Thursday, June 10, 2010

Slow and Steady

Well, the weather has been a challenge this spring: wet, wet, and more wet. It has hampered our 'Rebuilding the Farm' project a bit, but we at least are still making progress, so that's something.

The greenhouse got sidetracked by a dreaded case of 'Baker's Elbow'. Packy has been hampered by an elbow stress injury brought on by long days of his enthusiastic bread making technique. A visit to the fabulous Donna Bdzil at Pacific Northwest Occupational Therapy has him wearing an assortment of braces and doing fun exercises involving ice and heat and strange hand gestures, all of which are amusing as hell to watch, and also seem to be helping. (Years ago Donna helped me recover from a broken wrist, and a more recent bent finger-problem. She is a wonderful local resource for those of us in physical, injury prone jobs.)

The Elbow Issue has provided an endless supply of "we miss your buns" jokes over at the Blue Scorcher as Packy has taken a wee baking break for the last couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I had agreed to host a North Coast Slow Food potluck at our farm, and with the way that the weather was going, it looked like we really needed the greenhouse to be finished. There was no way a completely outdoor gathering was going to be possible, and we weren't sure how many people could fit into the house. I could see the 'deer in the headlights' look in Packy's eyes when I asked him about the chances of the greenhouse being a useable social space in time...

Fortunately our friend Luke stepped in to help. His impressive woodworking skills combined with his unflappable cheerfulness even in phenomenally muddy circumstances helped make up for Packy's injured slow-pokey-ness, and together they got the structure to a good enough point where it could host a group of hungry local food enthusiasts. All that skill and a mean stand-up base player as well. Luke is pretty awe-inspiring.

So, back to that Slow Food Thing. Do you know about Slow Food? It's a great organization, in spite of it's reputation as a magnet for snooty foodie types. They do great work in promoting good, fair, clean and local food all over the world, and there has long been talk of the need for a chapter (or convivium, to use their lingo) here on the Oregon coast. This gathering was the third of a series of exploratory potlucks to gauge the enthusiasm for starting a group here. The first two were down in Cannon Beach, so our farm was asked to host this one as a way of spreading the socializing out over the whole area we hoped to draw from. (South Washington Coast to Tillamook.)

Since everyone would be coming to a Farm in Process I thought it would be fun to incorporate a Farm Project into the day's events, so we decided to have a Buckwheat Seed Stomp to get our cover crop seed sown over the beautiful bit of land that Dan the Brushtamer had tilled up a few weeks ago. We don't have a roller and can't afford to buy one, and you really do need to have the seed pressed into the ground to encourage good germination and hopefully to prevent the birds from eating it all. Many people sowing and walking the seed into the ground can do the job too.

It was a bit of a last minute idea, so there was a scramble to buy 100lbs of buckwheat seed in time. Fortunately the wonderful Naomi of Naomi's Organic Farm Supply in Portland had seeds in stock.

Our friend Israel agreed to be our seed mule for the journey back from Portland, since we didn't have time to go into the Big City ourselves. (Although we've really got to get in and check Naomi's place out, it sounds great.)

Did I mention that it had been raining off and on all week? Saturday was beautiful and sunny, but Sunday morning was gloomy and grey, and it poured down rain. It let up by the afternoon, but the whole place was still a bit soggy, except the soil we needed to sow the seeds on- it drains great. I love that soil.

Hank of Wavecrest Inn fame in Cannon Beach gave a stylish demonstration of seed sowing (you can take the boy off the farm...) and everyone grabbed buckets of seed and took to the project with great enthusiasm.

It was fascinating to see all the different sowing techniques- some were very fast and free-form, others were very slow and methodical, but they all got the job done.

Then it was back to the greenhouse for one of the Best Potlucks Ever. The crab cakes from Ginger's R-evolution Gardens were a big hit, and there was a lot of buzz about the Rosemary Chocolate Cake Thing from Neal and Carolyn, formerly of Lola's Fine Foods in Seaside. (We all miss Lola's tremendously since they had to close, and are desperately trying to find a way to get these folks back into a commercial kitchen on the coast.)

It was a great gathering, and we were honored to have so many local growers show up, like Hank from Lunasea Gardens in Nehalem, Jeff and Nicole from Kingfisher Farm in Nehalem, The Fabulous Ginger from R-evolution Gardens and Fred Johnson of Homegrown Farm in Naselle. (We farmers are a curious lot, and it is always fun to go check out someone else's soil.) The idea that people won't travel very far for this kind of thing was shot down with the arrival of the group from Food Roots down in Tillamook, and it was fun to see a mix of ages (not quite 2 to 81 years) all tucking into a great feast. The goat enthusiasts met with the cheese making enthusiasts, there was recipe swapping, and old friends catching up with one another. I met lots of fascinating people, got to connect with people I don't get to see much anymore, ate some of the best food I've ever tasted, and the conclusion, when we made our pitch for 'Should we be an official Slow Food group or not?' was a resounding YES.

So stay tuned for more about the soon to be official North Coast Slow Food Convivium. I believe the next gathering will be down south again- there are rumors of a pig roast on the beach next... I can't wait!

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