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HOMEGROWN Life: Thanks, E. B. White

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

HOMEGROWN Life A friend gave me a copy of Down East magazine back before Christmas with a page earmarked. “You’ll die laughing,” she warned me. Turns out, it was a reprint of E. B. White’s “Memorandum,” from One Man’s Meat, published in 1944.

I knew of White from his story of a famous pig named Wilbur who befriended a spider named Charlotte in the children’s book Charlotte’s Web. I must have read that book 20 times over as a child. Maybe it was my first inkling toward wanting to be connected to animals in some way. I’ve never seen the movie version. I guess I always thought I’d be disappointed. Sometimes, the visions we carry in our heads are far more alive and vivid than anything on a silver screen. At least, that’s how I see it when it comes to some of my favorite things, one of them being the tale of a pig and a spider.

One Man's Meat, by E. B. WhiteI saved the magazine for a time when I could sit down and read “Memorandum” without the distraction of something on the stove or a dryer buzzer going off or another log needing to be thrown on the fire. I felt like I was due for a really good belly laugh, as was suggested was going to be the case.

What I experienced instead was the realization that E. B. White and I had so much in common. His litany of tasks and thoughts and expressions of worry or concern were exactly the same things I experience as I wend my way through “working the farm” every day. I said out loud, to nobody but the cats and dog, who gave me a concerned look, “This is exactly how my day is!”

I wasn’t laughing. I was completely struck by the description of a day on a farm and the reality of it all. The shoulds and the oughts and what it would be a good day to do. The things that occur to him and the things he lists he’ll need to complete. The endless tasks and suggestions of the tools that would be good to use to do them and the thoughts of what there is to do tomorrow and what he needs to do to prepare for that next day. If you haven’t read it, do. You’ll never feel alone as a farmer again.

HOMEGROWN Life: Goats in winter

I have conversations all the time with a farmer friend who has been at this for more than 30 years. Brian always says, “If you get behind one day, consider you’ll need three to catch up, if you’re lucky.” It’s an ADD delight, a constant never-ceasing barrage of things rattling around in your head, all equally important, that keep you from ever completely focusing on the task at hand and relentlessly reminding you of what’s left undone. If you farm, tend animals, raise crops, labor over orchards, house any kind of living thing, you know what I’m saying. White describes it in such exquisite detail, the needs of every living and inanimate thing on a farm, you are reminded of the connection to this way of life, and your heart stands still at the thought that you, too, experience this kind of intimacy on a daily basis.

Just as White “musn’t forget to set some mousetraps tonight,” I am reminded of my own tasks that need tending to: “I ought to make a list, I guess.” If you have a list, and my guess is that, if you’re a farmer, you have more than one, know you’re in good company.

HOMEGROWN Life: Bittersweet Herd

When it comes right down to it, the way I see it, the real essence of farming hasn’t changed much since 1944. White’s litany of chores and thoughts and shoulds and oughts is as alive today as it was then. I find that comforting. Maybe the certainty that each day will bring a new set of chores and tasks and unexpected jobs is the simple reason why we’re drawn to the farming way of life. Days unfold with wind and rain, snow and sleet, animals birthing, animals dying, papers that need filling in, stalls that need cleaning, rows of plants that need weeding, compost piles that need turning, wood that needs cutting or stacking, trash that needs burning, stickers for cars that need fetching and sticking, roofs that need mending, sheep that need drenching, and I should go on but won’t. To me, that’s the beauty of farming, the reminder that something much bigger than me is in charge of how my days are laid out before me.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time here typing, and I can see it is four o’clock already and almost dark, so I had better get going.” It seems even this task is one that takes on a life of its own, as these thoughts transfer from brain to paper. Thanks for the brain cramp, Mr. White.

HOMEGROWN Life: Dyan RedickDyan Redick describes herself as “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Her farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender, woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Bittersweet Heritage Farm is an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food source, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

The 2012 HOMEGROWN Holiday Gift Guide

Friday, December 7th, 2012

As the cacophony of consumerism clangs around us, let’s take a moment to consider gifts with meaning—those that come from our hands, our hearts, and our local communities. Here it is, folks: the annual HOMEGROWN Gift Guide.


Everyone loves gifts in jars. Personalize and prettify with fabric squares, ribbon, handmade tags, or a bundle of herbs.


PARDON ME…DO YOU HAVE ANY HOMEMADE MUSTARD? A homemade whole-grain mustard is grand—especially when paired with a few unexpected recipes that use said mustard. This recipe from Hunter, Angler, Cook is terrifically easy, while this one from TV food nerd Alton Brown sure would look cute paired with a few soft pretzels!

FLU FIGHTER: Rich, golden, homemade chicken stock—pressure canned for safety—is a welcome addition to anyone’s pantry, especially those without a pressure canner! Robert offers everything you’ll need to know to get a good batch simmering, sealed up, and ready to give in this HOMEGROWN 101.


DELAYED GRATIFICATION: Fresh salad greens are one of the easiest things for the home gardener to grow. Give the gift of salad by promising to make a hanging moss salad basket for your giftee. If you are targeting a fellow DIY-er, simply package up the necessary materials, along with suggested planting dates for his or her region! Those in warmer climates can get right to gifting and planting (note: thinly veiled envy, enclosed.)






LIVE IN A BUBBLE: Yes, they’re all the rage (still)—and, boy, are they dreamy. Make your own giftable homemade terrarium using this HOMEGROWN 101.





We can’t make it all, so when the wallet opens, here are some suggestions for making holiday shopping meaningful.

Minnesota slingshot!

LOCALLY SOURCED: By now we’ve all seen the data proving that dollars spent at local businesses means more of those dollars stay in the community. Shoestring Magazine offers suggestions for locally made gifts with a snazzy clickable map. Have any favorites for your state? Let them know, and maybe they’ll add it! New Mexico, you’re looking a little thin: We’re looking at you!

THREE MAGIC WORDS: A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share brings fresh, local farm goods to the table—and much-needed support to local farmers! Depending on the farm, you can choose a winter, summer, or year-round share.

SPOT ON: For $10 a month, a Spotify membership gives loved ones access to all of that new music you’ve been telling them about. Make some custom playlists to start them out!

TURN TURN TURN: A food mill is an indispensable tool for jam makers, sauce lovers, and mashed potato aficionados. Make note of Kate’s tips for finding the best one for you and yours.



Our picks for books to cuddle with over the winter:


Above all, let’s acknowledge that most of us already have what we need, while some folks are struggling for the basics. Give from your heart—and happy holidays!

Photo credits: Mustard by Chiot’s Run using CC Licensing on Flickr. Chicken Stock by Christene on Lettuce by Pete & Izzy’s Mom on Terrarium by Joshleo using CC Licensing on Flickr. Slingshot by Radishes by Norm Halm on Headphones by Beats by Dr Dre using CC licensing on Flickr. Food Mill by Island Vittles using CC Licensing on Flickr.

Novella Carpenter’s “Why I Eat Meat” Essay For The Ethicist

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

You’ve probably heard about the avalanche of submissions that the New York Times received for its essay contest, which presented the query: “Tell us why it’s ethical to eat meat.” A provocative question, certainly. And the finalists all had written thoughtfully of their perspective on the matter of meat.

Novella Carpenter, the Farm City author and beloved blogger who raises livestock on a small plot of inner-city Oakland, CA, has long talked thoughtfully about eating the animals that she raises. It’s never easy, she explains. She has said that she often cries when slaughter time arrives.

In her submission, which she shared with readers on her own blog, is thoughtful, yes, but also an unvarnished proclamation that animals are domesticated as a natural, logical link in the chain of life. Enjoy the read and let her know your thoughts!

Why I Eat Meat
Last week, someone broke into my backyard and scrawled on my shed, “Don’t Kill Animals—they are our equals.” I’m an urban farmer in Oakland, well-known for raising turkeys, rabbits, goats, ducks, even pigs in my backyard and lot farm near downtown. As a city farmer, I’m used to rubbing elbows—and getting into heated arguments—with vegans and vegetarians. These meat-avoiders don’t want to kill animals. They love animals. Things is, so do I: I love animals and I love to eat them.