Growing behind our 100 year old chicken coop is an epic fig tree we give love to in the winter with pruning and mulching with chicken manure and compost. This year it has rewarded our efforts with lush, rampant growth and the season's first sticky-sweet, ripe figs. They're amazing, of course, but hard to glean. Here's a photo of the shenanigans we had this morning in the name of good fruit, rigging up a pulley system to shift the limbs downward while I stood anxiously on the roof of the chicken coop (with questionable integrity) and gathered figs. I'm holding a perfectly ripe one in my hand, and the folks holding the tree limb within my reach via 100 feet of rope and a brick are Ben and Bethany, our two new WWOOFers. They'll be here for the next two weeks or so, sharing in our adventures before starting their own farm in Alabama. Couldn't have done this without them...
Figs have extremely flexible branches that are easily bent to gather fruit, but this tall, tall branch required the leverage of both Ben and Bethany.
A belt looped through the handle of a bucket gives a two-handed advantage. Note: Standing on roofs of decaying 100 year old buildings not recommended or endorsed by Elliott, Arianne, or any of the chickens at Hope Grows.
Ben and Bethany holding down the tree. Aren't they cute? We can't get enough of young farmers in the making.
We just spent a few days with a couple of groovy & talented filmmakers from Atlanta who are serving the good food movement by putting a face on the young sustainable and organic farmers in Georgia. As they travel the state shooting their feature length film about young, hot farmers like us, they're posting quick video teasers and photo updates on their blog GROW! The following is a video of turkey arrival earlier this week:
What do chicken farmers do when their eaters demand turkey? They get turkeys...basically big chickens, right? This is an exciting new adventure for us, and we look forward to sharing our experience in the coming months. It's a bit of a nail-biter. Raising a bird that takes a long time to grow (4 months) with little experience is a bit of investment, a bit of risk. But this year we're giving it the old college try in hopes we can round out the season a little more diverse, a little more experienced. Whether we succeed deliciously or fail miserably, we will do our best to report it here.
They came a day earlier than expected, which made for a chaotic morning with the brooder still under construction, but all 100 of our broad breasted white poults (young turkeys) arrived safe and sound. They chirped contentedly, happy to be out of the box and with quirky, loving farmers. This counts as a major turning point. Half the year is over, and these little guys (yep--all dudes or "Toms" in farmerspeak) will hang with us for the 134 days until Thanksgiving, the big sigh at the end of the season--the farmer's most anticipated, sacred holiday.
We'll be brooding them for quite a while longer than the chickens (6 to 8 weeks) before turning them out to pasture 'till mid-November to get positively juicy and flavorful as a result of eating copious amounts of grass and bugs. If your mouth's already watering (ours is even though the poults are small and fluffy), you can pre-order one from us at the farmers' market starting next week. We suspect orders will fill up quickly, so jump on the pastured poultry bandwagon early this year (everybody's doing it) and let us know you want one. If we're thinking about Thanksgiving in July you can, too.
In the meantime, enjoy the photos and stories here so you can share them with your families as you pass the cranberry and the gravy 'round the table...
A new, yet confident turkey farmer in the making...
The job of a member of the World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming program is simple and straightforward. We talk to farmers, visit with growers of all different sorts and backgrounds, and work our way through sun, sweat, and more than a few long, tiring days, and while the experience is always an event to remember, it is not always something that resounds deep enough to leave lasting impressions on a persons way of life.
The past three weeks living here at Hope Grows farm, although short in length of stay, have imparted a vastness of virtue that few experiences can hope to replicate. It is rare, in any walk of life from the actor to the athlete, writer to wanderer, to find a person so devoted, so in love with their art and everyday practice that their actions can change those around them without even trying; Elliott and Arianne certainly make that cut. From early mornings spraying sleepy dew from the tall waving grasses in the pecan orchard to spending a few moments in the heat of the day to savor a slice of melon grown not twenty feet behind you with a couple of endearing pigs in the shade, I find myself hard pressed to think of a better way to spend my scant summer vacation. Moreover, the lessons learned here have certainly not fallen on deaf ears. My body feels better, responds better, and moves better than just a month before, when I would lament my college-inspired unhealthy lifestyle of late nights and dubious sustenance.
So what is the virtue to be learned here? What have my unbelievably gracious and accommodating hosts imparted on this hungry mind? Love what you do. Be mindful. Watch the sun across the sky, get dirt under your fingernails, and above all else, listen to the world around you, because "Mother Nature is smarter than the FDA". After my stay here, I believe it.