Mott Family Farm

  (Salesville, Ohio)
Choosing the Simple Life
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Blog has moved!

We have a new website!  For now on, all blog entries will be posted at:  mottfamilyfarm.com.

 

Thank you for your time!  Happy Harvest,  

 

Shelley 

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A Good Year

We hope you have enjoyed the partnership with us this season! The CSA concept greatly empowers small farms while providing its customers with top-quality food. Each year we learn more and and are more successful growing the multiple varieties we like to see on our plate. Thank you for the foresight to invest in local organic farming! We gave our all this year in the heat and drought. God blessed the work of our hands as we honored Him and pray that you were blessed as well with health, strength, joy, delicious meals, culture, inspiration, hope and faith. It has been our privilege to serve you.

                              ~The Mott Family (Jeff, Shelley, Joel (13), Jeremiah (10), Simeon (3) and Caroline (intern)

 PS - in lieu of an evaluation form this year, please send/email suggestions and comments as to how to serve our CSA customers better...

*Don't forget the Harvest Party Oct. 17!!

*We will contact you in the Winter with info about CSA 2011. Stay warm and bundled!!

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Seasonally Sound

It wasn't until we moved to Ohio that I really learned about seasons. In Southern California it is either "hot and dry" or "cool and dry," and completely deprives the senses that marks this passage of time. If you're living off the land, understanding seasonal eating is crucial to survival. 

I have a funny story: when I was in college, I used to buy my favorite red apple recognizing it by the price (most expensive). I didn't know the name of it, of course, but when apple season came around and prices leveled out, I could no longer identify my apple and was perturbed at the produce department for changing the prices on me. They thought I would appreciate the lower prices, but really, I didn't. I was "seasonally illiterate" and a consumer snob out of ignorance. I mention this because just the other day, someone asked for cherries at our market, and I had to temper my tone of voice as I explained that "cherries are really only ready in this area in late May/early June" to the subdued and uninterested reply of "oh". I stared at her because I realized --I used to be just like her.

But I will close now, musing about Fall, my favorite season of the year--having been educated by farming and experiencing life in four seasons: Fall means: apple cider, butternut squash soup, pumpkin spice lattes, college football (Go Bruins), first frosts, hay rides, pumpkin festivals, warm sweaters, crunchy leaves, gray skies, wind blowing, vacation (finally), studying with the boys, and down time with the family. And of course, apples.

For whatever Fall means to you, enjoy the seasonality and taste of its season.

                                                              -Shel

 
 

Season's Reflections

As we close down the season, we look back with thankful hearts upon the bountiful harvests of tomatoes, peaches and potatoes. Everything fared reasonable well, and was in general 2 weeks ahead of time which gave us a good start to crops early on. Even with the low water supply, the tomatoes still survived and put forth their beauteous display of colors. We missed the fall crop of raspberries because they shriveled up like raisins on the bushes in the extreme heat and "drought" this summer. We lost two of our baby goats to a coyote (or bear?) that dragged them into the woods off our property. With our hard-working Amish girls (Lydia and Cena) and our intern (Caroline) taking care of business on the farm, we were able to take a small break in the mountains. With my parents here for most of the summer we were able to juggle swimming, play dates and watching Simeon while away at markets. We ate extremely well and made new friends at the markets in Pittsburgh, bartering for goods such as artisan smoked meats, pates, and babaganouj. Most of all, we were able to provide life-giving nutrient-dense food to you, our partners in the 2010 season--we appreciate you for walking with us, eating and supporting organic food and a local, small family farm. We hope you have enjoyed this year as much as we have!!

**Don't forget to come to the Harvest Party!**

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Back to My Roots

If I look just two generations back, I'd find my roots planted firmly on a farm. My grandfather left Japan in the early 1900's, sold into slavery to South America. Through an amazing chain of events he eventually made his way (escaped) to Orange County, California back when it was still orange groves and farmland. He was a successful berry grower alongside neighbor Mr. Knott, of the now-famous Knott's Berry Farm. When the depression hit, he moved his wife and newborn son (my father) to farmland outside of Chicago, growing for a Japanese landlord and Asian markets. He eventually grew peppermint and spearmint for entrepreneurs such as Mr. Wrigley and was savvy enough to eventually purchase his own piece of Indiana soil. During World War II, his land and family were "under surveillance" by the US government, but because of the good word of neighbors and the white community around them, they did not lose their farm or possessions, as did their West Coast Japanese cousins. 

Today, my uncle still lives and farms on that land--and my cousin, Beth, grows organically and sells at the Chicago Green City Market. And I realize that even though I was raised in the city and love the city, I am essentially truly returning to my roots as we make our living off the land. I hope that one day my grandchildren would tell such grand, illustrious stories as I have been able to tell from generations past.

 
 

Our Wonderful Exchange Student

Mitsu, our Japanese exchange student, left a few weeks ago. He experienced quite the action-packed 4 weeks here on the farm! Coming straight from Tokyo, Mitsu was not used to long hours of hard labor. It took him a few days to get our routine down, but once he realized that every day was full of hard, outside work, he settled in and picked many of the tomatoes you've been consuming! I only wish I had asked him to write a newsletter while he was here. We're all curious to know his impressions. I know he enjoyed all the organic food he could eat! Platters of tomatoes, peaches, and cucumbers were part of most meals. Swimming, the Ohio State Fair and a dizzying Pittsburgh market rounded out his stay! Hopefully, he was able to experience a slice of our busy lives, taste some of the fruit of his labor, and bring home some fond memories of life on a farm in America. Sayonara, Mitsu!
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Water, or lack thereof

As much as we brag about living "off the grid", there are some obvious downsides. We have pretty much taken care of our power issues. The solar panels and wind generator power up our lights, computer and other electronic "toys." The upside is we have no power or water bills. The downside is, when there is a problem, we have to fix it ourselves! And the water, when there's been no rain has been the ultimate challenge--or shall we say character builder??

Even while growing up in the SF Bay Area during 10 years of drought, I could still turn on the faucet and water would come on. But here on the farm, living off our spring water, once the spring stops running--we have no water. Miraculously there actually is still a trickle, so overnight, some will collect in the cistern, and we can do a little cooking and washing of hands. If we are extra meager, or if no one is home most of the day, we can eek out a shower or 2. Good thing we still have our outhouse!

So pray for more rain, as the crops are definitely feeling the crunch--there is a huge decline in production as the crops are struggling to survive. We will do our best to finish the season out strong...but this is one of the risk factors shared with our CSA members: weather and crop failures, blights and bumper crops--we're in this together!

Thanks for all your enthusiasm and support! Enjoy the beautiful fall weather!

                                                                         --Shel

 
 

To Market To Market

I must share with you another of our intern's delightful blog entries. She's living life to the fullest with us on the farm, and is giftedly able to put it in words. Here's one to describe our market experiences:

"To Market To Market" by Caroline Hiteshew

 I feel in my element at the farmers markets these days. I have a hunch that I'm better at selling vegetables than I am at growing them: a different kind of green thumb altogether.

On Saturdays the Motts peddle their wares at the Farmers at Firehouse market run by Slow Food, located in the gritty Strip District of Pittsburgh. The neighborhood has an industrial, historical vibe, most palpable at 7AM as we role into town, down deserted streets in our blue Sprinter Van. As the sun rises, the streets awaken to reveal a thriving local food economy occupying converted-warehouse spaces. Ethnic groceries sit comfortably beside upscale cafes, specialty Italian groceries stock olive oil by the gallon, the Mexican grocer sells real corn tortillas so fresh they're still hot, the Greek grocery boasts dried figs that put the Fig Newton on the same level as a McDonalds chicken nugget. The scene overwhelming pummels all five senses with an authenticity that, with the increasing commercialization of it storefronts, is hard to find in New York City these days.

But all of that must be pushed to the back of the mind for the morning. Just down Penn Avenue, in a space reserved for parked cars on the other six days of the week, a bell rings at 9 AM and the farmers at Firehouse are off to the races. Firehouse customers are known for their serious commitment to local, organic food and their willingness to rise early and pay a premium for it. Regulars arrive as early as 8:30, peruse their options, and line up before the 9 o'clock bell signaling the beginning of the market. As the only organic fruit vendors, we're guaranteed to have a long line if peaches or berries are out on our tables. We have no choice but to be ready.

I have come to relish the adrenaline rush of 10 people simultaneously demanding garlic flavor expertise, change for their 20 dollar bill, an exact pound of French fingerling potatoes. I love chatting with the customers, hearing their stories and imparting recipe ideas, or encouraging them to try a new variety of onion. I especially love handing out peach samples and therefore invariable selling a pound of peaches that wouldn't otherwise be sold. You see, our peaches are the ugly ducklings of the peach world: black spotted, funky shapes on the outside, but in your mouth they flower into beautiful swans of flavor. So the market place becomes a kind of educational setting, where people are relearning what real food looks like, feels like, and most importantly, tastes like. Those tiny black spots, it turns out, are the result of our lack of a fungicidal spray program. The spots don't penetrate the skin and are caused by a bacteria or fungus that is harmless to humans. With peaches consistently making the "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables most laden with pesticides, I would choose harmless fungus over fungicide any day.

 
 

From Field to Table

I have been trying to follow the recent news in Russia about their damaging fires and record heat waves. The 100+ degree weather is very unusual for them and most homes there do not have central air. My heart goes out to them as the fires have been wiping out some of their vast wheat fields--one of their staple crops and major exports.

We traveled through the Ukraine many times back in the nineties, and although that may seem like a long time ago, things really haven't changed much. I remember passing through fields and fields of sunflowers (for oil production) and wheat/oats/barley fields--all done on massive scales. They call the Ukraine "The Bread Basket" because of their large amounts of grain production. But ironically in the homes we stayed in, they struggled to provide bread on the dinner table. This paradox was mind-boggling:how could so much grain not be translating into provision for the local families? Simple:  the government developed the land for commodity exports, to be used on a global scale, overlooking the needs of the local village dweller. The profit, if any, was kept at the government level. To add more fuel to the fire, the locals told us that approximately 50% of the crop never ever made it as a finished product--somewhere along the way, equipment would break down, fuel or gas costs would soar too high to continue the project, drought would kill half the crop, or simply, money would run out to pay the workers. So, many times, the local villages would watch as entire crops would go unharvested and another season would be wasted. I cannot imagine how demoralizing and hopeless that  must feel, if you are struggling to provide bread for your family. We can hardly stand to let a tomato go to waste--even after eating them till our bellies are full!

Hopefully now, on the production end, things are better in the Ukraine, but I can't help to think about the questions these scenarios raise like: What is the government's role in providing for its people? Should we really rely on it to feed us? Haven't I eaten far better after taking our food matters into my own hands anyway?

Kudos to you, for investing in a local CSA, providing for your family nutrient-dense food and taking food matters into your own hands. The global corporate food systems would go the way of the Ukraine, but here, I'd prefer to put food on my table.

 
 

The Slow Flow

In the Dog Days of summer I've learned the art of slowness. Slow moving. Slow cooking. Slow picking. Slow packing. Sometimes even my thought processes are slowed down--all in my body's effort to cope with the sticky heat. In our non-air conditioned house, we've learned which windows to shut and drape at which time of day to maximize any coolness that can be reserved indoors. But by 4 pm, there's no fighting it--it's permeated every square inch of the house. If we were to ever have AC, it would require 10 times more solar panels and a much larger battery/inverter system to run the house. For now we're content with our 8 panels and wind generator--at least we can run some fans!

We understand better too why some farmers wake up so early--to escape the heat, for one thing! 6 AM on the farm is one of the most inspiring and peaceful times--we're high above the fog, and even our dog hasn't roused himself from slumber. The coolness of the air prevails and hunting for tomatoes seems more surreal and dreamlike than a chore that has to be done.

So think of us as we deal with the heat this week--enter into the Slow Flow with us as you eat your tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce--and say a prayer for some much-needed rain!


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Product of California

About the "Farmer's Wife":

I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area surrounded by "on-the-edge" culinary institutes such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley and a whole fusion of tastes: Pacific Rim meets European Bistro and everything in between. My favorite always included the local Japanese restaurant visited weekly by my family (still my favorite) but there are so many restaurants in the Bay Area--you could eat at a different one every day for 5 years and never repeat yourself. Thus began my days as a gourmande (French for "gourmet girl"). After finishing my degree in Theater from UCLA, I lived in Europe for 6 years as Performing Arts Director for a Christian ministry. This fueled my passion for travel, and the quest for finding cultural connections within the local food. I remember very distinctly while in France walking down the road to the local dairy and lugging home jugs of fresh, raw milk. Also, the weekly farmers' markets where the real farmers would show up with their seasonal goods--and the Babushkas in the Ukraine lining the sidewalks sitting behind their piles of potatoes and sunflower seeds. Upon returning to Southern California with Jeff and Baby Joel, we were quickly swept into survival mode--both eventually taking on full-time jobs, buying our first home and running helter-skelter everywhere. Ironically, we call this period in our lives our "normal life"--one which sent Jeff daydreaming about a peaceful, organic farm somewhere surrounded by Amish and buggies. So after 7 years in California, I had to say goodbye to my beloved state once again and embark on what I was promised as "real life"--or at least "simple life." I'd conclude that it is both: "real simple life"!

Have a wonderful week!              

                                         --Shel

 
 

Wendell's Wisdom

(from Jeff)

While millions of farmers have been driven from the land in the last decades, we believe it is necessary for millions to go back. We hope our success will spur many aspiring farmers to  live their dream and help take back our food supply and culture.

As we have undertaken the challenge of managing a farm, the learning curve has been steep and painful at times feeling like it will break us. We care for animals, order seeds, grow plants, improve soil, make hay, fertilize, prune, thin, weed, mow, coordinate workers and interns, harvest, clean, pack and deliver CSA crates, set up farmers' markets, describe heirloom varieties of fruits and veggies, provide recipes and preserve food. All the while, we see community and culture forming and improving. It's amazing how much of life and culture revolves around food. We want to see our small farm established that others may pop up all around to provide nourishing delicious fare to all who need it and to elebrate together the goodness of God as we enjoy our journey of life. I hadn't realized how much I would need community and passed-down wisdom and that this may take generations, not merely months, to establish!

The following quote is from one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, and it describes the shift in our country through industrialization and the need to return to the land: "It is by the measure of culture, rather than economics or technology, that we can begin to reckon the nature and the cost of the country-to-city migration that has left our farmland in the hands of only five percent of the people. From a cultural point of view, the movement from the farm to the city involves a radical simplification of mind and of character.

A competent farmer is his own boss. He has learned the disciplines necessary to go ahead on his own, as required by economic obligation, loyalty to his place, pride in his work. His workdays require the use of long experience and practiced judgment, for the failures of which he know that he will suffer. His days do not begin and end by rule, but in response to necessity, interest, and obligation. They are not measured by the clock, but by the task and his mastered intricate formal patters in ordering his work within the overlappying cycles--human and natural, controllable and uncontrollable--of the life of a farm.

Such a man, upon moving to the city and taking a job in industry, becomes a specialized subordinate, dependent upon the authority and judgment of other people. His disciplines are no longer implicit in his own experience, assumptions, and values, but are imposed on him from the outside...The strict competences of independence, the formal mastery, the complexities of attitude, and know-how necessary to life on teh farm, which have been in the making in the race of farmers since before history, all are replaced by the knowledge of some fragmentary task...

Such simplification of mind is easy. Given the pressure of economics and social fashion that has been behind it and the decline of values that has accompanied it, it may be said to have been gravity-powered. The reverse movement--a reverse movement is necessary, and some have undertaken it--it is uphill, and it is difficult. It cannot be fully accomplished in a generation. It will probably require several generations--enough to establish complex local cultures with strong communal memories and traditions of care.

The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry; Sierra Club Books, 1986;pp. 44-45

 
 

There's a Reason for Bugs

Weeds and pests in organic farming have been more than simple foes--they have also shown us a complexity to the symbiotic nature of growing things that we did not know existed. Take weeds, for instance. In California, we had less weed pressure in the summer when native plants are actually dormant (because of lack of rain and too much blazing heat). So when we came to Ohio, we were unprepared for the aggressive, quick-growing capacity of weeds. We lost many first beds and crops to this nemesis. It was our first challenge and we tried our best to educate ourselves on everybody's best method of fighting against weeds. In the end, we chose the mulched bed system--in which less tilling of the soil and more building up of beneficial microbes have been key to turning our soil around. But in our studies we have learned a curious thing: these weeds know something we don't and show us above ground what they sense underground. Take the dandelion for instance. Where there is lack of calcium in the soil, the dandelion will appear, and with their deep taproot pull up calcium to the topsoil in order to restore balance. This is true for many of our common weeds, who, at one glance are ugly and intruding, but at another are attempting to indicate imbalance and correct the growing conditions! Who knew?

As for the insect world--I understood there were beneficial and non-beneficial bugs. (Actually, I had a hard time with that. I can't stand any bugs.) But the good ones are called "beneficial insects," like ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantis; and the bad ones are called "pests," like aphids, Japanese beetles, blister beetles, etc. While I still can't think of a good reason to like pests, I've learned another curious thing: that when a plant is sickly, it emits a "signal" that lets pests know of its weakness, and pests show up from miles around just to attack that plant and do away with it. This also indicates poor soil, and saves us from eating from a plant that does not produce optimum vegetables.

While that may be all I know where weeds and pests are concerned (Jeff knows WAY more) I am still amazed at what I've learned--especially about the rightness of NOT spraying chemicals to kill off weeds and pests. They are trying to communicate to us about the intricacies of the unknown, unseen biological world...which indicates to me we have a really smart, Green-Thumb of a Creator God.


 

 

 
 

Duke

Duke is our faithful canine companion on the farm. Splotched black and white (his Dalmation side) with soul-ful eyes (his Walker, Coon Dog side), he has been responsible for chasing the racoons down from the peach trees and leaving his scent around, causing rabbits to tremble. Groundhogs don't have a chance within the perimeter of our growing fields--but strangely he ignores the rooster and hens who freely roam. Even our kittens and burly old cat will snuggle up to him on a lazy summer afternoon.

He lives completely outside (sleeps under the cabin now) and will make his rounds in the woods--we hear him barking, chasing deer. He has no leash or fences and knows the boundaries of our 90 acres. He doesn't chase balls with the boys, but will watch them shoot hoops and slam dunk before stretching his legs and yawning. As soon as I make my way towards the fields he is right by my side, happily trotting around, but he takes off and loses me after five minutes, either distracted by rabbit trails, or off to undig his latest bone.

Our farm would not be as viable without Duke, our companion, protector and friend. He actually came with the farm (was left here by the Amish family) and they have no idea what an asset he is!

Here's to all our pets who bless our lives just by being who they are---

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Rain on a Hot Tin Roof

The sound of rain on our metal roof is one of my simplest pleasures. Many times it comes after a long, hot, humid day bringing relief and an (almost) audible sigh. Once the storms have passed, the water still trickles and drips off the roof as the frogs begin their trills and the kittens come out of hiding. We've recorded 12 inches of rain so far this month alone--which is astounding to me since the average rainfall in Southern California all YEAR is 13 inches (and many times we did not even come close to that).

So we're thankful for the rain, but it has slowed us up quite a bit getting plants in and getting new beds prepared. It also brought quite a bit of brown rot on those early peaches. : ( We've had our challenges already this year: dealing with the heat and humidity, early bolting crops and mucky soil from too much moisture...but I still love to listen to the rain.

Quote of the day: "Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there." - Josh Billings

 
 
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