Resurrecting the blog on Halloween….

Life

I couldn’t resist. More than just blogging to express myself, I want to keep track of what I’m learning somewhere besides in notebooks and journals that end up scattered around my house and car with handwriting not often legible.

Today I went to Ridgeway High School, a county school here in Memphis, where I’m doing a practicum for graduate school. Yes, amongst other things I’m trying to become a high school Spanish teacher. So I went to observe a teacher in classroom management… what day better than Halloween to do a behavioral observation! There’s quite a bit to manage in the class.. if students aren’t texting they insist on keeping their hoods up and listening to music (it is pretty cold in those classrooms…) Haha I was amused. Of course I took note of the procedural enforcement and clear instructions the teacher gave, but also I got to revisit some culture that I had forgotten.

DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

The teacher I observed is from California but is of Mexican descent. He began the lesson by challenging the students to think about Halloween. “Why do you celebrate it? I know you get candy and dress up in costumes, but is there more to it?” Most of the students couldn’t think of a deeper meaning. He went on to explain how he believes his Mexican culture does a better job of connecting to why they traditionally celebrate a similar holiday. All Hallows Eve is November 1, the day before All Saints Day, November 2. They can be compared with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. It was meant to be a day to celebrate and remember those who have died, or, from a believer’s perspective, remember the Saints who led faithful lives on Earth. So why the costumes? Why dress up like creepy skeletons and zombies? Should we make light of such a dark thing, isn’t it a touchy subject? That seems a little out there. Maybe we should just stick to the American way and dress up like our favorite sitcom star or Elsa from Frozen and collect candy from strangers. But maybe Día de los Muertos isn’t so creepy after all. Maybe everyone together acknowledging that life AND death are in fact reality is a good exercise, a good wake up call. According to the lesson, the Central American expression of this holiday is to ridicule and make fun of the power of death. “Death is just another beginning to a new stage of our beautiful existence.” (I’m not exactly sure about the Aztec afterlife beliefs but this applies to my religion ha) Yes, people! The best is yet to come. Why should we be afraid? I can’t help but remember my dear friend Ben Farley on this day. What a saint!! I know know know that he is FAR better off now than when he was here, sick as a dog for the past two years, although he managed to carry cancer around like just one extra thing going on that shouldn’t affect his way of being or relationships. That’s the thing about God. Everything is not as it seems. Shouldn’t we be afraid of death? Shouldn’t we fear cancer and aren’t we entitled to complain about every unfortunate circumstance? I’m remembering my friend Ben today and how he wasn’t afraid. How he lived on purpose knowing full well that God was taking care of him, increasingly exuding peace and confidence in Jesus all the way to the end. We can have hope when having hope doesn’t seem to make sense. When our cup is empty, He fills it… even when we don’t ask. I remember Ben and can’t believe he’s really gone. And that we’re all still here. Did his life really come and go that quick? What a powerful, meaningful existence! I can’t help but be inspired and encouraged by his intentionality and love for people. I want that to be what my life is about, but many times I feel not so equipped. The word longing has been a theme lately… longing for direction, longing to hear that still small voice, longing for whatever it may be on a given day. We are all longing for something we won’t encounter fully until we meet Jesus. In this hope we are saved. St. Augustine said that God allows us to long to extend our soul, so that it can be filled even more! Amen and Amen. Let us remember today those who lived like they were Loved, and go on with life filled and unafraid! Happy Halloween!

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A first time for everything…

Life
RIP

RIP

Sorry if this is too graphic. So, every other week somewhere around 75 chickens are butchered and sold from the farm. I usually just help with the bagging (once they’ve been killed and gutted, I make sure all the feathers and some glands around the neck came off right). It takes at least 3 hours to bag; it’s pretty meticulous work. While bagging, I often think about all of the mornings their pens were moved and all the times they were fed and given water during their lives. They really do have a great life on the farm! And as a carnivore, it’s nice to see this ideal of a process for all parties involved — the chickens, the land/pasture, the consumer. I have been reading up on conventional meat and word on the street is that their lives don’t look quite like this… ‘nother doller,  ‘nother day. However, if you want to get an idea of how the chickens at Haymaker Poultry are raised on the farm, it’s literally exactly like this video shows. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia is well known in the world of sustainable agriculture and has been featured in various books and documentaries. He’s probably written some books, too.

All that to say, today, I became more than just a chicken bagger. I didn’t actually end a life or anything like that, but I did take part in more butchering activities…. cutting off chicken feet, cutting off chicken head / neck, gutting out the innards… you get the point. I really can truly say that I never imagined myself EVER handling freshly slaughtered chickens.. never say never, people.

Here are some more farm/stand pics that I recently snapped.

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postcard of a painting of the stand done by a local artist

postcard of a painting of the stand done by a local artist

sweet corn is here!

sweet corn is here!

a little side angle action

a little side angle action

the best eggs!

the best eggs!

 

OK so I had some really fun experiences last week! I got to see two other farms.

They sell goat's milk

They sell goat’s milk

rows of tomato plants

rows of tomato plants

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This farm is one of many CSA’s in the region. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This means that there are members of a CSA or shareholders, who pay a certain price on the front end, and are supplied with a weekly assortment of produce throughout the growing season. This secures a certain amount of funding for the farmers , and is quite fun for members who get to try new varieties of fruits and veggies during the summer, enjoying what is in season. You should look and see if there are CSA’s in your area looking for members! Some trade hours of labor for produce, and others just the money. It’s worth looking into.

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Another really interesting part of last week was touring a Yak and Alpaca farm! It is called Great Lakes Ranch in Maple City, Michigan, not too far from the farm. Chelsea, who helps out with butchering at the farm, lives on this ranch with her cute little baby, Arlo, and her husband. She prepared a lunch for us and showed us around! I have never seen anything like this before. These animals are raised for their fibers, or hairs. They are sheared (not sure how often, every couple months maybe?), which is like getting brushed and collecting their shedding hairs (which apparently is like a bunch of gallon zip lock baggies full per yak). Here’s a yak.

I mean, wow

I mean, wow

Turns out there are only 2,000 Tibetan yaks in the United States (if I’m not mistaken there was just a few year window of time when they were permitted to be imported). So, you can raise yaks for meat, milk, and their hairs. Apparently the underhairs are completely different from the outer coat. At this particular ranch they are also focused on breeding and selling yak and alpaca.

This farm is BEAUTIFUL and the alpaca get to roam free in the fields. They are kept separate from the yaks. The alpaca look like how I picture llamas. Emperor’s new groove, anyone?

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I wish I had more facts about YAKS and ALPACAS or that I even knew the correct plural form of them but moving on. Oh I forgot to say that the farmer’s wife has a shop and she goes around selling rugs, coats, socks and things made out of the fibers. PRETTY NEAT

SO I got to have the BEST weekend/trip celebrating friends this past weekend. It was Hannah’s bachelorette party down in Talladega, AL. We went and stayed at our friend, Cameron’s lake house ! It became real that Hannah’s big day is quickly approaching! And what fun it is to be with friends before we all scatter back out like jelly beans. I got to celebrate the graduation of and had to say goodbye to my bestie/roomie/travelbuddy/better half/spanish homie  Jane, who is moving to China for a year to tell people about JESUS! I am thankful to have been able to watch God place this sense of urgency and passion in her heart to be a part of what He is doing there.  Going to miss her though. I am refreshed and ready to soak up every bit I have of only two weeks left of my farm experience!

Janie, the graduate!

Janie, the graduate!

!!!!

!!!!

The bride and I! check out that BLING

The bride and I! check out that BLING

 

BYE for now

squash ’em

Life

So, since Sunny Swanson’s Farm is also the home of Haymaker Poultry Co., baby chicks arriving every couple of weeks is the norm. Did you know that baby chicks could be priority shipped in cardboard boxes? I had no idea! The man at the Cedar Post Office makes sure to call right away, always seeming a little nervous about the chirping package. They come from Pennsylvania and are just a day old when they arrive. Do you know something else? Bees get shipped in the mail, too! But, that’s for later. Here’s a pic of the chicks

CHicks in a box

Chicks in a box

"Let me out!"

“Let me out!”

So these birds will be in a smaller home in the greenhouse for about 2-3 weeks until they are moved out in the field where they will graze in mobilized pens each day! Here is a picture of the turkeys, they are about two weeks old now, boy they are some vocal ones and they really have grown quickly.

TURKEYS [they grow up so fast]

TURKEYS [they grow up so fast]

So up at the stand we’ve had garlic, herbs, flowers, cherries, molasses cookies (they are GOOD and sell real quick, Yarrow makes them, she knows what’s up) kale and collards some days, radishes… Apparently before garlic is sold and after it is picked it needs to hang to cure a little. Who knew? I hung some garlic up in the barn. It’s something about it needing to air out, makes sense. I was nervous because the bats live in the barn too. They obviously don’t come out in the day time but if you listen closely you can hear them making sounds…

garlic

garlic

hangin' out in the barn

hangin’ out in the barn

I really love garlic, though. SOmetimes with dinner as a side dish, the Brown’s will cut tomatoes in half and roast them in the oven for 40 minutes with garlic cloves and olive oil it is the BEST. Try it.

I am happy to report that the tomatoes are ripening up!!!! I ate some ‘Sungold’s right off the vine. They are a little yellow cherry tomato. You can just pop ’em in your mouth like popcorn. We haven’t started selling them at the stand since the bulk of them need another week or so before they are completely ripe.

The cherry tomatoes ripening up

The cherry tomatoes ripening up

'Sungold' tomatoes !!!!!

‘Sungold’ tomatoes !!!!!

There will be tons of other tomatoes too and different varieties, some hybrids, some heirlooms.

almost ready!

almost ready!

The pepper plants are a little slow, perhaps because they like more phosphorus, but they are still looking okay. So fertilizers vary in range of composition of three elements that people will look for depending on their soil’s needs. You already know this (better than I) if you are a plant person, but they are N-P-K, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The organic fertilizer we used was 8-2-? I forgot what the last one was for potassium but I know it was low in phosphorus so apparently that affected the peppers who are keen on phosphate.

pepper plant

pepper plant

pepper plant

pepper plant

Here are some more recent pictures from the roadside stand.

icicle radishes (spicy)

icicle radishes (spicy)

try putting purple basil in a bouquet! smell + color = win win

try putting purple basil in a bouquet! smell + color = win win

beautiful flowers grown on the farm

beautiful flowers grown on the farm

I drew that cherry

I drew that cherry

Last week was HOT!! The heat-wave was all around the US, I hear. Good thing the great lakes are close by and still pretty chilly. We took advantage of that for sure! Saturday it cooled off and was beautiful. Hannah and I went to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and did a hike up to Lake Michigan. It was so cool! You do it barefoot (only the locals know that… good thing I was with Hannah…)

We made it to the lake!!

We made it to the lake!!

The BEST watermelon on the best day off!

The BEST watermelon on the best day off!

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Back to the farm… I’ve got a really excited bee report! Greg, the beekeeper came by on Monday. He has got it going on! He has hives at a number of organic farms in the area, and sells his honey every week at the farmer’s market and also supplies local grocery stores with honey. He is so kind to let Ben and me come over and ask 1,0384,0348 questions about why he is doing this or that. Just like last time, he was thrilled with how the bees are doing. He added two more honey supers to each hive, again! I TASTED HONEY RIGHT OFF OF THE HONEYCOMB !!!!!!!! So in each honey super (a box only containing honey and bees, unlike the bottom two deeper boxes that also contain brood or reproductive activity) there are ten vertical frames. Once the frames are full and the supers are full, you just add more supers until the harvest. The queen bee will never go into a super (or shouldn’t); this way, there are no eggs being laid here (brood), just honey. Who wants bee larvae in their honey? Not me.

Greg added TWO more supers on each hive!

Greg added TWO more supers on each hive!

full frames of honey

full frames of honey

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mmmmmmmmmmmmm

mmmmmmmmmmmmm

See that honey?? It’s basswood honey. Smooth and sweet. And yes, we were this close! Don’t worry, it’s ok, because of the smoker. This calms them down.

the smoker

the smoker

crowding the entrance. they were trying to cool off outside!

crowding the entrance. they were trying to cool off outside!

Greg explained to us how tidy they are. They keep the hive super clean. We observed some of them carrying out pebbles and dumping them into the nearby grass. We even saw one of the bees carry out a dead one! They won’t keep things lying around. We asked about the difference for a bee between pollen and nectar. Pollen is their protein, and nectar their carbohydrate. It is truly amazing how complex they are. They don’t care too much about stinging, because the thistle just started to bloom and they’ve got their work cut out for them. They zoom by so fast, like they’re on a mission with the most definite flight path. It is fascinating how their anatomy enables them to be so efficient. God is so creative! And smart.

Greg and some bees

Greg and some bees

thistle is blooming and the bees are happy

thistle is blooming and the bees are happy

star thistle

star thistle

It’s pretty amazing how watermelon grows! Do you remember how long ago we made these mounds and planted seed? Baby melons are starting to form! It starts with a bloom, and once it gets pollinated, the melon grows.

watermelon plant(s)

watermelon plant(s)

the bloom and the melon

the bloom and the melon

baby watermelon

baby watermelon

Can’t wait for these to be ready! Another crop that is coming along is the summer squash. The same happens with the bloom.

summer squash plant

summer squash plant

baby zucchini!

baby zucchini!

There is one major pest problem, squash bugs. EW I don’t like them! They lay eggs on the underside of the leaves and they all hatch at once into more squash bugs! The best thing to do is, when you see the eggs, squash them to prevent them from hatching. I don’t know if they are squash bugs because you should squash their eggs right away, or because they hang around squash plants…

squash bug eggs NOO!!

squash bug eggs NOO!!

Here are the sunflowers! Some of them are outgrowing me in height!

sunflowers

sunflowers

My dad requested pictures of weeds I am pulling… Hannah and Mrs. Mary came out to the farm today and BOY DID WE pull some weeds.

the worst weed around

the worst weed around

milkweed

milkweed

ragweed

ragweed

FRESH

Life

I’m FRESH out of ideas for catchy titles for these posts… but FRESH is the produce I’m dealing with so it works!

I haven’t had much time to update lately – but that’s a good thing, right? I’ll start by catching you up with the farm happenings this past week or so.

Image

^^ notice the new additions on each hive – honey supers!

I had the MOST exciting experience with Beekeeper Greg last week. He came to check up on his bees and see how they’re doing. The sumacs are in bloom, so that’s mainly what the bees are into right now. Have you heard of people eating bee pollen? He informed me that the bee pollen from sumac blooms is the best there is. I ate it right off the hive!!! It reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes when she goes and gets the honey and the comb. Did I mention that I was literally two feet away from THOUSANDS of stinging insects? Greg was pulling out the frames (these are fixed vertically in the deep boxes and consist of worker bees busy doing a number of different activities to sustain the hive) checking for a few things… and inviting me to check it out too – you know, like, putting a frame full of bees like 6 inches from my face so that I could see observe the brood pattern or find the queen, which he has labeled in each of the 6 hives.

Here are a few things he pointed out to me about beekeeping:

brood pattern – Brood is the offspring. The queen lays the eggs in the cells of the frame (cells are hexagonal and resemble honeycomb). There are different stages of brood, of which all of the worker bees are responsible for nourishment. They also store food in these cells for the hive. By checking on the brood, a beekeeper can tell if teh queen is in good, healthy shape, so that the hive can keep growing.

supers – Greg was thrilled to add his supers (two more shallow boxes on top of the original hive’s deep boxes). These honey supers will be full of honey for him to sell. The bees have done their job of supplying the hive with enough food for themselves to survive, so the surplus goes to the honey-loving humans! yay

blooms – I liked hearing about bloom times of different plants and how that affects the yields. Sumacs now, lindens or basswoods soon (Tilia americana – Thanks, Dr. Ponder!), and star thistle.

I CAN’T BELIEVE I haven’t gotten stung yet. knock on wood. There was an angry nest of yellow jackets in the greenhouse that Ben attacked today with some spray – RIP homies, can’t say I’m too bummed about that.

Things at the stand are going well. We’re selling the usual eggs, greens (kale, collards, some broccoli now), herbs (basil, cilantro), radishes, and garlic. [all of that is grown on the farm] And I can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen up! We are busy adding more strings and clips to keep them off the ground, they are growing exponentially! I’m hoping the peppers will all be ready before I leave in mid-August. Lately, we’ve been getting local sweet cherries for resale at the stand. THEY ARE DELICIOUS cherries might be my favorite fruit. They rely pretty heavily on spray for cherries, too, so we have to make sure to give ’em a good wash before quarting them up. I am getting so spoiled with all the organic produce harvested at the farm that it is unusual to smell the chemicals and see the cloudy water once the cherries are rinsed. They are $5 a quart and I think that’s pretty good because at the grocery I saw them for $6 a quart. Talk about a deal. Also, Yarrow’s bouquets are beautiful. The flowers are looking great.

FRESH BASIL

FRESH BASIL

radishes in between two rows of winter squash

radishes in between two rows of winter squash

trellised tomato plants

trellised tomato plants

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watermelon

watermelon

cilantro

cilantro

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check out those brown eggs!

check out those brown eggs!

yarrow

yarrow

THE BIGGEST EGG

THE BIGGEST EGG

Mmm Michigan sweet cherries

Mmm Michigan sweet cherries

 

I also had a birthday this weekend! I got to spend time with my bFFL Julianne in Chicago! We had a blast for real – more quality time than we got to have going to separate colleges and all. We had fun going to different restaurants and catching up. I am thanking God for the gift of friendships like that. REFRESHING.

Go Cubs!

Go Cubs!

Me and Ju and the tomato plant next to us at dinner!

Me and Ju and the tomato plant next to us at dinner!

100 A+

100 A+

My Best Friend's Wedding anyone?

My Best Friend’s Wedding anyone?

Where's Julia Roberts when you need her?

Where’s Julia Roberts when you need her?

We got a Sprinkles cupcake from an ATM! What is the world coming to?

We got a Sprinkles cupcake from an ATM! What is the world coming to?

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Before I left for the weekend, the Brown’s made a special early birthday dinner for me. It was so thoughtful! Hannah made a vegetable pie that I gotta get the recipe for, and her Aunt Annie made a Key Lime Cheesecake with a dark chocolate crust HEYOO! And the Brown’s made whitefish it was delish. LOVE THESE PEOPLE and all of their guests!

veggie pie

veggie pie

!!!! :))))

!!!! :))))

we managed to all get a pic together - thanks to Mr. Ted's handy gadgets!

we managed to all get a pic together – thanks to Mr. Ted’s handy gadgets!

OK, so I feel like I’m gonna need a whole separate post for all the coffee research I did this past weekend. On the way to Chicago, I stopped in Grand Rapids at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters. The owner was so kind and let me come by and try what was brewed, get a tour, ask questions, watch roasting, etc. It was SO COOL. More to come on this, but here are some pics.

mmm smells so good roastin!!

mmm smells so good roastin!!

BEANS before they get ROASTED

BEANS before they get ROASTED

Sunday, I did some more research and went to this place called Metropolis coffee. They supply different cafes around with beans, so that’s how I heard about it. They have on hand a complete laminated description of all the different beans and roasts with info about everything from family/farm/coop of origin, acidity, growing method, washing/drying technique, flavors, YOU NAME IT! SO COOL. You can bet I whipped out my coffee journal and took some notes here.

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“You like chocolate and cherries?”

Life

Hannah and I are officially done selling cherry dippers! At least for the Cherry Festival – who knows where this thing could go! Tons of people (reassuring customers with faces covered in chocolate) really encouraged Hannah to continue doing things with her Cherry Dipper business. We just had the best time meeting people and making sales on the streets of downtown Traverse City during the week of the Cherry Festival. People sure are interesting! We learned a lot, too – about investing, business, sales tactics, etc. My restful night of sleep included echoes of our repeated phrases throughout the week. We would holler, “Frozen cherries dipped in homemade dark chocolate! Only $3 Hand-dipped!” and people would respond with “Alright, I gotta try one of these,” or “What a combo!” or “Sounds good but I’m trying to watch my figure,” or my favorite from an African American teenager, “But I’m already dipped in chocolate!” I am proud of Hannah for all her hard work – she literally dipped every single one of the some thousand dippers sold. And we couldn’t have done it without her parents help and support, too! We loved having them come visit us while selling. Mr. Ted would put some cash in the tip jar to get people talking. Mrs. Mary would tell us what all the customers would say while eating them! So funny. Hannah’s Aunt Annie and cousin Tommy came in for the fourth. Tommy walked around and helped us out that day. It felt super American to interact with so many fellow citizens on the 4th of July – especially with the wonderful parade that went down on Front Street. Thanks to Tommy’s people skills, we got to enjoy the BEST view of TC’s firework show down on the bay of Lake Michigan. He got us 3 tickets to the Boom Boom Club where we got to sit with the nice donors who make the firework show possible with their $$. hahaha It was such a fun way to end the long tiring day of selling! Of course we ate cherry dippers during the show.

The fireworks were synchronized to the beat of classic American songs that played!

The fireworks were synchronized to the beat of classic American songs that played!

Hannah and Tommy outside the Boom Boom Club - haha!

Hannah and Tommy outside the Boom Boom Club – haha!

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the world is SMALL. We sold cherry dippers to one of our college friend's friend who lives in Detroit and was on vacation with her mom

the world is SMALL. We sold cherry dippers to one of our college friend’s friend who lives in Detroit and was on vacation with her mom

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The Cherry Dipper and I!

The Cherry Dipper and I!

Our #1 customer

Our #1 customer

These guys loved them so much they were buying them for strangers!

These guys loved them so much they were buying them for strangers!

 

In between the days of Cherry Dippers, I spent time on the farm! We started harvesting basil and parsley. It smells SO GOOD and sells real quick. We also started harvesting a different variety of radish called ‘Icicle’. They are white and look like, well, icicles! Or small white carrots. They are YUM and I wish I had a pic. We also spent a lot of time thinning out the squash because they were planted too close together (oops). I used the hoe a LOT! It was kind of fun. And I took a picture of the scuffle hoe so you could see what it looks like.

 

 

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We spent some time clearing out the top of the barn to get ready for some hay storage. It was dusty up there! We wore masks and bandanas. A nice fellow named Eric helped out all day, too. His grandparents live nearby and he remembers Sonny from when he was young (the original farmer who has passed away). It’s nice to see people from the community pitching in help because they want to support Ben and his vision for the farm. Yarrow (Ben’s girlfriend) planted tons of flowers and they are starting to bloom some of them. The yarrow flower is beautiful!

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The stand will get fuller and fuller as the season progresses!

The stand will get fuller and fuller as the season progresses!

A postcard that the Land Conservancy made of the roadside stand

A postcard that the Land Conservancy made of the roadside stand

The turkeys have arrived!!!! And boy are they cute.

gobble gobble

gobble gobble

I am looking forward to another week on the farm and the rest of this day of rest!

BEET IT

Life

I never know how to begin these posts……

SUP it’s Thursday and I have the day off! I’m enjoying a slow morning here at Long Lake trying to decide which of the 10 books I’m in the middle of reading to finish, or whether or not I should blog, or who to write a letter to, or what podcast I want to listen to, or maybe I should get some real R & R and just chill? I’m too distracted to read right now, so blog time it is.

This week got HOT on the farm! I never thought I’d say that 80 degrees is hot, seeing as how it’s probably 90+ most days in TN and AL, but when you’re outside all day and it’s sunny, it starts to feel that way.

Remember all those tomato plants we moved outside? They are all officially trellised up and looking quite nice! I really enjoyed this task. The trellis system we used is a T-post every 6-8 plants with a wire linking them. From the wire I tied hemp to hang down long enough to clip onto one of the stronger lower limbs of the tomato plant. This assures that the plant will stay off of the ground, reducing the chances of disease spreading through moisture with leaf contact and increases the fruition of the plant in general. WISH I HAD A PIC of those.. next time. We also made sure to pinch off suckers – little stems that grow between a main stem and a branch that I suppose must compete for nutrients, so it’s better to get rid of them. I also caught a squash bug laying eggs on a leaf! They are bright orange little ball thingys. Strange. I wondered if they are called squash bugs because they like squash plants or because they need to be squashed!!! I think it’s the former.

The roadside stand was BUMPIN’ this week! Tuesday was a big selling day. We had to go harvest more beets and kale midday because we sold out. I think part of the reason the produce took off is because we started getting berries from Bardenhagen Berry Farm right down the road. People pull over because they see the big bright strawberries ready to be eaten and then while picking out their quart of berries they can’t help but notice the beautiful veggies while they’re at it. The berries are really delicious that we get, and people like to buy locally grown. They supply tons of grocers in the area and other farms as well. I can’t imagine how many acres and acres they must have of people just pickin’ away. Bardenhagen Berries is an example of a monoculture – a farm that specializes in growing one particular item. They tend to be really good at whatever they focus on; however, the down side is that often a lot of chemicals are required in order to manage pests and diseases in a monoculture. A good alternative is to have a polyculture farm, one that embraces crop diversity and companion planting with the ecosystem in mind.

the stand

the stand

Kale (Lacinato & Red Russian) and Collards

Kale (Lacinato & Red Russian) and Collards

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BEETS

BEETS

reminds me of Mr. Grinch's fingernails!

reminds me of Mr. Grinch’s fingernails!

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

We enjoyed a yummy salad for dinner with roasted beets from the garden, lettuce from the garden, and garlic scapes – they GOOD.

Interesting. There is a team of grad students and researchers from some university that came by the farm to check out a group of animals that apparently live in a building on the land. They are called little brown bats and there’s a lot of them. BATS!!!!!!!! But apparently they are really good because they eat all types of bad bugs. They can eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour! More details to come about this research. All I can think of is Batman Forever. Bats are so fascinating. I kind of hope I don’t ever see one. But I did hear them……

EXCITING — I learned how to use the precision seeder! It’s so effective because we seeded five rows of beets in less than 30 minutes. On hands and knees that would have taken 2 people a couple of hours!!!

Remember how I said  it was getting warm? That means the lake is PERFECT for jumping into! Here’s a pic of the beautiful lake. Talk about a good way to spend a day off. The water is CLEAR you can see your feet!!!! It ain’t like that everywhere..

dock days are here!

 

We planted more irises!

'Eye of the Tiger' Iris

‘Eye of the Tiger’ Iris

Hannah, Margeaux, and Mrs. Mary came out to the farm again yesterday! We were at work weeding through the beets, mulching, watering, etc. We prepared a new plot for planting some pumpkin seeds (hoping its not too late). I used something called a scuffle hoe ! My arms are sore. Mrs. Brown coached me in lifting hens for egg collecting. I think I got it now! It helps to wear gloves so I can’t feel their muscles flexing and stuff.

the barn

the barn

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all six piggies managing to drink at the same time

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Hannah is really getting ready for her little business endeavor for the Cherry Festival! THis is a huge deal every summer in Traverse City. Thousands of people come out to attend for over a week. It’s like the Mid-South Fair or the Peanut Festival or something. Hannah and her dad have developed a rather tasty product – Cherry Dippers. They are a HIT! Frozen cherries on a skewer dipped in chocolate. They have been working really hard to get everything together for this upcoming week! I am going to help Hannah sell this Saturday and Sunday and possibly more next week depending on demand. We will be carting the cherry dippers up and down Front St. wearing red aprons with a smile! Wish us luck, people!

the cherry dipper herself!

the cherry dipper herself!

lately

Life

I can’t believe it’s already been a full two weeks since I started  working on the farm! I am really enjoying it and starting to get the hang of it, except for a little physical soreness… but that should be fine with more time. I am still  in awe of how God orchestrated things to get me here, and how He continues to place people in my path that encourage me in this endeavor. For over a year now He has been slowly revealing His way for me through new passions and a new drive for things I never thought I’d pursue (“sweeping my path” –  mom). In the process I have been overwhelmed with peace in experiencing how He cares for His children so uniquely, and how He shows so much of Himself in us seeking out our purpose through Christ. I pray that for all of us seeking out purpose and lives that honor Him – To believe that it truly IS finished so that our lives can be expressions of the freedom of that truth as we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God ! [ROMANS 5:2]

Speaking of God’s plans and all that, we had the BEST time celebrating Miss Hannah Brown, RN!!! She passed her boards, people! And she gon’ be a nurse!

there she is!

there she is!

Her best friend from home, Margeaux, is here, and her parents and brother came to visit for the weekend, too. I was excited to meet her mom, Anne, who happens to be a landscape designer in Illinois! We chatted it up.

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Hannah and Margeaux with the best dadgum farmer’s market salad

After dinner, we went to Moomer’s Homemade Ice Cream – America’s Best Scoop according to ABC’s Good Morning America in 2008. It’s a dairy farm, too, so all the ice cream and milk comes straight from the cows next door. Hannah worked there in high school, so we got to talk with farmer Bob who actually named cows after Hannah and Margeaux a couple years back!!

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On the way to Moomer’s in the back of the scrambler – an old jeep-like stick shift vehicle that Hannah handles pretty well on the open road…

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Watch this Moomer’s video if you’re bored!

http://www.moomers.com/history.html#Best

Hannah and her sweet mom, Mary, came out to the farm on Wednesday and helped SO much! We mulched all around the tomatoes, peppers, and watermelons. For mulching, we loaded hay on pretty thick in order to cut down on weeds and also to lock in moisture. It was so much fun to have them there!

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The rest of the work on the farm this past week consisted of more mulching, harvesting some brassicas, and more planting. We harvested Lacinato kale, Red Russian kale, and Georgia southern collards. I got to make more soil blocks YEAH of leeks and basil. We also transplanted some more leeks into the ground. I am starting to think I should experiment more with my cooking that stays rather boring. I want to use leeks and stuff like that! We are selling garlic scapes.. anyone cook with those? I never have! Never had heard of them before actually, but apparently they are delish.

solo shot Hannah took for my bio on the farm website!

Leeks, myself, and I. Hannah took for my bio on the farm website!

I planted some beans into the ground, nitrogen-fixing beans with microbial inoculants (new to my vocabulary) that will promote plant health and health of the soil. Oh, and I got to hang with the pigs every so often, just dropping of a snack of scraps here and there.

happy pigs

happy pigs

Soil Blockin’ Saturday

Life

Happy Father’s Day from Traverse City! We had a great Sunday here at Long Lake celebrating our dads; mine from afar, Mr. Ted here, and most of all our eternal Father and His perfect love for us. Can I get a HALLELUJAH for our Father in Heaven?? It was also just a fun day of rest and recovery… I am still in the process of getting into farm-shape (HA). After church, Hannah and I worked on a puzzle for so long that we almost finished it! And for dinner, Mr. Ted cooked walleye and Mrs. Mary made a salad with spinach, lettuce and radishes that Ben brought from the garden! They are quite the chefs; I am getting spoiled up here. Eating something that you saw come out of the ground with your own eyes is really something! I think it might be the way it was intended, not all the time, of course (let’s be practical), but the fact that it’s such a strange concept for much of my generation is kind of sad. I just think we are missing out! I hope that one day later in life once I’m settled somewhere that I have enough time to manage a little veggie plot in the yard. BUt enough about that. I want to sum up what the past couple of days on the farm have been like.

Hannah and me with our first complete puzzle!

Hannah and me with our first complete puzzle!

A radish in the garden - so rich in color - and tasty in a salad!

 

A radish – so rich in color and tasty too!

 

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the loveliest lettuce

the loveliest lettuce

PLANTING

In the past four days, we transplanted probably 200 tomato plants that Ben started growing in his greenhouse this spring. That is a LOT of tomatoes!! We also put a lot of peppers in the ground, YUM! We gotta keep our eye out for blight – a fungus disease that becomes a serious problem in the garden (esp in wet conditions it will spread).

tomatoes & tomatoes & tomatoes

tomatoes & tomatoes & tomatoes

peppers, people

peppers, people

We talked about the difference between hybrids and open-pollinators. A hybrid is a controlled cross between two plants resulting in a plant with the best characteristics from both. Thus they tend to be stronger and more reliable for production. Have you heard of the term ‘hybrid vigor’? However, their seeds cannot be saved because they will not produce another generation in the same manner. You can save seeds of an open-pollinator because the seeds it produces are steady and have been for years (heirlooms). We planted a variety of hybrid tomatoes and heirlooms. I’m still figuring out what all that means…

Guess who stopped by to check on his little workers??? Greg the beekeeper! He smoked them out (a calming technique) so I wasn’t too afraid to get close and have him explain the hive and what sort of thing he was looking for. He pointed out each queen bee and gave me a lot of info about keeping bees. Some friends and I took a beekeeping class this spring with the Opelika Extension Service, but a lot of it went over my head since I hadn’t really ever seen the inner workings of a hive myself. Since then, I have been trying to continue reading about it and better understand it, so this was a really exciting experience for me.

welcome to beeville. population 20-30,000

welcome to beeville. population 20-30,000

I never ever ever ever ever ever thought I would get this close to stinging insects but my fascination for them has cast out my fear of them! Really, it is amazing how bees communicate and carry out their work in a hive. I am still really afraid of spiders though…

While we are talking about insects, I’ll touch on some other garden pests we’ve talked about.

Cabbage worms are commonly found causing problems amongst the brassicas (kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower + a lot more). They were caught munching on some of the kale, so Ben had me spray some kind of deterrent on them. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it was like a compost tea – like a solution that resulted from soaking in certain plants that will hopefully ward off the worms. According to my Homegrown Harvest book written by the American Horticultural Society (which I will cite a lot), another non-chemical way to control cabbage worms is to cover plants with floating row covers or use the microbe Bt. Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, is an example of biological control. This is when one  organism is used to reduce the population of another.

kale

kale

Japanese beetles were also hanging around we noticed. They feed on foliage of a number of different fruit crops. My book says to hand pick and destroy them immediately upon discovery.

I’m also learning a lot about different weeds in the garden. Quackgrass = bad. Milkweed seems to be popping up a lot, too. Lambsquarter is a weed, but it’s actually edible and very good for you! I spent a good chunk of time weeding out the beets the other day, freeing up their space so they can continue growing well!

I <3 BEETS. looks like I missed a weed there.. : /

I ❤ BEETS. I might have missed a weed there..

We also direct seeded a couple of rows of carnival and butternut squash! MMMMmmm…

This was a rather exciting part of the past week. I got to learn how to make soil blocks!!! It’s pretty neat. I planted a few flats of cabbage and basil.

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Just drop a little seed or two in the depression, pinch up some soil around it, and you’re set!

To finish up, I’ll describe my first experience collecting eggs without supervision. I lifted up a laying hen to get an egg from underneath her! It was scary. I chickened out with another rather cranky  hen that I was afraid would peck or scratch me if I lifted her up. “SQUAWWKKK!!” she would say. I hope I can get a little more brave with those hens, but who can blame them for not wanting to get up off their eggs?

hey there, laying hens!

hey there, laying hens!

My first week at Sonny Swanson’s Farm was quite a success! I am learning a lot and really enjoying my time in Traverse City living with the Brown’s. More to come on my farm experience.

Diggin’ It

Life

Yesterday was another great day on the farm. I am learning a lot for sure – asking LOADS of questions. In the morning we started out harvesting more radishes because they seemed to be selling pretty well – still as tasty as ever! I went with Ben to drop off a chicken order just down the road a few miles in Glen Arbor, MI. This place…

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…. that’s why they call ’em the GREAT Lakes, people! Here’s the view from the restaurant, Blu, that Haymaker Poultry, Co., Ben’s chicken business, supplies with chicken each week. Glen Arbor is the cutest little lake-side town! It is neat to see the local support from a nice restaurant like this that wants to offer fresh, reliable meat on the menu. COOL.

Then, I learned about collecting eggs. Seems easy enough… although periodically having to lift the more stubborn hens off of their eggs may take some getting used to, but they seem to like people enough. The eggs are all different! Just like people.. hahah life lessons on the farm. Here’s a pic of the cute little chicks !

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We finished off the tomato planting and ended the day with some work on those raised beds. It didn’t take many shovel loads of dirt for me to realize how NOT strong my arms are. I got some heavy lifting to do to get stronger and adapt to such physical labor! Hat’s off to all you hardworking farmers out there. Yikes, hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with farmer Ben. We planted some pumpkin seeds on the top section of the mounds. We will see what happens!

mounds on mounds

mounds on mounds

Day One on the Farm

Life

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http://www.sonnyswansonfarm.com

Today was my first day working on the farm! We started off harvesting radishes for the roadside stand. They were so tasty just right out of the ground-maybe with a little rise-off. It’s encouraging to see crops flourish in an environment without any use of chemicals. About the roadside stand, the farm works on an honor code that people will come by and put whatever amount of cash is due in exchange for the amount of produce/eggs they take. It’s pretty neat! After getting a few more things together for the stand, we planted some tomatoes that I believe are the variety of cherry tomato, ‘Sungold’. Another highlight from today was going over to a nearby residence to collect some logs that had been sitting around for years. They will be used to build Hugelkultur beds – these are mound-like beds created by digging into the ground and filling it with logs beneath the soil, and packing in more dirt on top, in an effort to maximize water retention. Since the soil is pretty sandy on the farm, the goal is for moisture to be kept by the logs while they decompose and offer up nutrients to the soil. I am excited to see how this turns out! At the end of the day, customers began coming by to pick up their chicken orders. A lot of them are regular, loyal customers that rely on this fresh, clean source of meat each week. Love that local support! I oversaw a little of the planting for some of the cut flowers that will be for sale later in the summer – can’t wait for those beautiful blooms!

Max! The best farm dog around! (except for the other day when he got tangled up with a porcupine and had to go to the vet...)

Max! The best farm dog around! (except for the other day when he got tangled up with a porcupine and had to go to the vet…)

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It was a great first day on the farm – off to bed for another!