Friday, February 26, 2010

Dirt, Light, and Water

Here up on the hill, at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, I’ve woken up to snow a handful of days this past week or so. Granted, it’s not much, and melts almost as quickly as it falls – Jack Frost, after all, is playing quite the round of hide-and-seek this year. Nevertheless, it is still winter outside.

Inside, however, the excitement of spring has arrived. First it was some dirt under my nails, the aftermath of sifting compost stored from the fall. Then it was a series of sneezes as I shook the dust and dirt from pots and plastic flats. There was the clearing of shelves, the choosing of seeds, the creation of a logbook from a crumpled, water-stained notebook.

And then: planting.

Kale, spinach, chard, arugula, lettuce mix – the process of choosing how much and which varieties was tantalizing and arduous in its possibilities. Here at D Acres we save our own seed when we can, buy seed when we need to. When it came down to it, I had dozens of options before me. Originally thinking of seeding ten flats, I ended up with twelve…and they only exhibit a fraction of the possibilities. Luckily the process will be repeated again and again as the weeks unfold.

Let me say that I’ve been doing this since I was a child, and yet the act of pushing seeds into dirt fills me with a giddy anticipation, a wordless amazement that this process actually works. Will these seeds really grow into an abundant larder? Sea kale, chard, New Zealand spinach…these varieties are easy to grasp, literally, and somehow in their tangible size seem more likely to thrive. But kale seeds? Lettuce? And never mind arugula. These are so small, their minute-ness is overwhelming and yet their potential is inversely grandiose. Calloused, dirty hands must claim delicacy and dexterity for planting these.

It is these little seeds that are the receptacles of a gardener’s devotion and trust. Some dirt, some light, some water; throw in some care and attention, and these tiny, green, photosynthesizing stalks of life can thrive. Sure, we witness the aftermath of life’s vivacity all around us, but there is something both daunting and gleeful in bearing witness to the process so intimately, hanging hope and faith – and satiation - on the potential of a minute seed.

The remarkable thing, too, is that anyone can do this. You can do this. Growing food is not the imposing venture it is too often depicted as. Seeds want to grow, life wants to continue; as a gardener you’re just fostering the process along, guiding it in a complementary direction. Give it a try. We’re here to help. (Yes, really, I mean it: give us a ring 603-786-2366 or

And all the eloquence aside, people need to eat. And eat well. Food is essential, and relying on California, New Zealand, and the like disconnects us from the history and the narrative of our own wellbeing. Growing kale keeps me healthy, and not just for its freshness and nutrition. Perhaps it is also true that the process of planting, weeding, harvesting, cooking, and preserving any home grown vegetable is a process that continually reinvigorates my sense of aliveness. Amazing, isn’t it, that all that can be bundled into one seed?

Best to all,

Friday, February 19, 2010

Food for Everyone

The Winter time is often a time to slow down, reflect, catch up, and do some of the things we don't have the time to do during the growing season. But one thing that doesn't stop or even slow down is eating. If anything, we here in the Northern cold climate find ourselves eating a little bit more. We like to think we're giving ourselves a little extra layer under our long underwear.

This Winter we had the opportunity to enjoy some late crop greens--turnip and spinach. They were planted in the Fall under cold frames and left until well after snowfall to grow. While clearing off the greenhouse from the weight of snow, we did the same for the cold frames. Curious to see how our greens were doing and nervous they might have died after several deep frosts and snow, we investigated. To our delight we were another success story of season extension. We brought spinach inside--enough for several omelets, and fresh eating for over a week.

We went through a warm spell in late January, and remembering a full 40-50 foot row of late crop turnips buried under a couple of feet of snow, I decided to see how they were doing. Finding them and digging them out of the snow and frozen soil proved to be a mini adventure, but they pulled up clean and fresh-looking. After a quick rinse I wanted to try these little experiments. They were sweet and tender, just like new turnips during the late Summer. There are still a few feet left in the ground; I'm curious to see how they last the rest of the Winter. Turnips and parnips fresh out of the ground in Spring will be a nice treat.

Here at D Acres we have plenty still in our storage: Fall turnips, carrots, and beets; plenty of potatoes, garlic, and squash; we managed to pickle, freeze and can quite an abundance as well (cukes, green beans, garlic scapes, horseradish, applesauce, tomato sauce, fruit preserves). So we're still working through our homegrown food and it feels good to eat with the season and the hard work of preservation.

We continue to think about food and the many ways it nourishes us throughout the year. Our connection and attention to how it is grown and "packaged" makes an impact on the health and well-being of our minds and bodies when we choose what to cook up for a meal. I like going upstairs to the bedroom closet and picking out which winter squash will best suit the soup I have planned to make.

In the area of Dorchester and Plymouth--The Pemi-Baker Region--so close to both the mountains, the lakes, and the valleys of New Hampshire, we have the great challenge of using the space we have to grow food. This Saturday (The Third Saturday Soup Night) we will be hosting some of the areas Farmers and Growers. It will be a time for visiting around bowls of soup, networking, and connecting about the season past and the season to come. The importance of supporting one another as we face these growing challenges and think more seriously about what it means to feed the local community. The evening begins at 6pm and all are welcome to attend.

For the fourth year in a row, D Acres will be publishing The Pemi-Baker Local Food Guide. This Guide is a resource for the region to find out WHO is growing WHAT, and WHERE they can purchase these goods.

My hope is that more and more people will find the value in this very simple concept: know your food and where it comes from. When you find yourself even just curious about what it takes to get the tomato to the grocery store in the middle of Winter, you may soon find yourself curious about the value of that tomato and whether it's more worth your dollar to wait until Summer for something better. NH doesn't grow tomatoes in December. I take that back. Some growers have found various ways through hydroponics and heated greenhouses to provide tomotes during other times of the season than just late July and August. But in this instance, you still have a face to that case of tomatoes--someone you can visit with, learn from, and pay a higher percentage of your spending dollar to.

D Acres is trying to bridge the gap between the consumer and the producer; we're trying to close the cycle where a consumer's dollar is split. By keeping more of the dollar within the local economy, everyone benefits.

On February 23rd, D Acres is co-sponsoring a screening of the film FRESH at The Flying Monkey, a newly reopened old movie theater in downtown Plymouth. We will be serving a local dinner at 5:30pm, showing the film at 7:00, and having a panel discussion after the viewing. Josh Trought, executive director of D Acres, Melissa Greewalt-Yelle from Local Foods Plymouth (an on-line local foods market) will be on the panel.

Events like this that spark enthusiasm for community growth and development through awareness and education are vital to our rural towns.

We're cooking up a storm these days--still from our stores and savings. We hope you will join us for any of these upcoming events to taste the value of locally made and produced.

With much warmth,

p.s. please check out our website for the most up to date events.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Talent in These Woods

As if on cue, they both rose. Hands clapping, feet stepping to the rhythm, heads nodding in time with the beat. A few others followed suit. Across ages, there was the same smile – even on the faces of those who remained sitting – everyone with a lively tap in their heel. Outside, the wind howled as if demanding an encore. Rouge snowflakes were tossed around chaotically, glimpsed in the spotlight of an outdoor light. -3°, -5°, -7°.

It was a night to enjoy a fire. Indeed, the woodstove was kept roaring, as was the oven. Fresh-baked bread emerged first, followed by winter squash stuffed with sausage, potatoes, and turnip greens. The kitchen counter, however, was full with numerous dishes besides those: cabbage salad, baked beans in two varieties, breads, desserts.

The air, too, was full with the sounds of crackling wood and scraping silverware. Better yet, conversation, instruments being tuned, and eventually, music. This night was not just any night here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead. No this was a triple-header of sorts, a potluck-snowshoe-open mic combination.

The cold temperatures froze enthusiasm for the moonlit walk, but the rest of the evening was all the more robust. With full bellies accomplished, we moved on to music, poetry, and even some acappella. Guitars, of course, dominated, but a saxophone and a much-anticipated fiddle made an appearance as well. And the poems shared were not to be underestimated.

I’ll preface the next paragraph by saying that here at the farm we are busy gearing up for the coming season. This means coordinating events, organizing workshops, lining up interns, ordering seeds, ad infinitum. Through it all we hope for good people to surround us and join with us, but that’s not something that is manifested with a simple statement. A resounding evening with goodwill in the air; friends and neighbors sharing in home-made food, music, and laughter; talking through the ups and downs of the day, and the work with which we each occupy our time. No, we can’t plan for this, but it is what I, at least, relish in particular.

After all, what is rich land, satisfying work, and healthful food if there are not people to share it with? There is a simple beauty in this act of coming together, a comfort found in putting aside the hardships or the struggles to seek the joy of a familiar connection. It is holding an eye from across a room, nodding, knowing we each want to be right here, right now. It is spreading a smile, knowing we each are enjoying the same ambience, in the same place, in the same moment. It is inclining my head, careful to listen, catching the details of another’s recent tales and efforts. These exchanges are reassuring.

I, for one, am already looking forward to this month’s potluck/snowshoe/open mic. Here’s your chance: Friday, February 26, potluck at 6pm, moonlight snowshoe at 7pm, open mic begins at 8pm. Bring a dish to the potluck, snowshoes for the walk (will it really snow again?), instruments or a willing ear to the open mic – yes, all events are free! And let me say: the talent tucked away in these hills is astounding. Come revel in the richness of your neighbors.