Harvest Mayhem Reflections

993400_517160645056954_1718555665_nThis past Sunday, September 15th, was our first ever Harvest Mayhem potluck/fundraiser celebration. Planned to be held outside at the Sustainable Renton Community Farm in NE Renton, the event was intended to highlight the bountiful harvest of the farm, to raise funds for Sustainable Renton, and to enjoy a community celebration outdoors. Well, the weather had other plans for our day. Starting with gloomy, ominous skies, and quickly turning to a rainy downpour featuring thunder & lightning, we were forced to either cancel the event in progress or quickly come up with a backup plan.

Fortunately, we are surrounded by many generous, flexible people. Celebration Foursquare Church, whose land the community farm sits on, graciously offered to open the doors to their portable building. And our musicians, Ron Stillwell and Callista Salazar, were very patient in their willingness to wait out the storm and to move inside. And then, in the process of moving tables, food, equipment, etc. indoors, all of the attendees who came out for the event stayed with us throughout this whole process. We are very lucky to be a part of this community.

1236070_517160968390255_922981176_nThe event itself consisted of a raffle, live music, a potluck, and garden tours. Our raffle featured homemade gift baskets (with items like pickles, jam, beets, and many other tasty creations), gift certificates ($50 from both Blossom Vegetarian and Red House, $20 from Torero’s, $25 from Liberty Cafe), and 1-1/2 hours of electrical work from Steve Randolph.

579658_517160801723605_521994230_nLive music was provided by Callista Salazar and Ron Stilwell. Callista is an emerging artist who played her owned compositions.

1236680_517161441723541_452374713_nRon, who has been performing for years, played a mix of some classics and newer material. Both performers helped to brighten the day, and were very warmly received. Steve Melle generously donated his sound equipment for the event.

The potluck was a definite hit-so many delicious appetizers, soups, snacks, and desserts. All were enjoyed with gusto by everyone in attendance. Many of the dishes featured in season, locally grown produce.

Before the weather sidetracked things, many attendees were able to wander the grounds of the farm to see the wide variety of flora that have been growing there this season. Some of the bounty included: amaranth (a deep, dark, gorgeous shade of red), red chili peppers, sunflowers, massive pumpkins, kale, chard, broccoli, turnips, radishes, and so much more.

While we certainly would have had higher attendance with better weather, we were still able to raise just under $100 from our raffle. Thank you to all who purchased tickets and donated items to the raffle, and to everyone who came out to celebrate with us. New friends were made, and community was strengthened.

We look forward to doing it all again next year (although we’ll probably aim for August for better weather prospects). Thank you!

Harvesting community.

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Wow. This has been such a busy time of year and especially busy at the farm. Cucumbers, beans and zucchini coming out of our ears with tomatoes hot on their tails, we have been given so much abundance that it is impossible not to stop and absolutely marvel at the gifts that this earth gives and gives and gives.

The farm is such a wonderful place to see what we can have if only we work together. It is a magical place of community and democracy. Everyone is heard and no one is denied. There aren’t any economic chasms or religious strife. There is no anxiety about the future, only pure enjoyment in the present, and a teaching that we are connected to everything and everyone. We are not isolates. We all play an integral part in the fabric of existence and we all have a duty to one another. That duty is to be conscious-to make ourselves available for connection to one another. How easy it is these days to whirl around in a fog of anxiety, feeling alone while we are desperate to find connection on social websites, having opinions about things, but taking no action towards changing the cause of our anxiety.

The farm is a place where action can be taken to build a sustainable space for all to enjoy. I say this as someone who feels anxiety from time to time about the future of things, followed quickly by a sense of powerlessness, but at the farm there is a sense of empowerment, a place where actions make a difference, a place where community gathers to work towards a common goal. It is a place that has a core value that is worthy of exploration.

That being said, it is time to plant for a winter garden. One of the benefits of having space at the farm is that we garden year round, which makes it great for planting perennials like asparagus, garlic and berries.

We are planning on expanding for next Spring, so if you are interested in reserving a space please let us know as soon as possible and come and help create that space on Sundays at 4 pm.

Organically yours,

Lara Randolph, Farm Manager

larar35@comcast.net

sustainablerenton@gmail.com

 

Fermentation!

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One of the many benefits of a community garden is…community! The most interesting people can become friends, and relationships that help facilitate learning and growth can enter into the everyday things that make life wonderfully abundant.

An example of this is: the other day, when I was visiting one of my new found friends, she suggested that we try one of her pickles from a jar she had been fermenting on her kitchen counter for a couple of days. Now, I have been curious about fermentation, and tried my hand with some kefir curds but those soon became so plentiful I had to stop for lack of people to share them with. Anyone who has harvested kefir curds knows this dilemma. I have also heard about the digestive benefits of fermented foods for years, but the only thing that came to mind was Kim Chi, which was not at all interesting to me-so I  just never investigated any further than that.

But, I had tried this friend’s fermented string beans a few months back, and enjoyed it, so I thought it would be safe and possibly satisfying. Lo and behold the fermented cucumber I tried was the single best pickle I have ever eaten in my life! It was unmistakably a dill pickle, but it had a flavor that rocketed beyond mere dill. Being a novice at spice experimentation I wasn’t sure what was in the brine, but my palette had never been happier.

Needless to say I got the recipe, and have a jar fermenting on my counter as we speak. If this works for me I will have an answer to the many cucumbers that are waiting for my attention.

A word about fermentation and its history: Fermenting happens naturally and pre-dates humanity, however humans took control of the fermentation process and have been using this method from as far back as 7000 BCE . In short, fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates or sugars into alcohols and carbon dioxides using yeasts and/or bacteria under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions.

This process is employed in the making of wine and beer, or for foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. The science of fermentation is known as zymology. Fermentation is also what happens during the pickling process however, with the common techniques of canning the fermentation process is ceased when the jars are boiled and sealed. With straight fermentation the process is halted when the jar is places below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The jars are not subjected to heat or pressure, which allows the lactobacilli to remain in tact and give our digestive systems the some of the healthy enzymes it needs to function properly.

I am sharing my friend’s recipe with you, I am sure you can use whatever spices you like.

A note of caution: there is always a risk of botulism with the consumption of canned foods, so take care to not use plastic containers when making fermented foods and follow all directions carefully. Glass canning jars are nice and greatly reduce the risk of illness.

Fermented Cucumber Pickles

1 t. coriander seeds

 ½ t. ground black pepper

1 t. yellow mustard seeds

1 t. dill seeds

1 t. caraway seeds

1 t. celery seeds

9 cloves fresh garlic

6 dry bay leaves

6 T. Kosher salt

1/2 t. dried red pepper flakes

Dry dill heads & stalks

Take 1 quart boiling water; add salt & dissolve. Place 2 bay leaves, 3 garlic cloves & cucumbers in quart jars. Add 1 1/3 c. salted water to each of 3 quart jars, add 1/3 of combined spice mix, top off with fresh filtered water, leaving 1” head space.  Cover jars and shake to distribute salty water within jar, & make sure all veggies are still submerged. Place glass cup or custard cup into jar as needed to make sure all garlic and cucumbers are completely submerged.  Leave in dark, cool place for up to 2 weeks, checking and tasting as needed till pickles are as tangy as you like. When taste is right, cap tightly and store in refer or root cellar for 6 months or more, or till pickles are tangier than you like.

Happy Fermenting everyone!

A colorful partnership: Greens for the Red House

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Well, it is official. Sustainable Renton Community Farm is growing greens for one of the best restaurants in Renton, The Red House. The owner, Gene Sens, is an advocate for the slow food movement. His dedication to quality food has brought joy and happiness to Rentonites for decades. Along with being an advocate for good food, Gene is also an advocate for Renton and the local, small business owner.

A couple of years ago when Sustainable Renton first began, Gene asked us what we needed and we really didn’t know at that time. We had no idea then that we would be given this wonderful opportunity to have a community farm, but here we are, two years later with the most magnificent community garden and arm loads of bounty.

Gene and Frank Lucarelli, The Red House’s Chef, have been so gracious and wonderful working with us. We have made just three deliveries of Siberian Kale and Giant Red Leaf Mustard greens. So far, so good. When we made the delivery on Saturday morning one of the kitchen help said, with a big smile on his face, “I am really glad to see this.”  How happy could a gardener be hearing that their labor has made someone else happy? All gardeners are intimately aware of how beneficial and therapeutic it is to work in the garden, but when the harvest is benefiting the community too, all is well.

Thank you Gene, thank you Frank and thank you to everyone who has made the community farm a reality.

Our next move is a School garden, and we are looking into the possibility of a couple of goats. So exciting!

Any questions or comments please e-mail

Lara Randolph, Farm Manager larar35@comcast.net

Elizabeth Zwicker, Farm liaison linguisticnurse@gmail.com

Be sure to like us on Facebook.

 

Cascade Neighborhood-a Local Food System in action?

Today, I took a walk around the Cascade neighborhood of Renton with my kids. We spotted a couple of signs of healthy local food system developments-a school garden, and fresh homegrown produce for sale.

The gardens are at Renton Park Elementary. They are bursting with color.

Each classroom has their own raised bed.
The kids are going to have a great time in the Fall exploring what they planted.

And the produce is being sold from someone’s home-but I wasn’t able to find it today. I’ll have to go exploring further another day.

Seen on SE 168th St.

It’s nice to see these simple ways to reconnect with our sources of food. What have you spotted in your neighborhood?

Sun + rain = lots of yummy veggies?!

Between all this warm, sunny weather and some rain, gardens are bursting w/ veggies right now. See the harvest of Kim, a gardener at the Sunset Community Garden.

The tomatoes, though, might not be faring so well. What do you do to keep your tomatoes from splitting and growing healthy with this sort of weather?

Fresh from the Sunset Community Garden

What’s growing in your garden?

We would love to share pictures from your garden here on our website. What are you growing this year? Any surprises? Any spectacular results from a new crop? Leafy lettuces, vibrant-colored strawberries, 7-foot tall pea vines-we want to see them!

Send us an email with the pic, or share them over on our Facebook page!

A surprise in our garden this year was the chamomile that was supposed to be carrots! Oops. Certainly a pretty accident. Now to figure out how to harvest and store them for tea.

Chamomile-*not* carrots!