Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sweeping Changes

It's been way too long since I have posted. One day it's Spring and the next, Winter. I want to get re-acquainted with posting and may go out a bit on a tangent writing tbis time. I hope the following makes some sense, some internal logic with within what I write. Call it theorectical, expository writing.

Man on man, we are only into the first few days of December and I cannot wait to sprout the heirloom tomato seeds. There are some really cool looking tomatoes we want to grow this coming season. This past season was a major dissappointment with a 99.9% loss of all our tomatoes. By the way, if you happen to grow any Brandywines, I cannot recommend highly enough giving them an extra week to develop, from when you think they are ripe. When we first grew them, the Brandywine seemed not overly impressive. It was good but not as good as our Black From Tulas. Then I let some ripen for a further week on the vine to see what might happen. After about that extra week, the Brandywine was superb. It was quite a change. I intend to offer many heirlooms at such stage of development, i.e., very ripe. Why? Because the tomatoes are that much better when really ripe. It is why one buys an heirloom tomato, organic no less. A well composted soil, grown in a hoophouse for extra loving comfort, fertilized with compost teas and ripend to perfection. Ya Boy. You should eat them this way. In fact, I really hope some who read this will take head and buy the very ripe heirlooms just because it is how it should be. It is how and why there is an organic farm. If you do not buy them, they cannot be grown and that would be a terrible thing. Your decisions, in a very real way, seal the fate of such foods. If no one wants to eat the epitome of a perfect tomato, such a method of growing, and eating, will become extinct. I sincerely hope this does not happen.
What is the impetus for farming organic? Why did I make the choice to grow in such a manner? What does it mean, besides the certification and name? Is there some essence behind an organic farm aside from the physical aspects? And, for what reasons would someone buy from an organic source as oppsoed to the ubiquitious factory farnmed meats and vegetables? What is the dynamics behind such a radical(?) move, especially in a society bent on standardization and homegenization?

Fisrt off, to strive to produce the best meats available, as well as heirloom vegetables, just about requires organic production methods. When you buy say, a pork chop from the farm, you are buying a great deal of time; in terms of hours of growth, labor, aging etc. How is this so?
To start off with, we raise Large Black pigs, a pig rarer than the Great Panda. Their meat quality is on par with the top meat pigs, i.e., Berkshire, Red Wattle or Ossawba. The Large Black is a pig which grows slower than standard meat pigs. Raise an animal too fast, if its genetics will allow such growth, and quality degrades, not allowing enough time for the pasture to vitalize the meat and the normal maturing process to enhance the flavor.

Next comes the slaughtering. Our pigs are often slaughtered on-farm by us. We follow a strict system designed to promote quality, especially relative to cleanliness. We do not rush the pig out of existece but rather end its life in a tottaly relaxed and peacefuil manner. Slaughter houses have no time for time. But we do. The processing goes the same way. We hand trim all meat with small scale commercial equipment. We see evrything there is to see and trim accordingly. This is especially important when making sausage or other salumni products.

Finally againg. Our cured meats gain flavor from doing nothing but lying around getting old. The flavors which develop cannot be matched via factory modified, time starved, systems based on various chemical agents and flavorings. The taste difference is immediate and quite thorough.

Time, pure and simple, and its extended use, is, perhaps, unique to the organic farm. Today it may seem one is a luddite, if one does not eschew the time intensive nature of such activities.

Added to the use of time but, not far removed, there is labor. Organics is a hog when it comes to labor. Yes, we use machines when we can to help in many tasks. But, hand labor, used for weeding, planting, trimming etc, etc, is in full use on the farm. Machines are at present, dead, un-conscious essambleges of matter. They cannot impart discernemnt, or any type of energetic consciousness upon the farm. And, if there is one other thing which marks an orgainc as opposed to a coventional/factory farm, it is consciousness/spirit. Handling a seedling, wishing it well, carressing it while planting it out in the field, is a humanist activity. A human consciousness spends time with the farm, and imparts its onw life energy onto the farm via his/her consciousness. The farm absorbs it member's consciousness into the fabric of its goods. It may appear somewhat odd to say the physical task of labor is also filled with a conscious energy. Yet, where else would the consciousness come from? Tha necessary task needing to be completed via work on the farm ensures the conscious energy of a person gets transferred to the farm. I am sure the process is deeper and more complicaated than that. But, perhaps that is the gist of the matter. Matter accommpanies thought. Though, when focused as in prayer/meditation, creates in a way a material thing, the object, i.e., the outcome of thought. By the way, this stuff here is being explored in the world of subatomic particles via the Large Hadron Collider. The collider is trying to, in part, find the so called God particle whereby the particles of matter can no lonegr be broken down further and, as such represent at such a point a type of energy pattern, a prerequiste to matter, without any form. So, such talk is not just hypothetical but, reality based and scientifically discoverable; one way or another.

Anyway, what I have been trying to develop, is namely, why one should want to grow/buy organic. The conscious decision to eat any quality food results in, perhaps its own energy exerting a force upon the world. The seemingly innoculous choice to eat organic creates an energy which opposes the overwhelming physical pressence of typical factory farming and the energy it has and creates. This world can be sculpted into which ever way we please. Our thoughts, choices, actions, whatever kind of world they are focused on, create just that reality. It is why the act of choosing to eat well, to eat organically, is more than just a choice of physically eating. It is a choice of creating in a certain way. A way which believes we need to eat heirloom tomatoes just because they are so good and because the world is a better place because of the heirloom tomato. It ultimately is to choose what we are to become.
Thanks for the read.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Growing, Thoughts & Deliberation

Here at the farm, because it is a bit cooler climate and I really enjoy growing, and eating, heat loving veggies such as eggplant and peppers, to name a few, we utilize unheated hoop houses--plastic covered structures. They create micro-climates which are stress free. It is warmer, no wind, no hard rain, hail or freezing rain. We can start plants inside the hoop house and keep them going many weeks longer than outside, exposed to the elements. Hoop house use is a low tek method which results in awesome plant growth. The climate inside the hoop house is equivalent to growing in Northern Jersey, approximately. All we have to do is trap some heat, there is already plenty of sunlight for growth. Inside our large house we grow our heirloom tomatoes which climb and grow over ten feet due to the mild climate. Simple methods; superior results. For a slightly higher tek approach we can ad new lightweight covers made out of various fibers inside the hoop house to cover the crops with in the case of a very cold night in Spring or Fall.

Growing high quality food takes a lot of hand labor. Some machines in agriculture cannot replicate what a human can do or perform only a poor fascimile. If you want to eat an heirloom hericot vert for example, the only way to pick it as it should be picked, quite young and slender, is by hand; it is a very slow and labor-intensive process. But, eat some of them fresh and you see why it is so worth it. Plus, I really like having people connecting with the plants and, if you are so inclined with such a belief system, believe there is an energy exchange if you will, between plant and person. Growing food is involving oneself with living proceses, not an inanimate material. I feel the more the human being is involved in the process, the better for the land, the animals and the plants. However, every farmer obviously chooses just how much hand labor to use on the farm and how much machinery. This brings me to what I have been thinking about for a bit.

What makes my views about farming, or anything else for that matter, more important or relevant, than an other person's views? Perhaps very little. And, in fact, I am glad other focally centered points of view are perhpas just as important as my own. This applies to all areas of life. The diversity of views, beliefs, is what makes this world so rich. And yet, all too often, this country strangles itself with abject rediculousness. How on this incredible planet which has basically been given to us for our very existence, does a President of the strongest state perhaps in all of history, allow stem cell tech to basicall shut down; for eight years mind you? Even when all extenuating circumstances have been accounted for, where is justification created for establishing a micro Dark Age whereby the astounding but yet somewhat expected growth of stem cell use for a host of life saving and healing modalities is put on hold? I have tried to but simply cannot imagine "W" was an evil person trying to affectively prevent stem cell tek growth. I am sure there is a very good reason, according to his ideological belief system, why he smacked it down. But, was it the best decision that could have been made? The ancient Greeks in and around the 4th century B.C. would not allow most people to be involved in their Democracy. Choosing, deciding, deliberating was to be done by the educated, which is perhaps not a bad idea. If one did not have the ability to read or debate or think, for whatever reason, then one would be limited, or so the ancients thought,in the ability to deliberate on a matter with any depth. The country needs thinkers thinking. Who would of thunk it? Whatever "W' was or was not, he most certainly did not deliberate on matters, as we most now clearly know via newly published books, media reports, etc.

Thinking, thoughts, ideas, knowledge, as related to farming as well as government, has been getting crushed by one side of human thought. Even with the new guy in the oval office, how much will he really change things? Will things be better? Absolutely. As good as they could and be? Right...

I think we limit our species, as well as ourself, much like a fractal limits itself by itself. The farm, as does the larger world outside of the farm, requires a great deal of thinking. Both follow the maccinations of the mind. Think grand and noble thoughts and make a noble world. Think base thoughts, old thoughts, small thoughts and be such. I hope I wasn't being too abstract, insane or innane.

It's all our decision. Please deliberate.

For what it's worth, here is some rock-ish type blues with real soul, for you to listen to and watch.

Change is in the air, yo!
Peace Out

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Time, Meats, and all that's tasty

Time: so illusive yet so obviously present. It is the function of time, what in fact is it's essence, which is fought against every step of the way, by structures of modernity. Maladapted to much of our culture, time is too often bent, narled, and blugeoned to obey the will of the market; of capitalism's need to gain more out of an hour than in fact exists in an hour. But like anything subject to distention or exagerated physical trauma, a breakdown or tear will inevitably form. Imbalance begets balance via structural flux.

This topic of time is integral to the essence of artisan style farming; if farming may be called artisinal, which I belive it can. Without large chunks of time, much of what is done at the farm here would not be possible. The farm eats up time in a fashion anyone involved recognizes. It's a visceral feeling of time being absorbed, while at the same time absorbing, what the farm is developing; whether it be a Black From Tula tomato sucking up time while it ripens to a deep blackish/red hue or a head of Romanesco Broccoli passing time right up into Winter snow, developing its sweet flavor. Just try and speed up the process, try and stunt the time such wonderous acts of development take, and all goes wrong; time gets displaced and the tomato or broccoli suffers, withdrawing into artisnal mediocrity.

When we make pancetta, a type of cured meat made from the pork belly, it must be aged. It hangs in a cool aging room with a certain maount of humidity for just over a month. Not given such time, the taste will not develop. Time, in a most physical way, imparts its mark on the pancetta. In a sense, the farm asks that time be present and leave its mark, reveal its je ne sais qua, on the meat. This is put into stark contrast witn commercial types of pancetta or other such cured meats. In commercialized food production, time is expensive; no one may ask of its use freely; only at a cost. So, it is used rather sparingly and at graat cost. A ham that should be sitting in brine, whiling away the days, absoring the salty, somewhat sweet liquid mixture which transforms the basic fresh cut into something quite special, is spirited away from time. Instead, the ham is pumped full of brine resulting in an almost instant cure. But, are the two hams, the one time held for weeks and months or, the ham outside of the grasp of time, equal? Interestingly, the "market" sees such differnces in the two. The "market" excpects most people will not worry about how much time one ham or another took to be ready for the market. As long as such ham can be sold at a price perhaps half of its bretheren which used up perhaps over two months time in development, all is well on supermarket row. In such a light the typical buyer of a ham purchases the time-strapped ham at a bargain price, enabling the quantity of the purchase to be larger than perhaps prudent.

When one eats a piece of ham from here at the farm, the tastes, the essence, which makes up the ham, is intense. Though one can in fact eat generously from the ham, the meat satisfies one's urge to eat rather quickly. I believe this is, in part, time's effect on the ham. The ham has taken from time that which allows the full development and expression of the ham. Compacted within the marvelously tasting food is time, as not only taste but also as fullfillment. The eating of the ham transports not only fuel into the body but the accumulated time as rich and developed essence of ham taste. As such, it is not easy to devour quantities of ham from the farm; it is overwhelmingly rich.

We are eliminating time, eliminating essences, out of our food. We worry about price, and assent to the wisdom of the market that time is to be done without, not needed, superfluous. We remove this precious commidity, time, as much as possible, from our food, and question why we eat more and more, never feeling satisfied, never sated. Can we afford the time to eat slowly? Prior to the 1970s the average family felt the need to take time to eat food which was made with time. Families spent over 25-30% of their income on food. Today, that percentage has dropped to around 12%. Yes, time is expensive. And, so is the three to four hours a day spent in front of the cable TV-at $65 a month--expensive. Is time spent watching tv a bargain?

Where one's attention lays, so there lays one's dreams. Where one's time is used, there resides one's essence. Peace, or war; smile, or frown, hurt, or heal, where does attention get applied? How do we use time? Until next time. Blessings and Peace :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

slaughtering with love

When I started the farm, knowing I would be raising animals for meat, certain ethical conundrums needed to be thought out. How could it be, I thought to myself, that animals could be killed, their life extinguished, without creating something akin to negative karma? How to slaughter, for example, a happy, care free lamb in good conscious? To some, perhaps such demands can never be met.

The animals here, in fact, the whole farm, is the direct result of human intervention, direct participation, imprinting one's will, within the system of nature. No humans, no lamb and no farm. Domesticated animals and farms are both human constructs, incapable of existing sans human volition. The beauty, the essence, of our specialy bred Large Black pigs or Icelandic sheep, their aesthetics, meat quality, hardiness, these are the qualities which make these two types of animals so special. Take away the hands of humans in this development and there no longer exists such breeds. Their essence resides in the very fact that they excell at being animals used for human consumption. When I look at our top pig, I see an exceptional animal that will produce an abundance of gourmet quality pork. Such is what it means to be the premiere pig.
A farm teaches you many lessons and one has been the development of an understanding of the cycle of life. Everything is born and everything dies. In such a vein of thought, perhaps it is not important that the pig or lamb dies but, how it lived and how it died.

Be that as it may, and regardless of one's philosophical views on animal welfare, I do not find slaughtering an animal the way it is done here at the farm, barbaric or inhumane. What is barbaric to me, what I find abhorant, is the cruelty imposed on animals during their lifespan and when being slaughtered. Unwarranted suffering is a repugnant fact of too many factory farming and slaughtering operations. An especially egregious example-perhaps a pet peeve for me--is the factory farmed laying hen. Their life seems especially cruel and unjust. I hope more people will forego such mass produced eggs and buy them from whomever might have cage-free laying hen eggs.

I was at a meat packing/slaughterhouse the other day. On the way out, I noticed a solitary lamb inside a livestock trailer looking quite alone, sad and confused. This sight was juxtaposed in my mind with the lamb we had just slaughtered on-farm a short while ago. Our lamb never once had such a sense of forboding, of being alone. One minute he was happily among his compadres and the next he was in Nirvana. He never left the farm, never was alone. His purpose had been fullfilled upon slaughter. To my viewing, the two lambs' experiences could not be more different. One died sad; one died happy. For my farm's lanb, it was in fact, "a good day to die."

My views will, no doubt, not be held by some. It is perhaps the essence of humans to have completely divergent views. As well, I do not pretend to offer a fully developed argument in support of the slaughtering of an animal for human consumption; nor that the methods I use will, at the end of the day, be viewed as superior to any other method or process of slaughter. I do know for sure that death will in fact bring about life. And, that in death, life sprouts forth. One cannot exclude the other. The farm is both about death, and about life. Philosophically, life cannot come from ex nihillo, from nothing. There always must be something which exists. An empty vacuous nothing devoid of any and every quality equated with existence simply is a philosphical fallacy. Death is a something, not a nothingness void of existence. Perhaps this is humans' hope in a continued, persistent, part of our human-ness existing past bodily death. Ex nihilo has no hold on death. Death truly is in fact life.

Why the picture of a seedling when the topic at hand is death? 1) because I just love the picture; seedlings have some special photogenic quality to them. 2)Because the seedling is the return of life from death. The compost created, in part, from the slaughtered lamb, nurished the seedling in the picture. Life Ex nihilo?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The soil

Nature abhores a vacuum. Big deal, one might say. Yet, it is a big deal. Whether the space between planets, within the ocean or in the soil, space is never wasted.

Teaming with life, soil is the basis for most agriculture. Within it, millions of living organisms help to enliven the soil and prepare nutrients for plant assimilation. Shortly in not much more than two weeks, the soil here at the farm will be preparedd for planting. But, to get the highest quality out of the plant, the soil must be brought up to snuff; i.e., the soil has to be fed.

What does the soil eat? Soil needs food, vegetable and animal composts, to eat. But, the soil cannot eat correctly unless it is somewhat balanced and can carry on certain metabolic functions. Not only does it need food, it requires calcium, among other things. Calcium not only helps to keep a good ph range, buffering acidic soils, it also increases the availability of carbon dioxide. Proper nutrients in the soil help the soil to fully utilize its food, the compost. From the reverse side, compoost starts up the soil eating, metabolic process so that, in part, it can make available to the plant the nutrients and minerals in the soil. As soil eating bacteria digest the compost in the soil, one of the outcomes of such activity is the production of carbolic acid. Carbolic acid works on rock, breaking the rock down slowly and making the minerals in the rock accessable for uptake by plants. What I am learning here at the farm is, although we have a soil filled with thosands of tons of calcium per acre, little of it is available for use. Why? I think it is because very little metabolic activity is occuring in the soil. After many years of placidity on behalf of the soil, it is now having to wake up. The whole process of digesting compost, of stimulating the microbes and getting the system up and running, takes some time. Slowly but surely it is getting done here. Our vegetable beds are already showing much improvement. This season, I fully expect magnitudes of improvement in the soil chemistry.

Most bites of food coming from the soil here also have the bonus of being effected by the quartzite abundant in the soil. Whether one believes in the more escoteric side of things or not, quartz is a crystal very capable of tuning and amplifying electro-magetic energy (see what radios used to tune in stations). Though certainly I am not espoucing any specfic claims regarding the quartz crystals in the soil, rest assured, there is certainly cause and effect.

Another component of the soil here which one will undoubtedly be taking in, via the veggies, is ancient sea life. Even at the farm's relative high elevation, millenia ago it was covered by a shallow sea which deposited many types of sea life within layers of shale. Their shells remain and get incorporated back into the soil as the acids in the soil break them down. The cycle of life keeps on keeping on.

Not only does nature dislike a vacuum; it turns out so does the head of our country's economic policy, Federal Reserve Governor Bernake, et al. They abhore it so much, they gave away billions to prevent such a vacuum. By vacuum I mean a lack of junk flooding our homes in the form of useless, stupifyingly unneeded stuff. Yet, what is utterly, unbelievably, how did it happen, crazy, is, the federal reserve is nothing more than a private corporation bent on doing to the best of its ability what all corporations by charter are supposed to do; accumulate capital. Can a federal reserve person do what is best for his/her country while at the same time maximizing profits for the company he/she works for? You can answer that one. What one can perhaps say with certainty; unless elected officials of high moral character act out of an enlightened interest to help others, this country will struggle. Though we are still the brightest light in the sea, our bulb has dimmed. We should expect much more from our country, and from ourselves.
Peace out


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Starting the season

Throughout this blog I want to vary the posts with a mix of farm information, aphorisms, thoughts, ideas, rants, beliefs and a bit of dribble. I hope you find it of some value.

It's the beginning of the new season here at the farm. We started the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants inside the house under fluoros, about a week and a half ago. They will stay under 24 hours of light and go through re-potting for about four to six weeks before being transferred to the greenhouse. We learned from last year how tomatoes do not mind brisk temperatures anywhere near as much as peppers do. And, that eggplant truly dispise the cold. So, tomatoes go to the greenhouse first, followed by peppers a few weeks later, and finished up a week later by eggplants.
However, with farming there are many variables that must be added into the equation when setting a date to transplant into the greenhouse. Some years, snow and freezing temperatures will continue to the end of May. P.S. do not think our town weather, Jordanville, is the weather we have. In most cases we are a good 5 degrees cooler and much, much more windy. Last season, we had snow and very cold temperatures Memorial day weekend. Though the greenhouse is heated with a wood furnace, very cold temperatures creep in close to the sides and cause havoc with plants of a more sensetive nature. We are combatting that this season with plastic tunnels being placed inside the greenhouse over the plants. The picture above (last years) shows the greenhouse in Late March with new transplants. Notice how close the pepper transplants are to the side? That was a mistake. As they grew they did not have enough space before they hit up against the plastic.

It is amazing to behold a seed, often quite diminutive in size, sprout and grow into a twelve foot tall tomato plant. Present, but dormant in the seed, is the template, the essence, of what it is to become. Life sprouts from what in all appearences seems stagnant or even perhaps dead. Yet it is far from dead. A depth of knowledge built up from seasons upon seasons of refinement resides in the seed. Renewal of the plant starts anew.

The start of new life-the plants-helps renew my belief that the world, though it is in a most cold, repressed and dying state, will in fact swing back to vibrancy. Hegel's concept of the dialectic eplains in philosophical form what I observe in nature. All states of life are necessary and temporary. Life begets death begets life. Remove either and the system collapses. The cold Winter's up here kill off the weak and the strong alike. But behind the scene, in the ground, inside caves and trees and under the water, life awaits in a catatonic like state, for Spring. The flush of life so much a sign of the new season, of Spring, could not have come about without the cold and death Winter imposes. Does that mean something is behind the two opposites, behind life and death, behind the outward signs of the living world and universe? What keeps the extremes in check? Another set of rules? Another puppet-master? At some point in time, the layers of rules must end and something must impose its categorical will on the system. With that being said, I--a part of the system hopefully on the living end growing end for some time--end this post.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And it begins

It is, perhaps, appropriate the first blog posted is quite a bit after the fact of the beginning of the farm; almost three years. Remember, Hegel always said, "the owl of minerva arrives at midnight." One cannot be sure of what is or will be until dusk.
Status of the universe at present time: February 19th, 2009: dire economic conditions; New President (the first Black man I might add). Scientists get the nod to use stem cells, once again, after the dark ages; thank you George Bush,(those eight years are over already?) you were marvelous, really.

Where the heck are we: Jordanville, NY 1,700 feet altitude. Top of a foothill with crazy amounts of wind. Absolutely gorgeous. Sunrises here are as pretty as the sunsets.

What is not here :( Starbucks, bagels, salt water, fresh seafood, a selection of good restaurants (we do have a few top notch though). Fresh sushi? Right. Population problem.

What is missed most about Westchester? DSL :)

One thing one quickly learns when dealing with nature: if you do not perform a task correctly, nature will help you to re-do the lesson you just missed.

Stay tuned for more shortly.