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May 9, 2019
Farmer Sighting
By Charis Lindrooth
I was lucky enough to capture a rare video interview with the Farmer…okay, I snagged him by the collar at the end of a long day…. In 55 seconds, this hard working fellow charmed my heart all over again.
Sometimes it is hard to face the uncertainty a new growing season holds. We have been at this long enough to know that weather, pests, equipment failure, employee snags are all potential hurdles that we will have to clear in order to successfully deliver the best produce we can grow to our customer’s table.
Right now the vibrant green of the fields, the fragrant scent of the generous earth and the magic of emerging seedlings entice joy from our hearts, as the whiff of honey lures the bear from hibernation.
The Farmer is that bear. He cannot resist the call of the fields, straight rotatilled rows of good dirt, waiting to receive the seed and seedlings from his hand. Years of toiling under the hot sun, the pouring rain, and everything in between has not diminished his love of growing food for others.
Knock on wood, so far this season is the strongest we have had in years. Our crew is small but determined, and the crops are looking beautiful. We are already enjoying the first spring greens and asparagus on our own greedy plates. Zucchini, sweet peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, chard, kale…they are all coming along!
What we need now is people lining up to eat the bounty. The best way to eat more veggies is to join a CSA, and the best CSA, offering customizable boxes and the freshest, cleanest produce, grown by the kindest, hardest-working, passion-about-vegetables Farmer, is…of course…Red Earth Farm!
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April 28, 2019
Dandelion Day Again!
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Some things never change. The seasonal cycle of nature is ever-present in our life on the farm. Our dandelion display is just one example. I hope you will forgive me for re-posting this from last year. You can see a video of this year's nearly identical dandelific exhibition on Facebook and Instagram.
As you can see from this picture, we don't spray our lawn for dandelions. This carpet of gold appeared quite suddenly last week, and at its appearance our daughter leapt from the car. She only paused a moment to say, "Mama, is it "Dandelion Day?" Yes, I guess it is! Only once a year, and only for a few days, can you see this burst of sunshine in the grass, without one single "wish," the white puffy seed heads. There is something magical about it, tempting one to take a nap in the sun and listen to the buzz of honeybees.
Although many lawn aficionados decry the dandelion as a weed, these prolific blooms provide essential nourishment early in the season for pollinators. Bees and butterflies, beetles and even birds, benefit from the dandelion. Often this plant offers the very first feeding for insects, and so can make or break a colony's successful survival.
A week later, gold turned to snow. I'm sure many a lawn aficionado would shudder at this sight, but there is a little-known secret about these "wishes." The dandelion seeds provide a smorgasbord for finches. What you cannot see in this photo are the flashes of brilliant gold, like flying dandelions, swooping goldfinches, indigo buntings too, relishing the tiny seeds attached to the fluffy white parachutes. The Farmer has a soft spot for these little birds, and when he did mow, he left a patch for the enthusiastic foragers. He then climbed off the tractor and stretched out in the tall grass watching the clouds and birds fly by. When he came in tufts of white dandelion seeds clung to his hair and scruffy face, and his eyes twinkled with a boy's good fun.
If you like vegetables that haven't been sprayed by chemicals, and that have been grown by a Farmer who cares about little critters and big critters, and who is thoughtful and kind...maybe these things really do make a difference...then please support our family farm and join the 2019 CSA. We would love to grow for you.
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March 24, 2019
Signs of Spring
By Charis Lindrooth
Since I couldn't get a pic of the woodpecker, you have to settle for baby beets!
I spotted a pileated woodpecker for the first time on the farm yesterday. This avian insectivore is a massive bird and was too shy for my camera to capture him, but even after he disappeared from view I could here the loud rattatat of his mighty beak against the hollow trees that line the farm fields.
Flocks of robins have also made their appearance, hopping and bobbing across fresh-tilled ground in their search for breakfast. "Our" indigo bunting is back and the first crocuses and snowdrops are blooming. Even though the temperature has been chilly, the sun is strong and the seedlings in the greenhouse are growing vibrantly.
Spring holds a sense of promise on the farm. It is always a time of anticipation as we prepare to feed our veggie-loving fans.
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February 24, 2019
Eat for Your Bugs
By Charis Lindrooth
In the garden, the soil at our feet is teeming with life. Beyond worms and arthropods which can be seen with the naked eye, microbia of all sorts play a vital role in the healthy environment of the ground where our food is grown. Similarly, the human body harbors up to ten times as many microbial cells as human cells.
What are these microbes and what are they doing? What do they tell us about ourselves?
Just as our human genome records traces of who we are and the conditions we have adapted to during evolutionary history, our microbial genomes may record traces of what we have eaten, where we have lived, and who we have been in contact with.
My daughter is the one who drew my attention to this subject.
As a young toddler she consumed more dirt on our organic farm than I thought humanly possible. At first I tried to dissuade her. When nothing dire happened to her, and when she stubbornly persisted I began to wonder if she wasn’t craving something she needed. Adopted at birth, she was never breastfed, except once. I made her a formula using raw goat’s milk as a base, but the formula was low in iron, something that bottle fed babies often lack. Our soil at that time was very high in iron so I assumed that she was eating the dirt because she craved iron.
But then I began to notice that she never got sick. She was the healthiest baby and toddler I had ever seen. With her first two teeth she had a low-grade fever for a few hours and that was it for her entire babyhood...until she weaned off her formula and dirt.
That’s when I began to wonder if she innately knew something I didn’t. I decided to write a book about why eating dirt was such a good thing. It didn’t take me long, when I started researching, to stumble on the then-exploding science of the microbiome. I never wrote that book. I didn’t need to since a pile of books on the topic were proliferating faster than I could sharpen my pencil. However, I did learn a lot on the topic, the most important lesson being how key our diets are to the health of the magical world of bugs in our gut.
Imagine holding a human brain in your hands, about three pounds. Now imagine instead of the mass of grey matter in your hands, you are holding a squirming pile of bacteria. That is the amount of microbes found in a human gut.
This amounts to trillions of bacteria which hang out in and on us, and in and on the soil at our feet. Scientists have learned that these bacteria in the gut play a vital role in digestion, the production of certain nutrients, the development of our immune systems, in setting our metabolism making us thin or fat, in inflammatory and auto-immune disorders and even in what we think and feel.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that people with a rich diversity of bacteria are healthier and better equipped to thwart inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Overweight and obese people are prone to lower bacterial diversity and so are vulnerable to insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and overall inflammation compared to thin people.
So how do we create an environment that feeds diversity and sustains a wide diversity of microbes? Your first guess might be to eat more fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and yogurt (maybe not at the same time). While these foods, and the bacteria found in them, do have an important influence on the activity of our gut microbiome, there is another category of food that plays a more significant role: fiber-rich vegetables.
Gut bacteria love carbohydrates, but we digest most of our dietary carbs in the small intestine, before they hit the colon where most of our gut bugs hang out. To get around this, gut bacteria have evolved to survive on carbohydrates found in the indigestible fiber that we eat. Increasing our dietary sources of this "bug fuel” will provide for a thriving and more diverse bacterial population of bacteria in our guts, and so possibly assist weight loss, lower inflammation, and decrease chronic diseases.
Vegetables rich in soluble fiber are key. If your gut bugs don’t get enough fiber, they turn to an alternate source of carbs, the mucus lining of you large intestine - yum! Eating a wide diversity of vegetables is the answer: asparagus, leek, tomato, radish, as well as countless greens, roots and other vegetables and berries.
The most encouraging and amazing thing about the microbiome is its incredible capacity for rapid transformation. By changing what food is arriving in your gut, you can transform the population in as little as 72 hours. This changeability is why many scientists see the microbiome of the gut as potentially one of our most powerful tools for transforming health. The key to success here is consistently eating the food that nourishes and sustains them over time. While positive change can be made quickly, the health benefits won’t be realized unless this change is supported for the long haul. As quickly as diversity can improve, if we fall back into old habits, the former inflammatory-promoting bugs will simply return just as quickly.
The short answer? Join a CSA and eat more veggies every single day! You knew that was where I was headed with this, right? ; )
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February 17, 2019
February Sun
By Charis Lindrooth
In some ways February is my favorite month on the farm.
For one thing the sun is noticeably stronger. Now that we have started seeding, the mid-winter sun feels downright glorious in the greenhouse nursery. Flats of emerging seedlings need water twice a day, and I love to bundle up and make the trek down the long hill to where they await my attention.
Along the way I watch for returning birds and have already spotted robins and a boisterous flock of Eastern bluebirds. Chickadees and juncos hop about nearby, unconcerned by my journey past them.
I always make sure I stop at the honeybee hives, checking the stark white boxes for signs of life. On a warm day, even in February, I can spot a few brave bees emerging and searching for food. That reminds me to watch for the early wild flowers that are so essential to their survival. A few yellow dandelions peek out from the brown weathered grass and I hope the foragers find them.
As soon as I unlock and slide open the heavy greenhouse door I am struck full in the face by the warm, humid scent of moist earth. The deliciousness travels to some part of my brain that has stored early childhood memories of spring and immediately feelings of hope and expectation stir within me.
We have nicknamed our greenhouse “Florida” partly because it is so balmy and inspires the shedding of winter clothing, and partly because it feels grand to say, “Hey, I’m going to Florida. See ya later!”
The nursery will be in operation from now until November. It’s opening every winter, along with the opening of CSA registration, feels like the beginning of the season.
Always this moment bears with it hope for abundance. May we be blessed with the right amount of sun and rain. May we be blessed with a bounty of perfectly ripe and delicious produce. And may we be blessed with plenty of customers who will be nourished body and soul with then fruits of our labor.
Ready to join the CSA? Learn more and register.
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