Monthly Archives: June 2011

This week at the Farm

Today was our first delivery day for our CSA. Our members can find copies of the newsletter here.

I realize once the season begins time seems to fly so fast. So I decided that for each Monday I would share pictures of what is happening at the farm this week.

Zucchini blossoms. Italian cooking batters and fries these, but right now they are too precious for that. Maybe next year I will plant some plants just for the blossoms.

Eggplant blossoms.

Lettuce that will hopefully be big enough for next week’s box and behind that green beans. I am guessing about 3 weeks for those.

Our first strawberry with more to come.

Sunday Avril just took off riding with virtually no training. Our farm manager has a daughter about Avril’s age who has graciously shared her bikes. Now the 2 of them love riding around the farm together.

Nest with 3 baby birds just peeking out. I think they might be barn swallows but I’m not sure.

Flowers in the Field

Monday we were at the farm. As we were driving up to our plot we saw a row of brilliant yellow. Wondering what it was I went in for a closer look. Silly me I forgot how beautiful zucchini blossoms are. Next to the yellow zucchini flowers were much more delicate purple eggplant flowers. A little further away white strawberry flowers. I am feeling so blessed right now that I get to experience the beauty of creation right before me. Sorry I don’t have pictures. It is been muddy and drizzly for the past couple of days. Plus our farm hours have been packed getting ready for our first CSA delivery this coming Monday.

But seriously creation is so beautiful and amazing. We drive by an apple orchard on the way to the farm and for awhile there we enjoyed acres of apple blossoms.

But for me, by far these are the most beautiful flowers in the field. And they are my reason why.

It is so easy to get caught up in the business of the day, the work to be done and the goals to be accomplished. But then there are every day beautiful moments that surprise you and remind you that fruit comes from flowers and flowers can and do grow in fields of mud. Look for and appreciate your flowers.

Family Reunion

If you know anything about Proeun and I you know that we are big on family. Really we consider family such a blessing. One thing that has really showed me that was the story of Proeun’s family. They have gone through so much–a war that took their home, years in refugee camp, living in a country that didn’t understand them or at times want that, and that is before you add all the normal life stresses. I love Proeun’s family (and mine of course but this post is about Proeun’s family), not because they are perfect, but because they love each other and have found a way to stay together on two continents and over 35 years.

This weekend we had a family reunion of sorts to celebrate the newest member

Gage, born to Proeun’s cousin and her husband. Here he sleeps in the same kind of baby hammock that my mother-in-law used on all her children and grandchildren in both Cambodia and here.

Proeun’s grandmother pounding fish to make a traditional paste eaten with vegetalbes.

Proeun’s grandfather holding Effie.

Proeun’s mother and Avril.

I also love family history. Now I just need to learn Cambodian so I can record this fascinating story of loss and rebirth in a new country.

I lvoe the food also and the use of fresh veggies. Here’s one of my favorite dishes–a mild soup made of fish, lemon grass and coconut over rice noodles with fresh herbs and bean sprouts and a squeeze of lime.

Congratulations Graduates

While I don’t have anyone in my immediate family graduating this year I have been to my fair share of graduations this year. Last night I was at one for a local charter school and it brought back so many memories of my high school graduation–all the excitement and uncertainty and dreaming, mostly the dreaming.

One speaker. Dr. Rose Wan-Mui Chu, grew up in Malaysia and is now the Assistant Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Educaion. She talked about how she always wanted to “make a difference in education.” She asked the students what they thought the purpose of education was. She gave them an opportunity to talk amongst themselves. They came back with answers like “to make money,” “to be successful,” and “to pursue happiness.”

However Dr. Rose urged the students to ask, “what is the mission in your life?” and to “hold true to a calling.”

For me mothering was always my calling, though I had times that I doubted it. I also always thought I would be a writer. I just never thought I would be writing about my experiences farming and camping. I kinda suspected that mothering would be a life work, but I had no idea what my calling of being a mother would lead me to. Along the way I have changed and grown so much.

 So to all the graduates out there I would add that sometimes our life surprises us, sometimes it takes us along for the ride. But there are 2 things that will always make a difference in our lives, our character and our relationships.  

Blue Gentian Farm Visit

If you are a regular at the Minneapolis farmer’s market you have probably seen a truck like this. Blue Gentian Farm is owned and managed by Renee and Darryle Powers. This weekend we had an opportunity to meet Darryle on another field trip and tour his farm. Blue Gentian specializes in heritage breed animals like

Scttish Highland cattle,

St. Croix Sheep (these are hair sheep and do not require shearing plus they are parasite resistant),

Berkshire hogs,

and a menagerie of chickens/ roosters.

They allow the roosters to fertilize the eggs of the hens and they hatch their own chicks.

They do also purchase some meat birds.

There are also some meat goats. Boer I believe.

And here is the world’s friendliest goat. He was following all of us around tugging at back pockets and shirt sleeves. Proeun said he doesn’t know how he could ever sell a goat like that.

Somehow I missed a picture of the border collie that did a great job keeping everyone in line. After the tour the natural game would be “sheep.” Here Two, Avril, Mavis and farm friend Addie practice their animal skills. Addie’s dad was pretending to be a wolf so they all herded together because, “if we stay together we’ll be safe.”

Whole lot of planting

The past couple of weeks have been full of planting, a very very fun time of the year. It’s like you are finally seeing the summer grow right before you eyes after a really really long winter. This year it took an even longer time to warm up then normal but now the planting is almost complete. With our first CSA day coming at the end of the month I thought it would be a good time to show you some of the around farm activities.

We start all our own transplants so we can make sure we have good quality, certified organic starts. Here are some onions and broccoli and cauliflower from a planting earlier this spring. Plus our Earthway seeder which we use for direct seed crops (things you put the seeds right in the ground) like radishes, carrots and beets.

Here is a digging stick Proeun’s father made us after a tool one of the Hmong farmers let us use. It works great for digging small holes. Here Proeun is planting sweet corn. We soak the seeds over night to give them a good start.

Here are our strawberry plants. They come as bare roots and here you see the plants just starting to emerge. Time to get them in the ground.

Here’s what they look like planted with just the shoot starting to emerge. We bought Seascape strawberries which are an ever bearing variety suitable for temperate climates. We hope they will be producing about mid August.

The planting is almost done, soon I will have to update you with pictures. Our transplants are starting to take off, now the fun really begins.

Thanks Grandma

I am so thankful to live in a multi-generational family. Growing up most of my aunts and uncles lived close by and I was surrounded with cousins and extended family to love me. One fixture in my life has been grandmother Phyllis–my mother’s mom. The things that she has done for the family are too numerous to mention. But last night as we visited and she held my youngest baby I was so thankful that my children have a chance to know her and love her to. That is what mutl-generational family love is all about.

Ngon Bistro

For my recent birthday I wanted to do something special. So Proeun and I took the children on a date for dinner and a movie. And since it was my birthday I got to pick the restaurant.

I chose Ngon Bistro on University Ave in St. Paul. This area of St. Paul has in the past 20 or so years become the heart of the Southeast Asian immigrant/refugee economy in Minnesota. Groceries, numerous restaurants, stores, and services have all revitalized the area. Now Ngon has become a destination for many non-Asians.

I met Hai Truong, owner and chef at the Immigrant Farming Conference hosted by the Minnesota Food Association back in February. Ngon Bistro is one of the few area restaurants I know of that supports both local food and immigrant farmers. Truong was at the Conference hoping to connect with area growers. Since meeting him I was interested to see what his restaurant looked like and try the food.

Though Two was initially disappointed that there was no fried chicken wings on the menu he consoled himself with 2 orders of eggrolls.

For me it was a bit harder to decide. I am allergic to dairy and have always enjoyed the fact that traditional Southeast Asian food doesn’t have dairy in it. However Ngon has a fusion restaurant does. After my 1st 2 choices had dairy I settled on the mock duck with mixed vegetables.

If you have never tried Pho (pronouced Fu) before you really should.

Anthony Bourdain describes Pho as “ambrosia” and it really is a great family meal. Start with a great basic beef broth, a helping for rice noodles and toppings to personalize the experience. Proeun likes the “special” with meatball, beef, tripe and tendon–very traditional. Onions, cilantro, lime and basil often accompany it and then each person adds their favorite sauces like several varieties of spice, sweet, sour and salty.

What I really liked about Ngon though is their slogan.

It’s such a great circle when local restaurants support local growers and local consumers support them.