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March 24, 2014

    26 March 2014


The fourth graders from Topa Topa School made their rounds this week, hunting lady bugs, time traveling and munching vast quantities of organic carrots they pulled right from the ground. I saw one boy with a big carrot in his mouth and one in each hand, so enthralled was he with the orange source of sweet Vitamin A he planned on packing some home.

I asked one group of children if they had eaten our fresh carrots last week at school. Yes they had! So I asked, were they any good? Yeah! The best!

Around 130 children came with some parents and teachers. They sat on hay bales and heard stories straight from the earth told by Dave White, leading the tours, with Juna Mueller, both of whom work for Food For Thought, the Ojai organization that educates the valley about the benefits of eating local organic produce. Dave is also the Executive Director of The Center for Regenerative Agriculture, headquartered in Mira Monte. The Ojai Unified School District has been introducing local produce on their menus for a few years with help from Food For Thought. Our farmers, Wes Jones and Nitana Calfee, provided nifty anecdotes regarding wild adventures with earthworms, hawks, lacewings and coyotes, our co-workers on the farm.

Our teachers taught the students how to time-travel, going back a million years, when the dinosaurs were gone and wilderness was remarkably different from what we see today. Was it wetter? Could have been. How else did all the rocky peaks become soil? Dave and Juna said it takes millions of years for nature to make the soil we walk on now. Expansive freezing and thawing, wind and water, contrived to crumble the mighty monoliths into the fine environment that allows Potato Bugs to hide and grain to grow so the birds will have something to eat. Now the biggest oaks grow in the deepest soil.  Earth evolution is a marvelously dynamic process that proceeds so very slowly we hardly can imagine what changed into what he have now, or to theorize, what will become of everything we see in another million years? Do you think one of us will be here to see it?

Will there be carrots in a million years? A million years ago there were no carrots. No carrot juice, no carrot cake and no Bugs Bunny. There might have been a weird umbellish plant with a semi-sweet root that enticed some lucky rodent back then, but there were no Persian carrots and certainly no French carrots. We get carrots selected from the Middle East’s great cradle of food that runs from the Tigris River to the Himalayas. From the Afghan imports, the French selected special varieties so sweet and tender even the King would eat them raw. And he was pretty proud, you know. The carrots you eat are the direct descendants of what was first grown in Nantes, France and that type governs fresh market production. Just ask the French when you see one about the Nantes carrots and I bet they will eye-ball roll and wave their arms over their heads. They’re excitable. None of those batty Imperator juggernaut carrots for you or the French. The Imperators are so big they look prehistoric, but of course they’re not. Only people can time travel. Carrots can’t because they are stuck in the ground.

That odiferous oniony leekish product in your share today is a green garlic. To consume, start at the floppy green leaves and chop some up on your way to the bright white shank. Chop and cook or splay it on salad, lightly. We call it a “shank” because it is long, like a leg or an implement for a tractor that goes way deep in the earth to break the clods so the carrots can slink down there and grow nice and straight. You probably remember that King Edward the First of England was known as Longshanks because he was so tall and that the Shawshank Redemption has nothing to do with carrots, although one of the most common uses of the word “shank” refers to a homemade knife fashioned by prisoners incarcerated within the walls of institutions similar to the fictitious site of the famous film.

You got yourself a red cabbage again after seven long months of waiting. We don’t plan on giving you one every week of course, but we believe cabbage is a highly underrated nutritional wallopsmacker. We have a couple more rounds of cabbage coming. We’re on a roll.


March 19, 2014

19 March 2014

On Wednesday we celebrate the dead God Wodan. Thursday goes to Thor. You might have thought that long before now the Christians would have banished references to the heathen pantheism of our Nordic heritage, yet Wodan’s Day it still be. Ralph Reed must be napping.

Wodan is a Germanic drop down from Mercury, the Roman god of communication in whose honor I frequently down a nice cold pilsner, sometimes in order to whet the dull blades of thought. Because he wanders, Wodan is also a bit like John the Baptist and paradoxically a precursor to Father Christmas, but I think if you stood Saint Nick and Wodan in the police lineup there is no way you would get a conviction.

“ I said he was skinny. This other guy looks like Yosemite Sam!”

We decided to change the name from Wednseday to Weedsday in honor of that bitty bunch of Lamb’s Quarters you got in your share today. Eat them chopped with your eggs tomorrow or in your salad tonight, but eat them soon in order to feel the power of wildcrafted goodness coursing through your veins. The Lamb’s Quarters is akin to spinach and beets, but more identifiable as a relative of Quinoa as are all the edible amaranths. including Kalaloo and Red Root Pigweed.

You also have the first Bok Choy to be seen in a month of Wodensdays, which would be a better spelling. I have thought ever since I could read that the spelling of Wednesday with that damn S sitting there lisping the D while your ears have only heard it pronounced as WeNsday, ignoring the first D entirely. And the English are supposed to be good spellers. If there was ever a day that should be renamed it is Wednesday. In Spanish,  Miercoles,  named after Mercury,  is another slurring, jamming the extra I in front of the E. I like the Italian Mercoledi better, nicely formed and more melliflouous than the French Mercredi.

That may enough etymology to go on your linguini, but there is enough for seconds. Carrots persist, as well as new salad mix. Arugula andFenyl,  as they spell it outside of Spilsby, near the English Channel, repeat their performance from last week. I don’t think the word fennel appetizes as well as tomato, for example, or asparagus. If we should change the name of fenyl to the Greek word, Marathon, no doubt it would increase that vegetable’s desirability, at least among long-distance runners and anyone put off by the lower echelon implications of the common word might be emboldened to give Marathon some run.

We got the squash and the cucumbers planted but this morning Jack Frost almost paid us a visit. I never knew he was still around here. There was a bit of ice on a cuke, just enough to singe it, but these frost intolerant varieties survived long enough for us to effort some row cover out once again to further their season. We have 27 extra days of production already invested in these 1200 feet of Summer produce, which is ample reason to float some cover on them. The task should take around two hours. Don’t worry. I won’t ply you with more senseless math again. Just because we do a lot of mindless counting should be no reason to inflict the obligation upon you.

March 12, 2014

12 March 2014

 I decreed I would not wander in the tall weeds with faux fictional exploits, but I can feel the permission already weighing heavy on my keyboard. Stop me before I lie. I want to talk about the farm and what grows there, but after looking at it all morning the mind urges to take flight. But I won’t talk about surfing. I won’t talk about Angelica Huston. I won’t delve into The Crimea, Google, The Bagrada, The Symphyla, The Health Department or The Drought, all of which could invest reams of copy. But somebody else has already covered these topics better than I can. Except maybe The Bagrada, of which I wish I was not so expert.

Instead, we can describe what happens out there on the rain-packed soils, where hoeing suddenly evolves into a tool-endangering enterprise. I have seen more than one blade snap out there, no matter be the operator trained or novice. Our transplant set is doing arguably better than our direct-seeded crops. The bok choy is jumping while the beets and chard linger. 2488 heads of mixed lettuce show an admirable vigor after the rain. Superhuman rows of fennel, smarter than any patch this side of Lancashire, thrive into maturity alongside red kale, broccoli and Lacinato kale. Turnips are so-so, owing to underground menacing of the minute root-devouring centipede known as Symphlya. Veronica purple cauliflower is pushing on amid the fancy planting of kolh rabi.

The croupiers are going to plant cucucucucucumbers and zzzzzuchini early again. If the freeze lays off, the early work will yield mucho casino. If it’s going to be 90 on Saturday all I can say is “ What took us so long?”

Peas be planting as do potatoes, more onions and leeks. Another round of cabbage and carrots are in. The six beds we planted to seed with the dark clouds issuing from Drenchtown on the horizon fare better than expected. Our lettuce scarcity is so dire that Wiley Connell could not contain his opinion of our sloth. So we got some heads from Stroke Grove, home of the Stockbridge Miracle. Can’t get more local than The Stroke. The Sunshine grapefruit you think are navel oranges came from Carol Vesecky in the River Bottom. Everything else is from the Us of you, not the Them of they.

Today we got tired of throwing away perfectly good kale leaves that the bitty finches have been murdering. Wes Jones is going to get his mow-jo working on the tractor in the big tangle formerly known as the Pepper Patch. Now it’s Nettletown, population ouch. We dare not tromp there further. That’s where the finches and sparrows secrete themselves from the swooping raptor perched in the oaks nearby. They need the safety of the calamitous growth, where they can wing into when a special shadow darkens their ground.

Nitana really, really wants to drive the tractor badder than a nine year-old boy so we will set her on the new Kubota and watch her crush some weeds.

Today’s share includes Wiley’s lettuce, kale, carrots, chard, cilantro, fennel, broccoli, arugula, and that bitter leafy you thought was lettuce last week. They are Italian chicories, so good for you, and better served with plenty of garlic and lemon, salt or anchovies, mayonnaise, yogurt, macaroni and cheese. braised chard, carrot juice, rice pudding, or some of that Sunday Evening Pizza they started serving at the Farmer and The Cook. This week’s special pizza will be the “Katy Gray”, which goes very well with fine beverages and Daylight Savings.


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