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June 2010

Last Day at the CSA

So Friday marked my last day working with Herrcastle Farm (providers of several CSA & Farmer’s Market locations).

After spending at least 24 hours of my life just within the past two weeks picking blueberries, just when I thought I couldn’t pick another blueberry, it was also my last morning doing so.  Raspberries as well.

It was my last day hoeing around 1,000 sweet potato plants.

My last day picking snow peas while jamming out to the random shuffle on my ipod.

My last day endlessly weeding 1,000’s of tomato and pepper and melon holes.

My last day preparing and filling a bunch of paper bags with farm fresh produce to be delivered to eager CSA members.

The last time of baking my skin all day in the sun (sorry skin!), and filling my body head to toe with the day’s happy hour special:  dirt & sweat.

The last day of watching my back for the crazy neighbor that would come down and spy on me.  (Or just sit against his fence with binoculars.)

My last day being complimented by the mom and dad and picked on and joked around with by the son.

My last day of the summer continuously learning in the garden and watching the vivacious baby plants grow into adults right before my eyes.

There are a million lasts, good and bad, as my job with the farm comes to an end.  Along the ride, there were also a ton of memorable firsts and countless learning experiences.

Like my first time driving a tractor.  That was a laugh.  After knocking out a couple squash plants, I actually got the hang of it relatively quickly.

Or my first time preparing for a CSA and seeing how much work is actually involved with doing so.  After picking 80 pounds of cherries in the morning and peeling 275 onions in an afternoon among other produce preparation, you start to realize CSA’s take more effort than you originally thought.

My first time working at a farmer’s market, getting a behind the scenes view of what’s involved with actually running a produce stand.  Also my first time being asked, as a customer points to the onions, “How do you prepare these?”

My first time digging wood chips.  Eight hours later and a good night’s rest, oh was I feeling that the next morning.

My first time using rhubarb.  That was delightful.

My first time having a job that coincided as a grocery store.  I’m going to miss that one!

My first time working in a loving environment with a family who totally rocked.  It’s so rare, especially at my age, to find a job where the boss’s truly appreciate your efforts and remind you almost daily how glad they are to have you working for them.  I’ve been through a few jobs…I don’t think I ever fully felt comfortable in any of them, aside from this one.

I can’t believe almost two months have gone by already.  I have learned so much about gardening on a large scale and what it really takes to put food into the hands of others around us.  I can say I’ve truly gained an appreciation for what these guys at Herrcastle Farm are doing day after day as well as others just like them.  What a wonderful learning experience and unforgettable summer job.

The reason for my summer job ending halfway through summer, well, that will explained in my next post… I’ve been holding a little secret from my readers…definitely a good one though!

Mint Tea Recipe

There’s absolutely nothing more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than a glass of iced mint tea.  Luckily, mint prospers all throughout the summer, and as any herb gardener knows, it often takes over the garden as it grows.  While mint can add a refreshing quality to anything in which it’s added, my favorite way to utilize it when I have it growing in my summer’s garden and available in quantity is in tea.  The following recipe is more than easy, so don’t worry about breaking a sweat on these hot, steamy days.

If mint isn’t growing nearby and the quantity called for in this recipe isn’t available, consider halving the recipe.  It may seem like quite a bit of mint, but try not to skimp on the tea’s star ingredient.  Poured over ice, the powerful minty flavor is needed.

Mint Tea Recipe


  • Simply Mint Tea
  • -40-50 12-inch mint sprigs, about 2 cups of leaves, tightly packed
  • -Water, 7 cups
  • -Honey, if desired (The tea is so delicious all on it's own, it really doesn't need sweetener. But, if you're accustomed to a little sugar in your tea, feel free to add in some honey.)


  1. Strip mint leaves off stems. Wash leaves. In a 2 quart kettle, add 6 cups of water. Place kettle on high heat and bring water to boil. Turn off heat and add mint leaves, using a spoon to submerge leaves. (Add honey to taste, if using.) Recover kettle, and let steep at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
  2. Pour tea through strainer into a pitcher. Serve in a glass over ice. Relax and enjoy.

Working at the Farmer’s Market

On Wednesday, I went with Herrcastle Farms, my CSA/farm job, to work at my first farmer’s market!  Topping out at near 100 degrees, it was a hot, but undoubtedly worthwhile experience.

The farmer’s market is where you get to see all your hard work pay off, and not just solely in monetary ways.  It’s when customers buy blueberries, and then ten minutes later come back with an empty container, raving and craving for more, that you know all that work in the field was worth it.  It’s when the husband comes and purchases 8 bunches of collard greens, saying the wife just can’t get enough of your gorgeous-looking greens.  It’s when the little kids start digging into the raspberries, red dribbling down their faces, before the mom can even finish paying.  It’s when people tell you that yours is their favorite farm stand.  It’s when the young lady comes and describes what she’s going to do with your potatoes that evening.  It’s the oohs and ahhs.  The smiles.  The thank yous.  The face-to-face appreciation for the hard work it takes to grow all of the wonderful produce and for providing a resource for obtaining in season, local food.

Getting to talk to the people and show off all those glistening, fresh veggies and fruit had to be my favorite part of working with the farm thus far.  It’s always interesting to see the eclectic crowds that pass in and out of farmer’s markets.  Actually working at the farmer’s market and getting to speak with all of these young, old, quiet, chatty, nice, and not so nice faces was an experience in itself.  While I can certainly get my hands dirty and sweat my butt off working in the gardens, working with people is also definitely in my element.

I loved educating the inquisitive faces about how different veggies were grown and the best ways to cook them up.  I also really enjoyed listening to customers’ stories about their own gardens and their favorite ways to use certain fruits and vegetables.

The inherently colorful displays at farmer’s markets get people excited about healthy foods, and this is exciting to see and be a part of!  However, the day also showed me just how unconnected a lot of people have become from the Earth.  “Where are the peaches?  You guys have cucumbers yet?” etc. etc…If you live in the northeast and you’re in touch with eating foods that are in season and knowing when things grow, you’ll know that items like cucumbers and certainly not peaches aren’t in season as early as June!  Cucumbers tend not to come until July, and as for peaches, sorry, but you’ll have to wait another couple months until August.

That’s what is great about farmer’s markets though.  It gets people to learn more about one of the very fundamentals of survival: FOOD.  Those who are unaware that peaches don’t grow in June probably aren’t aware of the endless hours of work it takes to grow and pick that table of food displayed in front of them.  But at least they’re out there, able to get in season, local food from the hands of small farmers, helping to move our food system towards the way it should be.

After a long, hot, and absolutely rewarding day, we packed up and headed an hour and a half home.  Once back at the farm, we unloaded the truck into the dark, taking in the few remaining veggies we had left (luckily the day was a success and we didn’t have to carry too much home with us!).  I then headed home and called it a night, resting up for another sweaty day under the sun calling my name the next morning.

Fidgeting Pays Off

Obtained from site for all fellow fidgetors!

I’ve always been a fidgetor.  In class, you can often find me mindlessly playing with my pencil or pen.  While studying, I’m often catching–and trying to stop– myself from biting my nails.  When I’m chatting with a friend, I’ll often be playing with my zipper, or messing with a piece of paper, or any inanimate object within eye’s view.  And pretty much anytime I’m required to sit for longer than 5 minutes, I always end up relentlessly shifting around in my seat, repositioning my body because I’m either restless, just plain uncomfortable, or simply can find it in me to sit still.

Trust me, just ask my brother and he’ll tell you about my fidgeting.  He often calls me out on it when we’re out to dinner because he finds my incessant fork & spoon fiddling prior to the arrival of the food to be somewhat irritating.  “Can’t you just sit still?” he’ll ask me.  I’ll look up at him with a puzzled stare, continuing to mindlessly fool around with my awaiting silver utensils as if I were trying to knit a sweater out of thin air or something.  Half the time I’m clueless as to what he’s referring to until he says something along the lines of “you’ve always got to be playing with something”.

Then I’ll try to consciously become aware of my fidgeting and put an end to it because really, what’s with this constant fidgeting?  I don’t usually make it long until I’m shifting myself in my seat and then stop to notice minutes later I’m unconsciously playing with my fork again.

I’m really not a huge fan of multitasking (although I often feel forced to do so), so I’m not sure how I’ve obtained such a fidgeting habit.  I try to stay fully and solely present on whatever specific task/event lays before me.  Yet isn’t fidgeting most likely stealing away a part of my attention and proving that I’m not entirely invested into what’s in front of me?  I hate it when people are texting on the phone while I’m trying to have a conversation with them.  Yet, is the fingering and peristant flipping of my phone in my hands almost just as distracting to another person while they’re trying to tell me a story?  Who knows.  My brother might argue that fidgeting is certainly distracting and irksome.

But maybe fidgeting isn’t really all that bad after all…at least in some respects.

A 2005 study done by the Mayo Clinic showed that those who are fidgetors, or have a high NEAT —meaning a high level of “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”— tend to be leaner.  In fact, the Mayo Clinic went so far as to say NEAT is “more powerful than formal exercise”.

Obese people sit an average of 150 minutes more per day than those who are thin, meaning they burn 350 fewer calories than do lean people.  The Mayo Clinic states that the NEAT factor plays a significant role in determining who is lean and who is obese.  NEAT includes everything from tapping your toes, to cleaning the house, to picking up the guitar, to twiddling your thumbs.

However, the Mayo researchers concluded that the lack of NEAT in obese people was a result of biological differences, not a lack of motivation, thus even when obese people lose weight, they’re not likely to start constantly moving around and tapping their toes.  But who’s to say that a conscious high NEAT level can’t be formed and then developed into a habit?

I’ve always been relatively naturally thin my whole life.  Could it be due to my constant fidgeting?  While I’m sure much of my leanness can be contributed to my family genetics and their respective body structures, maybe my fidgeting is actually helping me to stay thin, without even trying.  Either way, it’s a great excuse to keep my fidgeting habits, even if some individuals such as my brother do find them a tad irritating.  For all you fidgetors, fidget away!

Garlic Shitake Kale Soup with Wheat Berries and Peas

With an array of different varieties of kale in the garden and more than enough leaves of each type waiting to be picked, it was time to start utilizing this green powerhouse in some recipes.

In my household, kale is eaten nearly everyday, sometimes even more than once a day if it’s the green of choice in the morning’s smoothie.  Typically we simply steam the vegetable and add a little olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper once it’s plated.  But sometimes this can just get plain old boring, and right about the time those thoughts started entering my head, I came across a kale soup recipe in one of my favorite go-to magazines, Vegetarian Times.

Including kale and ten cloves of garlic (yum), I knew this was a recipe I wanted to try.  I modified the magazine’s version and threw in a few extra ingredients I had on-hand.  The soup turned out wonderful, and served as a perfect light accompaniment to a half sandwich and later as a pre-dinner appetizer.

As the magazine mentions, in addition to antioxidant-fiber-filled greens, the recipe is composed of nothing but other nutrient-loaded ingredients as well.  Fibrous wheat berries as well as shitake mushrooms, containing eritadenine, “an amino acid that speeds up processing of cholesterol in the liver”, combine with the kale to make a tasty and super healthful treat.

Garlic and Kale Soup

Note:  Wheat berries need to be soaked overnight prior to making the following recipe.  If soaked and not used right away, simply drain and store in fridge.  They will last several days this way.

-1/2 cup of wheat berries
-2 Tbsp. olive oil
-5 oz. shitake mushrooms
-10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
-1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
-4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
-15 0z. kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
-1 cup fresh peas-2 cups water – (These are coming in season, so look for these in your garden or local farmer’s market.  The shelling is definitely worth the extra work!)
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-Tabasco sauce, to taste

Soak wheat berries in bowl of cold water overnight, filling bowl at least one inch above berries.  Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Saute 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown.  Add sliced garlic and saute two minutes more.  Stir in vinegar, using it to scrape any brown bits stuck to the pan.  Simmer until vinegar is nearly evaporated.  Ddrain wheat berries and add to pan, along with vegetable broth and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 minutes.  Add kale and cook for 5 minutes.  Add peas to pan and cook another 5 minutes, or until peas and kale are tender.  Stir in tabasco sauce to taste, and additional salt if needed.

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