Roosters on the Brain

Woke early again this morning, despite the fact that we are back in Vermillion and there are no roosters crowing us out of bed.  I might have a phantom rooster on the brain–or it might just be the measure of all that needs accomplishing in the next couple of weeks that propelled me out of bed so early.

We returned from Minnesota at about 2 yesterday afternoon, and an hour later I was out at the farm harvesting whatever vegetables ripened in my two-day absence.  There were a few lunker cukes and a few summer squash bigger than the size at which I prefer to pick them, but otherwise it wasn’t too outrageous.

After a shower and some time listening to “the boys” down at Carey’s (I will miss their Friday night shows enormously), I returned home to process about thirty pounds of tomatoes that needed saucing.  That kept me up ’til past eleven–it was good to have a friend come over and chat to keep me awake!

I tried a new cook-down technique wherein the sauce goes into the crockpot (the lid slightly askew) overnight to cook down, but at the last minute I chickened out and put it on the low setting, so it didn’t cook down much. I just couldn’t bear the thought of cleaning up massive tomato splatter in the wee morning hours.

So, now I am cooking down the sauce on the stove-top to can later on today while boxing up cherry tomatoes, bagging potatoes, and figuring what else I should bring down to the Saturday farmers market.

This latest Big Stone County trip was to look at some housing options and meet a slew of community members I’ll be working with up there, as well as to survey some of the projects that are underway already.

I’m really impressed with the groundwork that has been laid there–the community gardens and plans to build a greenhouse on the Graceville school and the openness of the community grocery store owners toward carrying local foods.

It’s got to be hard to be the owner, operator, and main employee of a little store in a little town like Clinton and have so many requests for better, fresher produce, but know that ordering a case of anything as perishable as produce will result in half of it spoiling before it sells. How can you charge a reasonable price when half will go to waste?

These hard-working people don’t have time to search all over the county for farmers to fill their produce sections–they hardly have time for an afternoon off once a week (if that).  So, solving that puzzle is one of my first priorities there.

I also met an older couple who came back to the area to care for an ailing relative and ended up building something beautiful–a garden that supplies produce to the senior citizens and assisted living facilities and also serves as a living laboratory for the school kids.

Bill and Carol had been talked up a lot by my main contact there in BSC, and I can see why they are a treasure in their community.  They are in the process of moving away, and I hope I can maintain even a portion of their legacy. Just spending part of an afternoon talking and touring with them was a blessing.

In Beardsley, where the little community grocery is also set up to process meat, a local organic farmer has bought the old middle school building and has filled the athletic field with sweet corn–basketball-sized cabbages bloom in the old schoolyard.

We topped off the Wednesday tour with a local foods dinner at the home of another couple who’ve been active in the local foods movement in the region–our small contribution a bottle of Valiant Vineyards wine brought up with us on the trip.

The spread of delicious dishes was definitely the main attraction–that, and the conversation around the farmhouse table about local foods and local affairs.

My phone doesn’t ring in BSC (I need to switch cell companies), so it was through e-mail that I was reminded I’d tentatively agreed to travel to Montrose, CO to speak about local foods at the Western Colorado Congress’ annual meeting in October.  I hadn’t heard anything on it in a couple of months, so it kind of slipped my brain.

They are wanting to get my travel arrangements in order and get going on their promotional materials as well, so I am checking in with my new employers about taking off during that time (which is also during the Meander–Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl).  It’s hard to figure how to be in two places at once!

I’m already feeling a bit like I’m in two places–we looked at a farmstead outside Clinton where I hope to live at least through the winter months, and I am anxiously awaiting a call to cement those plans, so I can start packing up the truck and getting this show on the road, so to speak.

In the meantime–the tomato sauce is bubbling away, and I’ve got afternoon plans to can it, and also to chop vegetables and salt them down for another canning project tomorrow–zucchini relish. I’ll spend at least a couple hours at market this morning before tackling all of that.

So, I’m filling the jars and filling the boxes, and my brain is full of details and ideas and inspiration for the new job up north.

I hope to get some images of the new homeland posted soon–I was so busy meeting people and listening and writing and thinking and asking questions on this trip that picture-taking was just not a priority.  Soon!

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