Winter is a season of rest and reflection on the farm, where the shorter and darker days are meant to help us look inward towards ourselves and the inner workings of the farm. And we have been doing that here, adjusting grazing plans and garden plans, adding beneficial components to the farm like a small nursery to propagate plants we need, and cutting out parts of our work that weren't serving us or the farm mission. But after two months of cold, wet mud and dreary days (where has the winter gone?) sometimes you need some inspiration and sunlight to come back into your days and move past reflection. Right on cue, every year in early February, the PASA conference provides the spark that is needed when the winter blues start to take hold and we are ever so grateful for it.
PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) is a pivotal organization in the state for providing education, policy, resources, and networking for the sustainable and regenerative farming and food system movement. They have been the most important organization personally for my continuing education in farming. It's also the best place to find mentors, friends, and resources. This particular conference most of the members of the farm were able to go and learn about useful topics such as grazing to support native plants, soil fungal networks and their benefit in agriculture, fruit tree pruning and organic care, marketing and telling your farm's story, and just hear inspiring stories. Also, we met so many wonderful people and got to catch up with people we haven't seen since the last conference. It is communities like the PASA network that drives this work forward.
And it's not just for farmers, but for any individuals interested in or working towards a better food system. Whether it is how racial and wealth inequalities affect food distribution and health, how to increase community gardens and deepen people's connection with land, or how to run a small diversified farm, PASA is working towards connecting the dots and inspiring people to get their hands dirty towards more earth care, people care, and fair share. We are inspired once again by the people and possibilities we saw and are looking to take that inspiration into our work this year on the farm. Oh, and spring is right around the corner!
One of our favorite pork recipes is from Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat (We're not paleo, but we love to eat!) Her subtitle to the recipe is "Could supersede bacon as your favorite use of pig" - we might agree! The beauty of this recipe is that you spend a little time getting it into the pot (5 quart cast iron dutch oven works great), and then it takes care of itself until the last 15 minutes or so. It is juicy and full of flavor, and tastes great by itself, or shredded and put in a taco or tortilla.
It's that time of year again. Do you have a small woodlot that needs thinned? A tree that needs to come down on your property? We're looking for logs to use in mushroom production. If you didn't know by now, we operate a small outdoor mushroom operation in a forested riparian lot here on the farm. These mushrooms grow in a natural environment on wood, instead of in grow houses like most mushrooms you'll find in stores. In order to keep the operation going we need to inoculate fresh logs each year to replace the spent ones.
For shiitake we're looking for oak, sugar/red/silver maple, beech, ironwood, sweetgum, and black birch. Trees need to be freshly cut and free of disease and rot. We need wood that is 4-8" in diameter cut to 3 ft lengths to make mushroom logs. For oyster mushrooms we can use box elder, willow, cottonwood, hackberry, mulberry, and tulip poplar 8-12" diameter. Call 717-967-4012
If we can collect over 150 logs we will be holding another shiitake log inoculation and cultivation workshop sometime this spring! Keep your eyes and ears open!