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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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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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)

What’s a CSA? (and other FAQ)

Family Recipes

We get a lot of questions about the farm and CSA. So, we thought we’d tackle them all in one post. If your question is not answered in this post, leave us a comment on this post and we’ll answer it!

  1. What exactly is a CSA?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a fancy way of saying a way to buy your food directly from a small-scale local farm. Think of it as a buying club for your farm fresh local wares.  Here’s how it works: you sign-up at the beginning of the season. Paying upfront allows the farmer to have capital to work with throughout the season rather than having to wait until the season is over to have funds. Then throughout the growing and harvesting season, you as a member, get a share of the harvest! Every week you get to pick-up farm fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, milk, etc.

This is a beautiful set-up for several reasons. Your grocery money goes directly to those growing your food–cutting out the middle man, big corporations, etc. It’s sort of the ultimate “putting-your-money-where-your-mouth-is.”

2. How much does it cost to join?

We have two levels. Full share is $200. Half share is $100.

3. How much produce does that give me?

Each week for 9 weeks you will get $25 (full share) or $12.50 (half share) worth of fruits, vegetables and herbs.  What exactly you receive will vary according to what is freshest and being harvested at that time. So you are guaranteed fresh and local!

Frequently asked questions

4. Do you have anything besides produce?

We have raw milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, kombucha and sometimes pastured meat. If you would like part of your CSA share to include some of these items, we may be able to accommodate. Just let us know what you’re looking for!

5. How do I get the stuff?

We have two pick-up options: Monday and Friday. But, if you need a special arrangement or to pick up another day, let us know and we’ll try to be as flexible as we can. Hey, we’re all busy families. We know the drill. Am I right?

READY TO SIGN-UP OR TO GET MORE DETAILS? ❤ CLICK HERE!!!!

Frequently asked questions

6. Can I visit your farm?

Yes. Yes, you can.

Email or call to arrange a farm tour. We also have a variety of events from concerts to workshops to kid farm days. So come on out and join the fun. You do NOT need to be a CSA member to enjoy the events. Check out the events page for more information.

7. I am not ready to join the CSA, but I want to buy produce? Can I do that?

Sure thing! Beginning sometime in June we’ll have a full-time farmstand.

8. Are you certified organic?

The term organic is now regulated by the USDA and through state and local regulatory agencies. We have not, at this time, sought certification. Our farm, however, maintains a higher standard than government minimums. We call it transparency. You are welcome to question us about our growing practices at any time, visit the farm anytime, see the operation anytime, etc. We will not spray chemical pesticides, chemical herbicides or use chemical fertilizer. Remember, we have to live here and drink water from this well! The health of our soil is paramount to us! Our model and goal is sustainability. Our fertilizer and soil amendments come from happy animals and compostable materials. Our seeds are saved year-by-year to the best of our ability. When we purchase seeds they are always 100% non-GMO. Our animal operation is rotational pastured-based. We strive to reduce waste by recycling, upcycling, and reusing all we can. Our goal is small footprint farming.

I guess what it comes down to is this: Do you trust a government label or a farmer who says, “Come visit and check out exactly what we do!” We think the latter is best. Don’t you?

Frequently asked questions

9. Are those ALL your kids?

Yes. Indeed.

10. Don’t you have your hands full?

Yes, and our hearts, too.

 

Food as an act of theology?

Food as an act of theology

Maybe it’s because at the moment we are up to our ears in planting seeds, milking the calf and welcoming baby-everything to the farm. Chicks, ducks, lambs, piglets, etc. Maybe it’s because we spend a little too much time in our own heads. Maybe it’s because we are a bit theological geeks first and then we became farmers. (Did you know Gana actually has a Master’s Degree in theology from Fuller Seminary?) Maybe it’s the innate desire of every person to feel that they are participating in meaningful work. Whatever the reason, we feel compelled today to share a little bit of the divinity hidden in the stuff of earth. Continue reading