Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wasting Food

As I am creating a grocery list in preparation for a cleanse that a group of my friends and I are starting tomorrow, I am thinking intensely about food. What food I can eat, what I can't, how expensive organic veggies are in winter. This leads to thinking about a comment a friend of mine made about the amount of food wasted from restaurants and stores. This topic evokes uncomfortable feelings in me and so to take a break, I started browsing through the January 2012 volume of the magazine "Urban Farm" and there it was, a small note on the bottom right hand corner of page 9, advertising the movie "Dive!" Intrigued, I head over to this website and it is now staring me in the face, directly. I waste too much food and I feel terrible about it. And somehow it seems worse to me given what my intention of the farm is (seen at the top of this blog) and that I actually grow the food.

Watching this trailer made me think about the gorgeous 'organic' food I wasted from the farm this season. The last harvest resulted in an overabundance of beets, potatoes and cucumbers. I was able to sell a good portion of the beets and potatoes to a few customers, with enough of a 'stock' for my own use over the winter. Then I went away for work for three and a half weeks and I didn't have the time to properly store my produce, believing it would be okay for the short time I was away. Sadly, when I finally was able to attend to the food, it had begun to decay and ended up in the green depot.

It has been my intention from the start that when the farm got up and running, part of the plan would be to sponsor a family with a weekly harvest box or provide fresh food to a school lunch program. Because this was a future plan and would take some organizing, I didn't spend any time thinking about what to do in the present with extra produce. Obviously I was aware of the need; honestly, I felt so overwhelmed with my first real year of farming (i.e. actual customers) that I didn't give this intention of donating food time to put something into practice now. And I wish I had.

Given I can't undo my lack of forethought this season, I resolve to do better next season. Wherever I am farming, I will begin the year by locating a shelter, food bank or school that is willing to accept a small weekly donation of fresh food, in addition to the possibilty of a larger donation during harvest time. I look forward to sharing how this works out here in my blog.

Until then, maybe you would be willing to join me in pondering how we can be more mindful of the food we eat--and waste, how much we consume, or perhaps doing one of the ideas listed on the movie website and then leave a comment here to encourage others.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sometimes life goes in reverse...

It seems as though life is leading me to reverse my course, at least for a time, just when I started to go forward in some new directions. So that got me to thinking about my farm and blog. I was so busy growing and harvesting this year on the farm that I couldn't find the extra umph to blog about it. And I think it is a story worth telling. So, I figure if I can live life in reverse, I can also blog in reverse, too!

So here is what my bestest friend and I harvested from the farm today:

We also brought home some salad greens and kale. I even found one delicious, cold, strawberry that we shared, along with baby O. :) There are at least another 100 carrots and 6 or 7 heads of broccoli to November...incredible! I am finding the veggies to be quite flavourful, and I think it's because they've experienced some pretty cold weather for this time of year, perhaps even a frost or two.

As the darkness crept in and the city lights took over, our surroundings began to glitter. It was cold and crisp. And in the middle of November, we are eating fresh, local, 'organic' food the same day it is harvested. Our good fortune. Life, with the mix of beautiful friendship and nutritious food, couldn't have been any better right then. Harvesting in the last hour of daylight today, with someone that I love, is a memory I will hold close for a long time to come.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Life at the farm has been fabulous! Up until this past week if you wandered the beds to see what was growing at Ripple Farm, you would have been convinced we were expert weed growers! With a couple of days of dedicated attention to weed pulling (almost all by hand!) you can see food is up and growing.

To the far left you of the first picture you will notice flowering potato plants. Then in the middle picture are some gorgeous lettuces/greens and in the picture on the right are beets, glorious beets! We also have green onions, storage onions, carrots, broccoli, kale, cabbage, sunburst squash, peppers, winter squash, mizuna, mesculuns, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, soy beans, pumpkins, parsley, potatoes and quinoa growing. It is absolutely delightful to see so much food on its way. Although we have missed the first harvest of the season due to the odd weather, we hope to have at least a couple before the winter sets in.

Heading out to the farm tonight I was feeling pretty tuckered. Upon arriving and surveying the progress, I noticed the little marvel peas had doubled in size and were being boxed in by weeds from the past few days of sunshine and heat (which thankfully arrived in the nick of time). Ack! Sprinkle began a weeding frenzy and I headed to the closest store for staking materials. Is it because mercury is in retrograde or because I am exhausted (who's to say for sure), but staking with the florida weave in mind was quite the task, as this first picture shows...

Can you see how messy that is? There was twine everywhere and the stakes were coming out of the ground. This was partly because I didn't have a hammer and was trying to put them in the ground by banging a shovel on top--until Sprinkle determined it was better if she pushed them in with her brute strength :). Then I was MacGyver-farmer (so named by Sprinkle) as I tried a trick (based on my research) where you tighten the twine by twisting a stick in it at the stake. This was a hilarious task as the only sticks at Ripple Farm consist of half decomposed corn stalks!

After about a half hour of trying this "most preferred method" (based on my research, of course), and a few good laughs, we abandoned the florida weave and put one length of twine towards the top of the pea plants and draped them over. Fingers crossed this works. It sure was easier and looks better as you can see...

Ripple Farm--where we research, we try, we laugh, we simplify and at the end of the day, we are grateful for the experience.

Friday, July 8, 2011

One Acre, One Farmer becomes Half and Two or More

Finally I have made it back to the blog! What a crazy farming this year has already turned out to be and we are only in July. By the weather you would think we were just starting April. Sadly, this is what actual mid-April looked like this year(ack--snow!):

Although hopeful, May turned out to be one of the rainiest on record--double ack!!--particularly farming in clay soil. And so no food, absolutely none, made it into the ground at the farm. The one acre farm...

That's right! We've been blessed with one acre on which to grow Ripple Farm. This year started out with one acre and one farmer (me--Farmer Ripple). Since March, the plan has changed to plant food on half the acre and cover crop on the other half to get it ready for the next planting. Then, one farmer turned into two and sometimes more. How delightful! This year Sprinkle has jumped in with both feet and has spent as much time as me at the farm (I have already doubled my total time spent at the farm last year in just the last six weeks and then doubled it again with Sprinkle's help and that of a few friends). Unbelievable really. Generosity abounds.

Here is what Ripple Farm looked like on May 21 (on the left) and here is what it looked like about a week ago, after weeks of tilling, turning in composted duck manure, creating raised beds and laying the irrigation system; plus the beautiful new sign made by Sprinkle and I (goodness how I love this sign). Yup, I know it's not straight. Neither are the beds. No matter how much we tried, nothing at Ripple Farm is straight and we love how it looks! Acceptance is a freeing experience :).

There is so much to learn at the farm, every time I am there. Although everyone said last year was the worst year to start, it now seems that this year is even worse weather-wise. Although I wasn't able to grow a ton of food last year due to weather, plot and lack of experience, I realize now just how much I grew! This year has presented a tremendous amount of hurdles and I have calmly approached and sailed over (most of) them. Some hurdles take a bit more 'umph' to get over then others, some take me a few tries, some require me to ask for help. This year I feel more capable, grounded and patient. I have learned to let go of some control and expectations to better appreciate what is happening right here, right now. It feels remarkable and further deepens my belief that growing food grows humans too.

Please visit us often to see how Ripple Farm grows this year as we endeavour to provide harvest boxes to a small group of customers and head out to some local farmers' markets. Now, if I can just transfer the "capable, grounded and patient" feelings to this part of the business...wish me luck!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the Rye is in...

As the farming year seems to have unfolded for me (always a few weeks behind) I got the plot rototilled and the fall rye seeded last night. Fortunately I had help from Sprinkle and my bestest friend with her new little punkaroonie [a.k.a. baby] 'O'.

It was hard work as half the plot was thick with weeds and the other half had to be 'stripped' of the remains of some of the plants that would clog the tiller. Then the rows that I worked so hard to build to plant in at the beginning of the season needed to be flattened so all the 'good stuff' would get tilled in. A never-ending circle of beginnings and endings.

Here are some pictures of the last 'big' event at Farm A (tilling the weeds under, flattening the rows and scattering the rye):

The last food to be pulled from the farm were these adorable little carrots (literally no longer than an inch!):

Hopefully the fall rye will germinate with the few days of sun we are expecting. This ground cover will help break up the soil and add nutrients for next spring's planting. In saying goodbye to the season, we are working in anticipation of the next one. This feels hopeful, exciting and responsible.

The next task is to 'take down' the garden at home; although it won't be completely. I have a 3' x 6' window that I am going to make into a cold frame. I am very excited by this new venture! I am intending to grow greens in this throughout the winter and will keep you posted.

For now, it's back to work I go. May this lovely fall day find you well and enjoying the roots of the garden (mmmm beets, potatoes, squash)!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Long Lost Farmer

When I went to the farm last week, look what I found...

The woman who leases me "the farm" (a.k.a. 'plot') has two new piglets. Look at how easy it is for them to turn up the soil. They are not on the plot with the veggies....yet. We are considering turning them loose on the farm and then planting winter rye to prep the soil for next year's planting. These piglets are such fun to watch! (Can you hear Sprinkle in the background talking 'turkey' with the funny!)

A couple of weeks before, this is what the farm looked like:

I must say when I arrived I felt quite downtrodden (and soggy). There had been so much rain and the timed irrigation system was also still working like a charm...which made for extremely wet conditions. Lots of the plants suffered with too much rain and not enough sun (for the second time this season). The peppers just gave in and there were none healthy enough to harvest. I can't bear to show you a picture of them.

Although it doesn't look lush, I did harvest a lot more than I expected...all the red potatoes were beautiful and delicious (probably 30-40 altogether); about 10-12 lemon cucumbers, which when fully yellow definitely taste like lemon; and tomatillos--yesssss--this crop is exciting!! All the crops I recently planted don't look like they will amount to much as the rain is trampling them...altho' possibly the winter squash might give a good fight to come to fruition (fingers crossed).

At home a couple of weeks ago I could not keep this little one from eating the gorgeous tomatoes on this thriving produced literally hundreds of sweet, rich tasting tomatoes. Now after all the rain the last two weeks there are sadly none left (and with my pup eating as many as she could sneak).

We managed to have some luck with peppers going red (although tiny, they are delightful)

And look how nicely the quinoa was coming along...turning fall colours as expected, just waiting for the seed to be big and strong enough to harvest and dry.

The problem was that the seeds were not developed enough to harvest; by my amateur estimation they needed a couple of weeks of sun to finish their growing. Instead, we got days and days of rain. I came home one night after work to find the tall stalks of autumn-coloured quinoa toppled over. My heart sank. I was so looking forward to harvesting this special crop. What a bummer.

This weekend began the garden clean up. Getting rid of the rotting tomatoes, and clearing the beds of overgrown or undergrown veggies. Trying to bring some order to what was once beautiful and is now a bit chaotic and messy.

Soon will be time to reflect on all the learning and make notes so that it can be used for next year rather than lost. A little melancholy is seeping in...sad to see the major growing season end; feeling disappointed that I didn't have more success in the growing; feeling soggy from all the rain (literally and emotionally). Yet, when I think that it will only be 4 more months before I begin seedlings again, I feel giddy and hopeful. Year two for Ripple Farm will be abundant...I just know it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Today I spent an hour and a half at the farm...the first time I have been there for more than 10 minutes in two and a half weeks. I was away last week for work, and the week before that was a pretty hectic one. I feel frustrated when life competes with farming...such as when I have too much on the go and I put the farm on the back burner or I am just plain too wiped out to get there.

Sometimes my feelings compete with farming. For example, feeling sad or angry can lead me to the farm, resulting in a lift of the heavy emotions (so nice when this happens, yet it's rare). More likely when I feel sad or angry, I cannot drag my butt to the farm (no matter what), resulting in increased crappy feelings. Sigh. I know I have to get better at this and "go to the farm". It needs to be: "I'm tired...go to the farm"; "I feel angry...go to the farm"; "I feel happy with life...go to the farm." Go to the farm, go to the farm, GO TO THE FARM. Farmers farm.

So, today I farmed. I weeded, planted cauliflower and spinach, relocated some squash plants growing too close together. Today was the biggest harvest ever from the farm...lots of sunburst squash, very tiny (yet adorable) carrots, 3 cucumbers, 2 green peppers and 3 tomatillos (which were eaten by Sprinkle and I in a flash!) Tomatillos have such a bright, fresh taste and crisp texture. Yummmm. It looks like I might get a good harvest of these in a few weeks (fingers crossed).

Other lessons specific to veggies:

>broccoli was planted about two weeks too early and so all of it bolted
>carrots and beets just don't like heavier, clay soil...radishes do
>quinoa prefers sandy soil also (the plants at home are 5 feet tall, the plants at the farm are one inch high :( )
>heat, heat, heat for squash, melons and cucumbers (I knew this but somehow it escaped me for a bit at the farm); once I put the row cover over these plants for a couple of weeks, they began to produce.

And just to reiterate today's life lesson from farming: farmers farm. So get to it.