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Turkey Tracks: Visiting Charleston, SC: Part I

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Turkey Tracks:  June 18, 2014

Visiting Charleston, SC:  Part I

 

My family lives in Charleston, SC.

I live in Camden, Maine.

We visit back and forth, and I just came home from a family visit.  This visit was divided into three parts.

One goal this trip was to spend some time with Tara Derr Webb of the Farmbar and Deux Puces (two fleas) farm.   See url:  thefarmbar26.com.

Tara, in age, is exactly between my sons, who are 14 months apart.  She picked me up at the airport, and before too long, we were sitting on her dock–free for a moment as Tara’s husband Leighton volunteered to put the goats to bed.

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Here’s our view–back to the house:

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This kind of marsh grass is vital to the health and well-being of “the low country”–whose marshes and marsh creeks team with life.  The green is this year’s growth; the brown, last year’s.

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Part of what Tara and I did was to mount a lacto-fermentation workshop–so we shopped for food most of one day.  A crucial stop was Grow Food Carolina, which is a local wholesale produce distributor that supports farmer’s within a 120-mile radius of Charleston. There we got boxes of beautiful greens.

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A group of nine or so women came to the farm for the workshop.  Some were cooks, and some were artisans or entrepreneurs who will mount events at the farm featuring their work over the next year.  All, I hope, will enjoy the food they took home and will pass on what they learned.

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In any case, they all seemed to enjoy the event.

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Tara has forgotten more about food than I will ever know, so it’s always fun to eat/cook with her.  We made a number of meals, but we also visited a number of Charleston’s local restaurants.  One such was the newly opened Leon’s, which was delightful.

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We also had, one day, a great hamburger at Sweetwater Cafe–where we sat outside at picnic tables.  The potato salad was so special.  And Five Loaves was another treat.

It’s a good thing I don’t actually live in Charleston as I would probably be a diabetic in two months time as the sweet tea is so delicious.

Tara has big, big plans for the Farmbar and Deux Puces.  It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how she develops her ideas in the years to come.

Written by louisaenright

June 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Turkey Tracks: I’m in Charleston

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anTurkey Tracks:  May 27, 2014

 

I’m In Charleston

 

Hello Everyone,

 

I’m in Charleston–and will be for the next two weeks.

I’m visiting my two sons, who live two blocks from each other on Isle of Palms–which is just north of Charleston harbor.  AND, I’m staring my visit with my old young friend Tara Derr Webb and her husband Leighton Webb of Awendaw, SC.  They are the owners of the Farmbar project (farm to table food and the products of the most amazing farms and fiber makers) and of Deux Peuces Farm (two fleas–they are the two fleas).  Tara falls in age between my two sons, so I’ve known her almost as long as I’ve known them–minus a decade maybe.

Tara and I are working on her farm–there will be a workshop later today to make lacto-fermented foods and to teach others from the Farmbar community to make them.   And we are off in a minute to round up the food for the workshop.  I came prepared with books (Sandor Ellis Katz’s WILD FERMENTATION, for one) and a handout that includes gut health issues and information about The Weston A. Price Foundation.

This morning we shared this page from Thich Nhat Hanh’s HOW TO SIT:

DOING LESS

Many of us keep trying to do more and more.  We do things because we want to make money, accomplish something, take care of others, or make our lives and our world better.  Often we do things without thinking, because we are in the habit of doing them, because someone asks us to, or because we think we should.  But if the foundation of our being is not strong enough, then the more we do, the more troubled our society becomes.

Sometimes we do a lot, but we don’t really do anything.  There are many people who work a lot.  There are people who seem to meditate a lot, spending many hours a day doing sitting meditation, chanting, reciting, lighting a lot of incense, but who never transform their anger, frustration, and jealousy.  This is because the quality of our being is the basis of all our actions.  With an attitude of accomplishing, judging, or grasping, all of our actions–even our meditation–will have that quality.  The quality of our presence is the most positive element that we can contribute to the world.

Here’s a not-so-great picture of Tara on her porch this morning–in between chores.  I will take pictures while I am here for later–the ipad isn’t so great for the blog.

 

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Turkey Tracks: Summer Salad

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Turkey Tracks:  September 3, 2013

Summer Salad

 

August is not a great month for tender leaf lettuce.  It’s not a great month for any lettuce for that matter.  It’s too hot.  This year has been a bit different–with all the coolness and rain, some of the leaf lettuce has survived.

The wonderful Melody Pendleton came and bailed me out with painting tasks–which I hate and which she likes to do.  She does such beautiful work.  She brought me this gorgeous lettuce from her garden one day.  (I’ve replanted and my new crop is coming along.)

I made a gorgeous salad with her lettuce one day for lunch.  I’ve been so hungry for sautéed zucchini all summer.  So I sautéed some for this salad–and broke a fresh, soy-free egg into it at the end.  I didn’t add cheese as to the pan as I had some fresh goat cheese.  The last of the grated carrot/kohlrabi/corn/mustardy and garlicky dressing went on the side.  And, some of the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes from the garden.  And I had a very quick feast.  Thanks to Melody!  And the garden and the earth and the summer…

 

 

Summer salad

The garden is steadily producing.  Here’s a morning’s offering:

Garden haul

And look at the cherry tomatoes I’ve amassed.  I have enough to start a flat to dehydrate, though I’ll let them get a little riper on the counter first:

Summer Kitchen Counter, Aug. 2013

See those saladette tomatoes at the back of the cherries?  I got those from Hope’s Edge CSA.  And Melody brought me some, too.  They are TERRIFIC roasted in the agro/dolce style.  I learned that from Skye Gyngell’s book A Year in My Kitchen.  Skye takes the notion of having “assets” around the kitchen to whole new levels.  Thanks to Tara Derr Webb, of the Farmbar and Deux Peuces Farm in Charleston, SC, and Awendaw, SC, I have this book in my kitchen.

A Year in my Kitchen

Here’s a very bad picture of the saladettes roasted.  Agro-dolce means sweet/salty.  So, basically, you sprinkle a bit of sugar, a bit of salt, grind over some pepper, and SLOW, SLOW roast at your oven’s lowest heat–which can take 3 or so hours.  OK, if you get in a hurry, you can roast them quicker, and they are still delicious.  They’re good hot or cold.  Rose Thomas, La Dolce Vita Farm, roasts these guys in her wood-fired oven, and oh my gosh–the smoky taste from the wood fire is heavenly.  I’m planting more of these guys next year.

 

Roasted Saladette Tomatoes

With all the vegetables needing to be used, I made a “deep summer soup” one day.  I had some frozen bone broth as a base, so I just sautéed veggies and lots of garlic–some ginger as I had a Bok Choy cabbage–and added some dehydrated mushrooms from a year or two ago.  I threw a handful or two of short-grain brown rice into it as well.  Once it’s cooked, or reheated, I spoon some of my sauerkraut into it and add a dollap of fermented piima cream.  It’s delicious and so good for you with the rich bone broth as a base.

Deep summer soup

I know summer is over, but I can still feel the summer love.

Turkey Tracks: Visiting Essex Farm, Essex, NY

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Turkey Tracks:  June 13, 2012

This is part 3 of a longer story.  Scroll down for the beginning…

Visiting Essex Farm

When we arrived, we first saw a small flock of sheep in a fenced pasture alongside the farm road.

We knew that all of this farm equipment would be made for draft horses to pull.

There was a sheep mother nursing her baby just separated from this small flock–and Kristin told us later in our tour that Mark had just given her this flock for her birthday.  Someone had gifted him with them, and he knew that Kristin had been wanting some sheep for some time.  She’s now looking into animal guard dogs that are bred to live with and protect the animals in their care–as the sheep will be permanently pastured some way from the house.  Essex Farm is 500 acres, which is a lot of land.

We parked and started down the driveway toward the farm buildings, and a small woman with very blue eyes and a big hat stepped from a group of people and said,  “Hi, I’m Kristin.”

And, there she was–though she looked quite different from the picture on the cover of her book, THE DIRTY LIFE.  Now there are no traces of the city.  Her hair is long and braided, her fair skin glows with health, she’s lean and fit and muscular, and she radiates a very special kind of energy and interest that welcomes her guests to the farm.

There is a hint of some tension, and we soon learned that Mark had pulled a back muscle and was flat on his back at the farmhouse and in great pain and had care of the children.  Somehow, people appear to take care of the children, to collect the eggs from the hen trailer to the north of the farmhouse, to let the horses out of the barn, to prepare a chili for the potluck lunch and for a fundraiser for the local Waldorf school later that evening–and so forth.  It’s a Saturday morning–and the farm crew works, except in high-activity times, from Monday to Friday.  (The CSA weekly food pickup is on Friday.)  Kristin excuses herself from time to time, but makes us feel as if nothing on this earth is stressful or will get in the way of our visit.  And those of us who had read her book knew that this kind of juggling is something she and Mark are well used to doing.

Kristin begins the tour by answering questions about the farm and how it works in the farm’s trailer–where work meetings and common meals take place.  Half of this trailer is a field kitchen–the other half is filled with long tables.  The walls are covered with lists, individual workers’ clip boards, maps of the farm, and so forth.  We begin to realize that the administrative side of a diversified farm that feeds 220 people everything they need all year long is quite complicated.  (This farm’s goal is to replace the grocery store with healthy, clean, nutrient-dense food.)

I love this picture of Kristin.

 

Outside the trailer is a huge refrigerated truck body and a long open building where CSA members pick up their food–it’s lined with freezer chests.  We begin, though, by walking north, toward the farmhouse and the barns.

Here’s the farmhouse–and the window Kristin writes about in the book is still broken.  The barns and other out buildings are beyond.

The fields near the farmhouse are the “home” fields and are reserved for herbs and flowers.  Here’s a group of guests with Kristin in the chamomile flower row, helping to pull the flowers.  Tara is in the blue plaid shirt on the left, in the front.

Kristin told us that chamomile tea is made with the chamomile flowers.  She dries them and adds dried mint, lavender, and lemon balm–to make their tea–an idea that really appeals to me.  I’ll be looking for some chamomile plants for this year and seed for the next.   Here are the flowers:

We stop at a hoop house dedicated to raising meat chickens.  The layers are in a tractor in a pasture beyond the barns and are moved daily.  Each small pen within the hoop house houses chickens of different ages (one week, two weeks, etc.).  When they are old enough to be ok with cool nights–which means they have grown enough feathers–they, too, are moved into tractors that allow them to free range on grass.  I think, as with Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia, these chickens “follow” the cows as they rotate through pastures around the farm.

Here’s Tara holding a week old chick, whom she immediately wanted to take home!

These chickens are Cornish crosses, and those of you who read my blog know that I’m not a fan of them.  I tried to interest Kristin in Freedom Rangers, but they had tried them and thought they took too long to develop and didn’t get as big as the Cornish crosses.  They DO take longer, but that means, too, that their bones are really developed, can support their bodies, and have all the minerals they should have for really healthy bone broths.  Before Cornish crosses, it would take 5 months or so to grow a chicken to roasting weight.  Cornish crosses develop in SIX WEEKS!  As for size, the FRs Rose raised were huge–often 6 or 7 pounds in 12 weeks.  Rose does not have the space Kristin and Mark do, so the size/time taken may be a factor of supplemental feeding???

The farm is now powered by a bank of solar panels, which Kristin thought she would hate to see.  But, she thinks they fit in surprisingly well.  I think they got a grant to help install these panels… which, if true, is exactly the sort of help we need to be giving small, diversified farmers who are healing and using our farm lands.

The draft horses were just being let out of the barns as we drew near.  These gentle giants are magnificent creatures.  I think there are four teams here, but Kristin said on really busy days there are 5 or 6 teams in the fields as some of the workers also have teams of their own.  The white pony belongs to the girls.

I didn’t know these draft horses came in a “paint” color.  This one was really friendly.  His partner is also a “paint.”

Gentle giants:

Kristin and Mark are in the process of “tiling” some of their fields as they are too wet.  Tiling is a drainage method that puts a big pipe in a deep trench that drains the water from the field.  Kristin feels that their area is getting wetter and wetter–which is something we are seeing in Maine as well.

They planted this rye crop in the tiled field, and it’s doing beautifully.  They will harvest the grain and will bale the rye straw and use it for insulation in the home they want to build–a green building method that people are beginning to use more and more.  See, for instance, the current issue of YES! magazine, which is available online.  Straw comes from grain plants and hay is made from grass.  (Kristin’s new book will be about building this home and will have more farm stories.)  Here’s the rye field with the barns/outbuildings in the background.

The field that has the best dirt for growing produce is called  “Small Joy,” and we are walking toward it.

Here are Kristin and Tara in front of Small Joy.  You can see how long it is and how much has to be planted to feed 220 people year round.  That’s garlic behind them.  Garlic is planted in the fall, and the scapes, or flower pods, are just coming up now.  Most garlic won’t winter over beyond about now, so it’s lovely to get the scapes in June.  We cut them up and stir-fry them, put them in soups, put them into mayonnaise, and so forth.  They have a light, lovely garlic taste.

We cross Small Joy and circle back to the house–by way of the sheep.  After a fun potluck lunch–where Kristin adds in a fabulous chili with dried beans and sausage–all made on the farm–and bread with deep yellow spring raw butter–and sour cream–and lovely raw milk–I take these pictures of the shed where CSA members pick up their food.  It takes a lot of  Mason jars to put up food for the winter.

And here’s the working end of the meat chicken processing–open air, as it should be.  The cones are where the chickens are suspended to drain out blood into the funnel below them.  The table makes cleaning the chickens easy.  there are also vats for hot water, a really good plucker, and a vat for cooling off the cleaned chickens.  Everything can be washed off when the work is done.

We left Kristin and Essex Farm reluctantly.  But everyone was tired and it was time to go.  We didn’t see the highland cattle, or the pigs, or the sugar bush (maple syrup), or the borrowed dairy bull, or the dairy cows.  And I didn’t take so many pictures I should have.  I am particularly regretting not taking a shot of the buckets full of eggs from the layers–brought down from the upper pastures by a sweet young woman who stopped by to say “hi” and got drafted into helping out.

I could have stayed on that farm forever!  It’s so full of life and love and energy and good things happening.  It makes me think there is hope for healthy, nourishing, nutrient-dense food in America

Turkey Tracks: Going to Essex Farm, Essex, NY

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Turkey Tracks:  June 13, 2012

This is part 2, scroll down for part 1 of this story

Going to Essex Farm, Essex, NY

Essex Farm in Essex, NY, is due west of Camden, Maine–as I discovered when I got out our maps.  Essex is about 6 1/2 hours from Camden, which includes crossing Lake Champlain on the Charlotte-Essex ferry.

My original plan with Tara Derr Webb was to drive south to her place in Accord, NY, which is near Kingston, NY (about 90 minutes north of NY City), travel with her to Essex on Saturday morning, spend the night in Essex, travel back to Accord, and then head home.  The maps showed us both that Essex is waaaay closer to Camden than Accord.   Besides, Tara was in the midst of final packing and would be leaving Accord on Tuesday.

We agreed to meet at the Essex Inn on Saturday morning, June 9th.   I had invited John to come with me, as neither of us had ever been west in Maine, nevermind seeing northern New Hampshire and Vermont.  He and I would drive to Essex on Friday and stay at the Inn, which also had what looked like a nice restaurant.

Western Maine is beautiful, and one gradually drives up into the mountains which host some pretty amazing ski resorts.  In New Hampshire and Vermont, we drove through the White Mountains and across the northern part of the Green Mountains.  The scenery is breathtaking–filled with dense mountains, rushing rivers, and mountain farms.  Outside of Burlington, Vermont, we went south to get on the Charlotte-Essex Ferry.  Lake Champlain is bordered by lush farms and ringed by mountains–on the New York side, it’s the Adirondacks.   Here’s what we saw at the ferry:

If you’ve never been on a car ferry, here’s what one looks like:

John had loved the whole day–going through tiny mountain towns, stopping to eat in Goram and talking to local people.  But we were both blown away by the beauty of Lake Champlain, with its ring of mountains.  Here’s John on the ferry:

The town of Essex is tiny, but is visited, in summer, by folks escaping the city who want some cool lushness.  Here’s what the Essex Inn looks like:

We settled in, had tea on this beautiful porch, had a lovely dinner inside, and slept well–anticipating seeing Tara and Kristin and Mark and the farm the next morning.

TurkeyTracks: Essex Farm in Essex, NY–THE DIRTY LIFE

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Turkey Tracks:  June 13, 2012

This is Part I of a longer story…

Essex Farm–THE DIRTY LIFE

About 10 years ago, Kristin Kimball, a Harvard graduate, was earning enough with her free-lance writing to live in New York City.  One day Kristin drove six hours (Pennsylvania, I think) to interview a first-generation farmer named Mark, a Swarthmore graduate who had cobbled together an agricultural degree since he always knew he wanted to farm.  Kristin’s life changed forever upon meeting Mark.  She left behind high heels, meeting for coffee, and all the entertainment a large city offers.

That meeting started Kristin on a journey which led to Essex Farm in Essex, NY–which is just south of Burlington, Vermont, and, of course, across the narrow end of Lake Champlain.  Essex Farm had been leant to them to see if they could make a go of it, which is, in itself, a large bit of the magic that surrounds this story and this journey.  Essex Farm, when they first saw it in the fall, was “sleeping,” as Mark expressed it.  They spent that first winter in an apartment in town (while waiting for the leases of the current tenants of the farmhouse to expire) and spending the days on the farm repairing equipment and some of the buildings.  They bought their first cow and learned to milk her.

Together, over the past nine years, Kristin and Mark have built a farm that feeds 220 people all year long with all the food they need–pork, chickens, beef, milk, eggs, various grains ground into flour, maple syrup, honey, and about 40 different kinds of vegetables, including all the root vegetables that get one through a “north country” winter.  They now have hired 12 employees  and are the largest employer in Essex.  And, they have produced two beautiful little girls and are going to build a family home just behind the major farm buildings.

Kristin’s memoir of their first year on the farm–a year culminating in their marriage–was published in 2010–THE DIRTY LIFE.  It’s a tale of great joys and great despair.  It’s a tale of learning who you really are and what’s important in life.  It’s a tale of learning a whole passel of new skills–like farming with draft horses.  It’s a tale of commitment and how they supported themselves and how a community supported and held them in their times of greatest need.  It’s a tale, now, of many lives being lived fully and, perhaps, of the raising of a new generation of farmers, for Essex Farm has spawned four farms now and two children who will, at least, grow up to know how to farm.

So, Tara Derr Webb read THE DIRTY LIFE about 18 months ago.  Tara grew up with our two sons and had recently moved from the West Coast to Charleston as she and her husband Leighton were ready to put down more permanent roots.  Both Tara and Leighton have forgotten more about food than I will probably ever know.  And now they both wanted to participate in some major way in the farm/food/restaurant matrix.

After reading THE DIRTY LIFE, Tara knew she wanted to do more, personally, with the farm end of the foodway.  So, she signed up to visit several WOOF (Worldwide Organization of Organic Farmers or, also, Willing Organization of Organic Farmers) farms.  The first was near Atlanta.  After being there almost two weeks, a goat mother died just after birthing.  Tara put the baby in her car and brought her home to Isle of Palms, SC, and raised her.   She also made what will probably be lifelong friends on that farm.

Tara wanted to move further north–to the Husdon Valley area of New York–itself a farm foody place.  So she and Leighton rented land for a year to try out the northern farming experience.  They didn’t like it–didn’t like the cold, didn’t feel it was right on their skin.  So, they have just rented land north of Charleston that they will begin to farm.  (They now have three goats and plan on getting about 100 chickens.)  There will also be a restaurant, but you can let Tara herself tell you that part of the story on her Farmbar website.)

When we were in Charleston in late May, Tara was there as well–figuring out fence lines, working out details for their move back South and so forth.  She told me Kristin was having an open house June 9th and asked it I would like to come.  I slept on it, but knew I had to go.

Yes, I said, and got out maps as soon as I got home.

XXX