Monday, September 11, 2006

Sour Grapes

Do you know what grapes taste like? I mean what they're supposed to taste like? Have you ever wondered why grape flavored popsicles taste nothing like the grapes you buy in the store? Well today, I found the answer to the question. Imagine your favorite grape flavored confection. Then imagine extracting all of the artificialness and combine what's left with the freshest thing you've ever tasted. If you can manage to accomplish such a feat of imagination, you'll come close to imagining what I tasted today. It was a real grape, fresh from the vine. I've never tasted anything like it! It was sweet, refreshing, and a bit sour--which is perfect, in my opinion. We were told that if they stay on the vine a bit longer, they'll lose that tartness, but I wouldn't want them to.

We were visiting a local permaculture/organic/CSA farm. We met with the very kind, knowledgeable and honest owner, and he gave us the grand tour. We saw the the chickens, the working draft horses, the peacocks with their brood of chicklets, and the pigs (who are slated to be roasted October 1st, and we're invited! Ack!). We saw acres of restored prairie, ingenious swales, composting, ponds, water collections, methane reclamation system deisgns. The owner has set it up to be a true community farm. To hear him talk, most anyone can come do what they need on the farm's 20 acres as long as they pitch in in one way or another. There are Mung families who have garden space, an experimental orchard and nursery, and a forest of an asparagus patch which produces over 2000 pounds! The farmer said that you get pretty sick of it after the first 500 pounds. I find that hard to believe. Oh, and there were magnificent grapes. We picked some of the grapes and filled a canvas bag with apples straight from the trees. I got the chance to prove to the children that it really IS true that after 4-5 barely ripe apples you really will feel sick. They just couldn't get over the tree-picked apples. Maybe it was the ownership of it all, or simple fascination. I think I may attempt a grape-apple jelly. I'm a bit nervous at anything that depends on setting after my vegan marshmallow attempt.

Seeing this farm gave me a lot of hope. We read about all of these wonderful things and Beo experiments on a small scale in our own backyard, but here was someone making it happen on 20 acres. Admittedly, he said that it's an unbelievable amount of work, and sometimes he just can't keep up. This is why I'd never want more than a few acres. Part of me feels like our role might be to bring those backyardable ideas into the suburbs though. The magic and beauty of nature and growing food just outside your door is brilliant on a grand scale out in the country, but how much more magical is it to have it in suburbia? There has to be some give and take, to be sure. As we were leaving, the owner brought up the fact that they may be doing a dairy cow share next year. 8-10 families would buy into the cow, and take a turn milking her each week. We'd have 3-4 gallons from each milking. Can you imagine? Milking our own cow while living in suburbia--I think we may have found the magical formula after all...


~Lori said...

That farm sounds endlessly fascinating! I love your ideas of bringing that into suburbia, on a smaller scale, too.

And that fruit looks glorious. Makes my mouth water just looking at it.

Beo said...

We had heard about this farm over and over. The owner, Greg, kept popping up in odd conversations: he was the one building the strawbale addition to Kirsten's house, need apple trees? Go to Prarie Dock and talk to Greg! When I googled the farm to find the address the first site was a copy of an essay he wrote for the EPA on containing farm runnoff in swales vegetated with restored prarie.

When I did find the address I was amazed to learn that it is only about 5 miles from our house as the crow flies, about 10 by bike becuase you need to go around a river. No doubt we will be there much more in the future-those grapes are amazing!