Economy of Movement: Granola

In the mixing bowl.

In the mixing bowl.

There’s always an awkwardness when you start something new. It’s the inevitable struggle to find your economy of movement in a new space; to develop new habits in thought and action that allow you to be efficient at what you’re doing.

Which table gives you the best space to work in? Which is most central to the things you need?

Which tools and bowls do you actually need? Are they clean?

Which ingredients do you start with? Wet or dry? Do you keep them each in a separate container or mix them as you go?

How many times do you walk back and forth to the cooler to get those ingredients? Are they in the cooler?

What does twenty-two kilograms of oats look like? What size container do they need?

What does .25 kilograms of molasses look like? What size container does it need?

And how do you scoop it out of all the corners when you finally add it to the mix? Because that shit is thick and sticky.

This was my morning making granola for the first time. All of these steps finally coming together in a giant red mixer that looks like a Kitchenaid tripped out on steroids.

But the truly challenging part was spreading the granola mixture on trays to bake.

The hardest part.

The hard part.

“I’m going to show you the beginner way to spread it,” says Kelsey, laying wax paper on cookie trays. “It’s not the fastest way but it’s the best way for learning.”

She scoops granola from the mixing bowl and piles it in a heaping mound on each tray. Then she starts spreading granola on the tray in front of her.

“Make it thick along the edges,” she says, pulling and shaping the granola along the sides. “You want to keep it thinner through the middle. So you can see the paper through the oats.”

She spreads the rest of the granola with claw-like fingers, combing through it and thinning it.

Thick on the sides. Thin in the middle. So you can see the paper. Got it.

And I start spreading granola. Imitating her motions.

“Well, kind of,” Kelsey says as she moves her first tray out of the way and starts on a second. She points with an oat-coated finger. “You’ve got too much paper showing there.”

If you spread the granola too thick, it won’t bake through all the way. Patches will remain wet and sticky.

If you spread it too thin, it’ll get too dry. It’ll burn.

The learning curve of efficient movement is a bitch with granola.

But all you can do is jump in and struggle. Spread the best you can and bake.

The first batch of cinnamon raisin out of the ovens has wet patches. Kelsey finds them as she’s breaking the sheets of granola into smaller bits for packing. She pushes the pieces into a corner of the table-long bin she’s working in.

Bummer. What happens to the wet pieces?

“We save them for the staff,” she says. And hands me a piece.

The punishment could be worse along this particular learning curve.

Matt Kelly, boonieadjacent.com

Categories: baking, food, Small World | Leave a comment

Packing

Matt Kelly, boonieadjacent.com

One of the first things you do as an intern at Small World is spend a lot of time packing food into containers: apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, red miso, mild kimchi, spicy kimchi.

But this is not the culinary equivalent of making copies in an office. It’s a far more valuable use of an intern’s time.

Packing gives you exposure to all these various foods: what they look like, taste like, smell like, feel like. Cooking and baking and general food making is the ultimate sensory experience. Paying attention with all your senses is the key to success.

“Is this spicy kimchi?” asks Kelsey.

Spicy kimchi... really?

Spicy kimchi… really?

We’re all standing around a table-long bin filled with fermented vegetables, packing jars labeled “Spicy Kimchi.” It sure should be spicy.

She picks out a few bits and tastes them. “It doesn’t taste spicy.”

All packing comes to a stop.

I taste some.

Nate tries some. He’s thoughtful for a moment. “It tastes spicy to me.”

I’m not so sure. I taste some more.

“I don’t think it’s spicy enough,” says Kelsey after another taste.

I agree. I’m not getting that tingle crawling up the base of my skull.

Luke tries some. “It’s mild.”

We add more homemade hot sauce and mix it in. We sample. We add more left-over kimchi bits and mix them in. We sample again.

“That’s spicy,” says Luke.

Agreed. There goes the tingle.

Categories: fermenting, food, food storage, Small World | Leave a comment

New gig: Small World

Making bread.

Today I started my internship at Small World. For the next three months I’ll be learning to make miso and bread and kimchi.

And helping jerry-rig a small temperature-triggered heater using old extension cords, a random outlet, some electrical tape and a cheap thermostat.

“How much electrical have you done?” asks Luke. He’s laying out all the parts on the break room table. “We need to get this installed in the market van.”

And helping make aesthetic decisions about the makeover of the retail area.

“What do you think?” asks Eli. He and Ken are conversing thoughtfully about a blank wall in the shop, taking notes. “Should we have the barn wood running vertical or horizontal?”

And helping fill orders for sauerkraut. Original kraut. Curry kraut. Caraway kraut. Purple kraut. Cases of sauerkraut.

“Can I borrow you for three minutes?” asks Whitney. She’s pushing a clumsy wheeled cart towards the door. “Can you help me maneuver this out to the cooler to get the kraut?”

Sure can.

During the phone interview for the internship, Nate asked me a lot of questions about my expectations for the experience: What do I want to learn? How do I want my skills to grow? What would I like to contribute? What days and times are best for me? When it was my turn for asking questions, I had only one.

Baking bread.

Baking bread.

What do you guys expect from me as an intern?

Nate paused. There was silence on the phone but you could hear the wheels turning in his head. Always a thoughtful guy.

“Curiosity,” he said finally. “We expect you to be curious.”

Shouldn’t be a problem. Never a dull moment at Small World. Always plenty to be curious about.

**
Small World, http://www.smallworldfood.com

Categories: bread, fermenting, food, food storage, Small World | Leave a comment

The Path I Walk

Here’s the obligatory New Year’s inspirational post. With all seriousness, I hope you enjoy it. May you find inspiration in both big and small ways all throughout this new year.

Unexpected beauty.

Unexpected beauty.

Apparently 2014 was a bad year. That’s what everyone seems to be saying. Good riddance.

Not sure I agree that 2014 was a terrible year. But I know I’d like the path I’m on this coming year to be a little smoother, straighter and more level than the one I followed in 2014.

And I know for sure the path I walk is entirely up to me.

This morning I headed out for a couple hours on the trail. Days off were a rare event for me 2014, I packed my schedule as full as I could. But somehow I ended up with New Year’s Day complete free, through no effort or intention of my own.

It was a day to spend in the middle of the woods with the camera.

The air was bitter cold, colder than it’s been all winter here in the Finger Lakes. The sky was clearing, letting sharp sunlight fall through clouds and trees. There was only a dusting of snow. Not enough to ski or snowshoe, not enough to turn the naked trees into a winter wonderland.

It was just enough snow to create the illusion of a smooth and easy trail.

Ankle-deep ruts of frozen earth and glassy sheets of ice from run-off were covered deceptively by a level blanket of fresh white snow atop a mat of fallen leaves. Every step was a potential ankle roll. I had to spend more time looking at the trail than looking for birds.

Worse still, others had passed this same way earlier in the morning. Their feet had churned up layers of snow and leaves, cutting ragged marks through this already unremarkable and uninspiring landscape.

A disappointment to be sure on my rare day off.

But the track of footprints had something to offer that I almost missed. The snow had been turned over and revealed countless crystalline structures of ice stretched between the leaves. Like the sheer cliffs of a tiny alien landscape.

I’ve never seen – or noticed – ice form like this before. Glad my eyes and mind were open wide enough to catch it this time around.

The path I walk in this new year is entirely up to me; trail conditions might be undesirable, but it’s my choice to walk it.

I will pay careful attention to I where I place my feet.

I will keep my eyes wide to the unexpected beauty and inspiration that fills the rugged terrain along this chosen path.

The beauty and inspiration that makes it worth walking.

More unexpected beauty.

More unexpected beauty.

Categories: in the wilds, photography | Leave a comment

Way too much to learn

Scoops for the seeds.

Scoops for the seeds.

“Have you seen those giant white lima beans?” asks Jeremiah.

“Yes!” replies Petra with her always-abundant enthusiasm. “Phaseolus lunatus.”

“Right,” says Jeremiah. He’s sticking labels on empty seed packets. “Just like watermelon.”

There’s a semi-awkward silence in the warehouse as we all collectively wonder: “Just like watermelon?” What?

“The species name,” Jeremiah says. “Lima bean is phaseolus lunatus. Watermelon is citrillus lunatus.”

Lanatus,” says Petra in gentle correction. “Citrullus lanatus. Lana not luna.”

“Really?” Jeremiah looks up from the packets. “I thought it was lunatus because a watermelon is shaped like the moon.”

Technically, lunatus is Latin for “crescent-shaped”; lanatus means “wooly”. Not sure what being wooly has to do with watermelons. But I’m not about to interrupt these two farmers with what Google Translate has to say.

Way too much to learn from just listening to them talk.

Our days on the farm are now spent indoors; in the windowless, low-ceiling, concrete-walled warehouse. Marathon shifts of packing seeds with the utmost precision. On these days, the passage of time is marked by the movement of seeds and playlists of music.

And conversation.

Piles of packets, labeled and waiting.

Piles of packets, labeled and waiting.

The spirit of the grange – the old meeting place of farmers in earlier times – is alive and well on these winter days. We talk about farming, about seed and growing seed. We talk about favorite varieties and personal preferences. There is discussion about cows and sheep and chickens. And the best way to dispose of manures. The solution is to spread it back on your fields, of course. But chicken manure can still burn your tomato plants if applied straight to the base, even when dry. We talk of compost and how leaf compost could tie up nitrogen in the soil if applied before it’s properly decomposed. Worm castings make great compost. But, man, is it expensive.

“When I set up my worm composting in college, I called it the Comminution Café,” says Petra.

Comminution (noun): the action of reducing a material to minute particles or fragments.

Who knew?

“How did the Black Cocos turn out?” asks Jeremiah.

“Beautifully,” replies Petra with her always-abundant enthusiasm. “But they did run a little bit.”

“Really?”

Black Cocos are a bush bean. Not a runner , not a climber.

“They bushed out very nicely,” she continues, creating images in the air with her hands. “But then a plant would send out a little runner, like a little hand waving, ‘Hello, here I am.’”

“Well, black beans are like that,” replies Jeremiah, sticking labels on packets. “They can be a little runny.”

Who knew?

Way too much to learn.

Mustard seed.

Mustard seed.

Categories: Finding Fruition, food, garden, seed | Leave a comment

Change of Pace

Matt Kelly, boonieadjacent.com

Seed cleaning is work that must be done by hand. No getting around it.

Winter is finally here. Snow covers the fields. Hollow winds blow through naked trees and across gray hillsides. A change of pace at the farm.

“We’ll get some down time,” says Matthew. “Like never.”

Now is when the true push begins to clean and package seed for the coming spring. Hours spent in the warehouse with screens and air columns, with scoops and dishes. With bag upon bag, bin upon bin full of seed.

There’s no quick and easy system to doing this. No matter how fancy the tools, seed cleaning is work that must be done by hand. You have to pay attention; you have to look at and listen to the seeds as they move through the process.

The change of pace in our work is from physical to mental; from days in the sun and breeze to artificial light and four walls. But the care and attention and hours of effort remain the same.

Air column: chaff and immature seed.

Air column: chaff and immature seed.

The air column makes it much easier to clean large volumes of small, light seed like lettuce. Load your seed into the column and send a continuous but carefully modulated blast of air through it. Just like using the box fans, the air column lets the heavier, mature seed to settle into one chamber while the lighter chaff and immature seed blow off into another.

But how strong to make the blast? There’s always some figuring out to be done. You don’t want good seed blowing off.

And before you can put the lettuce seed in the air column, you have to screen it all by hand. Do we use a 1/22 screen?

“I think 1/20 is better,” says Kim.

“Make sure you screen the Gentilina twice,” says Matthew. He’s looking closely at the seed we’ve done already, letting it fall from his fingers back into the tray.

You can only shake the screen so much before chaff starts to fall through with the seed. But there’s seed still left in the screen. So do it twice. All four varieties of lettuce seed, each a slightly different size and shape.

We’ve got a Dodder Mill for the beans. A wooden box with two adjacent rollers inside, set at a gentle slope from one end to the other. Crank the rollers and pour beans in the narrow crease between them; whole beans will roll smoothly along the crease and out a hole at the far end; broken beans and bits of chaff get bounced along the rollers and eventually into the bottom of the mill.

At least, that’s the idea.

We’re still getting broken beans falling out the end. We change the speed of the spin. We change the speed of the pour. We change the height of the pour.

“There’s less cracked beans falling out,” says Petra. She’s got her hands cupped under the hole, above the bin catching the beans. She’s slowing the fall of the beans and looking at every one.

“We’re getting whole beans in the bottom of the box,” says Kim, showing us the tray.

We’re thoughtful about this for a moment. Is it worth the time and effort to get every single good bean in the bin?

“If we get ninety percent of the whole beans, that’s good,” says Matthew.

It’s an eyeball measurement. An educated judgment call.

But even with the perfect spin and pour, the mill is still letting cracked beans fall into the bin. It’s not a perfectly clean batch.

“Maybe we should skip the mill and just clean all the beans by hand,” says Matthew. He means sorting through a ten-gallon bin of beans by hand, picking out the broken pieces and chaff. It’s an option but not a favorite one.

Maybe we should decide by bean.

Cleaning Gold Rush beans by hand.

Cleaning Gold Rush beans by hand.

Uncle Willie’s gets mostly clean with the mill, making the hand-picking much easier. But Supermarconi is such a big bean, it’s more effective to clean it all by hand without the mill.

And in the process of picking through the Gold Rush beans, we find the mutants. Variations from the rest. Same size but completely different coloration. Maybe from cross pollination?

“I think a cross is unlikely,” says Petra. “Self-pollinated varieties like beans are more likely to have variation from inbreeding. Not crossing.”

“Let’s save them,” says Matthew. “We can grow them out and see what they give us.”

Work that must be done by hand. No machine would have noticed these variations. No machine would have appreciated them.

Categories: DIY, Finding Fruition, food, food storage, garden, seed | Leave a comment

The Garden in December

“At the close of the season, the garden may be left so as to be a desolate-looking spot through the winter, or it may be cleaned up so as not to be repulsive, at least.”
– The Genesee Farmer, 1864

The Genesee Farmer, 1864.

The Genesee Farmer, 1864.

Maybe home growing hasn’t changed as much as we think it has over the last hundred and fifty years. Or at least, maybe home growers haven’t: at the end of each season, we’re ready to be done with the growing, leave stuff where it lay, and move on. Thankful for the abundance of the garden but equally thankful for the break from all the labor we pour into it.

Even though the garden never looked glossy-photo perfect this year, I can say that I’ve successfully closed it down for the winter so as not to be repulsive. At least.

The Genesee Farmer was one of the most reputable agricultural journals in New York for most of the 1800s. Started in 1831, by 1864 the journal had passed through several owner/editors and been in the hands of Joseph Harris for nearly a decade. The same Joseph Harris of Harris Seed Company fame and fortune.

Harris had come to the Rochester area from England and acquired his first farm by 1850. He became a strong and vocal advocate for the region, for agriculture, for progressive thinking in agriculture, and – above all – for seeds. In 1863, Harris “commenced to grow seeds” but did not issue his first catalog until 1879. Throughout his life, he remained strong and consistent in his belief that individuals should be growing, selecting and sharing seeds.

“I should like to see more seed-growers in the United States… I would particularly urge some of my young friends to turn their attention to seed-growing. They should make it the business of their lives.”
– J. Harris, Gardening for the Young and Old, 1890

The advice offered to home growers in Harris’ December 1864 issue of The Genesee Farmer is a perfect bit of his advocacy:

The Genesee Farmer, 1855.

The Genesee Farmer, 1855.

“Visit your neighbors in the long winter evenings; compare your different modes of culture; gain wisdom by an interchange of ideas, and agree to try experiments with new varieties – one trying one kind, and another, another kind, and so on, with the understanding that you shall save and exchange seeds of the varieties that prove valuable.”

If you want you want your garden to produce seed as well as food, you need to give it some considerable thought ahead of time. Growing for seed requires different knowledge, practices and care than just growing for food.

“Now is the time to lay your plans for next summer’s campaign. Perhaps you raised too little of some kinds of vegetables to supply the demands of the family, and more than you needed of some other kinds. Devote, in your plan for next summer, larger plots to those varieties you were deficient in, and curtail those that produced a superabundance.”

Devote effort and space – both mental and physical – to growing, selecting and sharing seeds of your own next season as well.

I assure you: in today’s world, it’s a powerful thing to fill your plate and pantry with food that comes from seed you’ve produced yourself.

**
Additional Info:
The Genesee Farmer, Volume 25 (1864). Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=zmoXAQAAIAAJ&dq=editions%3AMTEidUo3L_IC&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false

Harris, J. (1879). Harris’ Moreton Farm Seeds, Descriptive Catalogue: Field, Garden and Flower Seeds. Retrieved from http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/84592#/summary

Harris, J. (1890). Gardening for the Young and Old. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books/about/Gardening_for_the_Young_and_Old.html?id=Jck2HQAACAAJ

Categories: DIY, food, food storage, garden, seed | 1 Comment

Turkey Cross 2014

Matt Kelly, boonieadjacent.com

Muddy corners.

“Hey, Emily! Hurry up and pedal faster!”

Sam was done for the day. The only evidence she’d been on a bike at all were the dirty tights showing between her long down coat and polka dot muck boots. She was holding out a can of beer to another female rider chugging through the muddy switchbacks of the race lane. For something like the twentieth time that day.

“It’s cheap beer, I don’t care if you spill it!” Sam said as Emily closed in. Then she pulled back the can. “Wait, let me take one more sip…”

Turkey Cross 2014. A great way to end the cyclocross season in Rochester.

It was a tight course through the Apple Farm in Victor, looping riders through rows of apple trees and across open fields, jamming them through two bottlenecks of switchbacks and an old barn. Three inches of snow had just melted with a weekend weather spike of 50 degrees; no mud in the straight-aways but plenty tucked in the corners.

And the whole event was fueled with a little beer and a lot of raucous camaraderie.

Katina leading a climb.

Group climb.

I had a plan for shooting this final CX event: find some favorite angles on the course and capture groups of riders in motion. Individual shots give you a sense of individual effort. Which can be grueling. But group shots give you a real sense of competition, especially when paired with the effects of motion.

The trick is to catch group shots early in a race. The pack always seems to spread out after a few laps. Riders are still challenging each other but not so closely you can capture them in a nice tight shot, neck and neck.

I spent the morning working a few choice angles over several races. But by the middle of each race I settled into playing around with the camera until the next race got started; the barn was begging to be a backdrop for some images but kept foiling my efforts to catch it.

The last race of the day – Men’s Open – was no different. The pack had spread out. Andy and Craig from Park Ave Bikes were holding steady in first and second place. Ross was tailing in third. I was trying to capture that elusive barn with riders passing by.

Then Ross took the lead.

I didn’t see it happen. The three of them passed through the barn and all of sudden a roar went up from the crowd on the other side. People started to point. I picked my fat ass up off the ground and started sprinting.

Andy and Ross, duking it out.

Andy and Ross, duking it out.

From that point on, Ross held his lead position and Andy kept punching to take it back. I kept up an all out hustle between different angles trying to catch Andy and Ross going at it: dodging spectators, cutting across lanes, jumping over flagging and bikes on the ground. Back and forth, back and forth for the last few laps.

“Having fun? Better run faster,” Sam said as I chugged by for something like the twentieth time.

She did not, however, offer me a beer.

Ross gliding across the finish line.

Ross gliding across the finish line.

Ross and Andy were flying full speed down the gravel road, around the big curve and into their last climb. I headed straight to the finish line to catch them coming across.

Then my battery died.

The empty nothingness as I hit the trigger for a test shot. The little battery light flashing. You’ve got to be shitting me.

Ross and Andy burst out of the apple trees, into the last set of curves.

I pulled out my iPhone.

Ask any photographer and they’ll tell you: the camera is just a tool. It’s up to the photographer to get the shot. No one to blame but myself if I missed this one.

I positioned myself and framed the shot. I pressed my thumb on the touchscreen trigger as Ross rolled into view; released my thumb and panned with him as he sped by. And in the end I got a pretty good image of Ross gliding across the finish line, secure in his first place position and happy about the win. A great way to end the cyclocross season in Rochester.

Emily. Winner.

Emily. Winner.

Much later, Emily came rolling across the line, completing her third race for the day. She had slugged her way through the same climbs, the same muddy corners as everyone else. Three times in a row. The only person to do it.

She wheeled her bike off the course and slowly made her way down to the parking lot.

Nice riding, Emily.

“Can you believe how much fun this is?” she said. “I didn’t think adults were allowed to have this much fun.”

Hell yes we are.

Now where’s my beer?

**
Additional Info:
Apple Farm Racing, https://www.facebook.com/AppleFarmRacing

Categories: cycling, photography | Leave a comment

The second most important reason to save seeds…

More than one good reason to save seeds...

Tossed. Toasted. Tasty.

Growing and saving healthy seeds is what we do at the farm. It’s some of the most important work that can be done in today’s world. Consider what Seed Matters has to say:

“We usually don’t think about seed when we sit down to eat our cereal in the morning or tuck the kids into their cotton sheets at night, but it all starts with seed. And the seed we sow affects the quality, nutrition, cost, and environmental impact of all the food we eat and every fiber we wear.

“The last several decades of industrial agriculture have developed seed that is suited to intensive chemical agriculture. While this has sometimes resulted in higher yields, it has come with very real costs. Unintended consequences include air and water pollution, increased pesticide use, greater dependence on fossil fuels, degraded soil health, increased exposure to toxins in farm workers, and the loss of biological and genetic diversity.”

Pretty important stuff, right? But consider the other equally-important argument for growing and saving healthy seeds:

“Sweet Lord Baby Jesus these taste awesome toasted and tossed with salt and cayenne!”

As these cold days of winter begin to set in, don’t ever miss an opportunity to toast up some seeds. Pumpkin seeds are the standard. But squash seeds can be just as good.

A couple weeks ago, we were working double-time to clear the fields of all remaining produce. And I ended up with a tub of Delicata Squash. The rejects, from plants that might have cross-pollinated with another variety.

“Cook ‘em up,” said Matthew. “We don’t need the seeds.”

Roasted squash. Squash bread. Squash apple soup. No problem, I got some plans.

The first batch of seeds I scooped out of the first Delicata went straight to the chickens. Which is a great treat for them, especially since they’re all molting and sad looking. More protein in their diet to regrow those feathers.

But looking at the tub, it occurred to me: there’s a lot of seeds in there. I mean, a lot. Sending it all straight to the chickens felt like a little bit of a waste. Time to toast a few.

“I’ve never had good luck toasting squash seeds,” said Matthew. “Too fibrous.”

Mine turned out great. Sweet Lord Baby Jesus.

The trick – I think – is to soak the seeds in water overnight, helps them to soften up. You end up toasting them twice as long as usual – 20-ish minutes at 350 F – but they seem to cook more evenly and don’t burn from the inside out.

Before toasting, be sure to toss the squash seeds with some oil, salt, and whatever other spices you want.

“I always ground up my squash seeds after toasting them,” said Matthew. “I use them like a spice in other things. You get that nuttiness without the fibrous texture.”

Growing and saving healthy seeds is critically important, people. Because they taste so damn good.

**
Additional Info:
Seed Matters, http://seedmatters.org/

Categories: Finding Fruition, food, food storage, seed | Leave a comment

Kimchi, baby

smallworlddoor

Where I like to spend a day off.

You’d think a couple days away from the farm would be filled with a little relaxing. You’d be wrong.

They’re filled with kimchi. Copious amounts of glorious kimchi.

So much kimchi that the folks at Small World needed to build a holding bin eight feet long, eight feet wide, and five feet high for all the cabbage.

“We should wrestle in it,” said Emile, chopping cabbage.

“We should wrestle naked in it,” said Andy, chopping cabbage.

Um… no. Just keep chopping cabbage.

Day One: Four double-stacked pallets arrived – three thousand pounds of Napa cabbage – from Stick and Stone Farm in Ulysses. It took almost twelve hours to empty every last crate. It was a whole-day frenzy of flying knives and green leaves.

Cabbages were pulled out of the crates one at a time and stripped of their dirty outer leaves. The beautifully clean heads were handed to one table, cored and chopped then loaded into buckets. The leaves were passed to a different table, chopped, double-rinsed and loaded into their own buckets. Nothing wasted.

Cabbage going into the holding bin.

Cabbage going in.

Every full bucket was weighed before dumping it into the holding bin, every weight recorded. Salt is an essential ingredient in fermenting vegetables; it’s often the difference between a tasty tangy treat and plain old rotten food. Keeping the ratio of salt to stuff requires a bit of precision: you want to encourage fermentation, not kill beneficial microorganisms. Every time a bucket was emptied into the bin, salt was added in just the right amount for the weight of the cabbage.

Cabbage coming out.

Cabbage coming out.

Gradually, over the course of the day, this is how we moved every last bit of cabbage into the bin. It was covered with plastic and then weighed down with four water-filled 50-gallon drums, keeping the cabbage submerged in a brine of its own juices and salt.

Day Two: All three thousand pounds of cabbage came back out of the bin.

A dozen 50-gallon drums were set up for mixing kimchi. Additional ingredients were chopped, cut, diced, and otherwise reduced to smaller bits: carrots, leeks, onions, and radishes. A spicy sauce was prepared in a cauldron big enough for three witches to gather around, very Shakespearean.

And the cabbage was uncovered.

It was all hands on deck: twelve people working in sequence to move the ingredients into the drums by the bucket-load. Always carefully weighing before dumping to ensure the appropriate salt-to-stuff ratio for fermenting.

Everyone had a task. And Whitney and I were assigned the cabbage. Sleeves rolled above our elbows, we scooped cabbage into buckets by hand; we passed them off as quickly as we filled them, to be poured into the drums. The cabbage was packed in the bin as thick and dense as clay soil, impenetrable to fingers at times; we used a wooden scraper the size of a small shovel to loosen and break apart the solid mass. The cabbage steadily receded towards the back wall of the bin and I had to chase it by climbing in. Had I known, I would’ve brought my waders. I kept handing buckets back to Whitney, who kept bringing them to the drums. Three thousand pounds of cabbage in the bin dwindling to zero.

Ready to ferment.

Ready to ferment.

Ingredients filled the drums in organized layers as we worked in assembly line fashion. Mixing was done by hand, Ken and Logan and Emile reaching armpit-deep to stir by the arm-load.

At the end of the day, every last vegetable bit had made it’s way into the drums. Salted and sauced, stirred and submerged. Ready to sit quietly and ferment.

Ready to become that beautiful thing called kimchi.

No better way to spend a couple days away from the farm.

**
Additional Info:
Small World Food, http://www.smallworldfood.com/

Stick and Stone Farm, http://www.smallworldfood.com/about/farms/stick-and-stone-farm/

Categories: fermenting, food, food storage, Small World | Leave a comment

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