Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crazy Weather

I took the above photograph in Iowa County, in south central Wisconsin on a perfect day in July of 2008. Today, the Ides of March, 2012, it was the same temperature there. It was the same temperature here at my new home in Pittsboro, North Carolina, as well.

This photo was taken on March 28th, 2008 in Iowa county, Wisconsin. I was taking my old BMW out of the barn to do a preseason tune-up on it and wanted to note the irony of the moment. (it's a 1983 model with 'snowflake' wheels)

The crazy 'winter that never was' could throw us a major curve ball at any moment. The last frost date for my old Wisconsin home is late May. I don't think there was a day in Pittsboro this year that stayed below freezing and the lowest temperature we had here was in the low 20s.

This evening I read in the news that a tornado touched down in Ann Arbor, Michigan earlier today. That's just crazy.

I wonder what's going to happen with gardening this year? Do we wait until it's "time" to plant or do we just go ahead and plant now and risk the possibility of losing the early crops? Do we keep the row covers waiting at the back door just in case we have to run out and cover our spinach? Do you have a plan yet?

Monday, February 27, 2012

One Scythe Revolution

Follow Botan Anderson into the One Scythe Revolution!

The One Scythe Revolution is a peaceful movement, kind of like the Broadfork Revolution. I'm a player in both. This is a picture of Botan with an enormous competition scythe blade.  (He's 6'5" tall, by the way)

I started using a scythe when my beloved 1996 model weed munching Stihl line trimmer died in 2005. At the time, we lived on the prairie of southern Wisconsin and I had to keep an acre of grass surrounding the house cleared for fire protection reasons. I didn't want to have another internal combustion engine in my life, so I opted for the Austrian scythe as a petroleum free alternative.

I immediately fell in love with the tool and soon thereafter met Botan. After spending a day with him mowing, I realized how important it was to have someone teach the basics of the scythe to a beginner. At first, there's something unnatural about swinging the scythe, but by watching an experienced scythesman, the pieces to the puzzle just fall together and the tool becomes a part of the body.

This weekend, I have the pleasure of teaching my first scythe class at the Organic Growers School in Asheville, North Carolina. There, I will find a group of people interested in learning about one of the most amazingly efficient tools ever conceived; the Austrian scythe. It's not the tool you find at flea markets and adorning the walls of Cracker Barrel restaurants across the US. The Austrian scythe is different in a lot of ways.

This tool is like a razor blade on a five foot handle. Nothing can compete with the efficiency of a well peened and honed scythe for taking down tall grass.

The reason I felt I needed to teach this class is the fact that most people have no idea that a scythe is sharpened with a hammer. Well, it is. The hammered edge is then polished with a stone and the blade becomes shaving sharp.

Scythe mowing is best done in the morning when the shadows are still long and the dew is still on the grass. A well peened and honed blade makes the mowing effortless and the experience of the world awakening to the swish of blade on grass in the long slanting light of dawn is priceless.

I became so passionate about the scythe that I sought to teach others the lessons I had learned along the way. There are some skills that we must continue to share if we want to make the most of the troubled times we are facing.

When I am out in the field mowing in the earliest light of the day, I carry on fearlessly, effortlessly; body swaying rhythmically in the tall grass heavy and wet with dew. As I progress a few inches at a time, using a tool perfected 5 centuries ago, I am overcome with hope that we can still do the right thing... like we used to.

Get to know the scythe. Along with the broadfork and a good garden cart, it is among the most important tools you can own.

The scythe and the broadfork were perfected in a time when the human body was the only machine available for powering gardening tools. With half a millennium of field testing, both tools still work just fine, thank you.

If you're a customer of mine, make sure you find me in Asheville this weekend if you're in the neighborhood. When I am not teaching, I'll be at the Earth Tools booth at the trade show/exhibit area.

As always, good soil to you.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Food by Committee: Prepackaged Beef Stew

A group of great minds at Tyson declared that there would be enough people that did not own a knife and cutting board to support this really crazy idea.  A task force was created and during a breakout session, the ideation team interfaced with stakeholders to achieve consensus to determine the market viability of said deliverables.

"They may have a knife, but they don't have the skills to sharpen it and they're afraid to use it," stated task force member #11. "They are afraid of getting cut and they don't have time in their schedules for an emergency room visit," interjected an ideation team member.

A stakeholder added, "They'll be afraid of bacterial contamination on their cutting board! Perfect!"

The Suit at the head of the table said to his administrative assistant, "Contact the antibacterial cleanser division and have them saturate the target market for 6 weeks before this one launches! This could be BIG!"

A marketing department committee was formed and they sat at a long boardroom table and ran some numbers back and forth; someone made notes and a barrage of emails got cc'd, forwarded and replied to, tallied and analyzed. After passing it through Legal, by the end of the week, a new marketing concept was launched. I wonder how sales are going.

For 11 bucks, you can open a couple of bags of raw ingredients and drop them into a slow cooker in the morning on your way out the door, then return after work to a nice meal. Look, you don't even have to go to any other aisles in the store. We gotcha onion, ya potatoes, ya carrots and ya meat right here at the end cap. We even enclosed a seasonings bag of pre-measured salt, pepper, guar gum, etc in the package.

Don't get me wrong, I love a slow cooker and I love beef stew. What bothers me about this is the fact that with each passing day, someone falls victim to this corporate marketing ploy and is further disconnecting themselves from their food.

We need to get back in touch with one of the most important elements in our lives. If you found this blog, you understand. Try helping someone start a garden this year. Anything will do; a tomato plant, a window box with spinach planted in it, a container garden or a little raised bed.

Please help to get the word out: We don't want to eat what they are feeding us.

Remind folks that food does not come from the grocery store. Learn how to sharpen your knives and don't fall for the marketing tricks the Corporations throw at you. You found this blog and I trust you to promote healthy and real food choices. Be a good example for those that need one. Some people don't know that there is another way to think about what they eat.

We just relocated our little business to the Piedmont of North Carolina, in Chatham County, just west of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, an area which is known as the Research Triangle. This area was chosen by us for many good reasons.

Yesterday, we went to our first big farmer's market and came home with a bag of wonderful local fare including some local pecans, which I was surprised to find here.

It's warm enough here in the winter to grow things and that's a big attraction. The fact that so many people are doing it here is really important as well. We like living around those kinds of folks and we wanted to situate our business in an area that was loaded with people like us. We'll start growing again this year after a year away from gardening due to the move. It's OK; we're still eating from our garden of 2010 and honestly, a little is left from '09.

We are at the edge of the small scale agricultural revolution. Young farmers are everywhere now, despite the news lately that farming jobs are in a severe decline. You and I are among the uncountable individuals that are taking matters into our own hands and feeding ourselves from our own yards.

This is nothing new; as a society, we just quit doing it for long enough to get out of the habit of providing some of our most basic needs for ourselves. We got lured into having someone else to take care of the most important things. It doesn't have to be that way.

Get busy and arm yourself with the tools and the skills you need to get some food production happening in your yard, or get with some friends and put together a community garden. Make it fun.

It's getting into our busy season in the broadfork business. I'd like to thank all of you who have bought broadforks from us. I never thought it would be this big; before long, Gulland Broadfork #700 will go out the door and find it's way to someone's garden patch.

We are grateful.

Good soil to you,