kept us in water the rest of the year! It’s been a good well that has served its purpose. Our hearts are grateful to the folks who dug it by hand oh-so-many years ago! Did they know that in 2016 there would be this family trying to turn their little homestead back into a farm, with 9 kids in tow?

However, we have come to the conclusion that we need to have a well drilled. This was not in the budget for this year. And at the moment it is not within reach. So, we are praying and trying to work things out to have one drilled sooner rather than later. There’s so much about farming that is out of our control–we can plan, plant, work, etc. But we cannot control the weather and water table.

When you pray, could you lift us up as well? We need wisdom, finances, time. If you have recommendations for a well-driller, please do let us know.

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In spite of the challenges, this is still the most beautiful place on earth.
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Sukkot Potluck Supper!

October 16, 4pm on the farm. It’s a Sukkoth Potluck Supper! Please join us!

What’s Sukkot?

Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, is a holiday of celebration as we remember God’s protection of His people while they were in the desert prior to entering the Promised Land. God in his mercy provided a cloud of glory to protect and cover the Israelites in the desert. For this holiday we build a booth or sukkoth, referring to a temporary dwelling reminiscent of the tents the Jews lived in during their wilderness time.

We all go through times of transition and uncertainty in our lives. Sukkot reminds us to be thankful in those times, because it is in those difficulties and uncertainties that God provides for us, protects, and gently leads us.

Subkot is a joyful feast, not unlike our Thanksgiving!

How Do You Celebrate Sukkot?

Because Sukkot is a feast of thanksgiving for God’s protection and provision, we are commanded to rejoice! Here’s how we celebrate:

  1. We eat outside in booths or tents. Sometimes, depending on the weather, we even sleep in them!
  2. We feast! It’s a great time for enjoying the abundance of the harvest.
  3. We light candles, remembering our ancestors, saying their names.
  4. We dance!

Will you join us on Sunday? We’ll be in the backyard under the sukkah (the tent!). Please bring a dish to share. Dessert will be provided.

sukkot

Farm-to-Table Gratitude Supper

Last night we had a farm-to-table dinner to express our gratitude to a few people who made our first year of full-time farming possible. It was by no means an exhaustive guest list. We wish we could have hosted every single person for whom we are grateful this year. But, we narrowed it down to a few who have been so instrumental that we truly don’t know how we could have made it through this year without them.

A table prepared.

Friends and Neighbors

Farm-To-Table-To-Soul

We started preparing weeks ago by looking at what would be available from the farm in mid-September. And we planned accordingly so that as much as possible we could feast directly from the source!  The menu turned out beautifully. This time of year–with all the root vegetables and rich flavors–is my very favorite.

Prepping the feast

We did four courses.

Salad Course:

Warm Beets with candied walnuts, feta, and tarragon olive oil

Homemade rosemary and garlic whole wheat artisan bread

Champagne or sparkling cider

Fish Course:

Grilled Scup with lime and citrus fennel salt

Tian (potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, sunburst squash)

Red Wine or Iced Tea

Main Course:

Individual Lasagna with grass-fed beef and goat meat

Dessert Course:

Cheesecake with cultured cream cheese

Blackberries with a raspberry brandy reduction

Coffee or tea

Salad Course
Warm Chioggia and Baby Crimson Beets with candied walnuts, with just a touch of heat. Feta warmed lightly in butter, herbs and white wine. And a drizzle of tarragon olive oil.

 

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Grilled Scup with limes and citrus fennel salt on a bed of fresh beet greens.
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The tian before it was baked. I forgot to take the after picture. But, it looked spectacular.

 

Lasagna
Individual lasagnas made with our homemade sauce, homemade cheeses, grass-fed beef, and goat meat.

 

Cheesecake made with homemade cultured cream cheese, topped with blackberries and raspberry brandy reduction.

It was a lovely evening, with lovely people. People who have inspired us, lent us many hands in days of hard work, provided encouragement and advice and support in so many ways. The dinner, though simple, was just our way of saying ThankYouMorePlease. We can’t say THANK YOU enough. Where would we be without you all?

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The Meal

Ingredients in the meal that we grew or raised or had some part in bringing to life:

  • Beets
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic
  • Wheat (in cooperation with Neal Pottle)
  • Beet Greens
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Sunburst Squash
  • Eggs
  • Cream
  • Tomato Sauce (tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers)
  • Mozzarella
  • Ricotta
  • Goat Meat
  • Cream Cheese
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Blackberries
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Parsley
I could have eaten about 40 of these.
I could have eaten about 40 of these.

With gratitude to friends who helped fill in the gaps:

  • Ground beef from the Hanley Farm
  • Scup from Doyon Farm
Uninvited, but not necessarily unwanted guest: a cat named Dixie
Uninvited, but not necessarily unwanted guest: a cat named Dixie

The best part of leisurely dinners with friends is lingering a little longer at the table, with wine or coffee and conversations and laughs.

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Stuffed Squash Blossoms

I love it when my kids say I should be on Guy’s Grocery Games. They say it is because I take really random things and make good meals. #bestcomplimentever

It really comes down to seasonal and local eating at its best. When something is in season we need to figure out how to capitalize on it, to use it to its full potential. Rather than what we typically do in America….which is find a recipe, go to the store, buy all the specific ingredients, and make a great meal. Then that 3/4 jar of capers or 1/4 cup shy of a quart of buttermilk just sits in the fridge and goes bad. Truth is, so many people don’t really know how to cook. They know how to follow recipes. They don’t necessarily know how to look at a pile of ingredients and unlock all the possibilities.  A return to real cooking is one of the key ways we can combat food waste in this country! (Want to learn a little more about food waste in America and what you can practically do about it? Start here: How Ugly Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger)

And seriously, I just hate to waste things! I appreciate frugality. I believe in nose-to-tail eating. Why kill an animal if you only want bacon? What about the ears and feet and organs?  The same goes for plants. Why do we have to throw away the broccoli stalks? The cores of the cabbage? The greens on top of the beets? They are edible!

I suppose this is why I started loving squash flowers. The squash is delicious and yummy. But those flowers are so beautiful! Last year my little daughter, Saraa, and I had quite a fun time coming up with fun things to do with squash flowers (all kinds of squash and pumpkin flowers).

Here’s what we had for lunch yesterday:

Seasonal Eating, Squash Flowers

Sautéed mixed greens (beet greens, rainbow chard, arugula, kale, mizuna, red mustard) with sausage, a farm fresh egg and a stuffed squash flower.

The stuffed squash flower was the real MVP. Crispy and golden on the outside. Gooey cheesy on the inside. Be still my beating heart.

Squash flowers

I could have eaten the whole plate of them by myself. But, my family wanted some. So demanding. So, I begrudgingly shared. (It’s one of the new corporal acts of mercy, I think.)

These were made with sharp cheddar, crumbled local sausage, dipped in bread crumbs I made from rosemary garlic bread. A-MA-ZING!

So, we included it in this week’s CSA recipes. When CSA members pick up their share each week, we try to include some of our favorite recipes, things we’ve been whipping up in our kitchen from the freshest stuff from the garden.  It’s just our way of helping to eliminate food waste by inspiring delicious meals the whole family wants to eat!

Not a CSA member but still want to try some seasonal recipes we are developing in the farm kitchen? We upload them on our recipe page. Bon Appétit!

{homemade} Sweetened Condensed Milk

We call it “Moloko” because that is what my husband always called it in Russian. (Growing up in Mongolia, so many words are Russian or have their root in Russian.) We kind of like it. A lot. It’s an ingredient in our favorite cheesecake. It’s delicious on bread and fruit. It’s adds a decadence to hot chocolate. And have you ever poured it in your coffee????

I’m talking about Sweetened Condensed Milk.  I’ve taken to making it, rather than buying it. For several reasons: 1) I wanted organic milk. And that can be difficult to find at the regular grocery store. 2) I wanted real cane sugar. (And not sugar from genetically modified sugar beets. and 3) I ran out of the stuff in a can.

It’s so easy. Here’s how to do it:

3 cups milk (preferably raw)

1 cup real sugar

Stir these together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for about one hour, until it is reduced to 1 cup and is thick enough for your liking. You only need to stir this occasionally. You mostly just leave it alone.

ENJOY!

Want to see a picture of our “Moloko”? Click here. While you’re over there, follow us on Instagram.

The Unromantic Side of Farming (and becoming a man)

Farm they said. It’ll be fun they said. And we had visions of picking our own tomatoes for sauce and walking in the early morning dew to milk the cow, her milk flowing warm and foaming into the steel bucket. And by the rhythm of the milk hitting the pale, we say our morning prayers. It’s the Divine Office in the chapel of the barn. We dream of rich dark soil, teeming with life and worms that grows potatoes that are so purple, doves cry. And oats and rye that blow in the breeze and rustle, creating their own music.

For every one of these romantic and lovely ideas, there is a day like yesterday. A day wholly unromantic.

The UnRomantic Side of Farming

And my son. Just a boy by some people’s estimation, but more of a man than most men I know. He loves his animals. Though he knows we grow them for food and the service of the family, he names every one, because everything deserves a name. Every animal is treated with the dignity it deserves. He respects the chickeness of the chicken, the cow-ness of the cow. Then that love gets put to the test.

Israel and the lamb

There’s nothing romantic about the weasel that got into the turkeys and the carnage left in its wake. I won’t describe it because you don’t need those images. Thankfully it was not a total loss; suffice it to say some of the turkeys did not make it. As my son held a bird in his hands, still very much alive, although so badly injured–we looked at each other and knew what had to be done. It was the first time I have ever heard my son swear.

I said I would do it. Our friend who is a vet said she would do it. My son, taking a deep breath, said he would do it.

This beautiful consent to embrace the messy and unromantic side of life and death.  He approached the problem with compassion and love and strength and character. He was not cavalier about what had to be done, as if he relished the job. Neither was he weak or irresolute. He was strong and compassionate. It was the picture of manhood–exactly what our world needs so desperately.

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He took the ax in hand and did what he had to do. I hugged him afterwards. Even though I said I would do it, I was grateful that he did, not just because it relieved my burden of having to do it, but because it revealed his heart to me.

At its core farming is a delicate dance between life and death. And a farmer takes on an enormous responsibility to see that that balance is respected and maintained. It’s a job not everyone wants these days. I once heard a speaker boast that he could never kill an animal, even though he loved his steak. He’d leave that job to someone else. And I thought that was no measure of a man. To enjoy the fruits of death, but to never participate in it. Farming demands a level of integrity and authenticity that is in short supply in our world. My son has this integrity and authenticity in spades.

“The average person is still under the aberrant delusion that food should be somebody else’s responsibility until I’m ready to eat it.” (Joel Salatin)

Israel and Duchess

This is why I know that whatever he chooses to do in life–butcher, baker, candlestick maker–he will succeed. Because he knows what life is about. And he knows what responsibility looks like. And he knows he is up to the challenge.

“Everybody has a vocation to some form of life work. But, behind that and deeper than that, everybody has a vocation to be a person, to be fully and deeply a human being, to be Christ-like. And the second thing is more important than the first.” (Brennan Manning)

Open House!

Are you curious about this farm thing the Gombojavs are doing?

Are you wondering what exactly pastured-based farming is?

Are you a CSA member or farmstand customer and want to see how your food is being grown?

Do you just like our company because we’re pretty cool peeps?

If you answered yes to any of these questions come on out June 18! We’ll be giving a farm tour, answering your questions, give you a chance to pet the baby animals, and some farm fresh eats, too! Come join us!

Open House