Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Family Feats

; )

Damien, Nicolas' brother, is a photographer at Newsweek. Though his photos have been on the international Newsweek cover before, this week marks his first American cover. Without getting political here (though I am an Obama fan) I will just say that I love that arugula is on the cover and we imagine the mug of beer to be Belgian, like its photographer:
Congratulations Damien!

In other family news, my father, an actor, often works for Fark TV - a group that does comic take-offs on what is happening in the news or at the movies.
This first one is called "O.J. Eleven". My father is in the Bobby Riggs-like wig playing Pete Rose:

Below are links to a few of my favorites, all of which have my father in them:

"Gay Miracle on Ice"

"No Country for Little Men"

"Celebrity Softball - Lobbyists Versus Potheads"

"George Clooney In the E.R."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday Farm Photos

Jesse's farm day started with wages earned for tomatoes that he had transplanted. They had been sold as potted plants at Saturday's market. With nine dollars in his formerly empty pocket, Jesse was easily game for Papa's proposed project of the day - transplanting small tomato plants into even bigger pots. Once these plants are established as big container residents they can then be sold as rustic decoration/tomato provider for a city dweller's front porch.Gillen is pointing to the part of the plant that will be above the dirt. By planting them deeply they will will establish more roots.
Jesse transplanted my favorite heirloom tomato - "Black Krim".
I collected lots of root vegetables and a mixture of salad leaves for dinner tomorrow with my father, and Bhu! My sister is coming from Montana.
This is how we dry the lettuce on the farm - in our old washing machine, on the spin cycle. Man do I wish that had been the way when I was the salad-mix farm wench. Hand spinning a salad spinner for a few hours will make you appreciate life on the prairie.
While waiting for the spin cycle to finish, I decided to try a few more self-portraits. My local friends had insisted that I look nothing like those other recent first attempts at taking my own picture. Having seen the crazy-haired, wrinkled farm-frau in today's pictures, I have to agree. Even Gillen told me not to post them here. Now that I see the difference, I have a new wish to make with my magic quartz crystal - I wish to walk around all day bathed in that setting-sun porch light. I've said it often and I reconfirm it in a vain vein (?) today: lighting. really. is. everything.

(I hope I haven't lost the farmers) -

Here is Nicolas spraying his tomato plants with Neem oil - which comes from an Indian tree and is great to use against aphids, white flies and other soft-bodied insects:Is there really room for self-portraits when there are vegetables as pretty as this? These are a mixture of "Pink Beauty" and "Cherry Belle" radishes.
The asparagus (one of the few left for the year) right before Nicolas power-weeded this bed.
Here are the onions back in the middle of March:Today:
I caught the roosters rehearsing a synchronized (maybe a military maneuver?) dance. Do they sense their imminent demise? Are they "raging against the dying of the light"? sigh. I don't look forward to it either.

Farm roosters: I may love your gelatin-rich, life-sustaining broth, and despise your loud and macho ways. But I wish that we could wait for you to die in your sleep.

The ladybugs are everywhere again, as is the beautiful Hairy Vetch.

Glover Family Farm Photos

Monday photos this week have to start with those from Skip and Cookie Glover's farm, where we attended a Slow Food event yesterday. Skip's family has been farming on this land for generations. It is a beautiful piece of land that has a deep-country feel yet is only minutes away from lots of organic-loving suburban customers. If you can finagle that set-up, it is a good way to get customers to come to you so that you can stay on the farm and out of the delivery van. Skip only started farming full time in his fifties and has accomplished so much since then - especially in terms of helping immigrants and in education. This really inspiring article talks about how he and Cookie once helped Aboriginals while living in Australia, that Skip was once the head of Georgia Organics, and it details their more recent work with Heiffer International, and with local Asian communities. Despite seeing them at the Morningside Market every week in those initial years (they ended up choosing not to stay certified organic, even though they have always and will always farm organically) and meeting up with them at conferences, we had never been to their farm.

Here's Joe - One of our farm's best employees of all time. Joe is also the most patient, good-natured, mellow guy you'll ever meet (could it be true what they say about meat? He doesn't eat it...... nah, he was born that way). Anyway, Joe is now taking over as the primary farmer for the trying-to-retire Glovers. We arrived yesterday in the middle of his farm tour.

Here is Skip at the raffle. He decided to come up to the mike to reassure whomever won his very old and valuable bottle of scotch that despite the possible signs of a mouse having eaten part of the box, it was still untouched. He was only giving it up because it was given to him by his son's ex-wife. Gotta love Skip.

He has twenty bee hives (he has cut down from fifty) and reassured me that he has never used antibiotics against mites, nor anything else for that matter. Hmmm. I may be emboldened to find a screen bottom but not do any natural mite prevention.

Once the food was on our non-disposable (pretty impressive at an outdoor event with 200 people) plates, every single one of the many Latin-spiced dishes was soooo good that I would have paid more. I talked too much and didn't even get to the beer before it ran out, and this with a decision having been made that I would have a rare chance not to be the designated driver that night ... yes the food was so good that I didn't even steal Nicolas' beer (or overly shame him for not filling one for me).

The kids savored it as well. Though not slowly, they ate every bit of food on their overloaded plates. They were eager to return to the baddest, longest zip-line they had ever seen.I love the cowboy on the right. I really do. And he is loving himself in that hat that Gillen bought for his own self at the festival on Saturday.

Regular ol' Monday farm photos still to come (after a brief pause to eat very local food and to give up the computer to some local authors and Zoo Tycoons).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Inman Park Festival

After spending a few hours at the Morningside Farmers Market this morning, we went to the annual Inman Park Festival, held in the neighborhood where, 15 years ago, Nicolas and I slung hash (as my Grandmother Simone would derisively call our work as waiters), and fell in love. We looked today for the first house I lived in there and it had burned to the ground. But there was no time to be nostalgic. There was a gourmet lunch to be had at Shaun's, an amazing Inman Park restaurant where Nicolas sells his vegetables, and we had an indescribable (though I'll try) parade to watch.

This is an equal opportunity festival - as exhibited by the range of characters we saw on our way to Shaun's. There was a fundamentalist calmly, but unrelentingly, extolling us to read our bibles:And a witch made her way towards our path, where she silently fell in synch. with two red-headed Weasley types in matching sweaters.

Looking at the special festival menu at Shaun's:
We get so excited when the farm is mentioned on a menu! It's in the appetizers - the arugula on flatbread with shaved cheese (it says ricotta but it is usually parmesan) So good:

Full of good food and drink, we ran to find our usual spot to watch the parade (except for years when soccer games have taken precedence -I'm unashamedly happy to be on soccer hiatus) in front of our friend Terry's house. Terry has a security bull horn with which he announces upcoming parade sights. These floats, marching bands and acts beg for some explanation. Though there were some regular old talented high school marching bands, a Chinese dragon, a local Brownie troop and floats about local schools pushing for peace, or going green - these were the only usual parade sights.

The "Marching Abominable" band led the parade. I kept looking at some of these people and imagining what they normally look like, say on their way to work. Don't you love observing a regular guy on the bus and wondering if this(or maybe lounge singing, Civil War reenactment, horror movie directing, or stripping) could be his other life?

At one point, a horn player in front of me, looking anxious about her instrument's weight, slowly let her arm fall, and then, let her body fall, following her horn, face down, to the ground:
Actually, all of the "Abominables" fell into a deep sleep, for several minutes, before they were revived by a few musicians with wands. It was something!

Yes, Jesse, there is, after all, a tooth fairy:

Here is that sweet brownie troop, to bring you back to earth. I was that red-headed Brownie pictured here towards the right, many moons ago in Boston. I remember being at Brownies the day we pulled out the troops from Vietnam. Will these girls be at Brownies on the day we leave Iraq? Lets hope they aren't already Girl-scouts (I walked over the "girl-scout bridge" in some ceremony but never did follow up).

A few peace floats later, we had the Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin.

And then it was back to colorful, creative, crazy Inman Park Festival business as usual. If you have time, you really should click on these below and take a closer look:
As I said, equal opportunity prevailed. The kids got frisbees from a Presbyterian church, "go-green" disks, candy from the politicians (lots of those), and the pieces of wooden boards that the Karate school split with their hands in front of them.

Thankfully, they didn't notice the condoms that were thrown to we grown folks from the Planned Parenthood car (or they might have thought they were gum or a lollypop and tried eating them ;).

There was so much more - roller derby girls, Trees Atlanta, who conserve and plant trees), sequined, high-heeled show girls, and the young "in-training abominable marching band", Harry Potter fans... But it is time to sleep now, as tomorrow is another day of play away from our simple surroundings - this time at a Slow Food Event at a farm.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Portraits (part 2)

Our homeschool playgroup came back to the farm today, for Andrea to finish taking her portraits of the moms and for everybody to get to collect crystals. I'd like to spend as much time there as possible before it gets hot (any minute now). However, despite having a great time there yet again, frolicking with friends in the creek, the mud (and even in the decomposed compost) Jesse's habitual response to "let's go to the farm" will continue to keep he and I from being there too often. He thinks he would rather eat nails (well, technically, he'd say "eat eggplant"). This feeling of his in turn keeps me from burning out on the farm experience. Because truly, I wouldn't want to start having permanently cracked, black nails, irritation at the farmer being my boss, constant vertigo from bending over, freezing cold hands from washing greens in the winter, serious swooning from the heat in the summer, even more freckles, MIL overkill (Helen is great but no one wants too much of a great thing), and no energy left for other parental and creative pursuits - all of which was true when I was, for three long years, a real farmer's wife.

But I digress.

Here is Andrea taking my portrait (while I take hers) :Isn't she beautiful? I have better ones of her but I want to show them to her first.

I stuck with my normal, crazy, curly hair. It is more me. Plus, I really didn't feel like blow drying it this morning.

Many of the kids believed that the crystals held magical properties. Three-year-old Hazel hoped that she would be able to use hers to shrink down to three inches.I overheard a nine-year-old and a four year old discussing together how they would use their magic - both wanted to do whatever they wanted, whenever. I think I'd use my magic crystal to bring people I am missing to me.

What would you do?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Staying Close to Nature

Nicolas and the boys went to meet my father tonight at a Braves game.

I stayed home to catch up on stuff (as if that's possible) and to enjoy the quiet. Plus, the truth is, I am still a Red Sox fan and don't get so excited about the Braves.

I listened to Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food [yes, I did write down the wrong book title last night, if anyone is returning here. I am that unaware at times:>/ ], while I cleared out the kids' closets. I liked his Omnivore's Dilemma better, but that may because I had already heard a lot of what he is talking about in "Defense of Food" through the Weston Price information. One part of his message is - don't decide what to eat based upon the advise of the nutritionists (who so often are wrong - due to lots of factors that he talks about) but rather, pick your food based on the common sense of what your ancestors and you, knew/know to be true - lots of fruits and vegetables are a good thing, eat meat and dairy more sparingly, and savor your food rather than thinking of it as nothing but a source of fuel. Stay as close to the food's natural state as possible; avoid processed food.

I was so lucky to learn much of this from my mother-in-law, Helen, starting 15 years ago when I first met Nicolas. I had been one of those who avoided too much fat and thought that processed foods were fine if they had the right labels. I lost 20 pounds as a result of switching to organic food and quitting my low-fat diet.

But I know that those who read here may know all this. What I wanted to talk about today are my boys, and how inspired I am to trust nature (rather than the "experts") by watching them joyfully exploring and learning. They both woke up with lots of creative energy this morning. They each chose to write, right away, for at least an hour on the computers. They are both writing books. Gillen drew an Iris and finished his first crocheted bag to sell at the market.
Jesse made more cards for his game.The fact that they chose all of this was not unusual but was highlighted today by an unnatural learning experiment I tried last week, while helping Jesse with his project for the online "Road Less Traveled" science fair. The online fair was great (for them as well) despite my interference. And I once again learned about learning. They had both said that they wanted to write something for it on their blogs. Jesse wanted to write about pandas and Gillen wanted to write about why "organic" is better. Great. Except that when I was in the library that week, helping Jesse look for a kids' cookbook, I happened upon the science fair book section (who knew), and all that expert advise seemed way better than my common sense. I checked out the whole section. I'd never been to a science fair. The experiments, and the book covers, were so exciting. I looked through them with Jesse and encouraged him to choose one. His old love of dinosaurs and of everything that goes with that period prompted him to choose a puzzle of all of the continents that would show how they might have fit together when they were Pangea. Sounded fun. I got the big map of the world off of the wall and gave him tracing paper and a pencil. It was while I was preparing dinner for those visiting documentary film makers last week that he chose to do the tracing. He kept running into the kitchen, interrupting whatever conversation was happening with a rushed "excuse me, but you won't believe it!" And then he would describe to me what he had figured out about which continents had the same shorelines.

Days later, I was showing him how to transfer the tracings to white paper (since I have only dark cardboard that won't show his pencil marks if he tries to transfer the continents onto it). After just one continent, he was mooooaning. I helped him, but he continued with dramatic whimpering. I was also helping Gillen who was happily searching online for links to add to his project. Jesse's project had become a chore, busy work, a list of things still to do to finish the instructions in the hallowed science fair book. He had already experienced the exciting moments of seeing the connections, days ago. I was too busy knocking things off my list to just let it be. I finished the tracing and the cutting and he sat down with the paper continents to try to make a puzzle. Nothing connected. Not the pieces and not the mental light bulbs.

Finally, I stopped running around and sat down. We looked at the wall map and talked. It was fun. We went off on tangents about why there are boundaries between places, why if Europe is so small it "conquered" so much of the world, where we want to visit, or live someday, on this big planet of ours. I realized how sidetracked I had gotten, from what I know to be true, by some higher science fair experiment authority. I also saw how miserable I would be at the assigned homework thing, if they were in school.

"By nature people are learning animals. Birds fly; fish swim; humans think and learn. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do - and all we need to do - is to give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for, listen respectfully when they feel like talking, and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest." John Holt

Happy Earth Day.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Farm Photos

The Red Flint heirloom corn that we seeded in trays last Monday was already big enough to transplant into the ground. Jesse got some tender enrolling from Papa. Once he started planting, getting to talk to us and to take long breaks from planting, he was less reluctant about hanging with us in the field.
When you look at the seedlings up close you can see the ruby red seed from which it emerged. I was up close and personal with many of these plants today, actually taking my low blood pressure issue in hand and helping to get the corn in the ground.

Some of the tinier plants in the greenhouse.

At the end of the planting came the watering, which in turn (due to a soon-to-be-fixed leak) made a luscious mud bath, which in turn created a great excuse to be hosed off by Gillen (as much fun for Jesse as it was for the anticipatory, hose-wielding sibling here).

Gillen's four-day old poults are doing well. He added a bunch of hay into the other turkeys' enclosure to give them a better nest. He is hoping that Cody is not just taking dust baths (my guess) but is actually sitting on eggs.

At the end of the day, Gillen brought home the most mature sunflower seedlings to the "backyard farm" in our yard.
We are having trouble getting our tiller fixed so the rest of this (more local) farm is on hold.