Farm News

2015 CSA Week 21

Pigs, Mom and babies

CSA Week #21 Saturday, Oct. 24th

Dear CSA Family,

Some people collect stamps, others coins. You know what I like to collect? Inspiration. I love reading about, hearing of and witnessing astonishing examples of purpose, determination, courage, or even just a simple, fierce kind of happiness. My little upstairs nook as well as the area around the farm desk include bins and boxes of photos, quotes, hand scribbled “tall tales,” newspaper articles, drawings, and technical manuals. I even have some funny sayings. I once heard my Grandpa exclaim after one of his farm implement restoration projects was completed, “Now she runs like a pickle-shooter!” Examples of inspiration from any number of places fuel imaginative farming solutions, generate creative strategies for sustaining good health and keep my spirits rejuvenated no matter the tiresome days or achy muscles.

Recently, several of you asked, “How did you learn to farm?” One way I am still teaching myself to farm is through my inspiration collection. I thoroughly enjoy figuring out how to extrapolate uplifting methods and ideas so I might weave another layer of resilience and beauty into April Joy Farm. An inspiration collection is vital in my quest to create a life of which I alone am uniquely capable. So, like any good collector, I allow myself to be drawn, again and again, toward whatever seems fascinating, or heartening or just downright genuine. Our winter days at the farm are specially designed to revitalize and freshen up the inspiration bank. Even when I travel, I am on the look out for how I might find stirring commonalities between whatever presents itself and my life ‘back at the farm’.

There is no one way to gather inspiration. Sometimes inspiration comes as quickly as a baby chickadees’ first breath. Other times inspiration must percolate, culminate, graduate over a long time before it can make sense to me. No worry. All that matters is that something engages my heart or my mind and I don’t push it aside. I just respect the connection. It might be several years before I understand how a former experience is truly applicable.

Of course, one primary source of inspiration which can’t be stored at the farmhouse are the tightly woven friendships of the April Joy Farm community. The families and friends, colleagues and members who swirl around this piece of farmland in times of sun and times of rain, represent a phenomenal reservoir of inspiration. Two such folks are Henning and his wife Elizabeth, who have nurtured their farm S&S Homestead on Lopez Island for the last forty-five years. What moves me about Henning and Elizabeth’s story is the thoughtfulness and unwavering conviction with which they have approached their life. What follows is a section of an online article written about their efforts:

“Henning Sehmsdorf and Elizabeth Simpson produce everything they need—including electricity—to sustain their 50-acre farm and the community that depends on it. In 1970, Sehmsdorf purchased the first 10 acres of his farmland on Lopez Island and created a fifty-year plan for a bio-dynamic and sustainable farm. The vision is to produce all food, feed, seeds, animal replacements, timber/lumber, water and energy necessary to sustain the farm and the people who live there. In late 2011, the final piece of the farm plan was implemented: self-sustaining energy.”

“Debt has no place in the farm plan,” says Sehmsdorf, which is why it took them nearly 42 years to realize the energy piece of the plan… Sehmsdorf has calculated a complete return on investment over ten years, which is much shorter than most systems because of the lack of debt service.

“The annual financial return is about 9.5%,” reports Sehmsdorf, “better than the stock market or any other investment today. But,” he continues, “when you consider only the financial benefits, you are missing the point.”

When asked what small scale renewable power means to the islands, to the world, Sehmsdorf responds, “Sine qua non. Without which nothing.” He pointed out the C02 sequestration readings on each of his three inverters. By this measurement, the S&S system has sequestered more than 25 metric tons of carbon to date.”*

What inspires me most about Henning and Elizabeth’s story is their approach. Do you know anyone, anywhere who has deeply considered, actually written down his or her personal fifty-year goals? Who has doggedly pursued a life in line with his or her highest beliefs regardless of fad or fashion and not to the exclusion of financial remuneration? “Sine qua non. Without which nothing.” How might our communities be absolutely transformed if we all were so mindful of our impact on ourselves, on our land, and on our neighbors over the span of half a century?

Next week, I’ll write more about the inspiration I find right here at the farm. Meanwhile, could you collect a few tidbits of inspiration from your own life? By all means, they don’t have to be stories. Sometimes even a drawing, a photo, or a piece of music will be enough to make your heart rise. Like the October leaves, falling around us, surely there is something you’ll come across in day-to-day life that rouses awake a sleepy, curious idea. When it happens, don’t try to diagnose it or spend energy wondering why! Just revel in that quiet steadiness of delight. Just be awake to the gift and have the pluck to honor it.

This week, my Uncle Jack brought me this wonderful photo of the sow and her litter which he raised as a boy in Illinois. I love everything about this picture, especially the shoat (the term for a young pig), staring at the camera from behind Mother’s legs, while a sibling stands with a foot right in the feed trough. It’s a classic snapshot of life with pigs; the whole scene just plain makes me grin.

Once you happen upon your inspiring piece for the week, don’t tuck it away. Share it! Your smiles might be what inspire another’s day and maybe they’ll share their own cheer with another… and so we begin to sew a thread of positivity. Like a skein of geese, we speak with the independence of our own wings, but we remain invisibly connected by the effort of our flight. Stitch by stitch, wild with our felicity, we will quilt the skies in praise of all things spirited.

Your Farmer,

*Source – Orcas Power & Light Co-Op

Rainbow Carrots

Carrot Osso Buco

“In Richard Blais’s playful vegan take on osso buco (braised veal shanks), he braises very large pieces of carrots in red wine and mushroom broth until tender. Ground dried porcini mushrooms give the dish rich, meaty flavor. Serve with celery root puree or polenta.” Click here for the recipe.

Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.
~Pablo Picasso

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