Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cleveland Maple Syrup

The Tree In the Front Yard

The silver maple stands quietly and proud,
The lone elder on an urban block.
It bears another cold winter and begins to thaw
as spring approaches.
When the days turn warmer, I put the spile in and hope to catch some of the tree’s sap,
for it has much to share.
When my bucket is full, I get to work boiling the sap into the sweet syrup,
That we share at the breakfast table.









Sunday, December 20, 2015

Partnering With Animals


In our quest to discover where our food comes from, we have learned about our relationship with farm animals as co-creators of abundance and fertility. On our tiny urban backyard in Cleveland, we’ve kept hens, ducks, and rabbits, and have had the privilege and pleasure of watching them, caring for them, and watching our niece and nephew chase them (endlessly hilarious!). I’ve trapped at least 10 raccoons trying to get to the chickens and on more than a couple occasions, run down half asleep in the middle of the night to throw whatever object I could find at the coons trying to get in the coop. Animals, like humans, are a lot of work. And yet, I’ve enjoyed the morning ritual of opening the chicken door and watching them trip over each to get out and be the very definition of life and energy. They are mini-dinosaurs in their constant quest to find bugs and worms and convert them into more energy and eggs. They eat all of our kitchen scraps and leave behind their nitrogen-rich manure that we toss into the compost bin and eventually into the veggie garden. They have been a blessing and a gift indeed. Did I mention fresh eggs?!

And yet, as Peter Bane eloquently states, “if we take animals into our care, we are accepting responsibility for their deaths, whether by disease, accident, predation or at our own hand”. With winter approaching, chicken food running out, the realization that the hens are older and are barely laying anymore, and the fact that we are going out of town for 10 days, it seemed like a good time, to say it nicely, to harvest them. In the process of harvesting the chickens, we are grateful. As seasoned gardeners know, feather meal, bloodmeal and bonemeal are garden gold. We drain the blood into the same bin that we pluck the feathers into. That makes it easy to put these gifts into our compost bin which will go onto the garden in spring. We also eat the meat, which on older laying hens, is best slow cooked or crock-potted. We then make bone broth, which is a delicious and nourishing treat in soups during the winter. Once the carcass is done in the crock pot, we take the bones and dry them in the oven. Once dried, we can crush them and throw them into the compost bin for a phosphorous boost.

We have put lots of time and energy into feeding the chickens, providing them shelter, changing out their frozen water trays in negative degree weather (!), opening the coop door every morning and closing it every night. And they, in turn, have taken care of our food scraps, increased the fertility of our garden, given us many hours of entertainment, provided us lots of fresh eggs, and finally provided meat to eat and feathers, blood, and bone for the garden. Being a part of this whole process has brought us much appreciation and reverence for life, death, abundance, and partnership.

(Here's a little sample of summer backyard activity. A group of garden students were over to process and eat the corn they grew in the garden.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Fresh Camp


For the past few years, my brother-in-law, Doc, has been running a summer camp for kids in our neighborhood called the Fresh Camp. He combines hip-hop, lyric writing, music production, gardening and cooking to create an experience for neighborhood kids that enables them to use their voice in finding and amplifying what is fresh in our community. Recently a short film about his project called "RE {FRESH} - It Takes a Village" was selected as an "early acceptance" for screening and competition at the 5th Annual Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. Here's the trailer (and I make a special guest appearance at 1:07).

Re{Fresh} (trailer) from Travis Pollert on Vimeo.

We've been supporting Doc in this endeavor the past 2 years and our involvement is even greater this year. Lynea was able to get a grant to put in 2 school gardens in our area, and the Fresh Camp students are learning and growing (pun intended) with her in the gardens.

Recently, someone came and ripped up all of the plants we had planted, leaving everyone frustrated, yet somehow motivated. We put the plants back in the ground, and (wisely) put up a fence. As momentum for this camp has grown, Doc has seen the value in doing it year round and he's got a Kickstarter campaign going to reach this goal. Looking for something good, inspiring, and fresh to donate to? Check out the kickstarter campaign here. He's trying to raise $12,000 in 29 days!
Prepping the beds.
Watering
Looking at different types of soil.
Did I mention Lynea rocks as a teacher!!
Planting with love.



Getting the crew ready to put those plants in the ground!
Here's a video Doc made after the recent plant disaster:


If you made it this far in the post, thanks. And if your so inclined, help spread the word to folks that might be interested in supporting Doc's kickstarter campaign.

Summer 2014 Begins...

Summer - the period of finest development, perfection, or beauty previous to any decline: the summer of life.

A very romantic definition of summer, yet you have to admit that summer is pretty sweet! Our windows are open 24/7. We wake up to birds singing every morning. We sweat. Ah yes, we sweat! There's not much time to write, cause this is our season to "do." Late night dates consist of weeding and watering at Lynea's school gardens. Thankfully she's trained 2 teens to take over watering duty. As for my city farm job, we jammin'! Don't wanna speak too soon, lest our tomatoes fall sick to disease, but we've had a great spring harvest of lettuce, kale, arugula, swiss chard, and radishes. Here's a few photos as proof:

My co-worker manning our booth at the Farmer's Market.
Lynea has been working with Doc's Fresh Camp students, teaching in the garden. Did I mention she can teach like none other!
Planting up the school garden.

Lettuce grows in rows at my farm.
Cleaning radishes.
Only had 6 rows planted at this site last year. This year we have 42! It's been hand to the shovel and sore to the back. 

Planting pole beans.
Harvesting kale.
Swiss chard, kale, radishes, school bus.
Variety of radishes called Easter Egg.

Popping in Swiss Chard starts.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Spring 2014

This past winter, Lynea applied for a grant to put in a neighborhood garden site that could be used for education, demonstration, and even job opportunities for teens. She got it! Problem is, we couldn't seem to get any land to put it on, despite all the vacant properties in our neighborhood. Through the arduous process, we learned a lot about who's in control of land and even how people get displaced from their land. Money is powerful.
But eventually, we are grateful to say that we found 2 schools that are allowing us to put school gardens in and grow food with the kids. It all happened really fast. And through it all, I was reminded how Lynea can get stuff done! Here's some photos:

Working hard in the rain! 
Planning and planting. 

Now to my job. I'm in the second growing season with Cleveland Crops, and we're off and running. Got lots of stuff in the ground: kale, swiss chard, leeks, collards, lettuce, etc. Feels good to move from the greenhouse back into the field. Did I mention I like hot weather?

Hydroponically grown mustard greens that are sold to the zoo for the gorillas to eat. Seriously.
Putting lettuce in the ground.
Making more rows with elbow grease.

Laying out lettuce starts to be put in the ground.