The Milkweed Diaries

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homesteading Summer Camp

Extracting honey

With our three interns and various visitors coming and going all through the summer, things have been very lively at the Red Wing for the past few months. "The 'terns," as they are affectionately known, are incredibly hard workers, smart as whips, and excited about all things garden- and homestead- related.

Because we don't want to exploit the 'terns and their youthful energy, we have tried to break up the hard work with fun and educational activities such as the Farm Tour, field trips, and kitchen projects.

Also, we've been hosting long- and short- term visitors, various friends and family who come to stay for days or weeks and sometimes help out with farm work or participate in Big Projects while they're here. Andriana is here from Manhattan, experiencing composting and chicken butchering for the first time, among other things. Fer was a "day camper" for two weeks while she was visiting from Mexico City, pulling weeds, spreading mulch, and generally jumping right into the fray.

Sometimes it feels like we are running a summer camp --the kind of summer camp I'd like to attend: one where the activities are shoveling manure, chopping vegetables, squishing bugs, extracting honey, discussing heirloom tomato varieties, saving seeds, identifying insects, and fermenting things.

Along those lines, we spent a day extracting honey and making mead with the 'terns and various visitors a few weeks ago. It was one of the stickiest and most delicious ways to spend a day you can possibly imagine. Here are a few shots of the process; you can view more photographs here: honey extraction and here: meadmaking.

Yesterday the campers (aka interns) convened in the kitchen and we made a big crock of sauerkraut and jarred up some brine-pickled (fermented) garlic scapes after a brief lesson on fermentation.

We followed up the festival of fermentation with a garlic tasting, sampling the ten heirloom varieties that we grew this year, cleansing our palates between rounds of baked garlic with a variety of homemade jams, baked brie, and sliced tomatoes from the garden.

Friends and family joined us to gorge on garlic and offer comments on the varieties to help us decide what to grow next year.

I was struck by how our collective work produced this incredibly delicious, nutritious, and beautiful food. Gathered around the table were people who had helped with all of the different pieces of the work of growing food: Shannon and Sharon helped dig and prepare beds, Ali and Nicole and Dau harvested and processed hundreds of heads of garlic this summer, Christopher and I chose varieties, saved seed garlic, and planted and mulched and cared for the plants. And we all savored the fruits of our labor together. It was lovely.

Best summer camp ever.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Summer squash, beets, fingerlings, and new potatoes at our farmers market booth in West Asheville.


Ali, Nicole, and the last of the shell peas