Take a look at this picture and tell me, what is your honest first reaction?
This evening while getting the bed time snack prepped I came upon this little treasure.
Immediately I had an 'oh ick' response and was a bit taken a back with surprise. I followed that with an immediate questioning thought of, ' oh but isn't this a good thing?'
This does not happen very often. Today when it did happen, after my first 'ick' reaction, I felt sense of contentment. I want to eat food that tastes good and is grown in a way that nurtures the surrounding ecosystem as much as possible and in a way that promotes diversity. I really do want that. And because I want that, I know in my logical mind that it means my food will have qualities that in some circles are deemed not perfect.
We have a book here at home for the kids, (I like it for me too), on sharing mother earth. Out of the pint of strawberries we've been eating for lunch snack and bedtime snack today (yes one pint did both), I found one reminder that we are not using chemical insect controls on the strawberries anymore. We are sharing mother earth. We are promoting diversity. And we are even, in this case, sharing our food.
My thoughts lead to our CSA membership. It is because of our CSA members' committment to a shared vision that this strawberry has a bug in it. You are the leaders behind a shift from one idea of perfection to another. Thank goodness for all of you and all of us in making this real.
Larvae aren't so bad really. Seriously, IT IS a cultural thing. What is more important anyway?
It appears that project Mush-Mush has produced tiny mushrooms.
You can see in the picture that there are three white clusters of tiny mushrooms. This was leftover sawdust spawn I had which was used to inoculate straw on May 20th. It is a very small bag of spawn maybe a pound so I'm curious how many mushrooms we will get..
Greetings fellow members. This is Chris again here to update you on project Mush-Mush! Step two (straw pasteurization and inoculation) has been completed last week June 6th as well as a second rye grain inoculation. The process was pretty simple and straight forward. We obtained a bale of straw from the animal barn and cut it up with scissors in 1" to 3" lengths. Usually you'd use a whipper-snipper or lawn mower maybe a chipper or some other means if you are cutting up a larger quantity of straw. The reason for cutting up the straw is because it allows the mycelium to colonize it faster. After the straw was chopped up we submerged it in a large pot on the stove and raised the temperature to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are doing larger quantities of straw a 55 gallon drum with a burner under it works fine. You want to keep the temperature between 160 and 180. The reason for that is to kill off the bad competing bacteria and molds but not kill off the beneficial ones. Too low or too high a temperature would reduce your success. After about an hour of being pasteurized you can remove the straw and lay it out on a sanitized surface to cool and drain. You can use a weak bleach solution of alcohol to sanitize the surface of the table or trough. When the temperature drops to 100 degrees Fahrenheit you can lay out the Grain spawn on the straw. If you wait too long you risk the chance of the straw getting contaminated and not waiting long enough the heat of the straw could kill the mycelium growing throughout the grain. The next step is to stuff the straw and rye grain into bags and mix it thoroughly. Be sure to clean your hands with rubbing alcohol or use clean gloves. As you pack the bags you can mix the straw and grain. After the bags were full I simply tied them up and used an arrow head to poke holes in the bags. You need the holes in the bag to allow for gas exchange as mycelium needs oxygen to grow. In a few weeks after the straw has been fully colonized the Mushrooms will subsequently grow out of these holes on their search for fresh air.
There is a picture of the rye grain laid out on the straw as well as the two packed bags.
For the 4 years now that we have been offering a CSA model of connectedness between us (the farm and you), I have longed in some odd sort of way to have a CSA farmer myself. I wanted what our members had, a relationship with a farm, outside of my own world. This year, I joined our own CSA. I feel it is bizarre to say such a thing, but for real I wanted to treat my kitchen and my life the way I have envisioned some of yours to be. You go to work, you have to remember to get your box, you have three hungry kids calling at you, you start supper, you start to unpack your CSA box, you have homework to remember to get people to do, oh and then someone really needed a bath two days ago, so you are trying to make that happen, while trying to finish cooking supper, having everyone eat and then have everyone to bed by 7:30. Phew. And then on top of that, you start to unload your CSA box and bam, you have too many potatoes and wonder what the heck am I going to do with all of those potatoes. Then you notice that one apple as a bruise and an onion is starting to sprout and one potato is softer than you feel comfortable with.....and then what goes through your mind.....
We get a staple box, a meat share and an entre size veggie box. I can honestly say that I love all three. Are they perfect all the time? NO way! For the past four years I have been running down to the cooler or out to the garden to grab what I need to cook a meal. I thought I was experiencing something similar to you but I wasn't and I knew it and now I really know it. Now I experience it. Two weeks ago I was all out of food by Sunday and I still had to get to Wednesday. Now this week I have nettle and potatoes left from the past few weeks and then today I get my staples and entre box and guess what, I have a lot of potatoes.
My thoughts on this....(from my three separate view points)
As a mother and cooker and overall life management perspective - too many potatoes is hard and a few that are maybe on the verge of compost is something I internalize as I put them away, maybe I will need to make comment about it.
As a CSA farmer and concerned business owner - what we have right now are potatoes in storage. Their quality is not the best, but they are still good to eat. If we don't give out the potatoes then they will just be composted and then we have lost the value placed in them and also we will need to source something else to put into the CSA boxes from some place else and that will be harder on cash flow. Also, it can be hard to notice one off potato when handling them and it takes an experienced hand to ensure that we don't put in 'rotten apples' - this time of year with storage crops is extra hard. And this spring has been wet and dark and not ideal for large volumes of early crops.
As a CSA member - i didn't expect perfection and i don't get perfection all the time. i want good value and I want to experience and feel connected to what is real about the farm, the vegetables, about the people and I want to know without a doubt that what I am doing is a) is good for me , b) is making a difference, and c) is honest.
There we have it. I have more potatoes in my fridge than I would otherwise have. We will eat them all. Potato scallop tomorrow - my favourite. Mashed potatoes for a couple of days, all of our favourite. The apple with the bruise, that will be cut off and the apple will be eaten. The potato that is soft will hit the compost and in my case i will know it is feeding a pig, in everyone else case you can know that it is going back into the earth in some way. No need to call Teri on a rotten apple, for me this week is more about where we are right now in the season.
Maybe some of the imperfection and challenge is what makes our experience with the CSA real and connected to seasonality, locality and generally overall, food? And, then again, maybe not. I try hard to not have a bias, but I obviously am. What do you think?
Yesterday at lunch time Justine opened a bag of greens, plunked them in the salad spinner and washed them. I quickly jumped in with, 'oh let's make a really big salad'. I pulled out by bag of greens from last weeks share to rinse off too. She washed the greens and I chopped up the left over turnip, green onions, apple and pea shoots that were left in the bottom of the crisper. In that moment I realized that what holds me up in making more salads is the task of rinsing and spinning the lettuce. And then I realized that I was using Justine as my 'eat those greens' motivator.
Now, what in the world can be easier than dumping a bag of perfectly good (don't even need to sort through them) greens into the salad spinner (I even have a salad spinner and don't need to use a towel to dry off the greens, or deal with wet greens in my salad) to make a fresh salad for lunch?
You see, for me, it is easier to deal with the turnip and cabbage any day of the week vs lettuce. Why is this? The question I grapple with a lot is that of the effort involved.
Breakfast is an interesting one for us. Part of the effort I think is accepting the huge challenge of resistance until eventually it becomes habit for everyone in the household. There is nothing easier than opening a bag of dry cereal, adding milk and honey and done, breakfast is served. The issue for me is that cereal is expensive no matter which kind you purchase. We get a maximum of 3 mornings and a box is gone in our household at a minimum of $5 per box. Not to mention GMO or sugar content, etc. We started in September with oatmeal porridge. I purchased a very large bag (20kg around $50) from Speerville Mills in NB. I keep the bag in the freezer and have a jar that is easily accessible for each morning. Now that we (Josh and I) have a routine and have perfected the timing and the water to oats ratios, it is all good with the exception of children resisting. The interesting part of the resistance is that they do eat it but it seems to be that they hold on to the idea that enough resistance will lead to dry cereal again.....which is where we (Josh and I) come in again needing to be resolved in our position (because we too like to please our kiddos).
Certified Organic Oatmeal breakfast - approximately $0.27 per day (in our house)
Cheerios breakfast - approximately $1.75 per day (in our house)
At the farm one of the most common phrases we hear is with regards to the effort it takes to eat well. On the one hand I completely understand because there are some days when I just don't want to cook. But mostly, with the exception of lettuce washing or soaking beans overnight (because I usually forget about them) I find it has become easy to quickly cook food from raw ingredients.
I suppose, to wrap up, my thoughts are that the effort involved greatly depends on each of our perceptions, values and resolve to eat well. Once we establish the values, and the resolve our perception of effort seems to shift.
For any of you out there that feel eating all these vegetables or fruit is a lot of effort, you are not alone. Let's be sure to share those feelings and support each other in making it easier.