August is a busy harvest month at Earthaven. Abundance (and labor) abounds.
Happy Spring Equinox! At Earthaven we are singing and drumming at sunrise, and holding a children’s ritual and egg hunt. There are two equinoxes each year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator.
A few years ago, our interns at Imani Farm, NikiAnne and Drew, told us about a rumor that at the equinox, eggs would balance perfectly upright when put on end on a flat surface, because of the tilt of the earth at that time.
Well, Lee and the interns got down on the floor in the Village Terraces Common Kitchen and, after some effort, balanced the egg! The only thing is, we never tried it when it wasn’t equinox, so for all we know, we could balance an egg like this any day of the year.
Imani Farm chickens are pastured and receive soy-free, organic feed. A limited number of their eggs are available in Asheville. No GMOs! When you go to the farmer’s market, please check with your local egg farmer to see if they are using conventional feed (GMO) and, if so, tell them you want to pay more for GMO-free eggs. Let’s use our consumer buying power to support organic feed rather than Monsanto GMOs!
The harsh truth about milk is that it was made by a mother for a baby. We take the baby cows away early in order to get the milk and in exchange offer care and food in other forms.
L.C. (Large Cow) has been bred 4 times, four years in a row, so that we may continue to have delicious, nutritious milk for our family. While it is true that we separate momma from baby, we also make sure baby gets enough milk, fed to the calf via a bottle, two or three times a day.
But not this year. This year L.C.’s calf would get adopted by L.C.’s daughter, who was due to calve around the same time as L.C. If we could somehow convince Mireille (pronounced mee-ray) that she had given birth to 2 calves, then Mireille could serve as nursemaid and L.C.’s calf would have a bovine mama and get all the milk she wanted. And we would get out of having to bottle feed, water, and otherwise take care of the young one which can be a tedious, daily task.
We figured it was worth a try, but we weren’t too hopeful. I had read that it was
difficult to get a cow to adopt a calf that wasn’t her own. Cows depend on their sense of smell to tell them a lot of things, including who their babies are—or are not.
But we had to try. So when Mireille calved first, we froze the placenta. When L.C. calved 10 days later, we pulled it out of the freezer to thaw. We separated L.C.’s calf (named Coco) and (on the second day, after bottle feeding her colostrum for a day) we put her in the barn with Mireille’s calf (named KaCow). Coco and KaCow spent about 8 hours together, with no mother, mixing smells, peeing on each other, and keeping each other company. We can all tell you it wasn’t an easy 8 hours. The calves were hungry and wanted their mommies. Mothers were full of milk and wanted to feed their young. The whole village could hear the incessant mooing.
Finally, in the evening, we tied the placenta around Coco like a belt. I rubbed the juices from the thawed placenta all over Coco—top to bottom—in hopes that she would smell like her big ½ sister (who is also her neice).
Then we brought Mireille into the barn, distracted her with some food, and reintroduced her to her “twins”. There was definitely some confusion, but ultimately Mireille let Coco nurse! We could hardly believe it.
Two more days of isolation and we let the calves into the field with their mother. Again, we stood in disbelief as the two calves nursed with no real problems.
The true relief that it had worked came he next morning when Lee reported
that Coco was nursing from Mireille while KaCow just laid contentedly on the ground next to them. At that point, we could congratulate each other and the cows for a job well done. As Lee says, everyone’s got a job on the farm, and Mireille is doing double duty. We’re so proud.
Liz Diaz arrived as a work-exchange at Earthaven in the Spring of 2010, just in time to jump into Imani Farm, Village Terraces Neighborhood, and other exciting adventures. Her farm specialty is moody and unpredictable animals – of which she has many harrowing stories. She currently works for Useful Plants Nursery and takes care of Oakley Swiftcreek, her adopted nephew.
At the Village Terraces common kitchen we haven’t stopped eating a diet based on local foods just because it’s February. In fact, we’re practically swimming in foods from our farm, Imani, other farms and forests at Earthaven, as well as regional farms and orchards. Our winter pantry goes way beyond cabbage and potatoes.
Imagine this recent meal—sautéed beef (from an Imani steer), home canned tomato sauce (Imani) with peppers (Imani), garlic and basil (VT garden co-op), and onions (Gateway Farm at EH) served with cornbread made from a neighbor’s homegrown and ground cornmeal and milk and eggs from our farm, and collard greens fresh from our garden. For dessert? Blackberries from a local U-pick farm (via our freezer) and homemade raw yogurt from our cow’s milk. All that hard work this past year is definitely paying off.
An inventory of our pantry: Canned tomato sauce, blackberry jam,
strawberry jam, and chicken stock. Dried summer squash, tomatoes, strawberries, and juneberries. Onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, apples, and a large variety of winter squash. For nutritional and medicinal teas- dried nettle, raspberry leaf, dandelion, comfrey, red clover, catnip, and peppermint. Sauerkraut, Kimchi, apple cider vinegar made from cider we pressed ourselves including some garlic and herb infused vinegars. Honey, berries preserved in honey and whiskey (ok, the whiskey came all the way from Kentucky, but we do made certain concessions), dried mushrooms and burdock. Right outside the kitchen door the rosemary, sage, and oregano live on and about twenty feet away there are still a few surviving kale and collard plants.
In our freezer we keep strawberries, blackberries, juneberries, and basil as well as beef and pork from our farm and venison from the region. We daily get eggs from our chickens and milk from our cow which in addition to fresh drinking goodness we also use to make raw yogurt and cheese. And while they aren’t actually local we are devouring and loving the cases and cases of citrus I purchased at a Florida farmer’s market while I was in Gainesville visiting my grandmother in December.
I fondly remember sweating in the July heat of the tomato field, collecting
those first spring nettles in the forest garden, staying up late into the night to can stock, handing over LEAPS (our local currency) in exchange for Gateway squash, the group work day in the fall to put in the garden co-op’s garlic crop and the most abundant fruit year I can remember. And I am eagerly looking forward to those first wild spring greens and the strawberries I can see out my bedroom window.
I have always been passionate about food, and since I’ve been living atEarthaven ( 1 ½ years) I have been able to begin the lifelong journey and spiritual practice of being an active participant in growing, gathering and otherwise obtaining my nutrients. Finally, providing my food and living my daily life are becoming intertwined.
There is a cooperative tomato project going on at Village Terraces. Provisional members eli and Jonathan are partnering with the Imani Farm Coop (Mihaly, Lee, Martha, & Finch), along with work exchanger Liz, to grow a variety of tomatoes to be sold fresh and turned into value-added products, such as canned tomato sauce.
Many members of the ecovillage have pitched in to help at all stages of the project. We started by letting our pigs roam in the lower Imani field to root up weeds. Then came the hard work of preparing the soil, setting in posts, planting, mulching, tying up the plants, watering, etc. The Village Terraces Garden Coop lent some of its irrigation equipment to the tomato project.
Now we are harvesting, eating, and processing! There are beefsteak tomatoes, plum tomatoes, salad tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, etc. The fresh tomatoes are available in the Village Terraces Common Kitchen. More photos below: