Lambs love to play, and sometimes cows are the playground!
"The best farming systems are ones where animals and plants are put into a synergistic relationship."
Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma
The cool, damp weather of early spring seems to want to hang on longer than we would all like this year, and it has pushed back many of our garden plantings. But many plants that we started indoors are finally in the ground, and most of the seeds have been planted. Just a few late crops to get in yet - sweet potatoes, okra, summer and winter squash, some late corn. We plant a big garden each year, trying to grow as much food as we can to feed ourselves here on the farm, with a few extras that we sell along with our meat and mushrooms.
Some folks might ask...why not use all of your land to grow vegetables? Wouldn't that be healthier for ourselves and the planet? Given the recent news about meat shortages, there are some vocal advocates for having everyone eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. I recently read Jonathan Safran Foer's article The End of Meat is Here in the New York Times. I was considering writing a response, and then I read Jon Darby's response to a Facebook posting of this article, and found that he had written exactly what I wanted to say. Jon is the Education Director at the Horn Farm Center in York. We have partnered with them for several years, we respect Horn Farm's work, and Jon's voice carries weight with us. Here's what he wrote in response to the article:
"An end to industrial meat? Yes please. But one of the best strategies to repair land ecology, restore carbon to the soil, and improve biodiversity is rotational grazing of cattle mimicking the way large mammals existed on the land prior to western civilization. It’s a nice slogan, but meat isn’t murder if done with natural systems in mind. It’s actually living in relation with the land and it’s inhabitants and becoming fully human again. So don’t quit meat, support regenerative farmers doing it right. This article starts with a completely false premise and ignores the fact that not all meat is equal."
Exactly. Ruminant animals like cows and sheep turn sunlight into protein, and they enrich the soils, the land and our bodies in the process. We don't eat meat every meal here, and we have community members and friends who are vegetarian and vegan - we respect their choice. We do our best to treat all living things here on the farm - people, animals, plants - with respect and value, and we thank all of you who support your local small farmer who is doing their best to provide good food for you.
Our newest multifunctional riparian buffer!
What's happening on the farm...
We are now sold out of all of our Summer CSA shares so thank you all for your support and interest in helping to regenerate land with your fork. For those of you who weren't able to sign up, we are very low on inventory at the moment but we still have a large supply of pork roasts, bones, organs, and fat for sale at our store. We have a small amount of mutton, lamb and other pork cuts too. We will have beef again in August. And, shiitake mushroom season is about to begin and there will hopefully be many fungal surpluses in the future to share so keep in touch.
On the farm, we have planted another riparian buffer that will act as a windbreak for our orchard trees as well as provide a great deal of beauty and wildlife food. The trees we planted are ninebark, redbud, red osier dogwood, spicebush, and winterberry. All are beautiful native trees that grow well in wild, wet areas or in a landscaped yard. We have also been grazing our cows across the road for the first time to much success (though they did escape one night and I woke up at midnight to a cow beneath my bedroom window mooing for attention) and we are excited to see how that silvopasture will grow and respond to the healing power of cows. And of course, we are busy in the garden planting and weeding as the weather finally warms up and we pray for no more late frosts! Wishing you all green growth and sunshine as your gardens, plants, and tree friends wake up too.
Cows and sheep grazing on the pasture across the road from the farm - lots of tall grasses and plant diversity!
What's cooking here on the farm...
Given the opening to this newsletter regarding our meat consumption choices, it seems a good time to share a favorite recipe that stretches a bit of meat to serve many people. This recipe is endlessly adaptable - use whatever vegetables you have on hand - cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, greens. Just increase the cooking time for vegetables like broccoli and make sure to chop them into fairly small pieces. Add greens at the end, just enough to wilt them. Experiment - we have tried many combinations and they all work!
1/4 lb bacon, chopped in small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
Peanut or canola oil, as needed
4-6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup celery
1 cup peas
4 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
soy sauce to taste
For this recipe, it helps to have all the ingredients chopped and in small bowls close by. As the ingredients are added to the skillet or wok, keep them moving to avoid sticking to the pan, and be generous with the oil that is added.
Using a large skillet or wok over high heat, fry bacon for a few minutes, until fat is rendered some and bacon is beginning to crisp a bit. Add onions and fry for a few more minutes until it is becoming translucent. If using a wok, push bacon and onions up the sides of the pan (or, alternatively remove bacon and onions to a plate). Add a tablespoon or so of oil, and then add the eggs, let set for a minute, and then scramble. (Add the bacon and onion back, if you removed them.) Add the peas and celery, lower the heat a bit, and fry until celery and peas are heated through (add oil if needed). Add the rice, and soy sauce, and continue frying until everything is heated through.
Serves about four people - we always make more than one batch because leftovers heat up nicely. (It doesn't work to double the recipe and make it all at once - the pan gets too crowded and the ingredients don't fry well.)
Like most people, we are still waiting and wondering how soon we can schedule events again. We look forward to the day when we post invitations to events here, and see many of your faces here on the farm. For now, we will do our best to be patient.
We hope you are all well, and we invite your emails, and phone calls with your thoughts and suggestions on how we can work together to move forward in these strange times.
Trout Lilies in our woods - a beautiful sign of spring!
“We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
The Trout Lilies, Spring Beauties and Violets are blooming all through our woods, just below our pasture. Despite the upheaval that all of us are feeling, spring comes, with its erratic weather and unexpected beauty, just as it always does. Many birds have returned to the woods and pastures - tree swallows, bluebirds, herons, flickers, robins, cardinals, blue jays, and sparrows abound. New life has also arrived - ducklings, goslings, chicks, piglets, and lambs are soon to be born. We find solace in observing the natural world and its rhythms, as we are finding most of the normal rhythms of our lives in such disruption.
We hope that all of you are also finding ways to be outside connecting with the changing season, wherever you live. In rural areas, suburban neighborhoods or on city streets, the trees are budding and the birds are singing, and time spent observing these changes can calm our anxious thoughts and slow our breathing.
Taking care of ourselves is vital in these challenging times, and we also want to take care of our communities - those of us who do not have stable incomes or food supplies. There are ways we can help, and find help, if we are in need. Mutual aid groups are really taking off right now in response to the virus, and we are heartened to see so much coalescing in the face of disaster. We can donate to local food banks (like the Community Cupboard of Elizabethtown), provide financial support to local immigrants in danger of deportation (through Lancaster Neighbor Fund), and we can start a cooperative community garden (see below). Together we will get through this.
Piglets at feeding time!
What's happening on the farm...
We are now taking orders for our Summer CSA! We have pork, lamb, mutton, beef, egg, and shiitake mushroom shares for pickup here on the farm, in Lancaster, at the Horn Farm Center, or in Camp Hill. You can find more details on our website or you can email or call with questions or orders.
Something new for sale at the farm - Thornless 'Triple Crown' blackberry plants! This disease resistant blackberry variety produces big beautiful berries. Semi erect, these canes can be free standing if pruned to picking height, but trellising is needed if left to grow. Canes can grow 10' each year! These cuttings will send up new growth this year and begin producing fruit next year. Plant 4'-6' apart. $6/plant.
Some local businesses we encourage you to support:
Farm friend Ben Weiss posted this on his Facebook post, regarding his Lancaster city business;
Urban Edge Farm is in its third season of operation. Previously our crop plan was focused largely on growing medicinal herbs for Susquehanna Apothecary. This year, in response to the Coronavirus crisis, we've transformed into a small-scale urban fruit and veggie farm. Our aim to is to provide food access in our community in response to reduced mobility and economic hardship. This is why we'll be delivering food directly to your door, and why we're asking customers who have the financial means to subsidize CSA shares for those in need.
To build our immune systems to fight off the virus, we need vitamin and mineral-rich veggies like leafy greens, to supplement all the pasta and canned goods we all stocked up on. During the big wars of the past the U.S. was urged to grow "victory gardens" in order to prevent food shortages resulting from shipping the countries farmed foods overseas. Currently we are on the brink of another food crisis due to the pandemic. In response community gardeners, permaculturists and peasant farmers around the world are calling on people to grow food. An excerpt from a group in Philadelphia says it best:
"In response to this crisis, Experimental Farm Network (EFN) is urging all people who can to establish "Cooperative Gardens" to grow as much food this year as they possibly can. We hope this effort will help people across the country (and potentially in other countries as well) to provide themselves and their communities with healthy fresh food, reduce our reliance on the faltering industrial food system (which is terrible for the environment and human health even when fully functioning), and make it easier for folks to stay in their communities and avoid further transmission of the virus." If you have resources to help people grow food or if you are in need of resources please visit their page and fill out this form. Go on, dig up your yard and grow! Food not lawns!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not holding events on the farm. This has been really hard for all of us here, because creating community has always been one of our important goals. We would like to be hosting all the events we usually host - potlucks, neighborhood soup nights, workshops, skill shares. We are brainstorming about new ways we can connect with our community and help it to grow, and we are hoping some of you may have some thoughts and ideas about what that could look like. What feels important to you right now, and what are you interested in learning about? We would like to help connect people with the resources they need, in these unsettling times. Here are online resources we suggest you investigate: