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Showing posts from 2007

Howdy Friends!

When I was a sophomore at Northwestern University, I joined the college radio station. The airwaves of WNUR probably reached not much farther than the next dorm, but I still got a kick out of being in the broadcast booth and talking into the microphone.The downside was that fledgling DJ's were constrained to playing music only from the "easy listening" category. Every week before my show I would thumb hopefully through the designated shelf of LP's, (yes, I'm dating myself), only to find variations on Mitch Miller and/or the Swingle Singers (okay, I'm really dating myself!). I would sigh, make a few selections and hand them to my engineer as I headed into the booth. Now this was a time when in the music world, the British Invasion was in full swing. In the political world, the Civil Rights movement was cresting with "Women's Lib" not far behind. Folks headed to San Francisco with flowers in their hair (got the date yet?). I knew no one was list

Santa at the Farmers Market

Yessirree, the Farmers Market is very green in the month of December! The greens, however, as you may have guessed, are not edible. Almost the entire front section is filled with holiday wreaths, table arrangements, and decorations made from evergreens, embellished with seasonal ribbons and sparkle. It looks very colorful and festive and I saw smiling customers walking away with unique arrangements, created by an extended farming family in their "off time". It was a biting cold Saturday and I cruised quickly along the aisles in search of apples and cider. Many farmers had constructed little 3-sided tents to hold a bit of the heat generated by their propane heaters. In the old days, the heaters were called "salamanders"; they were fueled with kerosene, which made a nasty and ominous black smoke when something was about to go awry. Yes, I speak from experience. If you have been reading carefully, I assume you are about to ask: why would a heater be called a salamand

Thanksgiving

Nov. 22, Thanksgiving. Yesterday, last market. Today, first snow. A finality to the season, as the winter winds blow. Yet farmers have faith; farmers believe. So we covered the lettuce from tonight's chilling freeze. Because, well, you know, you never can tell, We just might get another warm spell! Then we'll snip up a batch of our greens and lettuce And give all our friends salad mix for Christmas!

Happy Hallowbirthdayween

I have a friend whose birthday is on Halloween. I'm not sure if it's a bonus or a deficit to share your birthday with an established holiday. There might be some extra expectations that just can't be met. F'rinstance, Ken has no choice but to share his birthday with St. Patrick's Day and a less Irish persona you never could meet. Nonetheless, much to his disinterest if not distaste, leprechauns and four-leaf-clovers keep showing up in his birthday cards; green beer jokes keep rearing their ugly heads. But for Tom, the Halloween birthday kind of works. He's a jack o'lantern smiley kind of guy who doesn't seem to mind sharing his limelight with one of America's more whimsical holidays. All the extra candy around doesn't hurt for a little extra birthday bonus. So what's Tom doing in the Frog Log? Well, after retiring from an intense career in commercial construction, Tom decided to slow down and dedicate a good portion of many days to the acti

Ritual

Twice a season, once very early in the Spring, and again very late in the Fall. Never easy or convenient, we pay penance to circumvent Mother Nature. In the garden we proceed solemnly down the rows, two by two, diaphanous white fabric billowing between our outstretched hands. A slow and deliberate cadence assures the fabric will unroll evenly, and placement of the cocoon-like material must be careful and precise; there is no gain in hurrying at this critical moment. As the filmy blankets waft down onto each leafy row, a rhythmic scraping sound follows: shovel in dirt, dirt tossed onto edge of fabric. And again. And again. Down the rows and back again, sealing cloth to earth. Row by row, we proceed on faith -- doing the most we can to protect the crops, accepting that it may not be enough. October 28, 2007 -- hard freeze tonight.

Food for thought

On Sept.26, our good friend and Farmer's Market neighbor, got busted. John Savanna, of Mill Pond Bakery,was told by a State of Michigan health inspector to take all of his unwrapped bread off of the market stall, and to destroy it by squirting dish soap all over it. The story made the front page of the Ann Arbor News and was followed up by Letters to the Editor from incensed Ann Arbor consumers that were 100 per cent in support of John. The News said that was a rarity; the follow-up letters are always mixed. So the story has received a lot of attention and I won't go into it any further. Read the Frog Log from May 25 for more about John's journey toward righteous bread-baking. Or better yet, eat some of John's bread. Yes, he is still selling bread at the market, but it all has to be bagged and he can only supply half of what he used to bake, as he needs so much time to bag the bread. So get a hunk of that bread. And a hunk it is. It's heavy, hearty and rich bro

Holler fest or folly?

Years ago, an acquaintance of mine started a newsletter. It was a fine little four or six-page newsletter, but the editor's column seemed to regularly dwell on how difficult it was to publish the newsletter. After reading various versions of this complaint, I found myself thinking, "Well, we didn't ask you to start this newsletter; it was your idea!" Okay, last month (August), we decided to celebrate our 35 years on the farm with a two-day festival called Holler fest. The fest is now one week away and there is a lot to do -- a lot to do. And we have already done a lot. It has been way more work than we anticipated, but then we would never have decided to do it if we had known how much work it would be! I know, you didn't ask us to hold a music festival; it was our idea. One of the abiding pleasures of being a family farm is working with my sons. One day, not long ago, we were stuck in the greenhouse transplanting hundreds, maybe more than a thousand, tiny l

strawberry fields....

Well, I don't know what the Beatles were thinking, (or smoking), but strawberry fields do not last forever. I'm a little embarrassed because I noticed that I was writing strawberry rants last year as well (see June Frog Log archives). And strawberry season is so over, what's the point of mentioning them? Well, I happened to hear Wes Parson, the Food & Wine columnist for the L.A.Times interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. Terri Gross asked him what produce item, besides tomatoes, which apparently they had already discussed, suffered the most from modern methods of growing and distributing. There was a longish pause and I just knew what he was going to answer. Yep -- strawberries! Mr. Parson went on to inform listeners that ripe strawberries truly cannot be shipped. Once he wanted to make a dish with ripe strawberries in the off season. He called all the specialty fruit producers he knew to find someone to send him fresh RIPE strawberries. No one would even talk to him!

See you at the market!

Last Saturday, two friends came by the market who hadn't been there in a long time. They live in Saline, which now has its own farmer's market, and they have generally chosen to forego the ten mile drive and city traffic that an Ann Arbor trip would involve. But they decided to take a little jaunt last Saturday and surprised me when they materialized in front of our stall. Paul reported that he had very little traffic to deal with, and was pleasantly surprised to cruise easily through the city streets. But as they approached the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market area, Paul and Maryanne said that street activity noticeably increased. Shoppers walked purposefully down the sidewalks toward the market; parents pushed strollers with baskets dangling from the handles; cars on the street jockeyed for parking places; the cityscape seemed to come alive. It was only 9:00 AM and over at the Farmer's Marlet, Ann Arbor was very much awake! Yes, the market had been jumping for almost tw
Cruising by the strawberry patch at the end of the day when I scooped up a red beauty and popped it in my mouth -- and stopped in my tracks. Now THAT was a strawberry. Believe me, I have spent hours crawling through strawberry patches, picked thousands of berries, tasted at least well into the upper hundreds. You would think I might be a little jaded. Or at least a bit cool toward these innocuous looking little fruits that take over my life and back for the month of June. But I really had to stop and just taste that berry. Somehow the perfect combination of springtime rains, sweet organic earth, afternoon sun, and essence of berry had conjoined to splash a sparkle of flavor across my tongue that deserved the silence and stillness of utter appreciation. In an extremely busy time for market gardening when strawberry picking becomes yet one more huge task in a day overfull with patches to tend and fences to mend, I appreciated the reminder to stop and savor the fruits of our labor. You
Many of you who have been around the Frog Holler web site or farm site, know that our roots go back to Indian Summer Natural Foods Restaurant, which began operating in 1972. Why a bunch of twenty-somethings with no previous experience thought they could start a restaurant remains a question that only can be answered by "youth", "idealism", "the times", or just plain foolishness. Somehow we got lucky and Indian Summer, for a few fresh and vibrant years, beamed a beacon of unpretentious high-quality natural food and down-to-earth friendliness to the Ann Arbor community. The restaurant's success and popularity was a magnet to many young people as they passed through town, heading toward other points on down their road of life. I have no doubt that stopping off at Indian Summer for a few shifts in the kitchen or at the tables changed the course of many of those yet unfinished itineraries. Case in point: A gangly youngster not too far out of high school s
And here's another good reason to garden! From Joy of Cooking: About Herbs "Confucius, a wise man, refused to eat anything not in season. Everyone who has tasted the difference between food served with fresh rather than dried herbs knows how wise he was. Few herbs can be bought in a fresh state at market, but the most important ones can be easily grown in a small sunny plot. We know, for we have grown and used all the culinaries in this section. Therefore, we beg you to exercise your green thumb at least on those whose evanescent oils deteriorate or almost disappear in drying. Chervil, borage, burnet and summer savory suffer the greatest losses. And those mainstays - chives, tarragon, parsley and basil - can never in their dry form begin to approach the quality of their fresh counterparts. Even the flavor of sage when fresh can be so delicate as to be almost unrecognizable." A few comments from the Frog Logger: 1. Twenty-five hundred years later, thanks to the Slow Fo
Another good reason to garden!: Working in Dirt Can Actually be Healthy (from Mercola.com) Exposure to certain forms of soil bacteria can boost the immune system, which can in turn improve mood as effectively as antidepressant drugs. Mice exposed to a benign soil microbe, Mycobacterium vaccae, performed better on a behavioral task commonly used to test the effectiveness of antidepressants. The mice were placed in water and observed to see how long they continued swimming before giving up. The mice who had been exposed to Mycobacterium vaccae continued swimming for a much longer time. These results are similar to those from a previous study, in which human cancer patients treated with the bacteria reported significant improvements in their quality of life. Researchers suspect that the microbes are affecting the brain indirectly by causing immune cells to release chemicals called cytokines, which stimulate the production of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin. The lead research