Sunday, April 22, 2012

NOFA Conference: Bees, Remedies, and Greens

My favorite seminar at the NOFA conference by far, was Marina Marchese’s presentation on bees and beekeeping. As she is the president of Backyard Beekeepers and a long time beekeeper, she had a huge retinue of advice to share about her experiences. She covered basic bee behaviors, favorite flowers, arrangement of the hive, and diseases and treatments. The most interesting parts of her lecture was her knowledge of the behavior of bees just from experience: that they tire, get hungry, become frustrated when it rains too much; her talk really helped humanize bees for me. We learned about the different types of honey that can be made, the collection of beeswax to make candles, and that chewing propolis (fragrant resin that the bees produce) can alleviate a sore throat. Her presentation made beekeeping sound simple, rewarding, and enjoyable. The second seminar I attended was Food as Medicine with Leigh White. Her lecture was all about the hidden health benefits of food, as well as home remedies. We learned about Naturopathic Therapy and its emphasis on natural treatments, cleansing, and detoxification. She gave us insight into the use of ginger, garlic, onion, honey, and tea to simply treat a variety of ailments such as headache, stomach ache, burns, dry skin, sore throat, and toxins. The third seminar I attended with Collards and Other Cold Weather Greens with John Turenne, Wayne Hansen, and Leigh White. This seminar took place in one of the MCC kitchens, where our instructors made quite a few kale, collard, and swiss chard dishes for the class to try. Originally I thought this session would be more on health benefits, flavor, and growing methods of the greens, but I was rather disappointed that it was almost entirely about recipes and cooking techniques. I did fortunately learn how to make some pretty delicious leafy green dishes. Because this seminar ended 30 minutes early, I went and joined the New Farmer Show and Tell with Shannon Raider and Susan Mitchell, which dealt with new farmers and their advice on farming techniques that were most helpful to them. This seminar was small and very simple, with the presenters passing around multiple tools and explaining why they were so useful. I especially liked their talk on the hand cultivator (the name for that forked hoe thing) just because that is perhaps my favorite garden tool which I use as a multipurpose tool to do anything. Overall, I think the NOFA conference was a great success and I’m very much glad that we were able to attend. The Seminars were fascinating, the potluck was delicious, and the venders all had some incredibly interesting items. I was even able to win some organic plant food in a raffle! I was impressed in the number and diversity of the farmers and students who attended, from all different ages and backgrounds. NOFA is definitely something that I would like to attend in the future. -->Paul

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn." - Grizzard

Lots of happenings down at SVSF as we wrap up the Spring semester and prepare for summer.
But first, a shout-out to Shane McNamara on his very happy 21st birthday! ...and a brief recap of the weeks past.
Andrew Lyons and I enjoyed a scintillating workshop at the NOFA Conference on raising nanny goats:

Paul from Beltane Farm (Lebanon, CT), mixing up some delicious chevre cheese for us. Beltane Farms is well known for their delicious artisanal farmstead goat cheeses.

Paul very kindly invited us up to Beltane to drink punch, meet the animals and sample cheeses at his seasonal tastings taking place in May.

Last workshop of the day, Bob Burns (a lifelong farmer and Buddhist monk) taught us the basics of seed sprouting and even let us sample some of his delicious product; mung-beans, peas, lentils, buckwheat and more.

Laura and I taking full advantage of the local vendors! Fresh, brick oven baked loaves packed with herbs.

In other news...

We've been busy planting peas, asparagus, radishes, onions, garlic and a few raspberry bushes seeing as how the soil temperature is just right. How about a little rain?

After a long day in the garden, filling our gullets with good food and good drink!

Rainy wishes,


Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Commeth!

With the season progressing and the weather getting warmer, the Spring Valley Farmers have begun to do more outdoor tasks. This is the yard in front of Birch Cottage, once littered with leaves, invasives, and fallen branches; now it's all been beautifully cleared away, and with only the minor cost of us getting covered in poison ivy.

Lina's gooseberries are looking good! A couple of weeks ago we planted several gooseberry and raspberry cuttings in the predominantly vacant plot of land behind Birch Cottage. Despite the lack of rain and the cold temperatures, they all seem to be thriving! With the additional sprouting of new strawberries and lingonberries, this summer is looking berry good :B
Birch now has rain barrels! Aren't they fancy?

Behold, The Rock Wall! Constructed by us from the rocks in our very own soil, it stands as a testament to our diligence, ingenuity, and the intrinsic beauty of rocks on rocks. If you're not as impressed as we are, it's because you haven't seen it in person.

Despite the fact that seed planting and contra dancing were cancelled due to the cold and wet weather, SVSF still managed to have an incredibly successful Potluck on Saturday March 31. Dishes included sweet potato and veggie fritters, eggplant casserole, baked chicken, pasta, salads, dips, banana bread, pumpkin muffins, and plenty of cookies all made by fellow farmers and guests!

Off we go for an after dinner walk around to the river.

And here is our special "Rorschach Rabbit" which we use to psychoanalyze and gauge the temperament of our farmers. Now tell me, what do you see?


Sunday, April 1, 2012


At the ctNOFA conference I enjoyed good food, company and lectures. The potluck style of the conference worked wonderfully. It was easy to connect with the other attendees and the vendors because everyone seemed to be there for the same common values -- health, honest living, community and stewardship of the earth. The first lecture I attended was done by Animal Welfare Approved. They are a nonprofit organization that certifiers farmers for ethical treatment of their livestock. They do not charge farmers, unlike USDA, and actually even help farmers to make any changes in order to be certified, and their standards are much stricter (kinder to the animals) than other certifiers. The second lecture was about small farmers battling Monsanto. Monsanto has been known to sue small farmers for having trace amounts of Monsanto-patented plants from cross pollination that no one can control. NOFA is an effective grouping of small farmers that allows them to fight collectively and more securely against Monsanto. The third lecture was about soil microbiology, and it emphasized the importance of beneficial microorganisms in the soil that increase the nutrients available for plants. Composting, not tilling, cover cropping, crop rotation and adding beneficial microbe inoculants all can help boost and maintain healthy and productive soil microbe ecosystems. Overall, the afternoon at the conference in Manchester was fun, informative and a bonding experience for our community at Spring Valley.