Full Life Farm Ethnographic Diary Week 13 Ending 11 April 2014

While the semester and my official learning experience through a farming internship are almost technically over, I am far from finished, and I don’t plan to stop learning for quite some time.  That’s counterproductive to my nature.  As life breathes through my veins, learning will continue wherever I am in the world, whether at another university, another country, or another farm and intentional community.  All of the above is about to happen.  As I have grown and learned from everything and everyone, this is my destiny.

For the first time in a while, Monday was too wet to work on the farm.  It rained most of the night and the previous weekend so the solution in times like this is to take my previous skills that relate to farming and food sustainability and use them to benefit the farm.  Back when I began interning at Full Life Farm, I mentioned my love of fermentation and home made bread using sourdough starter, and Paul mentioned the excess wheat berries that he has.  So I took those skills and the experience from the previous bread I made a few weeks ago and improved on the recipe and the baking. It came out beautifully and Paul loved it.  He also received another big bag of wheat berries so there will be more bread to make soon and there may even be a regular supply of wheat berries for the farmers’ market.

For those that are not aware, I am a little obsessed with fermented foods and have several books and recipes that I have tried at one time and another.  This obsession began when I realized I could not find the bread I wanted locally and wanted to recreate the bread that was delivered on the motor cart in front of my Nonni’s (Grandparents’) house when I visited Italy each time with my family. I decided to learn how to bake my own bread like my ancestors before me did, with sourdough starter and without yeast.  With no previous regular baking experience, I decided to do it just like that.  It took six months to have something that I could actually present to others proudly as my own.  That was August of 2010. I have been doing it ever since.  And the starter?  That’s my own.  I started it out of just proportioned water and flour.  I didn’t buy it from a San Francisco supplier or some other place that sells dehydrated starters for home bakers.  I will continue to make more fermented foods as my interest in fermentation science continues, and I will eventually create my own ginger beer, hard apple cider and even beer. Fermentation is so simple to do, letting nature do what it does best, and extremely healthy for digestion.

On Wednesday, the Chickens’ Hoop house needed to be moved and adjusted as part of the construction of the chickens’ great wall to adjust them to newer and much larger and diverse grazing.  Moving them to new grazing also will allow Paul and Terra to begin growing and planting food for the chickens’ (perhaps sunflowers?) and human sustainability.  On a sustaining farm that understands and accepts me as a vegan, discussion does turn to my decisions and Paul’s and Terra’s on occasion.  Moving the chickens’ hoop house this week gave us such an opportunity with Terra arguing from the position that it is humane to kill your own animals for food as contrast to factory farming that goes and is even more cruel and inhumane and torturous to those souls.  I respect Paul and Terra and what they are doing and I can accept this argument from them as their position, but I don’t agree with it overall so I can only argue my point to an extent.  Moving to the farm to live (down the road at another farm that is also animal-eating), work part time, and to learn as a vegan prior to arriving has served to solidly cement my position as a vegan activist.  I was a vegan prior to this, but being on the farm, knowing the animals as living souls and seeing them on a plate in the kitchen made that connection for me, and I avoid those occasions as often as possible. My niece Dani loves animals as much as I do and used to live on a farm but has not made this connection yet.  Even with chickens’ laying eggs, it is their biological need to nurture and when those eggs are taken from them, the frantic activity that results causes them stress.  It is a balance of decisions that happen in life.  On the other hand, there is Terra’s argument about vegan clothing that is petroleum based that is harmful to the environment.  It is a decision that has to be made every day.  For me on most occasions, I try to buy used, reused, refurbished items but that isn’t always practical.

Finally finishing the Chicken Hoop quarters, Paul and I left for the Haven to weed the pea beds (planted later in the season than he would have liked due to the birds digging the ground for food) and install posts and a fence for the peas to vine.  Like all vine-like plants such as tomatoes among others, the peas will find the fence and climb accordingly.  Biology and instinct in the plant and animal kingdom is still utterly fascinating to me.  Before ending my day, I assisted Paul in weeding and furrowing further ground beyond the peas so that Paul could plant beets, carrots, and turnips.

Friday was an important day but not in terms of recording it here.  The day began at the Haven helping Paul, Terra, and a few friends picking Austrian Winter Pea tendrils for greens.  Apparently the peas of these are not edible but the green tendril ends are if picked in time (and they are delicious).  But it isn’t just used for greens.  Remember in earlier posts, I mentioned using everything so that nothing goes to waste?  This is no different.  The Austrian Winter pea is also used as a cover crop to prevent soil from washing away and to prevent plant-weeds from taking over completely. It was also Friday so the eggs were washed as well.  The market is also opening next weekend so this weekend was Farm Tour Day so the remain time at Full Life was spend organizing a space that I have come to love over the last few months for a few hundred visitors to see the space that Paul, Terra, and Zinnia call Home.

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