Lopez Bounty Food Experiment Week 2

Here’s another installment from Henning and Elizabeth’s month of local eating as participants in the Lopez Bounty Food Experiment this past September.

September 7-14, 2014

Sunday: We attend Lutheran services at Center Church, but Judith, who comes from an evangelical congregation in Germany, prefers the Community Church, which has an active youth group, led by youth pastor, Isaac Berg. This Sunday evening, Isaac brought seven young men and women to the farm. Judith made German potato salad, and we cooked hamburgers on the grill (all ingredients, except the mustard and buns, from the farm). After dinner, the kids played ball in the pasture and then sang their hearts out around the fire.

Monday: Friday through Wednesday, we enjoyed the visit of Dr. Anna Ritter, an immunologist from the University of Wisconsin, with whom we discussed a potential research project investigating place-specific immunities – human, animal, and ecological – in self-sufficient, closed, symbiotic farm organisms. The economic advantages of growing your own food have long been obvious to us, but over the years we have also observed an increase in the overall health and disease resistance of the people living here, as well as of the animals, plants and soils. Perhaps an immunological assessment of the whole farm system is a way to quantify that observation. –  On Monday, Judith and Anna followed an invitation to take part in a Harvest Moon Celebration on Swallow’s Ranch. Elizabeth and Henning took the opportunity to relax and eat out at the Bay Cafe.

Tuesday: Slow-and-long-simmered meat broth made from left-over ham bone, carrots, celery, herbs and salt (all from the farm except the salt, bought from Blossom); farm-produced lima beans soaked overnight and cooked in the broth, served over organic white rice (Blossom). Dessert: pralines brought by Anna from Wisconsin.

Wednesday: Dinner was cooked by the apprentices: sauteed hamburger and stir-fried broccoli, onion, egg plant, green and red peppers, corn, cabbage, kale, and herbs (all from the farm), served over organic white rice (Blossom). Dessert: Fresh strawberries just picked from the field.

Thursday: Baking Day! Farm-grown rye, long-fermented to digest the gluten into harmless peptides easily digested in the human gut.

Three freshly-baked loaves of our fermented rye bread.

Even people with gluten intolerance can eat this bread without gastric discomfort! Henning just completed an article on the cultural failure behind the rising rates of gluten intolerance in the western world (to be published in Biodynamics: Rethinking Agriculture, this fall). For recipes of our rye and other breads, see our farm website at http://www.sshomestead.org/sites/all/files/file/ChapterSeven_1.pdf.

Dinner: Organ meat again, this time beef heart, lardooned with smoked bacon, placed in the Römertopf, cooked in the bread oven, and served over mashed potatoes and green salad (all ingredients from the farm).

Friday: Pork chops, rice (Blossom) and mixed salad.

Saturday: Dan Drahn and Henning went fishing at Hummel Lake hoping to catch some trout to fry in a little butter and serve with fried new fingerling potatoes, green salad, and a bottle of beer, but while Dan succeeded, Henning did not, and so we had meat loaf, baked potatoes and carrots instead. All ingredients from the farm.

Other Food-Related Activities on the Farm

The Whole-Diet CSA this week was comprised of kale, carrots, leeks, potatoes, green and red peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, sourdough rye bread, hamburger, and eggs.

Fall planting included setting out winter onion, leek, and fennel seedlings. We also stopped watering the trellised dry beans –  heirloom snow cap, lima and Scarlet Runner – the first two of which we got from the Lopez Seed Savers’ group years ago, the latter from a fellow farmer on Orcas Island.  Last year we produced nearly one hundred pounds of shelled dry beans in a 150 foot row and hope for the same bounty this year. Beans are a major winter food staple and chock-full of nutrients, rich in protein, iron, calcium and B vitamins, high in fiber and contain virtually no fat. The soluble fiber, also found in apples, barley, and oat bran, traps cholesterol-containing bile, removing it from the body before it’s absorbed. Eating a cup of cooked beans a day can lower total cholesterol about 10 percent in six weeks.

As every year at this time, we are double-digging another 150’x5′ bed in the CSA field, with the goal of achieving the same levels of permanent fertility as in the homestead garden.

Double digging beds.

The soils on S&S Homestead, as most soils on Lopez Island, are shallow, full of rocks, and slightly acidic. Double-digging means breaking through the hardpan below the thin organic top layer to a depth of 2-3 feet, removing all rocks and deep-rooted weeds – such as thistles, curly dock and quack grass –  and mixing in organic matter, manure or compost. Once a year the beds are aerated using a broadfork with 2-foot long tines. In our home garden which has not been rototilled in more than twenty years, organic matter in the soil now stands at 12%, and no fertilizer inputs other than farm-produced biodynamic sprays are required. (For details of the method, see John Jeavons: How to grow more vegetables…, 8th edition, 2012).

Food processing this week included canning roasted tomatillo salsa, tomato chili sauce, bread-and-butter cucumber pickles, zucchini relish, peaches and apple sauce, as well as freezing strawberries and corn, and sorting the potatoes harvested last week for winter storage. Any damaged or flawed potatoes are cooked for our three pigs, two Hampshires and one Mangalitsa, an heirloom pig that originated in Hungary and is famous for its prodigious ability to put on fat (all three bought as weaner piglets from Horse Drawn Farm).

With the ten students in our Farm-to-School class, Elizabeth picked nearly 200 pounds of Akane apples from a single tree, and she explained to them that apples (like potatoes) are heterozygotes, which means that every seed is genetically different (six different kind of apples in every fruit). This fact explains why apple trees typically are propagated by grafting rather than by seeding (and potatoes are cloned from chits cut from “mother” potatoes rather than by planting the true seed ripening from the flower).  The apples were layered between sheets of newspaper in crates for winter storage in a cool room and will supply us all winter long. Other winter storage apples – Shinseiki, Russet and Gravenstein – both of them grown from heirloom trees on Lopez Island, and an heirloom Orcas pear, as well as Asian pear,  will be harvested and stored in October and November. Other apples will be processed into apple juice and fermented into cider and delicious fruit vinegars.

With the decline of green forage in the final days of a dry summer, milk production from our two Jersey cows has slowed to a trickle. We have stopped making butter and cheese, but are grateful that there is enough fresh milk for our table every day. Milk production will pick up dramatically when Abby, our senior cow, will freshen, that is, give birth to her next calf just in time when the fall rains produce a new flush of green grass in the pastures.

In the meantime, we eat aged cheddar cheese made when the flow of fresh milk was ample earlier in spring and early summer.

Another important food event this week was the successful license inspection of our newly refurbished cheese operation, including the milking parlor, where the cows are milked in a stanchion, the milk room, where the milk is decanted and chilled in a special tank, and the cheese room where the cheeses are made. We have worked on this project for the better part of this year. After milking Jersey cows and making butter, soft and hard cheese for some twenty years, we felt that as an education-based farm our dairy production should conform to legal standards for commercial dairies. Presumably ours is the first licensed dairy on Lopez Island since World War II!

Next month we will slaughter the pigs, spring lambs, and beef cows. In the meantime, we process the wool harvested earlier this summer. We are fortunate to have an apprentice, Deanna Perlman, who takes a lively interest in carding and spinning the fleece into beautiful wool, and she teaches these skills to all of us here on the farm, as well as to the high school students in the Farm Class. Ed Sheridan and Becki Maxson have generously donated carding tools to the class, and we just purchased a second spinning wheel.

Bees collect nectar from a thistle blossom.

Finally, our bees are still vigorously harvesting nectar and pollen from thistles, sunflowers, cosmos and calendula flowers, returning to the hive with their hind legs and bellies heavily laden with pollen dust.

Through the side window in the hive, we can see how they fill combs with honey storage. Like us, they are getting ready for the cold winter months when the summer’s energies recede deep into the soil!

Writing this blog makes us realize how fortunate we are to eat so well. All of us on the farm are happy to exchange our time and labor for the wonderful food we enjoy every day.

– Henning