Mott Family Farm

  (Salesville, Ohio)
Choosing the Simple Life
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Country Girl, City Girl

When I was little, I called myself a "country girl." No matter that I lived in a suburb of San Fransisco, no matter that we had neighbors 10 feet from our exterior walls, no matter that our house took up pretty much the whole city lot of 50'x150'. I dutifully hung up my horse calendar on my wall every year and flipped the pages as the months flew by--yearning to be IN the picture, petting velvety noses or riding bareback, or at least be the one taking the picture. My balloon burst when my mother told me we had such a thing as "ordinances" that would not allow horses within the city limits. For consolation, I was given riding lessons, but we had to drive pretty far for them so it didn't continue long. (That should have clued me in that I really didn't live in the country.) So to my dismay, riding lessons stopped, (but piano lessons continued :( ). It wasn't until I met some college kids from the Midwest that it dawned on me I might actually NOT be a country girl. ("What do you mean there are different kinds of cows?" "What is a roto-tiller?"--Yes, those are actual quotes.)

Well, I now have my wish: I actually do live inside my horse calendar! I didn't see it that way 5 years ago, but I'm realizing that when I look around, there are fences and grass, barns and wildflowers, HORSES, goats, gardens, auctions, the Amish, tractors and wagons. There are neighborly chats, cookouts and baby animals born. Wild turkeys, wild berries and amounts or rainfall are the current topics of conversation. The almanac and understanding of septic systems are important enough to affect us every day.

Who knew this city girl could have so much country in her?? I can even identify different kinds of cows now...

 
 

welcome

Welcome to the long-awaited 2010 season! Some of you have been registered for a few months already, so I'm sure you're eager to get started with new culinary adventures. We've had an interesting spring already: strawberries extremely early, high heat making greens go to seed, and torrential rains carving gulleys through the fields. We've been a little shorthanded on labor this spring (always), but our new intern arrived Saturday and our boys really kicked in putting a lot of sweat hours in these last few weeks.

The orchard fruit is developing well, and although we had a few dangerous frosts, the trees put on quite a beautiful display of blossoms. We had our annual litter of kittens (free kittens to good homes--no joke--I even thought of stowing some of them away in a crate or two...ha) and four baby goats born last month. An amazing glass greenhouse was built-mostly by freinds volunteering their time--and it has greatly expanded our production of seedlings!

So, lots to be thankful for--much harvest to be shared. We look forward to this season with you, our partners on this journey.
                                                                       -Jeff and Shelley

 
 

just checking in

Monday morning.  Got a slow start.  First market last Saturday in Pittsburgh, Jeff and Jeremiah went with asparagus and rhubarb.  Windy and blowy, but the faithful came out to support the local farmers!  Sold out of  35 pounds of asparagus in 45 minutes....

 Today, bright and sunny, although we suffered a bad frost last night.  Early berries are in bloom and will suffer for showing their cheery faces too early this year!  Jeff is mowing the aggressive grass, the boys are weeding and adding microbiology to the soil.  I went to the Amish store to buy cheese and raisins....came home to make a quiche and the last egg I had was rotten!  It almost got cracked into the quiche, but, phew, it went into a bowl first...It was such a pretty little egg too.... 

 Finished painting the boys' beds upstairs and will now tackle their dresser drawers.  Gotta do the indoor personal home stuff before CSAs start in June!

 

Just checking in... 

 
 

Spotlight on Farmer Jeff

Jeff originates from Avon, Ohio and remembers picking blueberries and plums in the wild acreage behind his home.  His parents were avid organic gardeners and instilled in him and his brother the tastes of "real food", so much so, that as Jeff neared his 40th birthday, he decided to abandon his Southern California life and start organic farming in search of a more satisfying one:  focussing especially on becoming a producer, rather than a consumer; in working with the land (including weeds and pests) instead of against it; and in learning how to promote local community in the midst of the global economy that we are engulfed in.  His joys include working with his wife and kids, playing basketball, eating good food, worshipping God and walking out his back door to work.  He is an incredibly devoted father and husband and is extremely passionate about what he does.  (He's such a great guy that I married him!)  :)
 
 

"Re-entry"

When we were missionaries there was a big deal made about the process of moving back to the homeland.  The concept was called "Re-entry", and there were books written about it:  it involved the sometimes painful process of readjusting to life back in the home culture, wherever that may be.

So in a sense, it was this what we were facing:  after 8 thousand miles and two months of being spoiled by family and friends; eating at fabulous restaurants; visitng the grandeur of coastal California; basking in "70-and-sunny" perfect weather; and staying in beautiful, custom-made homes---we began to emotionally ready ourselves to re-enter our life on the farm.

I thought it could go one of two ways---the place could be spotless, with a fire lit in the woodstove, a meal prepared and ready for us on the table (yeah, right), all the animals healthy and strong and all the buildings standing and intact.  Or, the inside of the house could be as cold as the outside (25 degrees), the horses and cats missing, a building or two blown over...or, worse!  Well, it was somewhere in between...but you decide.

There was a wonderful fire lit in our woodstove (thanks, Tom) and still plenty of dry wood left for us, so I am thankful for that.  And no buildings were blown over except for the smokehouse that was already lying on its face from the winter before.  The ground was covered with a foot of snow, but we actually made it up our steep hill and plowed into the snow with our van to get as close as possible to the front door.  It wasn't that close, but we got stuck and the van hasn't moved since (10 days later).

My first impressions:  a thick layer of dust over everything; a foreign smell seeping in every corner; snow tracked in with our mountain of luggage; and (this is tops) a mouse that had been caught in a trap and had since rotted away.

Jeff was especially calm and spoke kindly around me (maybe even tip-toed).  Our water supply was low and we wouldn't be able to pump more until the freezing temps broke.  Eventually we ran out of water and my "re-entry" process hit the fan.

So much for the romantic notion of living sustainably off our land.  I wanted water and I wanted it now!  No further cleaning, even washing of hands, toilet-flushing or cooking was going to happen without water!  My life as a farmer's wife halted.

We all knew this would eventually make a good blog entry at some point, but no one wanted to currently mention it.  Meanwhile, we had a foot and a half of snow outside with still more coming.  So, we "washed" our hands in the snow from the porch and melted buckets around the house to get enough water to flush the toilet at least once a day.

We swept and swept (and swept) the floors and wiped down furniture, put away the luggage and generally de-cluttered.  Nothing else to do but improve our humble surroundings.  Finally, Jeff came up with a brilliant idea to hook up another (unfrozen) hose to the spring and see if that would work.  It did!  and I jumped up and down ecstatically when I saw that beautiful spring water flow into our tank!

So, only 36 hours without water.  And we have enough wood for heat, lots of food put up in the basement and freezer, and the internet and phone lines work.  We have plenty of power from our wind generator and our house is clean.  The only thing I am dealing with is having to turn on the kitchen faucet from under the basin because the turn handles blew off when we turned the water back on.  While it is a bit of a pain, I'm OK with it.  If life was too easy, I suppose I wouldn't be thankful for the simple things.

Here's to "re-entry":  life back on the farm. 

 
 

Dear Ohio; Love, California

January 16, 2010:

 In the dead of winter, we hear, in Ohio.  The garlic cloves are tucked safely away beneath their thick layer of mulch, protected from the freeze/thaw/heave that the ground undergoes in the cold.  I wonder what they are thinking under there, all warm and cozy?

 We are stealing away in green California...not so much "green" because of the eco-sensitivity out here, but because the hills are now actually green.  The rain has come to drench the dry, thirsty earth, and the hills are loving it.  We actually saw some happy California poppies waving in the gentle breeze today.   

Someone called us "Snow Birds"  before we left.  I suppose it is meant to be derogatory, but in a way, I kind of identify with it.  We stuck it out in Ohio last January in the negative sixteen degrees (Fahrenheit), and don't remember stepping out my front door.  I assume that if you had the opportunity to spend an extended time in mild, mediterranean weather, you would do it too.  

This has nothing to do with my feelings for Ohio.  A government agency tried to tell me that if I spent more than four weeks out of state, well, then I was no longer a resident.  I didn't want to argue with her, but I guess she doesn't realize she cannot "decree" such nonsense when it comes to a sense of "home".  

My home sits on top of our hill that catches the wind that powers our computer.  My home is where I open the front door and my two-year-old can explore freely outside.  My home is where our horses stomp in the early morning sun outside the barn to keep warm.  My home is where I know exactly where the floor creaks...and on and on.

And I miss it.  While we're gaining some valuable R and R, and seeing some great examples of corporate support of small family businesses, and using dishwashers, and water that we don't pump ourselves, we'll be glad to be home again soon.  

Until then, Happy Winter.

Shelley 

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