Monthly Archives: June 2011

I feel like I should start this post out by announcing that finally, at the end of July, I have come up with plans for the fall.  I found out last week that my first choice program was offering me a position.  It is an EU sponsored masters through the Erasmus Mundus program.  These are a collection of different degrees offered to EU and non-EU students that provide an international educational experience.  The program I am in is called MESPOM for Masters in Environmental Science, Policy and Management.  I will be in Budapest next year studying at Central European University with something like 40 other international students.  It is a really cool opportunity because I will be working and living with people from all over the world (with a concentration in Europe) and taking classes in several different countries.  After spending my first two semesters at CEU, I will spend a month next summer in Greece at the University of the Aegean before choosing where to complete my degree.

Anyway.  Things have been a little different around here this week.  Between the beginning of our CSA program and the rain our schedules have been altered.  Last week we spent most of Monday and Tuesday harvesting.  Then Tuesday and Wednesday Jesse was off in Chicago dropping off the boxes we had put together which meant we were in charge of our own lives for once.  We also spent a long time harvesting on Friday because we do a CSA drop then and we also went to two markets last week.  Last weeks boxes included green garlic, beets, turnips, kale, swiss chard and a green called komatsuna.  We sold similar stuff at the markets, but also harvested a bunch of these torpedo looking radishes that were really cool looking. Before we sell stuff at the farmers market, we wash it and go through it for split vegetables.  Last week we had a lot of split beets and turnips (this is what happens to root vegetables after they grow to a certain point).  We can’t sell these to customers, but they are fine if you cut off the split part, so we made a couple of different things with beets and roasted some turnips.  The golden beets we have are amazing.  You can eat them raw or cooked and you can eat the greens as well.

On Saturday, Annie and Kristin went to work the Harbert market and Faye and I were going to try our hand at organic pesticide application.  Although we can’t use traditional chemicals to discourage bugs, we can spray a type of fine clay dust on the plants.  Our eggplants have been hit by flee beetles so we were going to apply this clay substance to them while it was nice.  Jesse showed us how to mix the clay into water and use the backpack sprayer on Friday.  He also made sure we understood proper safety precautions.  We had to wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, boots, goggles and a face mask.  Unfortunately when we went to put the sprayer on and begin it leaked everywhere out of the bottom, so after all of that prep we spent the morning weeding instead.

Last week I also found myself travelling a decent amount.  Last Sunday Kristin and I went out to Lake Michigan for the first time to the local state park.  We were kind of mad because it was supposed to rain all day and ended up being perfect beach weather.  We didn’t have our suits or anything, so we just walked around on the dunes and sat on the beach some.  The Dunes are unreal.   The beach seems similar to the east/gulf-coast beaches I am used to but instead of being lined with boardwalk or hotels, it is lined with these giant sand dunes that look like they belong in the desert.

Wednesday we ended up road-tripping for work.  We needed some more potting soil, so Jesse sent the four of us in the truck to the compost farm in northern Michigan.  We got a tour of the facilities and I was overwhelmed by how much product they make.  I also thought it was really interesting that the farm went from a typical family run dairy farm to a composting facility that is still a family business.  Most of their customers buy soil by the semi-truck load.  We got one (still very big) bag.  On the way back we stopped in Grand Rapids to do some thrift shopping and were amused that in addition to Grand Rapids, there is also a Big Rapids, Michigan.

Yesterday we drove in the opposite direction roughly down the coast and around to the other side of the lake to Chicago.  It was kind of an adventure because we hadn’t made any plans.  We did some window shopping and met up with one of Kristin’s friends for some deep dish Pizza at a place called Gino’s East.  Afterward we walked down to the Navy Pier.  We sat at the end of the pier with drinks and watched the ridiculous people on boats.  We had a pretty good weekend all around, apart from the loss of one of our beloved cats.  His name was Bubba and he was the doofiest, friendliest farm cat I have ever seen.  We found his body on Saturday while Jesse was at the market and had to tell him when he got back.  Fortunately, he was well distracted because he had three friends in from Chicago.  They cooked a large dinner for all of us, and then we went to see some music in the park and came back and played cards.

On Friday, Kristin and I finally tried the local brewery, called Greenbush.  We really enjoyed the beer and the atmosphere there.  They have a very reasonable priced tap room, and we enjoyed the small town atmosphere that made it entirely acceptable to talk to everyone else at the bar.  We are considering becoming regulars.

Admittedly, conclusions tend to be the weakness in all of my writing.  I have minimal patience for summing up what I have already said to make the reader feel more comfortable.  I find I am having the same problem here.  That is all for last week.  It’s almost July now so this will be a hot one.


To Market

We have been at the mercy of the weather much more lately.  We had a couple of really hot days where it was not possible to spend long days in the fields.  It got up to 95 last Tuesday and Wednesday and we planted and weeded what we could using a portable tent for some shade, but it was hard to be very productive.  We have also been dealing with a lot of rain lately.  On rainy days we can usually come up with things to do such as harvest, work in the green house, and clean, but after a while we usually end up with some free time because the majority of work can’t get done.  Un fortunately it is supposed to rain a lot next week, but we will start packing up boxes to take into Chicago for our CSA, so that should keep us busy.  A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a system where you can pay a subscription price to a farm and have them deliver produce to your neighborhood throughout the growing season.

Yesterday we went the other girls and I ran our first market of the season.  Jesse goes into Chicago every Saturday to the green city market, but we will be running a local market as well.  It is in a town called Harbert and run by a group of farmers called the “Shore of Plenty”.  This guy named Leo is kind of in charge and he is super nice and talkative.  We woke up at 5:30 to pack up and drive over there to start at 7, only to find out that Jesse got the time wrong and we didn’t need to be there until 9.  We took a breakfast break and then unpacked our stand between a pair of women who baked on the weekends and another local organic farmer named Mark.  I really enjoyed how laid back the market was and how friendly the other farmers were.  We sold out of all of our produce except for the kale (we didn’t bring a ton because it is still early in the season).  At the insistence of Leo, Mark rattled off like 2-dozen things we should checkout while we are down here.  In the future, I don’t think all of us will go though.  Four people running one market stand was kind of a waste of time.

Thursdays have been marked off as project days.  They tend to be a nice break from the week because we get to sleep in (the library doesn’t open until 10) and kind of do what we want as long as we are being productive.  I am working on designing a compost system, but haven’t gotten all that far because it needs to fit the organic qualifications and be able to fit the large amount of compost it would need to deal with.  It took me a while, but I think I am getting to the point of actually coming up with a design.  It needs to be easy to load, easy to turn, and easy to monitor.  Designing it won’t be easy.  The other girls are doing some pretty cool projects too.  Faye is working on bat boxes and some educational plans to build them with our farm camp kids.  I hope they work because the mosquitos are really out of control.  Kristin is working on improving the drainage system in the green house (among other things, such as an herb garden).  Annie is trying to design a chicken tractor that they can’t escape from.  I think there has been like one day in the last week we have been able to keep them in.  It is super frustrating because when they are everywhere all I want to do is kick them, but Annie actually does, and apparently all that happens is they like jump a bit and go “Bock”.  Really chickens.  I think I would totally hate them if I didn’t enjoy their eggs so much.  In the past week I have used them to make chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting and a frittata.

Today is a Sunday so Kristin and I hit up a local coffee shop/deli that is owned by some of Jesse’s friends.  They have this awesome coffee called “Intelligentsia” that I think is roasted in Chicago.  Later we are hoping to hit up some sand dunes before it rains.

One Week.

It is amazing how easily we can adapt. I have been living the life of a farm intern for five days now, and I already feel totally immersed.  I was the first intern to arrive on Monday evening around 9pm.  It took me a few minutes of wandering before finding Jesse, the manager and only year round resident (apart from the animals).  The farm is really beautiful with modern architecture (it was only built a few years ago).  Jesse lives in the main house with Griffin the dog while the rest of the interns and I live on the second floor of what they call the tall barn (the first floor has an area for storage and prep etc.  On the second floor we have a common room with two big comfy white chairs and a table, as well as two bedrooms with a pair of double beds each and a bunch of closet space.  The whole place feels really homey with lots of windows and vintage headboards on all of our beds.  I share the space with Kristin, Annie and Faye the other three interns.  I have been able to get to know them over the past few days and I think we are going to get along really well.

Usually the schedule this time of year calls for pretty long days.  Tuesday to Friday we worked from about 7am to about 6 in the evening.  Friday ended up being an especially late day because Jesse wanted to get some potatoes planted while everyone was around and we had to finish getting the vegetables prepped for the market on Saturday.  We were doing our best to pound out rows of vegetables because apparently we are kind of behind on planting because of how wet it has been.  Planting is kind of my favorite though, because you kind of have to sit or kneel in order to get the vegetables in and we generally chat as well.  It has been a nice way to get to know Faye, Kristin and Annie, as well as Alex and Char the year round workers here.   On Friday after we finished with the work, we sat around and drank beer with Jesse, his two visiting French friends and Alex and Char.  Then Jesse made a large dinner of Spaghetti and Meatballs.  He is a pretty awesome cook, so I worry if he is going to suffer in the next few weeks as we begin rotating cooking.

On Saturday Annie and Kristin went to the Green City Market in Chicago with Jesse and his friends.  Apparently when the got there, there was plenty of help so they got to wander Chicago.  Faye and I stayed here to help Alex and Char plant the rest of the potatoes.  It was a pretty awesome day because we got to sleep in some and were done before lunch.  Then Faye and I went into town to grab some lunch and stock up on some snacks and such.  When we got back I took a glorious nap and went for a run.  When I got back we had a fiasco trying to feed the chickens and a bunch of them got lose.  It was kind of hilarious though because when Annie and Kristin returned the four of us spent about 20minutes trying to get them back into their coop in various ways, including grabbing them by the legs and “chicken whispering” (basically pointing and talking to them as though they are not the dumbest animals approximately ever).  When Jesse got back he suggested that instead we should leave it up to nature and opened all of the doors.

Today we have off apart from a meeting with Rob, the farm’s owner this morning.  It has been lovely to sit around reading a book and drinking coffee in the crazy comfortable armchairs in the loft.  I am excited because we are right by Lake Michigan so we should be able to get some beach days, and there is a train into Chicago so that is a good option as well.   Tomorrow is back to work though.  And I am totally alright with that.