Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sprout Anniversary

This week marks two years since I started growing and selling sprouts to the co-op.   I have come a long way since then.  I  can now recognize one sprout seed mix from another. I've learned the specific challenges of growing during  hot, humid summer and during cold, dry winter.  I have developed a pretty efficient and reliable system.  A dedicated sprout-growing room. Three wholesale organic seed suppliers.  A fancy scale and lots of other sprout-growing gear.  Restaurant customers.  I'm growing 20+ pounds of sprouts a week.  That doesn't sound like much, but it adds up -- it's more than half a ton of sprouts a year!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Big Unveiling

Yesterday was a fun and slightly nerve-wracking event--the official unveiling of my painting at the dedication of the Intercultural Mutual Assistance (IMAA) building.  IMAA is a nonprofit organization that helps new immigrants to our community learn the ropes of American culture, from learning how to navigate banks, schools, medical care and housing, to finding a job, to becoming citizens.

I was asked to create a painting that represented the bridging of cultures and celebrated diversity, and I interpreted this idea pretty literally. I experimented with some new techniques--the faces are carved in deep relief and  the river and bridge are textured. The golden stars and copper hearts in the river represent the dreams and hopes and passions of the people.
The IMAA building was being dedicated to  the founder of IMAA, Robert (Bob) Jones III, but I did not know very much about Mr. Jones until yesterday.   Here, IMAA Director Ron Buzard is introducing Bob, the man with the kind face seated to his right.

After serving for years in Viet Nam, Bob returned home and wanted to help people from Southeast Asia who were living in refugee camps.  He worked with Catholic Charities, first  sponsoring Cambodian refugees in Rochester and helping them transition to American life. (I wish I had taken notes about all the amazing things Bob accomplished.) This program eventually grew into IMAA.
Bun-ly Suy was the very first Cambodian refugee to arrive in Rochester and was one of several people who reminisced about how Bob Jones had mentored them and helped them learn both the small and big things they needed to know about living here. Little things, like when it is appropriate to chew gum and that when you are  done, you put it in the wrapper and throw it in the garbage can - not on the ground as was done in Cambodia, because there was no garbage service there. And bigger things, like how to find an apartment, shop for groceries and apply for a job. Bun-ly said that there is an old Cambodian saying: "Do as I teach, not as I do," but Bob taught him he must instead lead by example and that every immigrant must live in a way that the door would not be closed to future immigrants.  After he was mentored by Bob, he was hired to teach new Cambodian immigrants all the things he had learned from Bob, and they worked in partnership for many years.
Kieu-Oanh Vu arrived in Rochester from Viet Nam as a nine-year old girl and recalled a few of the funny things she learned from Bob as a young girl, such as the first time she saw white sugar falling from the sky; Bob told her about snow and warned that it would be cold, and he was right. She talked about some of the other ways Bob has touched our community - such as starting the Rochester International Association.  He launched many innovative refugee programs, including one for widowed Asian women and their children and one for Amer-Asian children of U.S. soldiers.

It is obvious that Mr. Jones has had  an incredible impact upon the lives of not just the speakers, but the HUNDREDS of people who showed up to thank and honor him.  From the time we arrived, half an hour before the event,  there was an interminable line of people waiting to thank Bob personally for the  impact  he has made on their lives. 

Bob spoke last and recognized the many volunteers who have helped IMAA grow to be the amazing organization it is now and the immigrants themselves who have become integral community members.  Bob is battling cancer and spends much time at the Mayo Clinic, where he says he is heartened to see people of all nationalities working in every type of position at the clinic, nearly all of whom have benefited from IMAA.
Finally, Ron proclaimed that the IMAA building would from now on be known as the Robert (Bob) Jones III Building and he presented a plaque and a canvas print of my painting to Bob.
Here is my painting at the entrance of the Bob Jones Building.  One item of note:  this  building was the first green building built in Rochester!  Altho it is a wonderful sustainable building, it is a bit non-descript on the outside.  If nothing else, my painting adds a vibrant  punch of color--and the large image can be understood from the road, helping to tell the story of  what goes on inside.

I am so honored to be have been invited to create this artwork and I am so delighted that it got such a positive reception!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How to Start the Weekend Off Right

No better way to launch a weekend than with  French Toast made with eggs  just laid by your own chickens and maple syrup made from the sap of your own tree!
There! Fueled up, ready to do chores and get to work on the granary!
But we'll take time to smell the flowers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snow with a Chance of Spring Color

Mother nature is toying with us --giving us  a thunder-hailstorm on the first day of spring, followed by incredible winds.
Cadence has been home for two weeks (whenever I tried to take her photo she made goofy faces, so --natural consequences!-- I am posting one.)  Yesterday morning I drove her to the airport to fly out to school in Maine. It was snowing sloppy snow and blowing; the roads were icy and a bit scary- at least 40 cars in the ditch - but we drove slowly. She didn't miss her plane--it was delayed for hours and her next two connections were cancelled, so she was re-routed to Pittsburgh, where she ended up sleeping in the airport when that connection was cancelled. Joys of traveling.  It has been wonderful having Cadence  home and we miss her already!
This morning I was  a bit dismayed to  find a very snowy landscape when I got up. The air was rather brisk, but at least the sun was out. By afternoon, large swaths of snow had melted. If you look closely, you can see a hint of GREEN!
I took advantage of the sun and delicious breeze to wash the bedding and hang it out to dry. It is going to smell so heavenly crawling into bed tonight!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Dairy Farm

Our dairy farming neighbors kindly gave Cadence access to their entire farm to take photos last weekend. Here are a few of my favorites from her work - some will give you a glimpse of what farmers have to contend with during the muddy season!

Monday, March 21, 2011

On Our Way!

Rog and I just appeared before the Township Planning Board, which was considering our application to  open a farm store in our granary this spring.  The idea is that the farm store will sell our farm products (veggies, herbs, eggs, flowers, meat), my art and the work of other local artists and artisans, as well as other locally-made sustainable products and a few "profound objects" (antiques and collectibles.)  We plan to be open on weekends, spring through fall. 

The Township Board meets in a classic little building, the Kalmar Town Hall (it's where we vote - note the curtained voting booths in the background) and is comprised of a bunch of down-to-earth,  nice guys like you might expect to live on neighboring farms.  I was a bit nervous about whether our Conditional Use Permit application would be approved, but after a brief discussion,  it passed unanimously. It was especially nice that a neighbor we had never met, but who had received the public hearing notice, spoke in favor of our plan. 

So, our first big hurdle is over!  Once we get the building wired and set up it will have to pass inspection by the Building Inspector.  We have to contract for a port-a-potty. And we have LOTS of  finish work, landscaping, signage, merchandising, advertising and artist recruiting to do yet.  April will be crazy busy for our planned opening in May! 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Solar-Powered Syrup and Other Signs of Spring

The sap is running like crazy in our two  big silver maples.  We have collected over 20 gallons of sap from them in six 5-gallon buckets today.  Silver Maple sap is half as concentrated as Sugar Maple sap, so it takes 60 gallons to make one gallon of syrup. Silver maple syrup is very light, with a slight vanilla flavor. If we have two more days like this, we should be able to make a gallon of yummy maple syrup!
Two years ago we  boiled the syrup down on a wood fire. It turned out very smoky.  Last year, we boiled it down in a large  roasting pan over an LP gas tank flame--very costly for the fuel, but worked great.  This year, I am experimenting with an induction hot plate that purports to be 89% efficient (the heat heats only the pan, not the surrounding air.) Our electricity during daylight hours comes from twelve solar PV panels on the roof of our barn, so I guess we can call this solar syrup.  Rog has a Kill-a-Watt meter hooked up to determine the electricity usage of the induction hot plate  to verify whether it is really any more efficient. I like that we can set it at a specific temperature and it won't  boil over.  One downside, the pan is smaller than the large roaster we used before, so we can't boil as much at one time.
With warmer temps the  snow is melting fast and it is SO MUDDY. Not only does a large percentage of that mud get tracked into the house by  pets and people, it is kind of ugly out. So this afternoon, I spent hours power-washing the patio, and then  spreading pea gravel by the entrance, creating a mud buffer between driveway and house. This is the "after" photo. I think the last time that green metal patio furniture appeared in a blog post the snow was up to the table top!  Of course you can't see the two snowbanks I cropped out of the photo.
One reason it is so muddy is that in December they  trenched  all over the yard to connect the  solar panels to the  main power pole and to bring electricity to the granary. As the contractors were doing that, it was snowing heavily, so you can't entirely blame them, but now as it is melting there are sneaky, deep trenches under the snow. I cannot tell you how many times I have suddenly plunged into the  depths of a hidden  trench while innocently going out to feed the chickens.  It is also a major source of the incredible mud in our yard this spring.
Other  great  signs of spring: rhubarb is poking through!
The large purple drumstick alliums are poking through!
Apple tree buds are swelling!
And even a peony bud has burst through the ground!

Hallelujah! Spring is  almost here!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Music To Our Ears

It has been a lovely  melting day, with the slight downside of extreme muddiness.  Cadence and I just  returned from an evening walk around the big loop.  As we approached home, the moon was rising and we were enveloped in a chorus of red-winged blackbird song--my favorite spring sound.  To top it all off, their music was punctuated by the chirrup of robins! Spring is almost here.  Life is good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Melting!

A Few Faces of Guatemala

After going through  photos from my Guatemala trip last year, I couldn't resist adding a few photos of some of the Mayan people I met and photographed in the central highland villages.