Six months of farms and food and thoughts:

Well the garden (and general food reflections) blog is back up and running. The four of us will be spread across the four corners of the globe over the next eight months, and hopefully we’ll be seeing (and eating) many interesting things, which we shall do our best to document colourfully on this li’l webpage here.

Actually, although I haven’t blogged in months and months, the blog is always in the back of my mind. And so I’ve been saving up a collection of photos from the last six months of various farms or food-related sights I have seen…

Over the summer I did some work with a group called Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), a coalition of farmer’s organisations in Kenya working on sustainable agriculture issues.  I attended a three day seed-saving workshop that they hosted for farmers and organisers from across Kenya. A lot of the language used: seed sovereignty, food sovereignty, food justice, is vocabulary used by the food justice movement in other parts of the world, and there were references to the Terra Madre conference and Via Campesina, etc. It was interesting to see how this movement is growing, and how ideas can spread across continents, while adapting to local culture and taking on an identity of their own in the different countries. Also exciting was meeting several farmers who had worked with John Jeavons when he travelled to Kenya several years ago. They had worked on the bio-intensive method with Jeavons, adapting it for Kenyan crops and environmental conditions. There was a discussion at the workshop about the bio-intensive method and whether it is suitable for smallholders in Kenya, especially as so many of the farmers tending small plots are women. The objection was that double-digging is too physically demanding. They all laughed when I said my three women friends and I double-dug our small plot (very very small plot in comparison to a whole farm!).

These are some pictures of farms we travelled through on our way to the seed-saving workshop and around the Mwea area (rice region of Kenya)

I also visited a few subsistence farms in different areas of Kenya. This first one is in Taita district, a relatively dry area. Here they were growing crops like eggplants and green chillies. The second picture shows all the refuse from the nearby toilets and kitchen draining straight onto the field. (I had just eaten a meal with produce from this farm). This third picture is a small shamba in the Coast province, mango, banana and cashew trees can be seen, with chickens scurrying about.

Back in Providence, and we’re taking a walk along the Woonasquatucket River Bike Way when we see this wonder: a tomato growing out of a wall on the other side of the river! Did it sprout itself? How could someone get there to plant it?

The Secret Restaurant.

Never have I roasted so many aubergines: we had six sheets of aubergines roasting in three different ovens! What a lot of olive oil…
The Menu:
Three different types of home-baked bread with herbed butter
Roasted delicata squash with melted blue cheese and roasted pecans on a bed of rocket and a vinaigrette dressing
Main Course:
Bhaingan bharta (Indian roasted eggplant curried with garlic and spices)
Pilau rice with peas
Sauteed green beans with garlic and almond slivers
Pumpkin cheesecake with a ginger snap crust, topped with a dark-chocolate ganache and some pecans
Pear and custard tart with a grainy cornmeal crust

Tap water or home brew from Belly of the Byeast!

Chicken Slaughter at the Farm:
Similar run down to what Keally has described when she helped earlier in the year. We slaughtered and gutted 60 chickens and 10 ducks on a crisp fall Saturday. The ducks were an interesting experience as not many people present had experience with de-feathering ducks. With the chickens you submerge them in 60C water for 30 secs to loosen the feathers, which makes them easy to pluck off. However, ducks having evolved to live in water, when we submerged them in the water, the feathers kept the water from reaching the pores, and the longer we kept them in, all we got was slowly cooking duck, but no loose feathers. Plus, a duck is a much larger bird and hard to manage in a medium-sized saucepan of hot water. The solution: grabbing a stick and trying to backward-comb the feathers to get the water in, and a lot of hand-plucking. The first picture is of the traffic cones hanging from the tree with a just-killed chicken in the cone. The second picture is of Keally cleaning up one of the gutting tables, a bag of chicken hearts which will be sold to customers still sitting on the table.

We were also given a chicken for our efforts. The four of us roasted the chicken a few weeks later (it was my first time roasting a chicken). Keally defrosted it, Natalie made the stuffing, Becca made the glaze and I put it all together. Tasted delicious. (Becca might be able to insert a picture of it)


My dear grandmother in her garden in Queens watering her gannip (Korean greens)

I have a few more pictures, but at this point the internet here in Kenya is ready to give way, so I will put some more up shortly.

So just to wrap up with some current news: The garden I planted here at home in July has been doing very well. My family enjoyed kale, spinach, lettuce, bak choy, rocket and others over the last six months, and here are a few pictures of what is still growing. The first picture is of all our blossoming beets, the second shows the remains of the lettuce gone to bolt, which we are keeping to seed-save, and the third picture is of the sweet carrots I have been munching on these last few weeks, and some of the first few tomatoes that took a long time coming. I will be going to several local seed stores in the next few days to get the next round of vegetables growing, we want to plant more indigenous vegetables this time.


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