North Country Farms

Blog: Food for Thought

A Spoiled Lot

We are a spoiled lot here on Kauai. Really. Year-round we have delectable, divine fresh produce on our tables and in our tummies. We tend to forget that there are, indeed, seasons here on Kauai, as subtle as they might be. And this is summer, in all its glory. And our gardens are full of bolted lettuce as the result of all this sunshine and heat. That same sunshine and heat that makes the dip we hopefully remember to take in our juicy ocean so very vital is the nemesis to lettuce growing.  So, this week we actually have no lettuce. Yup. No lettuce to sell or eat.  So, we shall have to be content with the scrumptious beets, chard, kale, fennel, eggplant, oranges, bananas, papayas, basil, squash, long beans, eggs, pac choi, tat sai, leeks, scallions and more.  Did I say spoiled???!!!  

our circle garden, start house and work shed

Freedom

There are so many things I celebrate being free from. I am free from mainland traffic. I am free from ill-health. I am free from negative relationships. I am free to choose healthy life-enhancing foods. I am free from oppression. I am free to choose hope instead of fear. I am free to celebrate life, as I do each and every day. I hope you found some freedom to rejoice in yesterday and that you do the same today, tomorrow and onward. Rock your independence! And, while we are at it, let’s celebrate the abundance that our gardens are providing! 

Abundance

It seems if we sat by the garden for a while we could actually watch the lettuce grow. These long summer days are perfect for a light supper of salad. If you are looking for ways to make your salads more of a meal, try putting fresh lightly seared tuna on it. Or some cooked garbanzo beans. Hard boiled eggs also make a great protein addition to a green salad. And, my favorite salad dressing—

Tahini Dressing.

 1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. tahini
1/2 c. water
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. tamari
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 garlic clove, squeezed
Black pepper

Worry is Like a Rocking Chair

I found this quote today – “Worry is like a rocking chair–it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” It wasn’t credited to anyone. But, I liked it. Yet, I still worry sometimes. I am all too aware that it is an inherently worthless activity, but it creeps up on me sometimes.  I worry about all kinds of things, mostly things I cannot fix. So how inane is that?! It is, I suppose, only human to worry about people you love, about a business you have invested time and energy into, about a planet whose stress you feel. And I cannot remedy all that is ailing for any of these things. So, I sigh. I sigh lots. I imagine scenarios full of sweet and savvy fixes, some of which I might implement, some of which remain out of my reach. I try to rein in my ruminating and fretting. And this ramble tonight is an attempt to remind myself to do so. Do you need a reminder also? Well, here it is. Care deeply and do what you can. The rest is out of our meager mortal hands. 

A Real Vacation

Tomorrow morning finds me leaving my farm and family for a real two week vacation. Off to Seattle for two days of city fun. Then the opposite of that and a far cry from my life here–two weeks in the wilderness of SE Alaska. There friends have bought an abandoned salmon cannery and renovated it. There they live for six months of the year. Only way in or out is by boat or float plane. I’ll be flying in on the latter–the mail plane, in fact. Their home has all the comforts one could imagine — with the bonus of bald eagles fishing, humpback whales frolicking and brown bears hunting–all right in front of their bayfront home.  We’ll talk, walk. We’ll fish and eat crab, shrimp, clams, salmon, halibut, and trout, all freshly caught. We’ll marvel at wildflowers and tend their garden. We’ll play scrabble and read by the fire. We’ll watch sunsets that rival any I’ve ever seen and these will be at 11:30PM. There is no internet and limited telephone. Like I said–a real vacation.

Solstice Sunset Sitkoh Bay Alaska 2009

Loss for Words

As the cursor blinks insistently at me, I find myself somewhat groggy from the heat up here in my loft office and at a loss for words. I want to be excited about the news of yesterday, but instead find myself fragmented and sad that we are still killing and warring. I want to trust that the president I so desperately wanted in office knows just what he is doing. I want to believe that this will not stir up more and more repercussions from more and more angry people. I want to know that these decisions made in the name of me and my country are solid and sane. And, yet, I know none of the above. And so I’ll continue to have some faith in the innate goodness of most. And I’ll carry on doing the best that I personally possibly can—each and every day, in each and every little way. Really, what more can I do??? For the simple fact is that we will never know what really happened in that compound across the world or what happened in the previous years to lead us to that point. The players are so much bigger and the issues so much more complicated than my bursting brain can comprehend.  So, what shall I do?—grow clean, delicious  food for my community to enjoy while each of us, in whatever way we can, spreads peace around a bit.


Redundant and Relevant

This post is a rerun–but sometimes a rerun is still engaging. Someone came to my house yesterday and asked how I was feeling about the devastation in Japan–the earth’s shifts and the nuclear disaster. I found myself still for a moment before responding. I was aware, firstly, that this person was wondering if I was fearful. Now, I can go to fear as readily as some, as reticently as others — but rarely find it constructive. So, my truest response was a variation of this post–one of my first and one also posted on my website – http://www.northcountryfarms.com. So – here it is — redundant perhaps, relevant hopefully.

At a dinner party this past week, there were a group of us talking politics—an often fiery and frustrating discussion, at best.  One of the guests, a person I’ve known and loved for years, admitted with a heavy heart that she has basically given up hope. She views the insanity on a global level as a sign that we have simply gone too far and there is no way out.

I carried her words into my dreams that night. And awoke that next morning still contemplating them. And I continued to ponder them for another day or so. It was uplifting to realize that my own reflection is really quite the antithesis of hers.

While I find that there is little I can do to impact the world on a large scale, I know that my daily actions are vitally important. The way we conduct ourselves—in our interpersonal relationships, in our business, in our buying power, in our political actions and more—is what carries out into the world. That ‘ripple effect’, in essence.

Activism by lifestyle, I call it. The eightfold Buddhist path asks its followers to cultivate: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. The right livelihood aspect resonates especially with me. Being able to grow good food in a conscious way and know that people are eating and enjoying it is one way I can impact the world, at least the northshore of Kauai! Having intrepid travelers come and stay in our cottages and experience a lifestyle consistent with sustainable living and take that concept back to their world is another way I can reach out to try and influence thinking outside of the box. Choosing to buy and consume primarily organic products and environmentally friendly cleaning products can make a huge difference. And, always the most challenging—parenting in a way that encourages mutual cooperation and respect, relinquishing control in favor of influence and making each moment an exercise in love and clear thought—that really could change things in years to come.

My dear friend from Alaska tells me there is a concept in Judaism that is called tikkun olem.  As I understand it, it means healing the world.  Now, in my own small, humble way, that is what I’m aspiring to do. . . one day at a time, one conscious moment at a time. I truly haven’t given up hope. I have worlds of hope, a great deal of faith and even some patience.

Blessings on our global brothers and sisters in Japan. And blessings on our process of enlightening our own little part of the world.

the mother ship

 

Alone Time and Asian Greens

All three of my grown children are currently off-island. That leaves me in our home, alone. While I miss them like crazy, I find this situation to be enriching for me. I am in a reconnecting mode – with myself. Each day slips by quietly and quickly, finding me pausing often to imagine Nell and Sky in India discovering something new and outrageous or to picture Bay in our VW camper cruising along a highway as another stunning vista opens up before him. But, I am content with their phone calls and emails for now. I am relishing the silence, the sink with one coffee mug, one plate and one fork in it, the clean bathroom, and the notion of hours spread before me with my steady work to accomplish, another great book to read and simple food at my leisure. I will open my arms to their return to this farm, their home still, and eagerly hear their stories and see their photos. But, for now, this is delectable.

And, while speaking of delectable – how about trying some of these recipes for Asian greens, growing so abundantly in our garden now or available at your farmer’s market in season –

Asian Greens with Spicy Sesame Sauce

1-2 lbs Asian greens

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp honey or agave

1 tsp sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 thai chili pepper, finely chopped

1-2 tsp sesame seeds

Steam greens until tender. Mix together other ingredients in another bowl. Combine the cooked greens and dressing and toss well. Garnish with sesame seeds.


Potato Salad with Asian Greens, Cilantro & Scallions

4 medium sized potatoes (red or yellow)

6 stalks of pac choi with leaves

3  tbsp finely minced cilantro

2-4 scallions, finely chopped

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

½ tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

3 tbsp olive oil

Feta Cheese

Kalamata Olives

Cook unpeeled potatoes in water until done. Should be slightly al dente so they don’t fall apart in the salad. Dice pac choi and  toss with scallions. Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, olive oil and cilantro and whisk together. Cut cooked and drained potatoes into cubes and toss with pac choi, scallions, olive and feta. Rewhisk the dressing and pour over warm potatoes and veggies. (The dressing absorbs better when the potatoes and veggies are warm.) Stir well and serve warm or refrigerate and serve cool.

pac choi

New Year and Resilience

I’m not much for New Years resolutions. I find it more satisfying to have resolve year-round. To reassess my goals and realign my intentions more often than once a year. Sometimes I use the moon cycles to remind me of that practice. Sometimes I am just forced by circumstances to find a balance that I have misplaced somehow. To access my inner resilience in the face of something that has upset my inner compass.

And so this week I was reminded, with a strong swipe, of the necessity and need for resilience. I see resilience as the ability to regain original form and to thrive and fulfill potential in spite of adversity or difficult circumstances. That is what I am seeing now in our gardens. A week ago we were in the throes of a nasty strong kona storm which had us reeling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what that means here is the scoop. . . Usually on beautiful Kauai we are blessed by a trade wind pattern of weather. The wind comes from an east-northeast direction, bringing mostly a light steady wind to keep us refreshed and passing showers to keep everything green. When the winds switch around to the south-southeast there is usually hell to pay. And so it was. Day after day. No wind. And rain as if someone were holding a bucket over Kauai and dumping water heavily and consistently. There were flash floods and thunder and lightening. And our gardens took a beating.

Now we have returned to trade winds and the blessed sunshine.  In the wake of that chaos we are tending the gardens with gentle hoeing, a light foliar spray of fish emulsion and seaweed extract, and some intention. In just a few days time, we can see the results. Already the baby starts are rebounding and the adolescent ones showing sure signs of resilience. The plants are thriving in spite of their adversities. With a little help from us.

And, so I see that in our own setbacks are remedied not only by our own tenacity of spirit, but from the support we receive from our family and friends. Resilience is a quality of character that allows us to rebound from misfortune, hardships or trauma. But, the simple presence or kind encouragement of a loved one can provide so much more grace in the course of that process.

So I shall continue to trust in the resilience of our land and of my own spirit. To know that we are capable of facing whatever might come our way and emerging unharmed or even better for the experience.

May your New Year be full of all you wish for. Hold steadfast to your intentions. Smile often and laugh heartily. And don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s rarely worth it.

after the rains, the rainbow

 

 

 

 

The Snow is Always Whiter on the Other Side of the Ocean

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hearing from so many loved ones on the mainland about the snow. The enchantment of the first soft snowfall. It called to my memory the quiet hush that descends during and after a snow. I remembered the magic of awakening the morning after a fall that came silently in the night. I could see in my mind’s eye the blue sky with the colorful and grateful songs birds flocking to my feeder outside the kitchen window. I recalled the sense of a spacious day when school was cancelled or I could be late for work because of the snow. I could almost feel in my body the freedom and joy I experienced skiing down a mountain in fresh fluffy powder.  I could smell the evergreens and taste the creamy hot chocolate. And I became wildly nostalgic and, yes, even jealous.

Then we got some of our unspeakably charmed Kauai December weather. The brilliantly clear night skies that go on forever. Stars too numerous to even fathom. Nights crisp enough to pull up my down comforter. Days so warm that a dip at mid-day was precious, even though the water had that winter chill in it. And, then I remembered . . .the snow is always whiter on the other side of the ocean.

I hope to have many more days of savoring the fresh snow with loved ones. But, today I treasure Kauai and the super sunset turning the western sky pink behind my coconut palms.

sunset

And tomorrow I shall be up at pre-dawn in that chilly air, ready to harvest for our loyal farm customers. I surely am not taking for granted the garden packed full of vegetables and the orchards brimming with citrus. I know fresh local food becomes scarce in those colder climates I have just waxed poetic about. Two things we are growing now are kohlrabi and fennel. Both might easily be found in late fall markets on the mainland.

kohlrabi

Kohlrabi ~These little sputnik-shaped vegetables come in green or purple, can be eaten raw or cooked, and taste a lot like broccoli stems. The word kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip (kohl as in cole-slaw, and rübe for turnip) though kohlrabi is more related to cabbage and cauliflower than to root vegetables. We usually eat them raw, just peeled, sliced and added to a salad, but they are also delicious cooked and are often used in Indian cuisine. I also like them peeled and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Fennel ~ Forever I steered clear of fennel, as licorice is not my favorite flavor. Then I discovered roasted fennel and my old bias was blasted out of the water. Just slice the fennel bulb in quarters and put in a baking dish. Coat it with olive oil and sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar. Roast at 400 for 20 minutes until the fennel begins to caramelize.

fennel

Gardener and Mama

I am a mama. I am a gardener. And I see the connections and correlations.

When the notion of a baby came into my consciousness, I prepared myself emotionally and physically for that possibility. Just how I prepare the soil before I plant the seeds that are to become our food. Pregnant I nurtured my body, fed it amazing healthy food to best cherish and support the baby growing inside. Not unlike I feed and nurture our gardens. When my precious babes were born I kept them close, monitored the energy that surrounded us and nursed them endlessly. And so it is with how I watch over my little starts in their trays as they are preparing to be planted out in the garden. As my babies grew older, it was with immense gentleness that I let them slowly out into the world, always aware of their environment being a tender one that supported their spirits in an appropriate way. My young seedlings get that same assiduous attention to their care, especially upon early planting. As the plants grow, they receive hoeing and feeding with a watchful eye, but the joy is then in just witnessing their process, perhaps pulling the aggressive weed, giving an extra boost of nutrients should a storm leave them weakened. As did I deeply delight in observing my children mature, always aware of the storm that might come their way, leaving them particularly vulnerable in its wake and in need of that deeper dose of loving care from me. And then the harvest, also carried out with sensitivity and smiles.

So it is that I now reap the harvest of my mothering, now that my children are all young adults. I receive back a million-fold the warmth and love I infused into their upbringing. I marvel at their deep compassionate spirits and their soulful thoughts and deeds.

I will always be a gardener. I will always be the mama to my three amazing children. I have, with the utmost care, given them roots. Now, they are spreading their wings.

 

farm family in the garden

Road Ramblings

Having just returned to Kauai after a month roaming the mainland in an newly purchased, but far-from-new, VW camper van with my son, Bay, from Santa Fe to Santa Cruz, my thoughts turn to that time away. . .

The best:

  • Best hand-me-downs from loved ones for the trip: cashmere long sweater from Michelle, down comforter from Vicki, large ceramic travel mug from Natasya.
  • Best purchase on the road: assorted pack of bungee cords
  • Best nostalgia: drinking our fresh camper water filled from Natasya and Gary’s well
  • Best pre-planning: sending ahead a box of rags and dish towels from home

Thoughts on an early morning in Nevada:

I’ve done sun salutations for years, but nothing like this morning as the sun hit the peaks with aspens aglow across the valley from the campsite. And then it slowly crept through the pines and into our campsite, taking the 35 degree cold and shooing it away and seeping into my body. I closed my eyes, let it flow over me and breathed it in, along with thanks, as I shed layers and embraced 50 degrees like a balm. 

 

Trips like this provide fodder for memories unfettered to your daily life and, as such, are held differently. I look forward to more road rambling in this camper that already holds such great energy from our adventures.

 

 



 

 

Travel

Sometimes just getting out of my own island orbit makes me remember why Kauai is so wonderful. Yet, the sights and sounds of San Francisco this morning down on the Bay are stunning and I am off to explore them as the sun just now rises on my farm and family on Kauai.