What's Your Mission?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of having a personal “mission statement.” I’m in the last years of my third decade and the weight of a Saturn Return rests ominously on the path in front of me. Turning thirty has never made me uncomfortable - the prospect actually excites me! Culturally, however, this is a milestone feared by many and comes with all sorts of socially-constructed expectations and measures by which we’re supposed to compare ourselves to others. The question, “What is your purpose?” is posed by the world.

Queue self-interigation: Am I successful enough? Have I made enough money? Do I have a sufficient network of friends and colleagues? Should I start or grow a family? Am I married - should I be? Am I happy with my career? What, exactly, am I doing here?

This last one is the one gripping my chest, presently.

I think we’re taught that the “big 3-0” is a benchmark by which you (and your community) can grade how well you set yourself up for adulthood - like there’s a standard we’ve all agreed on that constitutes a successful trajectory into the next few decades of life.

Or maybe these are my projections as I reflect on the societal pressure I often feel to be/do/have more than I already am/do.

So I’ve been ruminating on these pressures I feel, and why I feel them, and what this sense of “have I made it?” is all about because I know I’m not the only one plagued by these thoughts and feelings.

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In the study of astrology, there is the concept of a Saturn Return, which takes place for each individual when the planet Saturn returns to the same spot in the sky (relative to Earth) it was when the individual was born. Astrology is a lot of things, but one way it’s been described to me is the study of cycles and patterns. These cycles happen on an individual level, societal level, generational level, etc. In astrology, Saturn represents stability, social rules, careers, discipline, order, and structure. It is the planet of building something sturdy that will last through the ages; it is dedicated to the slow-and-steady work of constructing a framework.

A planetary Return is the closing of one cycle and the beginning of another in reference to the qualities that planet represents in an individual’s life. The Saturn Return is a time to reflect on the quality of structure that has dominated one’s life up until that point, and intentionally create a path, or framework, moving forward.

Saturn “returns” every 28-31 years…see where I’m going with this?

If we use the astrological concept of a Saturn Return to view the phases of our life as we experience them in our current society, the stars begin to align, so to speak. The first Saturn Return happens around the 30th birthday when a person is shifting from the framework they were given in childhood to the framework they create for their self. The second Return happens around the age of 60, when most people are transitioning from career to retirement or a second career. A 60-year-old might be asking a lot of similar questions as a 30-year-old, but the context is different; a lot of their life’s work is behind them and they are faced with constructing the framework of their legacy: “What, exactly, did I do here?”

Whether you believe in the concepts of astrology or not, I think this is an interesting lens to view the existential crises a lot of people experience around their 30th and 60th birthdays. These are times of tectonic shifts in our lives, usually in the areas of career and social purpose.

As I prepare for my first Saturn Return, my reflections lead me to consider the idea of a personal mission statement. I think this idea has been spurred by the recent changes taking place at Small Feat Farm. As most readers know, the last few years have been a mixed-bag of triumphs, trials, challenges, defeats, and celebrations. Brian and I have felt the full spectrum of emotions in our relationship with the farm. Late in the season last year, we decided to diversify our household by Brian working off-farm. (Speaking of Saturn Returns, Brian is in the thick of his and has come to realize that a greater sense of structure and security is necessary for him to be his best self.) This shift also included a reconfiguration of the farm business.

Reimagining the farm has been exciting and challenging, especially on my own (with undying support from Brian, of course). I took the time to write a business plan in January for the coming year and have hired a business mentor to help me create a path for success. I am learning new things every day about business, myself, and my support system. Most days I am terrified I’m not doing enough or not doing it right, but the whole process has helped me get clear about what the mission of Small Feat Farm really is. More to come on these specifics later!

I feel like the process of getting clear about my business is the preamble for my Saturn Return: getting clear about the direction of my life. At the moment, it feels like all doors are open. This can be a really uncomfortable place for me but I’m doing my best to sit in it and respect the process. The last six months have taught me that the process is winding and arduous, but equally rewarding as the mission becomes more clear.

Like planning a business, there comes a moment in one’s life when the question “what am I doing here?” demands to be answered in order to forge a purpose-driven path. I suppose some people don’t ever have an answer to this…or they had the answer the moment they were born. I feel I have an answer to this in a broad sense, but not necessarily in an Saturnian sense. It’s still brewing, waiting ahead on my path. And I’m excited about the process.

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So what’s in store for Small Feat Farm this year? First, a big shift to flowers! I am offering a full-blown Flower Farm Share! There are full and half-season options available and this is a fantastic way to support me and this business as I cultivate a diverse ecosystem for pollinators and practice chemical-free, no-till farming. Flowers will be for sale at Cumberland Food Company and LIV Kundalini Yoga Studio throughout the summer. I will also host a pop-up market stand at Cumberland Food Co. on a designated weekday.

Second, community-cenetered events will be hosted at the farm all year long! Come join me and Brian for Pizza Nights on the Second Sunday of each month, June through October. Workshops on DIY wedding bouquet creation, low-impact farming, and holiday wreath making will be featured in collaboration with other small businesses. And be on the lookout for a very special Farm-to-Table dinner hosted at the farm in August!

Lastly, veggies are not gone! Small Feat Farm will be producing veggies for Barn & Table Catering, which operates out of the same property as the farm. Collaboratively, we are aiming to demonstrate a true farm-to-table model in the event industry.

Stay tuned for more updates and details on the new official mission statement of Small Feat Farm!

CSA Week #15

Farm Update

We’ve slowly started to put the farm to bed: clearing beds of old and dying crops, organizing storage areas, and plotting our tactics to keep the soil warm and healthy over the Winter season. As we embark on a new journey (read last post), we expect to change our bed-making preparations a bit, but overall we plan to follow a similar regiment as last Fall: spread necessary amendments and goat manure compost on the permanent beds after loosening them with a broad fork, then piling on a healthy layer of leaf mulch before the snow flies.

This past Sunday’s Pizza Night hosted by Come On Up to the Farm was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who came out! We so enjoyed catching up with each person and serving them delicious pizza and local beer! We felt the systems worked out well and got a lot of positive feedback not only about the product, but also about the comfortable, community-focused vibe. All are welcome this coming Sunday, September 23rd, for our second rendition!! 5-9pm at Caswell Farm (120 Whitney Rd. Gray, ME 04039).

Week #15 Veggies, Herbs, and Suggestions

Eggplant - This Italian variety is called Galine and is an excellent eggplant to slice into rounds for Eggplant Parm. I also recommend drizzling the rounds with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasting at 375 until the flesh is translucent. Then, dress the rounds with freshly chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs for an Eggplant Parm al Fresca!

Cabbage - This Melissa cabbage has thick skin and might be best roasted or sautéed along with other veggies like onions, tomatoes, and kale. Try making a warm salad with plenty of salt and spices!

Onions - A mix of red and yellow storage onions.

Garlic - Three heads of our finest!

Tomatoes - The tomato plants have been struck by blight (the usual story this time of year) and are on the decline, but we are salvaging what we can and hope you enjoy the last of these summer treats!

Beet Greens - This Bull’s Blood variety is so tasty and nutritious! It is best enjoyed wilted as the leaves can be thick and rough on the digestive tract if eaten raw. Chop and mix these with kale and cabbage on the stove for a multi-colored base to a warm salad. Top with fresh veggies, spices, and nuts for an easy-to-digest, delicious lunch or side dish!

Kale - A choice of Redbor and Lacinato kale

Hot Peppers - A mix of jalapeños, habaneros, and other various hot peppers! Hopefully you’ve found some creative ways to use these in your dishes!

Oregano - the ever-classic culinary herb perfect for sauces, stir fries, and soups.

Thyme - Use this herb similarly to oregano. Both are excellent aroma-therapeutic herbs, too!

Sorrel - this intensely lemon-flavored herb with make your mouth salivate! It is best when cooked down in a stir fry or soup; the sourness is dampened considerably.

CSA Week #14 - The Rise and Fall of Small Feat Farm

Farm Update

It seems as though the season has changed overnight. The morning air is cooler and a bit dryer, leaves are poised for their deep dive into the autumnal rainbow, the streets of Portland and Freeport are a bit more walkable…what a lovely time of year. This is our fourth Fall in Maine and I think it’s safe to say September is the reason we all continue to persist through the extreme climatic swings characteristic of coastal New England. Thank goodness it’s here!

It’s been a busy last few weeks as you may or may not have noticed by the lack of blog posts for weeks 12 and 13 of our CSA program. I (Joanna) first headed to Colorado for a bachelorette getaway in the Rocky Mountains. Then, for a good friend’s wedding, I made my way to Idaho, where Brian met me in Boise. To make the cost of the plane tickets worth it, we decided to stay awhile and escaped into the Sawtooth Mountains for a few days of hiking, camping, and relaxing with my parents in addition to attending the beautiful wedding. While we were anxious to get back home to the farm, the time away was deeply healing and rejuvenating. Sometimes, the best thing to do in times of chaos is to remove yourself from the situation. The physical space and change of pace can often be just the change in perspective you need to see past the bullshit and re-enter daily life with passion, motivation, and clarity. We’ve been back for a week, and with Virgo season in full effect, we are feeling good about the months to come.

I’d say we clean up nicely!

I’d say we clean up nicely!

We tend to make long getaways a life practice. I don’t know what it says about our life choices that we often feel the need to run away for a long time (well, maybe I do but I’ll spare you those musings), but no one has ever described us as content homebodies. Since we met 5 1/2 years ago, our joint-journey has been a saga of cross-country moves, new projects, globe trotting, and absurd living arrangements. While we have certainly gained invaluable experience in many industries and lifestyles, we keep falling into the same hole every August: exhausted, unsure about the direction of our path, overcommitted, and defeated. Some might call this repeated experience a karmic pattern, others might call it insanity. All we know is it’s kicking our butts and we’re ready to take active steps toward a new path.

Small Feat Farm, as we originally conceived it, is not jiving with the values and lifestyle we are cultivating. After three summers, it feels like we have been trying to jam a very noble round peg into the square hole of our lives. Growing food for a community is one of the most honorable jobs, in our opinion. We are realizing, however, that that job is better suited for people who are more willing to stay in one place for the growing season or enjoy researching soil science, for example. Instead of trying to force ourselves into a position that is clearly not playing to our strengths, we have decided to aim our ship at a lifestyle that compliments our inherent attributes and passions.

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Drumroll, please…Come On Up to the Farm! We are launching a new project in collaboration with Caswell Farm and Barn & Table Catering this fall. It is a work in progress and there are many details to figure out for the future, but we are excited to announce Pizza Nights beginning this Sunday evening, September 16th, and continuing every Sunday through the end of October. This is just the beginning of place-based, community-building, family-fun events that we will be hosting under the new brand Come On Up to the Farm. Our vision for next year is to host a multitude of events on this historic property from concert series to workshops to movie nights to dance parties. The goal is to build a community hub where people in the surrounding area are welcome to hang, collaborate, and commune with neighbors and friends. Stay tuned for more information on this new project and Pizza Night details for the remainder of the year.

How does Small Feat Farm fit into this? It will be taking a different direction for the foreseeable future. SFF’s new mission is to grow food for events at the farm (utilizing the beautiful pizza oven) and FLOWERS for the community. That’s right! We will be transitioning to a flower farm! The flower CSA will stay (the vegetable CSA will be no more), and we will explore wholesale, farmers market, and pick-your-own options as sources of revenue. I will be the lead farmer and florist.

Brian, on the other hand, will be diving into baking as a skill and potential business venture. While opening his own bakery is a ways in the distance, Brian is committed to learning the ropes of bread-making (place TBD) and will be the resident sous-chef for events on the farm.

We are really excited about this new direction and hope it will bring us fulfillment, energy, and the opportunity to live our deepest passions! Thank you for your continued support!

This week’s share!

This week’s share!

Week #14 Veggies, Herbs, and Suggestions

Cabbage - This variety is called Melissa and is a savoyed green cabbage. Savoyed means “crinkly,” essentially. This cabbage is great to chop very finely and make a variety of slaws or krauts. Salt is a great friend of cabbage’s as it draws the moisture out and softens the fibrous nature of this brassica.

Baby Kale - the kale plants have made a comeback from the hot and humid summer. Baby Redbor and Lacinato kale will be bunched and ready for your stirfrys, smoothies, and salads

Fennel - We love to roast fennel with leeks and peppers (add potatoes and carrots, too!). Drizzle some olive oil over the veggie mix along with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the chunks you cut.

Leeks - Leeks are a fabulous addition to any roast, stir fry, or soup. To get the most out of their rich flavor on the stove-top, cut them into 1/8 inch rounds, melt a healthy amount of butter in a pan, and sauté the leeks for 5-10 minutes before adding anything else. An incredible potato-leek soup can be made by following these instructions, adding a few cubed yellow potatoes to the pot, covering the veggies with broth and adding in salt and pepper. Boil the mixture until the potatoes are soft, and then use an immersion blender to make into a creamy fall-time soup.

Red Onion - a distinctly spicier and crisper onion than the Ailsa Craig, a red onion is great in the pan or raw on a salad or slaw.

Tomatoes - Red slicers and sungold tomatoes are going strong in the field. If you have an excess of tomatoes, consider googling a method to can and store them for winter!

Peppers - The hot peppers are going crazy! If you haven’t tried making a homemade salsa or hot sauce, try this: Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Halve a handful of tomatoes, an onion, a mixture of peppers, and a few cloves of garlic. Place veggies on baking sheet and broil on low for 10-20 minutes until they start to blacken. Pull the pan out of the oven and use tongs to put the chunks into a food processor with a healthy dose of salt, lime juice, cumin, and cilantro (if you like it). Blend until desired consistency. Sometimes, it helps to squeeze the tomatoes before putting them into the processor to get rid of excess liquid that will make the salsa watery.

Garlic - This cured garlic should keep in a cool dry place for at least a month (but I don’t know anyone who can go that long without using delicious garlic just sitting in the cupboard).

Cinnamon Basil - Basil is a great companion to tomato salads, pesto, and pizzas.

Lavender - This herb can be dried and used as a tea or bundle of aroma therapy!

CSA Week #11 - Can You Say Solanaceae?

Farm Update

We've been plugging away at farm chores this week in preparation for our upcoming trip out West to visit friends and family for a wedding. Seeds are in the ground and greenhouse, weeds are pulled and piled, and your farmers are pooped! If you happen to run into any farmer during the next month, give them a big hug and tell them it's going to be okay - Autumn is coming! 

We are currently in the process of recalibrating our priorities and business plans as we look ahead to next season. It has become clear to us that we need more structure in our life. With the diverse nature of the farm and the multitude of additional projects and responsibilities we have undertaken, we are finding ourselves spread a little too thin with a big lack of direction and purpose. Stay tuned for details, but know that major changes are coming for 2019 and Small Feat Farm/Caswell Farm. It's time to raise the bar in a big way and structure our life so that August does not become the death of us every year. Summers in Maine are fast and intense and it seems like everyone is begging for the heat to end and life to slow down by this time in the season. We want to find a way to embrace the seasonal life while keeping our sanity! 

A bouquet on its way to Page Boy Studio in Portland!

A bouquet on its way to Page Boy Studio in Portland!

Week #11 Veggies, Herbs, and Suggestion

Eggplant - This variety is called "Galine." It's a traditional Italian eggplant: thick and meaty. It is perfect for eggplant parm (here is a fantastic and easy recipe from Mario Batali: https://food52.com/blog/20533-mario-batali-s-quick-eggplant-parmesan) or cubing and adding to a stir-fry. One of my favorite meals lately is a warm tomato salad. In a deep sauce pan or shallow pot, heat some butter or olive oil. Chop and add one at a time: onion, garlic, eggplant (and any other vegetable you like). Add in some spices and few splashes of soy sauce or a thin balsamic vinegar. Let cook for a couple minutes. Cube a large tomato and add to pan. Let tomato cook down and then add a heaping pile of chopped chard/beet greens/kale along with a healthy pinch of salt. Allow greens to wilt and then turn stove off. Chop and add fresh basil, scallions, and halved sungold tomatoes; stir to combine. Serve in bowls with nuts, seeds, and/or cheese on top.

Fennel - This anise-flavored vegetable can be eaten raw (in thin slices), but is better roasted or sautéed. Grilled fennel is an excellent addition to salads, pizza, or as a side dish to most meats. Try adding it to the salad mentioned above.

Tomatoes - Primo and Brandywine varieties will be available this week. Primo (round red) toms are a classic slicing variety that will do just about any job required of a tomato. Brandywines (unusual and pink) are best savored unadulterated. The flavor and texture are so perfect...we prefer to enjoy these with herbs, some cheese, and a pinch of salt.

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes - everyone's favorite snack! I bet they don't make it all the way home ;)

Rainbow Chard - A nutritious and beautiful green, best eaten wilted because of it's funny raw texture.

Peppers - A variety of hot and sweet peppers will be available. If you're feeling overwhelmed with peppers, try pickling them or creating a pepper sauce by combining peppers, vinegar, salt, and spices in a food processor with onions and garlic. Play around until the ratios taste right to your tastebuds. 

Ailsa Craig Sweet Onion - A perfect onion for any occasion. Be sure to eat these relatively quickly as they are not cured and will not keep on the shelf for long.

Potatoes - Yukon Gold potatoes are such a yummy and easy-to-cook variety. They can be chopped and fried (try adding them to the salad recipe mentioned above, but make sure to add them with the onion and garlic first and cook them for a solid 5 minutes before adding other veggies), boiled, and baked! The skins are tender and the size modest, so they can be used a variety  of ways.

Summer Savory - This herb can be dried or used fresh much in the same way as thyme or oregano. It is one of the main herbs in the mix Herbs de Provence - if you're feeling feisty, try your hand at making it!

Lemon Balm - This a nerve-soothing herb and can be added fresh to tea blend, refreshing cocktail, or ice cream dessert. It can also be dried and made into tea.

Oregano - this is a classic culinary herb that can be used in most savory dishes. Use fresh or dry by hanging the bundle upside-down in a dry place.

Last week's CSA and the debut of tomatoes in the CSA!

Last week's CSA and the debut of tomatoes in the CSA!

Featured Flower

Scabiosa (Pincushion Mix) - Scabiosas are such a precious flower. The plants take a while to bloom but are generally productive well into October. The stems are long and strong and the petals delicate and colorful. The stamen add a lovely bit of texture and the mix hosts a large variety of colors! i love growing these and I think they add a nice touch to bouquets.

Adorable little scabiosas!

Adorable little scabiosas!

CSA Week #10 - This Too Shall Pass

This is the time of year when feelings of excitement about the farm and all its possibilities seems like a distant memory. Instead, excitement is felt when considering a chilly day in November...wrapped in a blanket waiting for a snow fall...farm beds laid to rest, weeds no longer growing, many months until my body will feel this much exhaustion again. 

I know it seems I have an obsession with the “seasonal life.” But when you live and work outside, the seasons rule everything. The ebb and flow of work and rest, set-backs and opportunities, hot and cold...they serve as a constant reminder that the only constant in life is change. Just when you think you have control over something or feel set in a routine, the Universe and Mother Nature conspire to remind who is really in charge. Answer: it’s not you. This is a challenging way to live, but ultimately the seasonal life has opened my eyes to a larger picture. It has taught me to let go of perceived control, be open to change and new opportunities, accept all things as fleeting. The heat will come and go, the flea beetles will come and go. Similarly, the bad days and sad days, euphoric days and hard days - they will come and go. Never permanent, always passing. Living in tune like this has helped me deal with a lot of life’s challenging situations. Any situation I’m dealing with at present needs to be dealt with and moved through, but it is not a lasting state - just like the month of August. My ability to be present in the situation and not get swept away by the emotional weight of “oh my god this is my life now!” will determine how focused I am in handling the situation and how emotionally intact I’ll be on the other side. 

Thank God for Dahlias! 

Thank God for Dahlias! 

This is the attitude I’m trying to carry with me this month: this too shall pass. While the weight of the world (or just the weight of the entire farm season) can easily overwhelm me as I look out at tired brassicas and tall grass, and feel all my sore muscles, I am trying to remember that this too shall pass; and the more focused I can be in my actions right now, the healthier the farm will remain and I will be more emotionally stable on the other side for whatever challenges arise next. 

We are gearing up for a little vacation in the next couple weeks, so we are busting our butts trying to get everything looking and feeling good before we take off. The next few days will entail a lot of weeding, turning over spent beds, and cutting back flowers so they continue to bloom through the fall. 

Join us for a casual pizza night at the farm this Sunday evening from 6 to 9pm. Bring toppings to share, your own beverages, and a layer for when the sun goes down. We are hoping to host regular pizza nights soon and want to get our systems down! Come help us get in the groove and test out the pizza before we start charging $$ ;) 

Snuck in some beach time this past weekend!

Snuck in some beach time this past weekend!

Week #10 Veggies, Herbs, and Suggestions

Tomatoes! - They're here! This variety is called Primo. It is a red slicing tomato with a mild flavor, but excellent shape and versatility. This is a great tomato for a salad, sandwich, soup, or pasta sauce. Keep tomatoes out of the fridge: if the temp is too cold, the tomato flesh starts to get starchy and the flavor suffers.

Cherry tomatoes - These sungolds are everyone's favorite! They are the perfect tomato for snacking, slicing into a salad, or enjoying with basil, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Ailsa Craig Sweet Onions - such a delicious and versatile onion: cooked, raw, pickled, or anything in between!

Rainbow Chard - This hearty green is wonderful when cooked down in a stir fry or soup.

Beet Greens - The color of this variety will leave you with no questions as to why it's called Bull's Blood. This has a similar texture to Chard and can be used identically.

Peppers - A mix of hot, sweet, and mild peppers will be available for your choosing!

Scallions - A perfect allium to add to any salad, soup, rice dish, taco, or dipping sauce for an extra crunch and flavor punch.

Basil - This green Genovese basil is perfect with tomatoes and some cheese.

Napa Cabbage - We love to make slaw with Napa Cabbage. You can make a vinegar-based slaw by mixing any number of chopped veggies with spices and a combination of red wine vinegar, balsamic, rice vinegar, and sesame or olive oil. Add lots of salt and let sit in the fridge for a few hours. A creamy slaw is also easy: combine mayo, yogurt, and/or sour cream with a little vinegar and spices and add to veggie mixture with some seeds or nuts for extra crunch.

Cucumbers - Refreshing, crunchy, and delicious!

Edible Flowers - A garnish to any dish or drink - or an integral part to a salsa or chimichurri!

Last week's CSA share (#9)

Last week's CSA share (#9)

Featured Flower

Tithonia Diversifolia (Mexican Sunflower) - This is such an attractive summer plant! It is easily over 4 feet tall with lush green leaves and velvet-soft stems. The bright orange flowers are picture-perfect and add a beautiful pop to the garden. They aren't great to work with in a bouquet, but they bring a smile to my face in the field and are pretty easy to grow.

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