Monday, July 23, 2012

Garden Update - July 2012

Stage 1: March
Stage 2: April
Stage 3: May
Stage 4: May
Stage 5: June
Stage 6: July
Ready for a few close-ups?
Beefsteaks growing nice and large
Cherry Tomatoes in the evening sun
Sunflower head forming
Cucumber-lettes and some red cabbage 
Herb section with soaker hose
Our first zucchini of the year and
some more summer squash
I also have more basil than I know what to do with right now.  I have several bunches in small jelly jars of water around the house - they smell great! and are starting to root.  I might have to share my favorite pesto recipe with the next basil trimmings.

Vermont 2012 - Hardwick & Winooski

Hardwick is the subject of a book titled, "The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food." I haven't read the book but it has been on my amazon wish list for a little over a year.  While I'll still probably get around to reading it, I was thrilled to visit the town on my 3rd day in Vermont.

The short version of Hardwick's ever evolving story is that the small town (approximately 3000 people) dealt with a crushed economy built on granite mining and agriculture.  Many residents, both old and new, came together and with a great amount of tension began to carve out a place of locally grown and developed food.
Found taped to a light pole in Hardwick
We had lunch at Claire's.  If you tell anyone in the know that you're going to Hardwick for lunch - they assume you're going to Claire's.  The restaurant is built entirely on local foods with a few exceptions (liquor, for example) that isn't local but is produced by small businesses and families in other people's local business circuits.  Our meals were delicious but many of us left still confused as to whether this was a sustainable business plan; they were still subsidized by their initial investment grants which were running out this year.
Listening to the owner of Claire's telling his story
O_O Awesome
Speaking of compost (picture above)! We visited the Highfields Center for Composting where an incredibly hunky man in overalls and rubber boots dazzled me with his compost knowledge.  Most of Hardwick's compostables go to Highfields and then back into the local soil.

Windrows - I could see the steam rolling off them
Ventilated compost bins
Vermicomposting unit! (my favorite ^_^)
Our next stop was High Mowing Organic Seeds run by Tom Stearns.  To say that Tom is passionate about seeds is an understatement.  He was an absolute pleasure follow around town and his tour of his company was just as fantastic!  High Mowing grows, saves, and sells 100% organic and non-GMO seeds.  Did you know that certified organic produce doesn't usually come from organic seed?  And that the majority of seeds (despite being ordered and shipped from hundreds of middle-man companies) are controlled by 6 large pharmaceutical and chemical companies?  High Mowing started the Safe Seed pledge in 1999 to protect against GMO seeds and since then over 70 companies have signed on.  I was so impressed with Tom's knowledge and High Mowing's operation that I won't be getting my seeds anywhere else from now on (unless Michigan suddenly develops an organic, sustainable, GMO-free, locally owned and run seed business).

The measuring department, complete with prayer flags.
You can't really see with this picture -
but the wall contains scoops of all kinds!
Tom giddily showing us the seed cleaner and sorter.
The BEAUTIFUL mural on the bathroom walls.
High Mowing's rigorous germination test

We finished our field trip with a tour of the Vermont Food Ventures Center where budding food entrepreneurs can become food safe certified and rent time/equipment in a commercial kitchen to produce and package their own value-added products.  They get help from food scientists, business planners, and marketers to get their business up and running.

We had to gear up to get into the center -
hair/beard nets and foot washes
Inside the bakery room, listening to the operator talk
about their expansion plans
Devin and I ended the night with dinner in Winooski, a town neighboring Burlington.  We ate a delicious and cheap meal at Papa Frank's.

For $1 we got garlic bread and a huge cup of roasted garlic
in olive oil - heaven!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vermont 2012 - Burger Night

Dinner my second night in Vermont was very special.  We went to Bread & Butter Farm for their Burger Night.  The line was huge!  Burger Night is incredibly popular even when the weather was rainy, cold, and grey.

I don't have words for this experience.  It is extremely difficult for me to articulate how important it was for me to be at this farm at this point in my life.  Even thinking about it is making me cry on my keyboard.  I cried on the farm, too.  At the end of our night I spent some time alone in Corie's hoop-house and the beauty of their land, their family, their community just came spilling out of me.
The front half of the line to order

Right: Hoop-house, Left: Pavilion for dining and music

Farmer Corie bringing new lettuce to the burger bar

Their beautiful landscape!

Cucumbers in the hoop-house

The length of the hoop-house

Bread & Butter Farm is located on Cheese Factory Rd.
Corie took a minute out of the chaos of running a farm and pop-up restaurant to talk to us and tell us that the kind of jobs we (those of us in the program) are looking for don't exist.  That we need to create them.  We aren't going to find them in a graduate program or on a job listing site - we need to carve our own paths.

She spoke to us again at the TED-esque conference when she told her story and brought the hundred person audience to tears.  She ended with a slideshow of her family and her farm while her husband performed an acoustic rendition his song "Family Farm" (a 2009 live version below).

Finally, I was lucky enough to speak with Corie one on one later in the week over dinner.  I had been wanting to talk to her personally, many of us did, but I was anxious; she's kind of a rock star.  We talked about farm stuff - Corie studied farming at the Santa Cruz program, then she worked to create the MSU program and once that was up and running she had huge input on the creation of the Vermont Farmer's Training program.  I was able to pick her brain and she gave me a lot of really great advice.  And no kidding about the rock star thing...I was the envy of many other women in the group who wished they'd been able to have her ear that night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Some in-betweens

I've been trying to get my other posts about Vermont done but it is taking longer than I had thought.  I was sure the experience would flow from my fingers but it was such a great/crazing/tiring/exhilarating trip that I'm having trouble expressing it.  In the mean time I've had so many things I've wanted to write about but I've been avoiding it because of my Vermont procrastination.  I've decided that is just plain silly.  This is my journal, I can write about whatever I'd like whenever I'd like.  So there.


After dozens and dozens of of house viewings Sammit and I have decided to forgo buying a house this year.  We'll check back to our feelings (and savings account) after I graduate in April.  Until then we've decided to put a little money into the house we live in now.  We rent from Sammit's brother and he's given us permission to do just about anything we want to the house.  To make a long story short the first two year's we've lived here have not been calm and at the end of each year we think of moving.  We've worked out a lot of kinks and decided that we could be really happy here if we just finished unpacking and painting.  You know, make it look like we actually live here.

We have a decent budget for each room and can't wait to blow off steam with a little retail therapy after scrimping and saving so hard for the last several months years.  We're saying goodbye to our plastic china cabinet and 80's couch - and a lot of the other hand-me-downs we were thankful to receive while we were getting started.

Step One: Clean & Declutter.  Devin and I made a decent killing at our first garage sale and yet we still have a ton of stuff to eliminate.  I think two more passes should do it.

Step Two: Paint.  Right now every room in the house is painted a cold powder blue.  Gross! (Sorry Bro, poor decision).  I'm thinking....

  • Dining Room: Navy & Cream
  • Living Room: Crimson & Cream
  • Bedroom: Coffee & Cream
  • Office: Teal? or Orange?
  • Guest Room: Lilac
Step Three: Furniture.  While the 80's couch is out, we're moving to another hand-me-down from a stylish and modern friend of a friend.  I've recruited Devin to help me paint and reupholster our dining set as well as some bookcases.  I've also made a shopping list for IKEA for a few things (guest/day bed, desk for the office, TV stand, etc).

Step Four: Decor.  Finally filling and hanging my dozens of frames!  Putting the appropriate vases/art/mementos  in the right rooms.  Finding fun ways to keep things organized.


I'll have to take a picture tomorrow but the garden has exploded!  I've been keeping track of our bounty though admittedly it isn't much - mostly herbs, lettuce, and a few squash(es?).  No tomatoes or cucumbers yet but they're on their way along with peas, beans, and peppers.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vermont 2012 - Intervale Center

View from my first dinner in Vermont - we watched the storm come in over the Lake Champlain

The first stop on our Food Revolution tour was the Intervale.  We had a makeshift breakfast from the local co-op followed by a few hours of lecture on mental models, balancing vs. reinforcing cycles, environmental ecology, and social/natural capital.  We explored the farm and learned about its history and future; the Intervale Center serves as an incubator for beginning farmers and has a community owned CSA.  We ended the afternoon with a exercise where we had to design our own restaurants.

Intervale Logo
Panoramic of the Intervale Center

Our lecture hall, lab, and cafeteria
Presenting our restaurant business plans & menus
Posted just inside the barn door
Next stop: Dinner - Burger Night at Bread & Butter Farm....

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Writer's Block

I've been home since Monday but every time I try to start writing....

...this happens:

Molly reclining in my arms
Dash bogarting the keyboard
When I finally get the dogs off me - I'm still riddled with guilty looks:

Gir turning his back to me
I'll keep trying though; they have to sleep sometime.