Category Archives: Community Supported Agriculture

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Deviled Egg Serving Dish

Deviled Egg Serving Dish

Dear Reader: Thought I’d share this local find which combines many loves: chickens, deviled eggs, local shopping, and pretty dishware. I picked up this serving dish at a yard sale at my CSA farm when I went to get my weekly bag of veggie-goodness. The pretty edges and the hen on top (it covers a little bowl for additional appetizers or condiments) appealed to me, and since I serve deviled eggs quite often, I had to snap this up for the reasonable $10 price.

Below is a recipe for basic deviled eggs.

Basic Deviled Eggs:

Hard boil a dozen local eggs
Peel shells from eggs
Cut eggs in half lengthwise
Plop the yolks into a medium size bowl
Mix with mayonnaise (preferably homemade but otherwise “real” mayo–not salad dressing)
Add salt, pepper, chopped herbs to taste–I like chives or french tarragon or oregano.
Stuff egg white with the yolk mixture
You can sprinkle the top with paprika if you like a little more color.

Served up in a pretty, country dish like this one, your deviled egg appetizers will look attractive as well as delicious.

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Dinner From the Garden Boxes

Dinner From the Garden Boxes

So, late summer cooking has begun! Here is a stir-fry of summer squash and onions from my local CSA farm, Piper’s Knoll in Newfield, Maine. I added kale and herbs from my garden boxes plus some frozen shrimp (not local). Served over couscous, this made a scrumptious, 75% local meal.

Spring!

spring!

spring! by localista featuring a straw hat

Dear Reader:

The snow is gently retreating from my northern lawn. The first brave shoots of daffodils have pushed up beside the front steps. And I am planning and plotting my garden–when I’m not interviewing subjects for my newspaper articles or working on my novella or making homemade granola, that is.

Granola is easy: just throw 3 cups of whole oats, some flax seeds, some chopped walnuts, some cocoa powder, some cinnamon, a dash of salt in a bowl. Mix in two tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 cup of local maple syrup (I love the darker syrup, a little smokey-flavored from the old-fashioned wood-fired pan-reducing process. The syrup I use is made out in an open-sided shed on a wooded property overlooking the White Mountains off in the distance.Thank you Dana Masse of Shady Mountain Syrup Company in Parsonsfield, Maine!)

I put the mixture on a greased pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes on 350 degrees, stirring every ten minutes or so. Once cool, add seeds and dried fruits of your choice. This week’s addition of dried cherries from Cornerstone Country Market was SO good with the light cocoa flavor of the oats.I highly recommend both the cherries and Cornerstone.

Garden plans: I’ve convinced Hubby to move his horseshoe pits to a different location which will make room for up to SEVEN more boxes in a mostly-sunny spot just shy of the septic field. That would bring my count up to sixteen 4ft. square boxes. If I can ever figure out the perfect soil to put in them, I should be able to grow lots of greens, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs. Maybe even some cherry tomatoes. But I’m giving up on regular slicing or sauce tomatoes. These I will simply purchase at the farmer’s market or my CSA (reminder to self: fill out CSA form!).

We’ll see how the apple tree guild area fared over the winter. I looked at it a little bit yesterday, and the hay and compost and leaves didn’t break down as much as I’d hoped. The remedy will be to top it off with some composted manure and maybe plant some legumes this spring to turn in. I will plant the apple tree this spring, regardless. It is time for that guild. A guild is a grouping of plants that complement each other. This is a permaculture principle. In this case, an apple tree ringed with daffodils and/or garlic, some legumes, maybe some dandelions to bring up nutrients from the deeper soil, some comfrey to work as a natural mulch, etc. I found this idea in a book called Gaia’s Garden. Click HERE to see the apple guild page. I’ll be researching crab apples as I’d like to make more crab apple jelly.

Last project: hugelkultur. I pronounce this hoogle-cool-tour but I don’t know if that is correct. You could say hoogle-culture. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can take old logs and branches and blowdowns, pile them up, cover them with soil, and plant on it. Click the link to read more. The idea is that as the wood breaks down, it retains moisture, reducing the need to water, and contains plenty of nutrients to support plant growth. I’d like to do this behind the raised beds, where the south-facing slope of the hugulkulture bed would catch the sun nicely. I’m thinking blueberries and potatoes, but I don’t know if those two plants make good companions. Will do more research.

What are your garden plans for this growing season? Are you itching to get out there with your shovel or trowel? Remember, food doesn’t get more local than your own back yard. Even if you set up a few containers and plant lettuce and some herbs, you are giving yourself a wonderful gift of homegrown food, a fun hobby, time outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and a science experiment all rolled into one. Enjoy your week, Dear Readers.

Economy of the Miniature?

Five Weeks’ “Growth”

Dear Reader:

Okay, so I moseyed on down the road a few miles with my good friend, Sandi, to check out a MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmer’s and Grower’s Association) certified farm stand. Piper’s Knoll Farm in Newfield, Maine exemplifies what I consider an ideal local business. Yes, they are certified organic, but according to their website, farmers Karl and Cynthia Froelich use farming methods that go BEYOND organic…including permaculture and biodynamic techniques, managing natural woodland and wetlands for native species of medicinal plants, and using season-extending methods such as hoop houses for greater productivity (they’ve had carrots already, started in the hoop houses in February! Amazing!).

Karl is a stonework landscaper. Cynthia is a Master Gardener and herbalist, and she also conducts workshops on eco-spiritual topics. In addition to their farm-stand, the Froelich’s participate in the farmer’s market in Saco, Maine. They are diversified…just like their farm.


This week I’ve been reading a new book on sustainable life called SMALL, GRITTY, AND GREEN by Catherine Tumbler. A journalist and historian, Tumbler spent a few years researching and touring small cities, specifically “Rust Belt” cities–the old industrial cities left crumbling and emptying in the wake of suburban development, highway-bisection of neighborhoods and downtowns, and the de-industrialization of the American economy as trade agreements launched the flight of production to cheap labor overseas. Tumbler agrees with people like James Howard Kunstler (author of the New Urbanist book, THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHWHERE) who believe that in a post-oil world, our small cities–not our small towns or metropolises–are best suited for a new way of life, one that is sustainable, human-scale, and doable in a low-carbon future.

These cities–in Maine, I think of places like Biddeford/Saco, Sanford, Waterville where the textile mills once ran three shifts a day–still have infrastructure intact that could be used when we inevitably must begin producing things here in the U.S. of A again. These small cities are surrounded by smaller rings of suburban and exurban development than the big metropolises–meaning the farmlands are closer to the urban center. Taking a look at the numbers, Tumbler makes the case for small-scale farming over commodity farming, retrofitting empty retail “malls” and concrete big box structures into sustainability centers–even hydroponic farms and raised-bed crop-raising on top of the parking lots, and the breakdown of highways instead of the constant necessity of maintaining them.

So, imagine a small city with parks and mixed-use architecture and Broadways and downtowns. Imagine a bus system, walkable neighborhoods, sidewalks, and fewer cars. Imagine suburbs with community gardens and backyard chickens. And then imagine a ring of fertile farmland cultivated by thoughtful, intelligent people like the Froelichs who provide food and medicine for the people in the city and suburb. Imagine a city without a Walmart but instead a bunch of locally-owned shops–a Plummer’s Hardware, a Betty’s Dress Shop, a bakery, a butcher shop, a bookstore–not just downtown but in many neighborhoods. Imagine a downtown district with a department store, a theater, a park, upscale shops, a music hall, City Hall, art galleries, restaurants…and lots of interesting people to watch when you sit down for a latte at the cafe.

Early Girls

Okay, so I am drifting into a utopian fantasy. Or else I’m reminiscing about a time in America just before I was born, before the rise of the cookie-cutter suburb, the two-car family, the two-income household, NAFTA, GATT, off-shoring, and the shrinking of the middle class.

What about today? What am I doing living in a single-use exurban housing development that is really like living at camp year-round? How can I work toward that other, larger vision? I garden, and I tell myself I am keeping some knowledge alive. Honestly, though? The economy of my miniature garden box garden is really pitiful!

I spent about $100 on “ingredients” for my straw-bale tomato experiment. The bales were pricey, considering. Then I had to add in the nitrogen fertilizer–not exactly organic farming practice there, folks. I bought three heirloom tomato plants, and if all goes well I may actually be able to save some seeds for next year. The other three (Early Girl) are not heirloom, and I have no idea if the seeds are viable or not. If these six plants produce thirty or so pounds of tomatoes all together, I suppose I may break even.

As for the other garden boxes, these are really nothing more than fun. I might as well have planted all ornamentals, since the small (miniature) scale of my garden-box garden will produce nothing more than a few servings of each kind of veggie, even if the plants produce well.

For instance, my peas are beautiful and blossoming, but really I may end up with a pound of snap peas at most. At Piper’s Knoll today, I bought a pound of snap peas for $3. The radishes have been fun, but I could have bought a bunch for $2.50. A large bag of greens was only $4. Sigh. My greens boxes have been the biggest disappointment of all: the spinach went to seed at two-inches tall, the arugula hasn’t even sprouted, the micro-greens did no better than the spinach. There is probably something wrong with the pH balance in the soil (all those pine needles?), though the romaine and green leaf lettuces are still growing if slowly, slowly…

The basil plants look great. The cucumbers are blossoming, and I’m hopeful for a good harvest. And if the zucchini and summer squash don’t end up with that gray mold stuff, I COULD have squashes coming out my ears in another month or so. Let’s hope! But in the end, this sort of gardening will never feed the family. Another $100 for ornamentals and cuke, fennel, basil, cabbage, sage, and pepper starts will, if I’m lucky, provide enough produce to pay for itself. If I’m lucky. Otherwise, I can put it down on the books as “entertainment” or maybe “education.”

Really, economically-speaking, I would be better off putting that $200 toward membership in a CSA farm like Piper’s Knoll. Maybe they’d let me come over and do some weeding now and again because…

I attempt to garden because I want to keep the rhythm of the growing season beating in my heart. I want my daughter to see me digging in the dirt and pulling a round, purple radish out of the ground, grown from a seed I planted. I want her to taste a cucumber right off the vine so she can appreciate the difference between it and the tasteless thing that rode on a truck from Mexico all the way to Maine and landed on a supermarket shelf.

Will I do this again next year? Yeah, I probably will. I’ll also buy as much produce and meat and eggs locally and in-state as I can…because those farmers are the people who will feed us in a low-carbon future. I encourage you to search out small-scale, diversified, biodynamic farms in your area and support them with your food dollars and your friendship. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Chosing A Sustainable Life

My blogger/local community friends at The Existential Gardner posted a wonderful piece about our sustainable past, our industrial present, and hopefully a sustainable future. Since they said it so much better than I ever could, I’m going to share the link so you can enjoy it for yourself. This is one I will read again.

http://theexistentialgardener.blogspot.com/2012/03/imagining-sustainable-lifestyle.html

Remember Community Gardens?

Rhubarb

Dear Reader:

In recent posts I have strayed from my original plans for this blog–advocating “going local” in place of spending hard-earned dollars at big-box retail stores with questionable business ethics and negative impact on community economics.

One of my passionate causes a few years back was the attempt to create a community garden in my, er, planned neighborhood which I will nickname The Contrammunity. If you have been following Outside the Box for awhile, you will remember that the struggle ended in defeat . . . mostly because some members of The Contrammunity thought that a run-down, unusable tennis court was preferable to a garden in their neighborhood.

But who am I to say what is or isn’t more valuable? I gave up the fight, deciding that if a community garden stirred up so much controversy and bad feelings, it wasn’t anything I wanted to pursue further.

Anyway, I still have a soft spot in my heart for community gardens. In the right kind of neighborhood, a shared garden space can be an oasis, a gathering place, a teaching/learning tool for newbies and kids, and (I truly believe this) a positive selling point for real estate nearby (unlike a broken, unused, cracked tennis court, for example.)

Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . for spring!

So when I read “If Every Community Had a Garden” in the Significato Journal this morning, my heart warmed. I was especially interested in the rainwater-catching system used for irrigation. Click to take a look at this short piece about a community garden started in Norway, Maine . . . incidentally, a town I lived in, worked in, owned a home in before moving further south. Norway is a wonderful, small, Maine town with a vibrant Main Street of small, locally-owned businesses including an impressive co-op store/space called the Fare-Share Co-op.

This video says it all!! Click Alan Day Community Garden Video. (Honestly, I’m watching this, and I can’t believe I moved away from this place!)

I don’t see myself ramping up the necessary energy to try to create a community garden again here The Contrammunity again. Sometimes you just have to admit you are living in the wrong place, make the best of your own backyard, and find a good co-op group and/or CSA farm–by looking at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) website.

Wild Plant with Old Leaves in Background

Spring is just around the corner, and I’m looking forward to getting new garden boxes set up, ordering seeds, and planting–just as soon as the snow melts and I’ve raked up the leaves I left moldering on the lawn over the winter.

What about you? Does your community have a shared-garden space? Do you have plans for spring planting? Drop me a line . . . Outside the Box.

Wine and Vinegar

Springtime (?) in Maine

Dear Reader:

When I began this Outside the Box venture, my goal was to stay out of big box retail stores for one year and to document ways to buy from locally-owned (or at least NOT big corporate-owned) businesses. Along the way, I’ve dabbled with everything from gardening to spinning, figuring that if I can’t buy it, I might as well learn to make it/grow it myself.

One thing I didn’t jump into completely was locavorism–only eating food grown, say, within a 100 mile radius of my home. I bought locally-produced food products when they were easily available, but I also spent the bulk of my food income at the local grocery store. It seemed just too big of a jump to try to eat only protein, veggies, grains, and fats produced nearby.

The other day, an acquaintance I’d met through a community mom’s group contacted me to ask about local food sources in our area. I gave her what I had, and then I began to ponder whether or not I was ready to take the plunge this year and try for a 100-mile diet. As I wrote out my weekly meal plan and grocery-store list, I circled everything on the list that I thought I could purchase from Maine farmers. Surprising to me, I circled more than half the items.

Maine Wine and Vinegar

In fact, I believe that with the exception of rice, my family could live on a locavore diet–substituting good ol’ Maine potatoes and corn for the brown rice I usually prefer for starch. Around me I have beef and eggs and chicken (and I believe pork, though I haven’t done too well seeking it out) and venison, if my husband shoots one this year or if I finally do what I’ve been threatening to do for a long time and learn how to use a bow and shoot one myself.

There are some veggie farmers in nearby towns, and I can grow a few things for myself. I bought some wine from a Maine vintner (Blacksmiths Winery in Casco)and some raw vinegar from Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner while stopping to get a prescription filled at the local Hannaford’s a couple weeks ago.

I’ve purchased safflower oil from safflowers grown in-state (found at a health-food store in Kennebunk). Milk and cream come from Downhome Farm just up the road in Parsonsfield. We have blueberry, apple, strawberry, and raspberry growers in our town.

I’ve purchased Maine cheese in the past, though I haven’t seen any mozzarella–the lack of which might make for some unhappy family members on pizza-movie night.

The woman from whom I buy my beef has also started a food co-op featuring Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative offerings. Options aplenty!

After I shared my limited local food sources with my mom-friend, she shared the following with me. It is a newish farm in Alfred, Maine called Groundwork Farm which offers a community supported agriculture program (CSA) where you pre-buy a share in this year’s crop. Check out their blog by clicking HERE. I quickly zipped off an email to request an application, and I hope that there are still slots available.

I will also need to sit down with a calculator and my husband to see just how far down this locavore road we can go this year.

I find it so encouraging to see new farms starting up and so many people becoming interested in supporting local agriculture. It is especially encouraging this week as news from Libya and the Middle East reinforces my concerns about the future of energy–hence life–in the U.S. The sooner we begin to localize, not just food but everything, the better off we will be.

I urge you to find CSA’s, local farms, and local artisans in your neck of the woods this spring/summer. New customers will encourage even more young people to see farming as a viable career. Speaking of young farmers, I also found a great blog dedicated to these amazing young tillers of the soil. The blog is called The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles, and is part of Greenhorns, a land-based non profit dedicated to helping young farmers across America. I’ve found many of their blog posts to be inspiring.

I will be adding these blogs to my list this week and doing some basic “housekeeping” here Outside the Box. It’s been two years already! Time to sweep out the dusty cobwebs.

Do you have any great blogs or websites that inspire you in your daily life? Sharing information is a simple way we can all learn from each other as we head into an uncertain future. Thanks for continuing to read!