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At Home: This Food Grew Here

Aug 30th, 2010 | Category: Columns

Author Marnie Jones with some of the season's bounty grown on her family's small farm.by Marnie Jones

With summer come the eggs.
With a flock of 15 hens, half of whom are getting up in years (three of them are eight!), production slows with the shorter days, and increases with the longer. Four a day, five a day—in January, we can keep up. August? Another story.
In June, and on through October, we rally the neighbors. The “eggs for cartons” exchange program begins, with this promise—you bring ‘em, we’ll fill em. What we don’t give away on our lane, I take to work. My coworkers marvel at them—the thick orange yolks, the way they stand in the pan, the flavor.
As with eggs go the vegetables. By the end of the summer, we have vibrant rows of canned beets lending a  warm glow to the pantry, potatoes by the hundreds curing on the porch, fragrant garlic braids dangling from every prominence in the kitchen. They must be eaten, and no one leaves the home of a gardener without something from the garden this time of year. Garlic, carrots, basil, parsnips—this year, these are our “bumper crops.” (Last year, it was salad greens. This year, in a reflexive over-correction, we’ve let down our lettuce production but gone way overboard on the roots and herbs.)
I love inviting out-of-town visitors to our little farm at the end of summer; serving lunch from the garden is a point of pride. Colorful potato salads always feature, though with this summer’s ridiculous abundance of basil we’ve been swinging to the Mediterranean side of the menu. Fresh feta, made at home with milk from our own white doe, lends appeal.
Milk, another seasonal offering—our Missy, small as Saanen goats go, is currently maintaining the milk needs of two and a half families. We get our share, then the new parents across the street get all they can drink. With a cows-milk intolerant breastfeeding infant, they’re grateful for it. What’s left goes up the road to another neighbor, a family with a Jersey cow—recently dried off. When our goat goes the same way, resting her body in preparation for the next birth, we’ll enjoy creamy yellow cow’s milk and fresh Jersey cream.
Garrison Keillor, in an oft-quoted Prairie Home Companion excerpt on NPR, once said that country people only lock their cars in the summer–this to keep people, he said, from leaving zucchini inside. Strangely, my husband and I got our summer squashes in the ground late and have had no surplus this year. Luckily, here in Wickersham there are plenty of sources. I have had no trouble finding zucchini.
When it was not the neighbors of Wickersham, it was the farmers at the Market sustaining us towards harvest season. We are in our fourth year with a vegetable garden of our own and our third year with goats and chickens, but before we found this one-acre “farmlet” we lived a short walk from the downtown Bellingham Farmer’s Market and a short walk in the other direction to the Sehome Arboretum. Fresh food in both directions, and berries for the taking in August and September. I remember it well, even from those days as a renting tenant . . . the pride of production. “Have some cobbler,” I would offer. “The berries grew here.”
This food grew here. I love those words, and in late summer, there is no shortage of opportunity to say them.

Marnie Jones gardens, writes, and rides her mule in the South Fork Valley of Whatcom County, where she shares one green acre with her husband and three daughters. Her mule, Fenway, blogs at www.BraysOfOurLives.com.

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