Monday, December 14, 2009
I felt a pang or two during his presentation as he said things like, "I don't want to see any part time farmers." I'm sitting here in California while my farm sleeps in Prince Edward Island. So I feel like a bit of a fraud in a farmer costume, still putting off the last step to a full-time commitment.
Joel has energy and conviction to burn and we all felt the heat, even in the cold and drafty confines of our classroom at El Capitan Canyon Campground. The winter Pacific storm that passed overhead during the day made mother nature herself present in the conversation, nearly drowning out the man. He carried on, his voice breaking as he shouted his words over the static of rain on the canvas roof. It was a remarkable confluence of events. As I said to him later, "Twelve inches of rain a year and you got to be here for 20 percent of it."
My time was well spent for the opportunity to meet such a diverse group of people. I got re-energized and re-excited about farming. In this season, at this time, in this era, we can all use the hope and enthusiasm Joel Salatin brought to us. Will the event have an effect on me? It already has. It's time for me to order seed and planting stock and to review our farm plan for 2010. From fencing and utility infrastructure to multi-tasking livestock and buildings, it's all on the table and I'm already working on the farm .
CLICK-HEAR! LISTEN TO THE PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH JOEL SALATIN
* This podcast contains audio from post-film discussion of Fresh - The Movie. Please look at the clip and work with us to help bring fresh to Eastern PEI this July!
Special thanks and please follow the links to:
Quail Springs Permaculture Farm and Orella Ranch
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Michael Pollan's book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma" features Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms. Joel is an example for those of us interested in sustainable agriculture, healthy land and healthful food.
The Orella Ranch and Quail Springs Permaculture Farm are hosting this program in the Carbon Economy Series called, "Pathways to Localization". I'll be attending this workshop with an eye toward our operation of Dunn Creek Farm.
What interests me most going into this is Mr. Salatin's work as a modern "grass farmer". For those who may not understand this term, it is a method of farming which uses naturally growing pasture in rotation with other crops to raise grazing animals on grass - instead of grain feeding or relying on processed food in a stall or on a feed lot. Our farming forbearers in PEI knew all about this kind of operation.
This is a comprehensive, two day training. I'll be interested in taking away practical information that will help us manage livestock and pasture rotations on our mixed farm.
You might want to read this article Joel wrote, "Everything I Want to do Is Illegal".
Monday, November 30, 2009
In 1974 I was a witness to this policy. My dad and I drove east from California. And as we drove for days from the eastern slopes of the Rockies in Colorado, through Nebraska and all the way to the eastern seaboard, we passed through the biggest corn crop America had ever produced. I wonder now how many farms went bust trying to sell 100 acres of corn that year.
Now that a generation has passed, a new generation of farmers and ordinary consumers, environmentalists and foodies are looking for ways to revive and support what was lost in the heady days of the "Green Revolution". Local food, Slow food, Organic Food, Sustainable Food, Clean Food, Safe Food. It's all in the same basket and a new revolution is under way.
When we bought Willie Dunn's farm in 2000, we had no idea what we were doing. But we had an inspiration. We would begin with an organic certification of the land. Organic pioneer Michael Abelman had told us to jump in. But when we asked him what to do and how we would do it, he said, "You'll just do it. You'll figure it out." It wasn't too comforting. But what I've learned from Michael and from my own experience is that each morning you go out on the land. You walk. You look. You feel. You taste. You touch the soil and you read the weather. You wait. And nature speaks.
After 10 years I feel we are just beginning our farm. We're just now gaining the confidence and the skill to get bigger. And we're looking for knowledge that will help us to continue to grow in the right directions. I already know that for us, "MORE CORN!" or "MORE POTATOES!" is not the answer.
As I've shared with you before, my goal in California this winter is to harvest as much "input" as I can to fertilize our dreams at the farm. I've been searching out technology and business ideas and I've reviewed our farm plans and improved our prospects. And I've found a great resource to help water our dreams.
In December, I'll be staying on the Orella Ranch which has been hosting a series of educational programs on sustainability. I'll be attending a workshop there with farmer and author Joel Salatin. His workshop is entitled, "Pathways to Localization".
I'm lucky to be in Santa Barbara now, to attend this workshop. I've been lucky to have mentors like Michael Abelman and the inspiration of his friend, Alice Waters. I feel I'm in the right place at the right time. And I can't wait to share more with you.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
November in California is my favorite time of year. The days are clear and warm, the nights are cool and the tourist traffic is at a minimum.
I was invited by Westlake Audio to come down to Hollywood for a presentation on the newest Source Connect software from Source Elements. It took advantage of the opportunity to drive down the coast and catch up on some of the latest in audio technology.
Along the way, I stopped in at Emma Wood State Beach to check the surf.
A small day at Emma Wood - On the Way to Hollywood.
(click to enlarge)
The Rincon, Ventura County, CA., from Emma Wood.
(click to enlarge)
Westlake Audio. Jeri Palumbo, Rebekah Wilson, John Quimby, Ryan Kahler
(click to enlarge)
I got a personal tour of the software from Rebekah Wilson. The New Zealand native is the architect of the software that allows studios to connect and record or send high quality audio over the internet. Fascinating stuff and part of the learning I intend to bring back to PEI this spring.
Working on the farm isn't just about growing organic vegetables. It's about growing a business and connecting to the outside world as a professional media producer.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
It seems there are a lot of people, tens of millions of them, who yearn for a chance to escape their complex daily lives for a few minutes or hours a week on their virtual farm.
People who live in the country know that the hours are long, money is always in short supply, that neighbors are nosy and that the work is hard and sometimes dangerous. It's not nearly as easy or simple as the "farm dream" that propels others into a virtual farm. We too find that the distance between our farm in Prince Edward Island, Canada and our suburban home in Santa Barbara, California is greater than mere miles as the jet flies.
Part of my effort on the Dunn Creek Farm blog this winter is to share with our country friends what it's like to live in the city. Just as there are those who yearn for the life they imagine they'd find on a farm, there are those who wonder what it must be like to live in a coastal resort city.
Well here are a few notes just for you.
I heard an interview with a woman on CBC Radio 1 last year. She was talking about raising kids in Urban North America and said, "We keep our children under virtual house arrest." She was talking about the piles of homework schools send home and the supervised play and activity and the restrictions we place on our kids because of fear. I immediately added to that the hours logged onto video games and TV. Her words have stayed with me.
In the country, we send our kids to the beach, or to the neighbors to play and they walk or bike most places around us. We know they can find their way home. We know that everyone knows who they are and where they belong. And they know that we'll hear about any mischief they get into.
But here, we city people tend to pack our kids into a van and shuttle them off to school and afternoon play dates. We create and schedule organized activities. We have eliminated unsupervised play time and yes, the rest of the time our children are under virtual house arrest. There is very little real freedom for kids here. That thought has troubled me lately. If we want to raise kids to appreciate and value living in a free society, this hardly seems to be the way to go about it. Especially since what we model for them says, "be afraid of your surroundings and don't trust others." It's an extension of the same thinking that keeps us disconnected from nature and willingly ignorant about what sustains and gives us life. It also explains why a lot of kids are overweight and listless. And so today I went on a mission.
My nine year old has a friend who lives about three miles away. When the boys want to get together it's an effort to arrange parent pickup and dropoff, scheduled arrival and departure and of course we must work around all those scheduled activities.
Today I said to him, "We could ride our bikes over to your friends house. And then he could ride back here with us. I can show you boys the shortcuts where cars don't go and we can stay off of the busy streets." He paused and seemed doubtful. So I persisted. "It'll only take us about 15 minutes to get there." He brightened up, put on his shoes and got out his bike.
The ride is almost the same as the route I took to and from high school every day for four years. We had no school bus then and almost nobody thought they had to give their kid a ride to school every day. We all biked or walked in our year 'round climate.
It was beautiful and sunny today as we left our house and crossed past my boy's school heading up through the rolling hills of our San Roque neighborhood. The route took us past my old home street and we stopped near the top of the hill to rest. Then, like Radar on MASH, my ears picked up a familiar sound from 40 years ago. An ice cream truck!
My son didn't hear it. When he did, I had to explain to him what it was. "It's ice cream!" Again my boy looked dubious. The beat-up old truck came chugging toward us with it's merry music blaring and I waved it to a stop. We got a couple of Life Saver flavored popcicles. And there, on the same street where I once ran for the ice cream truck with a shiny dime in my hand, I caught up with it and felt like a 9 year old again. Until that moment my 9 year old never even knew such a thing ever existed.
We met our friend and took off again for home. After a short stop to visit grandma (and the house I grew up in) I told the boys they'd have to navigate on the way back. "Which Way?" they'd say. "Pick a direction" I'd answer. And off we'd go. With a little help they managed to find the way.
As we flew down the streets they learned to dodge cars, play chase and had a running pretend shootout that lasted for a mile. It was fast and it was spontaneous. It was full of laughs and a taste of adventure. It was freedom.
Today's Streetparked Classic
1939 Ford Truck (click to enlarge)
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday evening the boys were on the back deck carving pumpkins with friends.
You'll note that they are in t-shirts and shorts...it's been very warm here.
What could be scarier than a group of teenagers?
Perhaps an overweight mom dressed as a slut.
My buddy Ray and I walked our two 9-year-olds through the hottest trick or treat neighborhood in our area. Lots of great displays of Halloween spirit and hundreds of kids with parents roaming sidewalks and streets. All in all it was very neighborly and family friendly. But after a while we began to count the number of cougars in devil suits. Which leads me to:
Today's Street Parked Classic
The old gal is showing her age and some poor treatment at the hands of a careless world, but this Cougar still has classic lines and a certain grace that can make a man's heart race.
1968 Mercury Cougar (Click to Enlarge)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A New Hampshire resident died and two others were hospitalized after consuming ground beef that may have been tainted by bacteria that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and kidney failure.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Please enjoy this recipe for authentic Mexican Salsa Verde!
Jane Dunphy prompted this post because she grew tomatillos in her PEI garden this year and has been searching for information about how to use them. Turns out you can freeze them or can them and of course, they make wonderful salsa verde, one of the most popular condiments in Mexico. But all of the ingredients can be grown and used in PEI!
You can simmer your salsa verde with pork to make chile verde or you can bake chicken, shred the meat, cover it with salsa verde and serve with beans and rice. Salsa verde It's spicy but not too hot and the tangy fresh flavor is a delicious change of pace.
- 3 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed
- 2 large jalapeño chiles, stems removed
- 5 small garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro, thick bottom stems trimmed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Mix first 2 ingredients in large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.
Coarsely chop tomatillo mixture, garlic, and cumin in processor using on/off turns. Add next ingredients; blend until herbs are chopped and salsa is chunky.
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add salsa and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced to 4 cups, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt.
NOTES: This is a recipe from the web that most closely resembles Monica's description and technique with measures to help you.You can add other herbs (mint, etc) and lime juice is a common addition too.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
We live in what was a Spanish colonial city. El Presidio de Santa Barbara was built in 1782. And Toby has contracted to build a replica of the Presidio Chapel out of sugar cubes for his 4th grade project. To facilitate the design and plan, I twisted Toby's arm and we drove downtown to look at the chapel and begin our flurry of sugar enhanced historical learning.
Chapel - El Presidio de Santa Barbara
Presidio Chapel Bells
I hope this photo story interests our friends in PEI who might enjoy a window seat in the unfamiliar SoCal landscape. And those of us who live here don't often find time to stop and wander the grounds of this historic state park.
Walking the Presidio on a gorgeous Sunday morning, I found myself thinking of the Spaniards who found themselves essentially marooned here, in a far flung frontier outpost.
Presidio Chapel Altar (click to enlarge)
The original chapel, like most of the old Presidio had fallen into decay, was damaged by repeated earthquakes and the arrival of new settlers after the Califonrnia gold rush brought Statehood.
Nothing was left but the stone foundations. The chapel we visited today has been painstakingly rebuilt overt the past 30 years.
Canedo Adobe (click to enlarge)
This adobe structure was added to the original Presidio walls and became a residence granted to a Presidio soldier. These original buildings serve as the inspiration for tacky apartment buildings and restaurants all over the southwest.
Toby and I will be working on our chapel project this week. We'll post our results and let you compare.
Santa Barbara is full of beautiful trees and interesting plants from all over the world. But there weren't many trees on this coastal plain in the 1700's. Native plants were adapted to long dry seasons...like the cactus flowering below...
Street Parked Classic (click to enlarge)
When I drove the Big Yellow Truck around PEI I talked to lots of guys who asked me about the drive up to the island. Wistfully, they'd say, "You must have a lot of classic old cars out there..." So I thought I'd start posting a series of photos called, "Street Parked Classics".
I spotted this 1970 Camaro about 4 blocks from home.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Please do visit and enjoy the pictures and the weekly podcasts from PEI.
I'm continuing to use our urban exposure in Santa Barbara to harvest more knowledge and technique in communications technology.
In the next two weeks I'll be "planting" seeds for new business based in part on what I learned from producing content for this blog. One project, based on our summer podcasts, has already become a commercial radio campaign.
But most interesting will be the opportunity to take you on podcast tours of our edible landscape at home and wanderings in Santa Barbara and Southern California.
So, now I have to get to work on all that!
Friday, October 16, 2009
That means you could see a warning from your browser if you attempt to open one of our links.
I'm working on the problem and will let you know when it's clear.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I published the link to the New York Times about hamburger to help you make smarter food choices and on Thursday, I went to a communications technology seminar at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Kevin Barron invited members of the local, independent media community to come to campus for a seminar at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Three representatives from Apple Computers put on a demonstration of their new Podcast Producer 2 software on the Snow Leopard server system. It was very impressive. And being a podcaster, I captured audio I hope to share with you in the next few days on this blog.
There are great things happening in communications technology that are already changing the ways that we live and work. The fact is that I can now be a remote farmer on Prince Edward Island and still be connected to multiple markets by internet technology. And that is only one aspect.
Another aspect is the grass roots nature of this technology. As the means to communicate spreads downward and puts the means to communicate into the hands of ordinary people,
the value of communication itself changes from the broadcast model of hitting millions of people everywhere, to local producers communicating directly with local people and addressing the needs of consumers where they live.
Apple's technology development is wonderful. But my take away this week is that the techs don't really understand how this technology will actually be used in local commercial markets.
My friend and independent producer, Patrick Gregston and I, intend to contact Apple and offer some insight into the changes this technology represents beyond their current design.
The brilliant Apple talent in Cupertino, Ca, have developed a wonderful new tool that will allow multiple sources of audio and video to be captured and streamed by a single user on a laptop to an online server. But until they learn that this tool represents the reality of live, local, streaming TV quality production on the internet - they're missing the real point and the potential of this program.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Here's an article that should help you understand how important that distinction can be.
There are a lot of people in conventional agriculture who are no longer amused by the small organic farmer, even though we've been easy to dismiss with a roll of the eyes and a laugh for the past 30 years.
That's changing. The consumer herd is getting nervous. They're starting find reasons to wonder where their next meal is coming from and the answer is - sometimes scary.
This week, the New York Times published a piece of investigative journalism the likes of which we haven't seen in a hundred years. It features the story of a 22 year old American woman who is now paralyzed from the waist down because she ate processed hamburgers her mother bought at the grocery store. The meat was tainted with E. Coli. And just like thousands of other people this year, she was poisoned by a food supply she trusted to be safe.
From the article:
Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes.
Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.
Sad enough, but was this an isolated case? You might think so. But read on.
The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.
It seems that even with the huge numbers of food poisonings and product recalls, the standards for commercial processing of beef allow the problem to go on and go undetected. Because of this, a 22 year old dance teacher is no longer dancing. She's no longer walking either.
And in case you're wondering:
Food scientists have registered increasing concern about the virulence of this pathogen since only a few stray cells can make someone sick, and they warn that federal guidance to cook meat thoroughly and to wash up afterward is not sufficient. A test by The Times found that the safe handling instructions are not enough to prevent the bacteria from spreading in the kitchen.
(To read the rest of the story, please link to: E.Coli Path Shows Flaw in Beef Inspection by Michael Moss, published in the New York Times, October 3, 2009.)
Don't look for me to suggest that you stop eating beef. As a former cow hand on a family owned California ranch, I can tell you something. We used to know who grew, slaughtered, inspected and butchered the beef we ate. An unscrupulous beef buyer in this area was once found hanging upside down from a ranch gate - howling for help after local cowboys strung him up for trying to rip off local producers.That's what happens when the public gets fed up. I suggest we all need to be fedup with this kind of food processing. It not only poisons people, it destroys the high standards and honest hard work of farmers and ranchers, local processors and butchers.
Protect your food supply. Buy from local farmers and ranchers who still have a personal stake in the food you eat. Buy from local processors and butchers who personally inspect the meat they cut and sell.
When you see packages of insanely cheap, pre-formed and pre-seasoned beef patties in the grocery freezer - walk on by - while you still can.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Well we've made the jump back to Santa Barbara. Here's our home away from PEI.
Might be hard to tell, but this is an original farmhouse from the 1910's, before the area
was subdivided into housing back in the 1930's.
We live in the county, right across the street from the city and a short walk from the Junior High where I went to school.
Susan has been working as a volunteer accountant with Fairview Gardens Farm in Goleta. In exchange we get a small share from their CSA Program (Community Supported Agriculture). CSA programs are great and we're looking at the potential of a CSA for Dunn Creek Farm.
This week our share from the 12 acre farm at Fairview included pomegranates, yellow summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and anaheim chiles (which will be turned into chile rellenos tonight!)
Our farm shares on PEI would be quite different to suit local climate and tastes. But they could include fresh herbs and garlic, staples like sweet corn and beans and even ground whole wheat flour! A CSA could support fresh, local, minimally processed, sustainable and organic products for people in eastern PEI.
These sunflowers looked so bright against the barn. If you look at the top picture, you'll see that our environment in California is often muted tans and brown. The fall light in PEI makes primary colors POP.
A busy honey bee pollinates a sunflower. We had an active bee yard. Thanks to Island Gold Honey (and John Burhoe) for keeping bees in our certified fields. At a time when honeybees are under stress, we're glad to provide safe organic pasture to our local bee keeper. And we more than enjoy the natural honey from our variety of clovers, buckwheat and wild flowers.
We also benefit from working bees in our inter-cropped rows of vegetables. They increase the yields from our plants.
Never trust a sheepdog with a kitten.
We're in transition back to our urban life and I'm using this opportunity to harvest new knowledge to take back to the farm. We've made a farm plan for 2010 and I'm working on learning some new media skills to continue our efforts at communicating with our friends, supporters and customers. And I'm hoping to learn more about the operation of the CSA at one of California's oldest organic farms.
Our friends Laura-Jane and Cameron at Whimfield are working on the Growing Circle project and we intend to support that effort and use it to reach out to the community of on-line users on PEI.
Our summer series of audio podcasts was well received and provided me with a lot of learning and inspiration. I'm collecting new material to continue our story from the West Coast.
And tonight I'm going to make an organic Mexican dinner!
Friday, September 11, 2009
In the north, the seasons give way without doubt. This time of year you see the light change and the days shorten. So even as we enjoy fair fall weather it's time to make way for winter and prepare for the next spring.
Spreading manure/compost and seaweed for the next crop.
Green Manure is compost that grows in the field. This is oats and vetch.
That's a good yield of organic potatoes!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I've been late getting things posted this week as the pace of farm work has picked up and the weather has been fair and warm. I'm outside most days and falling into bed at night.
Some more highlights from the Dundas Plowing Match -
Draft Horse Pull
The Lovely Heather MacDonald - Queen of the Furrows 2009! Be sure to listen to the podcast for an EXCLUSIVE interview with Heather.
A Family Pack of produce, picked, cleaned and packed was delivered to the winning bidder of our silent auction item. We donated a gift certificate to support local 4-H kids.
Grubby Farmer John gets a kiss.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Hurricane Bill blasts the sunflowers in the front field
Sunflowers do impression of Marcel Marceau - mime walking in the wind
Harvest packed for the farmers market in Dundas. Beans, 2 types of cucumbers, scarlet nantes carrots, red and white new potatoes, zucchini and yellow summer squash. Also beets and lettuce (not shown).
The plowing match includes competition with horse drawn plows. Each contestant is given a measured plot to plow. They are judged on how straight and even they make the sods and how
square they make their lines. Difficult to do with a tractor, but even more challenging with horses pulling a single sod plow over unfamiliar ground. Skills include controlling the depth of the sod cut and the angle of the plow, plus driving a team.
Old school rigs like this riding plow and hand plows were seen during today's competition.
Antique tractors and other horse drawn equipment are also seen working in the field.
Now that's plowing!
We did OK at the farm table but attendance seemed down from last year and demand for produce was off. A lot of people planted big gardens this year. Everybody feels that cash is a bit scarce this summer. It's a a sure sign of the times.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Just across the road from the farm is a shore fronting on Murray Harbour. It's a broad and fairly shallow body formed by the Murray River meeting the Northumberland Straight. The Harbour is home to a number of PEI's lobster fishermen (and women). It's also the home of PEI mussels, which are some of the best steamers you'll ever eat! Try them at the Enterprise Fish Co. in SB.
Seals cruise the waters and have their pups in the coves and on the small islands. Teenager and I left the shore and paddled down to Seal Cove Camp Ground.
Teenager gets ready to paddle out.
The water is as warm as a heated pool and dead calm.
This is the view from our kitchen sink.
The pergola I built from white birch last summer is now covered with hop vines and surrounded by asparagus ferns and giant russian sunflowers.
Standing inside the pergola under the shade of the hop vines.
The hop vines flower and then set cones. Hops are used to flavor beer and are also used as a medicinal herb. We now have fresh hops and clean water - can barley be far behind?
Sunflowers! They are growing several inches taller each day. Should start blooming soon.
The sunflowers are hosting dozens of ladybugs!
Summer Squash - yellow and zuchinni - are now ready to enjoy. Top quality! Conditions are perfect for these plants to keep producing for a while.
Cucumber plants fill a row. We're looking for a bit of rain to really kick these guy into gear. The plants are really healthy and flowering heavily right now.
Annie sleeps in. Too much fresh air and sunshine just wears a dog out!