Planting Days

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.

-Tony Robbins

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you’re working, it feels like you’re taking one step forward, then two steps back? Man, I’ve felt that way the past couple weeks. It seemed as though with every victory, with every completed project, some problem would arise that would throw everything off and necessitate my utmost attention, stripping that attention from everything else that I had planned to accomplish. Well, I suppose it’s just a lesson that, while it’s good to have a plan to fall back onto, things rarely go according to plan, and you can either let the setbacks overwhelm you and bring you down, or you can force a grin and bear it, figure it out, and see it through, which will go much further to forge your character. Many people would consider me a character, but that’s a whole other story.

Setbacks aside, we finally have plants in the ground at Street Far Farm! Yesterday I completely filled one caterpillar tunnel with baby kale, arugula and radishes. It was exhausting, but I’m happy to see some green things growing, and certainly ready to bring them to market. The second tunnel will be planted out with spinach, lettuce and radishes any day now, there are just a few more pressing issues at hand considering the miserable outlook in the 10-day forecast. Does anybody else feel waterlogged? I’m praying for a dry spell at the end of this month and beginning of March, I implore you to pray the same. I’m planning to get the first field plantings in the ground mid-March, but there’s still a good bit to do to get the beds ready, and some dry weather would be extremely helpful. Stay tuned for an announcement on a fun-filled day of spreading compost, an event you too can come enjoy!

In personal news, I’ve decided to go on an indefinite social media fast. I won’t go too far into it, but I will say that I think our American society has become increasingly devoid of a sense of tangible, face-to-face communal interaction, and at the same time increasingly preoccupied with the comparison-culture that is inherent in the social media domain. I personally believe that a return to live-and-in-person community development would go a long way to reverse the growing extremist polarity that we see growing in our culture. I also think that social media creates for the individual user a myopic and biased perspective on our world as the algorithms that determine the viewers content are engineered to show you more of what you’re already looking at, whereas true, communal human interaction will give you a perspective on the world that hasn’t been designed to reinforce what you have already been thinking, thereby creating within you a more rounded and grounded perspective. I could go on, and if you’ve read my newsletters in the past you know that I can have a tendency to rant, but I’ll leave it by saying that I’m getting off social media because I want to stop comparing myself to others, I want to break the dopamine-feedback-loop of garnering “likes” and “shares”, I want to be more productive and present, and I want strengthen my own skills of human interaction and make deeper and more meaningful connections with the people I care about. If you’d like to talk more about it, come see me at the market or drop me a line!

Come on out and see us at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market on Winecoff School Rd. tomorrow from 9am til noon and get your microgreens and eggs! I’m hoping we’re just a few weeks away from some real veggies, so stay tuned!

A special shoutout to my new friend and CSA member Steven who has been volunteering a lot of his time out here at the farm, primarily cutting limbs hanging over the road up to the field. I often feel as though I’m entirely undeserving of the opportunities and help that I’ve been given throughout this journey, and I am extremely grateful for Steven and the rest of you that support my efforts. Running a business sometimes feels as an extremely selfish venture, but I try to approach it from the perspective that I’m doing this out of service to my community by providing the healthiest food I can muster from the Earth, and that I’m doing this out of service to the Earth itself, helping to build diversity which lends to a healthier ecosystem. Thanks, Steven, you’re really putting the “Community” in “Community Supported Agriculture”!

Have a wonderful weekend folks, and maybe the next time you’re on the Facebook, if you see a post from a friend that you’d like to comment on, maybe pick up the phone and give them a call before you post that comment? Just a thought! Be well!

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Laid Out

As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

-Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

A huge THANK YOU shoutout to the folks who came out on Monday to help set up the caterpillars pictured above, namely Ray, Steven, Gena and Chuck, and of course my right hand man Hans! All that’s left is to get these bad boys skinned with greenhouse plastic, but before that happens I need to get some compost transported from the massive pile I’ve been building for a couple years and spread out underneath the tunnels. Then we can get them covered and then they’ll be fertilized and broadforked, and then we’ll get the irrigation run, likely just in time for the little planties, some of which are pictured below, planted and get the season off and running! I’m pumped, though I would have liked to have made some progress on some of these tasks this week, but I got laid out pretty hard…

It started with a bit of a scratchy throat Monday night that culminated in a bed-ridden Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with sweaty chills, achey joints, and some nasty stuff being expelled from my throat and nostrils. My fever broke Wednesday night, and today, while I’m feeling TONS better, I’m a little weak and pretty stiff from laying down for that long. I don’t often get sick, and when I do, it’s usually for no longer than a day or two, so this illness had my climbing up the walls. Apparently there’s something going around, and I hope you all are staying healthy, because I wouldn’t wish what I just experienced on my worst enemies! Upward and onward.

I hope you all will come out to the Piedmont Farmer’s Market on Winecoff School Rd. tomorrow from 9am til noon! I’m going to stay at home to try to catch up on some of this work, but Hans will be manning the booth, slinging some Pea Shoots, Radish Shoots, Sunflower Shoots, Brassica Shoots, Arugula Shoots, Micro Mix, Basil Shoots, and a boat load of Eggs! Eggs are back with a vengeance, you’ll be happy to hear, so come out and see us!

Have a great weekend everybody. I want to also say a special thanks to all who responded to my plea last Sunday for CSA shares! I hate asking for help, it’s a problem that I’m working on getting over, but as they have said in agricultural communities for generations now, it takes a village! Shares are still available for purchase, and I implore you to go ahead and jump on the Street Fare Farm train sooner rather than later, it’d help me out a great deal! Thank you, and be well!

Next Week

This is what you do with radish shoots; throw a pile on your cheeseburger!

-Farmer Ben

It’s finally here, the official start of the 2019 Street Fare Farm season. My calendar shows “Start CT Transplants” for this Monday. CT stands for Caterpillar Tunnel, of which there are two, both of which are still lying in a pile next to the field where they are to be constructed. Yesterday morning, before the rains came, I tilled the plot where the tunnels are to go, incorporating even more the chaff and residue from the previous inhabitants, as well as mixing in the lime and gypsum Hans and I had broadcast the afternoon prior. Oh yeah, Hans is back! More on his triumphant return shortly. Where was I… Oh right, so I tilled it all in, the soil was definitely a little too wet in certain spots to be doing so, but time is of the essence, for three weeks from Monday is a note in my calendar that reads, “Plant Early CT Crops.” My God, there’s a lot to do in those three weeks.

I plan on installing the caterpillar tunnels on Tuesday, starting at 9am, in case any of you would care to join! After that, I have to run the irrigation up to the field, for which the well has yet to have power (but we’re so close!), broadfork in the tunnels too loosen and aerate the subsoil, move my compost pile, tractor bucket by tractor bucket, from over here by the house up to the field, then spread that compost in the tunnels, ammend with fertilizer and stir it all in. And that’s just the beginning, for just under the “Plant Early CT Crops” tab in my calendar, there’s a note that says “Start 1st FC Transplants.” Here, FC stands for “Field Crops,” and once those get started, it’s a mere three weeks again to get beds broadforked, composted and fertilized, irrigation set up, landscape fabric pinned down, and in that span of time I’d also like to get some trees felled and logs cut to inoculate with mushroom spawn, and start transplants for the NorthEast Hospital Garden and the 2019 Plant and Herb Fest in April. I’m a mad man, but if I can pull this off this season, well, then I’ll have pulled it off this season!

One thing that is pressing on the back of my mind is getting the walk-in cooler set up, because fresh vegetables need to be cooled if they are to last until I can get them into your hands and onto your plates! I dug out the side of the hill next to the patio where my post-harvest station is set up, severing my internet connection in the process, but there that pit sits, wet and muddy. I have to somehow grade the pit so that it’s tilting forward for water runoff, lay gravel, build a retaining wall, and pour the cement where the walk-in will sit. I’m beginning to think I may be a bit out of my scope for this project, and what with everything else on my plate, feel as though this is a job I should hire out for… That’s where you come in! If anybody has experience in this realm, or know somebody that does, I would love to work with you! There is one caveat, I’m about flat broke until the veggies start coming out of the field (or more of you sign up for the CSA!), so I was hoping to find somebody to help with this job that would be willing to accept either vegetables and eggs, or even a full CSA share, as payment, or at least as subsidy to the total cost of the project? If that’s completely out of the question, is there anybody out there who would be willing to complete this project with a payment plan? I have outstanding credit and always pay down my debts! Please let me know!

I hope to see you all at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market on Winecoff School Rd. tomorrow from 9am til noon! It’s going to be rainy, so wear your galoshes and bring an umbrella! Tomorrow I’ll have Microgreens and Eggs, and maybe I’ll bring along the prodigal Hans! He’s back from a month out west visiting friends and family in Boulder, Los Angeles, Monterrey and San Francisco. If he comes (I’m not sure he will), he will regale you with tales from his journeys, captivating your attention and mystifying your sensibilities! Maybe that’s extreme, but he’s fun to talk to.

That’s all I have time for today, but I hope you all have a magnificent weekend and a glorious week! THERE’S STILL PLENTY OF TIME TO SIGN UP FOR THE CSA! It’s mutually beneficial, I promise!

Plant a Tree

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time in now.

-Chinese Proverb

Man, that’s a pretty picture. That tree sits right by the river on the property I’m living on, and I love that tree. It’s an old tree, half-dead, but the craziest part about it is the huge, dead grape vine wrapped around it. Usually a vine like that will kill the tree, but in this instance, the tree won the battle and the vine is but a skeleton, still gripping the tree even in death. I can’t take credit, that picture was taken by a guy named Remy Thurston, who is a great photographer. It’s making me anxious for spring. I just finished a book last week titled The Man Who Planted Trees by Jim Robbins, which was a great read. In summary, it describes the efforts of a gentleman, David Milarch, who, after surviving a near-death-experience, claims to have been commissioned by spiritual beings to seek out and clone the “Champion Trees” of this planet, the biggest, most robust trees of every species, in an effort to preserve their genetics in a world where deforestation is rampant, either directly by the hands or man or indirectly due to environmental changes caused by the warming climate. There is an argument that deforestation is far and away a greater contributor to the shifting climate than our consumption of fossil fuels, for not only do trees sequester a huge amount of carbon, they also cool the earth by their shade and their respiration, as well as act as buffers against solar radiation, and the massive clearing and die-outs of our forested lands are having an exponential effect in the warming of our planet. The author also describes some of the more obscure research being done on trees, which is a severely under-researched field of study, theorizing the other benefits trees have to not only our environments, but to us, such as emitting aerosols that help regulate our hormones and keep other plants and animals healthy, filtering ground and surface water much more effectively and efficiently than our modern water-treatment facilities, and even that trees hold clues to our connection to the celestial bodies outside of our atmosphere, the stars above. Just down the road from me, a new solar field was installed. A massive one. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for transitioning our energy inputs from fossil fuels to more sustainable means, but to install this solar field they had to clear-cut a lot of forest. After reading this book, I’m under the assumption that the trees were providing much more benefit to our planet than that solar field ever will. David is doing his work of securing these genetics at the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, check them out and read the book, I highly recommend it! Be warned, it will make you want to plant some trees!

Lot’s going on here at the farm… the microgreen/germination chamber in my basement is getting a much-needed facelift, and I’m making some improvements and experimenting with some bottom-watering techniques to hopefully better streamline that enterprise and make it more automated. At the same time, I’m increasing my microgreen production, so get ready for some tasty shoots! I’ve also been able to take advantage of this stretch of dry weather to get some initial tilling done where I’ll be installing my two 14’x100′ caterpillar tunnels for under-cover growing! With my first plantings going under these tunnels in just over a month, it’s high time! Aside from that, I have a hawk that is picking off my chickens, and I really need to do something about that. Pronto. I have a few ideas: hawk netting, locking the chickens in their coop for a week to break the predators routine, or, as a last resort, a rifle. Once I take care of that issue, I need to re-stock my flock ASAP, for demand is rising but eggs are dwindling! I also plan on getting some other fowl, a few geese to protect the flock, and maybe some guineas to knock down the tick population in the spring and summer.

I hope to see you all at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market on Winecoff School Rd. tomorrow from 9am til noon! It’s going to be a mite chilly in the morning, so bundle up, we’ll have the heaters on! I’ll have Pea Shoots, Radish Shoots, Sunflower Shoots, and the return of the Micro Mix! Of course, I’ll have eggs, too. I wanted to share something I’ve been doing with my Pea Shoots, a delicious side-dish. Heat your pan (I use this cast iron skillet for everything) medium-high with 2-3 tbsp the oil of your choice. I like all the oils, so I usually do butter, bacon grease, and coconut oil, just to run the gamut. Chop up AT LEAST 3 cloves of garlic, cuz one clove is just not enough. When the pan is hot, take a clamshell of Pea Shoots, rip them in half, and throw them in the oil with the garlic. Sprinkle with salt, and stir until all shoots are coated with grease and the tiny leaves turn dark green and start to wilt. Boom. Delicious. I’m going to have some with my eggs right now!

I wanted to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Gina Guthrie, who passed away early Tuesday morning after a long bout with cancer. Gina was a great friend to the Piedmont Farmer’s Market, The Lomax Incubator Farm, and farmers all across Cabarrus County. She was very supportive of my farming efforts from the very beginning, sourcing produce from me when she could for her farm-to-table catering company, Bocca Felice, and was a wonderful crusader working to change the way people thought about the food that they eat and where they get it from. She was also just a wonderful lady who always had a smile on her face and a sweet and caring temperament. You will be missed, Gina, but now you are in the presence of glory!

Have a great week, folks. Be excellent to each other, and party on!

The Year of the Pig

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

-T.S. Eliot

I want some pigs, I really do. Just a couple, just to suss out that whole situation, to see what it’s like, to see what it takes, and to stock up the freezer with some delicious pork chops, sausages and bacon raised by my hands and watchful gaze. I love the idea of adding a hog enterprise to my operation, as they are relatively low maintenance, have a relatively quick turnaround as the generally mature to slaughter weight at about six months, and everyone I know that works with pigs absolutely love them. Everyone except my sister, Bree, who at one time raised a pig named Mabel. Mabel for the table, she said. I guess Mabel was kind of mean, and my sister hated Mabel. I never met Mabel personally, but I did get to enjoy a delicious Mabel ham when I went to visit Bree in Olympia when I was sixteen. That was almost half my life ago now. Wow. Her daughters were just toddlers then, and now one is twenty and the other is as old as I was on that trip. Crazy. Anyway, my better judgement tells me I shouldn’t get pigs this year, that I should put all my focus on building my vegetable enterprise, my bread and butter, here on this new land before I add anything else into the mix. My better judgement tells me I need to pump the brakes and get one enterprise sorted before letting my lofty aspirations get the better of me. My better judgement is probably right, but my better judgement may lose out on this one. How much could two pigs get in the way, anyway?

I’ve been going full bore since the New Year! Well, since the day after New Years day, that is. I’ve been following through on the morning routine I’ve committed to, though I’ve been feeling a bit of the low-carb-flu since adopting this Whole30 challenge. Getting back in the swing of things doesn’t happen automatically, either, so, if you’re like me and your re-committed-to routines are taking a little longer than they used to, be gracious to yourself and tell yourself that you’ll be back in fighting form in no time, as long as you keep going through the motions. Anyway, here at the farm, projects are still getting underway! The microgreen chamber in my basement is currently undergoing massive renovations, with lots of improvements to streamline that operation. My post harvest area is so close to being complete, too. Now I just need this damned rain to quit for a bit so I can do a little field work! The first seedlings of the season are going to be started in just a couple weeks, and there’s lots still to do to get ready! I’m pumped, I’m feeling good, and I know that if God is for me, who can be against me? This is going to be the best season Street Fare Farm has ever seen, and I can’t wait to share it with you! Stay tuned for an announcement for a field day soon to spread some compost!

I hope to see you all at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market on Winecoff School Rd. tomorrow from 9am til noon! I’ll be there with some Pea Shoots, Radish Shoots, Sunflower Shoots, Basil Shoots and, of course, the true stars, the free-roaming, woodlot-raised, non-GMO eggs, laid by Concord’s very own Street Fare Farm Cluckettes! These ladies have been working hard to get you folks their very best offerings of eggs, come out and show them your support!

I know I shouldn’t curse the rain, I’m just tired of the wet and soggy and soppy and grey. Much like Superman, whom I have much else in common with, I derive my power from the glorious sunshine. Sun, o’ Sun, where art thou, where are thy gleaming rays, where did thee go? Have a great weekend, and I’ll catch you on the flip!

Winter Solstice

If winter comes, can spring be far behind? 

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Daily Steward

Happy Solstice errbody! It’s an oddly warm and rainy start to the winter, but that’s ok. Actually, I’m not that ok with it. I’m so sick of the rain! The basement is starting to take in water as saturated as the ground is, and I’m in desperate need of some vitamin sunshine. It rained all last weekend that I was away celebrating the union of my oldest and closest friend Matt to his bride Elise, pictured above. Apparently its good luck to get married on a rainy day, it starts the marriage off on a note of cleansing. It was a beautiful ceremony, and it was great to be there for my dear friend and to see many faces that I haven’t seen in a long time. I’m making it a resolution in 2019 to keep in closer touch and reach out more often to the people I care about, and while this trip was brief, it was great to see some of those people once again! Sky and I had a lovely visit with my parents and my niece Annalise and her lovely mother Tory after the wedding festivities, and we made it back safe and sound Monday evening. Congrats Matt and Elise, I pray for many years of deep love and companionship for the both of you!

I want to give a very special shout-out to my Father, David, today. Today is a momentous day for my father, as today is his last day at work EVER! That’s right, after some 35-odd years as a maritime attorney, as well as other working lives prior, he’s ready to cash it all in and get down to some serious living (and driving my mom nuts)! I’m very proud of my father and his work ethic, he built a tremendous practice for himself in order to support his family, and was top of his field. I find myself becoming more and more like my father with each passing day, and while this used to frighten me immensely, I now know that if I can live on to become half the man that he is, then all his (and my mom’s) efforts in raising me will certainly not be for naught. Congratulations, Dad, I wish you the utmost of fulfillment in your post-work life, as well as some much deserved rest! Here’s his picture from the firms website, I’m looking more and more like him every day too, what with this receding hair line!

David P. Street Attorney at Law

There’s still time to sign up for the 2019 Street Fare Farm CSA and receive a $20 gift certificate redeemable at my booth at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market at any time! The days of 2018 are running thin, but there’s still 10 days to become a part of the Street Fare Farm Family and redeem this limited time offer! Head over here and sign up today!

I hope to see you at the market tomorrow! I missed you last week, but I’ll be there tomorrow with microgreens and eggs! Come get your fixings for a Christmas salad, and I know I’ve said this before, but growing up, every Christmas, without fail, it would turn out that there weren’t enough eggs to feed everyone that was home for the holiday and we’d have to scramble (no pun intended) to find someplace open to fetch some! Don’t let this happen to you! My girls and I have been working hard to make sure that there are plenty of eggs available for your Christmas breakfast, so come and get them!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll check in with you next week before the new year!

Tis the Season

We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Daily Steward

Seasons greetings my faithful farm followers, I trust this edition of The Daily Steward finds you happy and well! Call me a grinch, but I really don’t want to think about Christmastime things in any respect until we are quite clear of Thanksgiving. It irks me to no end how it seems the Christmas marketing gets going earlier and earlier every year. I fear that by the time I have children of my own that are old enough to appreciate the holiday festivities, Christmas music will start playing on the radio after Easter… That’s a tad cynical perhaps, but you get the picture. Ranting aside, my lovely lady friend, Sky, her son Elijah and I took some time out of our busy schedules to get the season going in a proper fashion yesterday. We went out on the property and chopped down a little cedar sapling and set it up in my living room, decorated with lights, garlands, ornaments and ribbons, and munched on sugar cookies, all to the dulcet tones of Elvis Presley’s classic Christmas album crooning in the background. It was sublime, I must say, and I can now say with all assurance that I am in the Christmas spirit!

Rest assured, there is still work getting done here on the farm! My basement, which I think is better than a garage ten-, maybe twenty-fold, is really starting to get organized. Like those colorful orbs dangling from the limbs of the tree, each one of my tools is dangling from the pegboard above my workbench, each in it’s own place! How’s the saying go? A place for everything, and everything in it’s place! That’s the name of the game right now. Additionally, the trench has been dug for the well pump hookups, and the pipe to contain the wire will be laid today. This coming week I hope to build the 10′ washing table I’ve been talking about, and really get the walk-in concrete pad project moving along. Much to do, much to do!

Still on the fence about signing up for the Street Fare Farm CSA? Well, what are you waiting for! How can you turn down the opportunity to receive the freshest produce you’ve ever eaten, produce grown locally with organic methodology that you can feel confident feeding to your family, never worrying about listeria on your carrots or e.coli in your lettuce, and having a personal relationship with the farmer that grows this food to address any needs or concerns, especially a farmer as charming and handsome as myself? It’s a win-win! AND, if you sign up and pay in full before January 1st, you will receive a $20 Gift Certificate redeemable at my booth at the farmers market at any time! Click HERE for more information! I do need to clear up some confusion about the Street Fare Farm CSA: there is a $20 deposit required with the price of the share, and this deposit is for the actual box that the share will be given to you in. I have to have 2 boxes for every CSA member, and they aren’t exactly cheap! This deposit will be returned at the end of the season provided each box is returned. So sorry that wasn’t so clear!

I hope to see you all at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market on Winecoff School Rd. tomorrow from 9am til noon! It may be a little rainy, a little chilly, but I’ll have just the fix for that: microgreens and eggs! How appropriate. We’re supposed to get some snow (and ice) this weekend, which I’m actually stoked about, coming from a clime where snowy winters were a much more common occurrence, and honestly, I feel like snow makes winter more endurable. Come out an stock up on greens and eggs to last out the weather!

Stay safe during the winter weather, maybe try to look at it like I do, as God’s way of giving us a little downtime to revel in the beauty of creation! Have a great weekend!