The Legacy of Plymouth Rock

We remember the Pilgrims mainly for their role in the First Thanksgiving, but the Pilgrim’s greatest contribution to history actually came after the feast that made them famous.

The first garden in Plymouth Rock was a communal planting of corn, beans, and squash. Every Pilgrim was expected to work in this communal garden and each would share equally in the harvest.

Following the First Thanksgiving, Governor Bradford noticed that harvests were on the decline. A few of the people were doing most of work, but everyone took an equal share of the harvest–workers and shirkers alike. The workers began to lose their enthusiasm, and crops suffered.

In April of 1623, Governor Bradford made a decision that would have profound implications on the colony. He divided the communal garden into individual plots. Each family was granted their own plot to cultivate as private farmland. They could keep or sell their harvest as they saw fit.

The harvests multiplied beyond the greatest expectations of Governor Bradford. He said he never saw families work so hard as they did on their own land. Even “the women now went willingly into the field,” he said, “and took their little ones with them to set corn”.

The Pilgrims set up trading posts throughout New England to sell their surplus. They traded with Native Americans for furs and sold produce to the waves of settlers arriving from Great Britain. Plymouth Rock prospered on the proceeds of their gardens.

This uniquely American concept of freedom flowed into every new settlement in New England, and a powerful sense of individual liberty took root in the region. It is no wonder that the revolution that created the United States began in Boston.

The American economy broke away from the feudalism, socialism, and communism of the Old World. In America, every citizen would have the freedom and opportunity to rise above his circumstances. This concept would later be called The American Dream, and it would change the world.

The Pilgrims did not pass this idea to future generations through high-blown speeches or self-serving monuments. They handed down their idea of freedom through well-tended gardens and plentiful harvests of corn, beans, and squash.

Handful of Tres Hermanas seeds

Seeds of Corn, Beans, and Squash for a Three Sisters Garden


Kayla in the News

Friends, Kayla was in the news yesterday on KRIS Channel 6 talking about the new FDA requirements for chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus.

Kayla is working as a private dietitian consultant, and we are excited that she is being called as a resource for these kinds of stories.

Click here to see the two minute program:  Kayla in the News KRIS.  I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner (photo courtesy Rachel at

Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner (photo courtesy Rachel at

Happy Thanksgiving Turkey!

(Four String Farm Pastured Turkey, from the cover of The Bend Magazine, photo courtesy our friend Rachel at

(Four String Farm Pastured Turkey, from the cover of The Bend Magazine, photo courtesy our friend Rachel at

Friends, please order now to reserve one of our delicious turkeys for your Thanksgiving table!  We only have a few turkeys left, and they will go fast.

These turkeys were raised on pasture and spent most of their time developing a wonderful flavor on gardens of corn, beans, and squash.  The turkeys are really exceptional this year.

Our turkeys are $4.99 per pound, and they weigh between 15 and 20 pounds.  These local, pastured turkeys will be freshly processed for your Thanksgiving dinner and have never been frozen.

To reserve your bird, please click on Coastal Bend Health Foods and fill out the form.  You can pick up your bird on Tuesday or Wednesday before Kimmi closes for the day.

Click on The Bend Magazine’s November issue to see Kayla’s roast turkey recipe, along with tips for making giblet gravy, winter greens, and roasted root vegetables.

Thank you for shopping locally!  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

The Buried Corn of the Nausets

The Pilgrims landed on the shores of America on a cold November day in 1620. They set anchor at what is now Provincetown, in Cape Cod, across the bay from Plymouth Rock.

MayflowerTheir first act upon reaching the New World was to draft and ratify the Mayflower Compact. At sunrise, on November 11th, 1620, forty-one men signed the document that would set the course for democracy in America.

A small group of Pilgrims then stepped onto the beach to explore their new homeland. As the party entered the dark forest above the beach, they stumbled into the village of the Nauset Indians. The village was empty.

The Nausets were a powerful and populous tribe. They spent their winters far inland, where the hunting was better, and returned to the coast with warm weather to plant their summer gardens.

Nauset IndiansAs the Pilgrims investigated the deserted village, they found a smooth place in the sand where something had been carefully buried. They dug down and discovered a secret cache of Indian flint corn with kernels of red, yellow, and blue. The Nausets had buried this corn in wicker baskets to preserve it through the winter. This was the seed stock for their summer gardens.

There were four bushels of corn in that stockpile. Two men could barely lift it from the ground. The Pilgrims carried the corn back to the Mayflower and returned a few days later looking for more. In all, the Pilgrims took fourteen bushels of buried corn from the Nauset Indians.  Then they sailed across the bay to start their colony at Plymouth Rock.

The Pilgrims took the corn because they were desperate. They were now stranded in a desolate wilderness, winter was upon them, and they were nearly out of supplies. They didn’t know if the barley and pea seeds they brought from back home would grow in the rocky soil of New England. They believed the corn could make the difference between life and death in the New World.

The Pilgrims vowed on their honor to reimburse the Nausets as soon as possible. The place where they found the corn and made this promise is known to this day as Corn Hill.

It was lucky for the Pilgrims that the Nausets were away at their winter hunting ground, because the Nausets hated Englishmen. Six years before, in 1614, an Englishman named Thomas Hunt had abducted a large group of Indians from New England, including twenty Nausets, to sell into slavery. If the Nausets had been home when the Pilgrims walked into their village, the history of America may have taken a decidedly different course.

SquantoOne of the Indians abducted in 1614 by Thomas Hunt was the legendary Squanto. Squanto had somehow escaped slavery and lived for a time in England before finding his way back to America on a merchant trading vessel.

Squanto became a great friend to the Pilgrims. He served as translator and helped broker an alliance with the powerful chief Massasoit. Squanto also taught the Pilgrims how to plant the corn they had taken from the Nausets. In fact, the First Thanksgiving was celebrated with the successful harvest of the Nauset corn.

The Pilgrims soon fulfilled their promise to reimburse the Nausets. They sailed back across the bay and traded fairly with the Nauset chief, Aspinet, and formed a lasting friendship with the Nauset Indians.

Squanto and PilgrimsWord spread among the tribes of New England that the Pilgrims had righted the wrong they committed in their first desperate days in America. The Pilgrims had demonstrated a remarkable toughness in their survival on the beach, and now they proved to be honorable and honest people. They paid for the corn because they believed was the right thing to do, but it also turned out to be good diplomacy.

The fair dealings of the Pilgrims led to fifty years of peace with the Native Americans of New England. This peace allowed the Pilgrims, and the pioneers who followed them, to establish a foothold of freedom in America, and begin to build the democracy that would one day reach across the continent.

The Most Italian of Vegetables



When we think of Italian cuisine, eggplant and tomatoes usually come to mind. But the most Italian of all vegetables is actually broccoli.

Broccoli was invented in Italy. During the Roman age, the farmers of Italy selectively bred broccoli from a sea cabbage that grew wild along the Mediterranean Coast. Broccoli is the enlarged unopened flower of that ancient wild plant.

A Broccoli Floret Late in the Season, Just Ready to Flower

A Broccoli Floret Late in the Season, Just Ready to Flower

Broccoli was a staple in the kitchens of Italy a thousand years before eggplant was introduced from India or tomatoes arrived from the conquest of the New World.

The French began to cultivate broccoli in 1520, and the English finally adopted this crop late in the 1700’s. But broccoli did not catch on in America.

Those old nineteenth century varieties of broccoli required ten long months to mature. They had to be sheltered during winter and they were very susceptible to pests. Only the most skillful and patient of gardeners, like Thomas Jefferson and John Randolph, managed to grow broccoli, and even then it was more of a novelty.

Cauliflower Has a Similar Growing Culture to Broccoli

Cauliflower Has a Similar Growing Culture to Broccoli

Then, in 1923, two brothers, Stephano and Andrea D’Arrigo, immigrants from Italy, planted broccoli on their farm in San Jose, California, in growing conditions similar to the Mediterranean climate of their homeland.  They used seeds that were mailed to them from Italy.

The D’Arrigo brothers shipped their freshly-picked broccoli on refrigerated railroad cars to markets in Boston and New York.  This was one of the first successful cross-country shipments of fresh produce.  Broccoli sales quickly soared in Italian-American enclaves along the East Coast.

andyboy-logoThe D’Arrigo brothers were also the first to brand their produce.  They packaged their broccoli under the Andy Boy label, and their marketing campaign of the 1920’s and 30’s helped establish the popularity of broccoli across America.  The D’Arrigo Brothers is still a family owned company and is now being run by the fourth generation of D’Arrigos.

Broccoli Spacing of 12 Inches Companion Planted with Vegetables and Herbs

Broccoli Spacing of 12 Inches Companion Planted with Vegetables and Herbs

Broccoli is a cool-weather vegetable, and the time to plant it your garden is now.  A good way to plant broccoli is in the 2-1-2 pattern. Plant two broccoli transplants side-by-side about seven inches off-center in a wide row. Move fifteen inches down the row and plant a single broccoli transplant in the center of the row, then move another fifteen inches down and plant two more broccoli transplants side-by-side.

This 2-1-2 pattern leaves space on either side of the middle plant. Fill this space with dill, cilantro, or parsley to repel pests from your broccoli and to add color and fragrance to your garden.  This intensive planting causes the leaves of the plants to grow together to form a canopy over the soil, which helps keep the soil cool and moist and provides a hiding place for beneficial predators.

Dozens of Tender Florets will Sprout after Main Head is Harvested

Dozens of Tender Florets will Sprout after Main Head is Harvested

Broccoli matures in about eighty days. Harvest the large head that forms in the center of each plant, but leave the plants in the ground to harvest those dozens of tender florets that will continue to sprout.

In the spring, sometime around March, the sprouting florets will immediately open into small yellow edible flowers.  This is a sign that your broccoli is finished for the season, and you can plant your favorite summer produce in its place.

Deep in the Art of Texas

(Bluebonnets, Robert Julian Onderdonk.  Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

(Bluebonnets, Robert Julian Onderdonk. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

These images are from art, and from life:

A Conquistador stares with dark dangerous eyes; the last of the bison cross the rocky divide; a woman kneels next to an oxcart in a dusky field picking vegetables.

An exhibit called “Deep in the Art of Texas” is now on display at the Art Museum of South Texas. It is a hundred years of paintings, from 1850 to 1950, when all the land was a canvas for heroes to paint their dreams upon. The land changed these pioneers, and with their plows and cattle, they changed the land.

The paintings depict the deep blue water of the Gulf with ships sailing upon it; the pink and purple cliffs of the Big Bend; and the ocean-like fields of bluebonnets with dark hills in the distance.

(Cattle and Herdsman Resting in Oak Grove, Thomas Allen. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

(Cattle and Herdsman Resting in Oak Grove, Thomas Allen. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

In one image, a herd of cattle sleeps in the forest, as they do on our farm; and in another, free-born farmers pick cotton in a white sun-drenched field.

Renowned artist Frank Reaugh mixed sand with his paint, so the grit that blew out of the Davis Mountains and choked him as he painted would forever be a part of his picture of the high desert.

A good painting speaks. You can read a dozen pages of history and not learn as much of the people or the place as from one good painting.

In one scene, Iwonski portrays an Indian child, in the year 1859, holding a watermelon. For Indians, a melon was a symbol of friendship, and the child freely offers this gift from his well-tended garden. This child would grow up to witness the utter destruction of his culture, and a later painting, from 1890, shows a melon busted on the ground and covered with yellow jackets.

The paintings also capture the faces of the cowboys, black, white, and Hispanic, before they became legends, when “cow boy” was a term of derision, and the paintings reveal them as they were: pensive, tough, wild, and lonely.

“Deep in the Art of Texas” depicts the grand adventure of our history, the beauty of the land, the skill of the artisans, the freedom to become whoever in this world you dream to be. These images are from art, and from life, and they are hanging on the walls of the museum like portals into the distant past.

(Sunny Landscape, Robert William Wood. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

(Sunny Landscape, Robert William Wood. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

(Harvest Time, S. Seymour Thomas. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

(Harvest Time, S. Seymour Thomas. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

(Cedar Stumps, Everett Spruce. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

(Cedar Stumps, Everett Spruce. Courtesy Art Museum of South Texas)

The Great Hawk Migration

(A Sky View from Hazel Bazemore Park in Corpus Christi)

(A Sky View from Hazel Bazemore Park in Corpus Christi)

This week, there is a phenomenon in the skies over South Texas that will give nightmares to every chicken in Corpus Christi. This event is called the great hawk migration.

More than a million hawks will pass over South Texas this autumn as they head south for the winter. The hawks come from all over North America.  They are funneled into Corpus Christi by the Gulf of Mexico to the east and the river valleys to the west. In fact, one of the best places in the world to observe a hawk migration is Hazel Bazemore Park in Corpus Christi, TX.

The density of birds peaks in the final days of September, and on some days more than a hundred thousand hawks fly over Hazel Bazemore Park.

(The bird watching platform at Hazel Bazemore Park.  It had been raining just before our visit, and hawks don't fly in the rain, so not much current activity.)

(The bird watching platform at Hazel Bazemore Park. It had been raining just before our visit, and hawks don’t fly in the rain, so not much current activity.)

(Hawk Watchers:  Hazel Bazemore Park has excellent facilities for hawk watching)

(Hawk Watchers: Hazel Bazemore Park has excellent facilities for hawk watching)

(Sign updated daily with hawk count)

(Sign updated daily with hawk count)

Ornithologist Karen Benson describes the hawk migration in her book Brush Country Backyard. She says hawks use thermal updrafts to conserve energy. The hawks float on these warm thermals in upward-spiraling circles, called kettles, like the stirring of a great pot.

At the top of one thermal the hawks descend to the bottom of the next and slowly rise again. By riding these thermals, hawks can fly a hundred miles on a single flap of their wings. Sometimes, ten thousand hawks can be seen riding in the same kettle.

Joel Simon, of the Corpus Christi Hawk Watch, says most of these raptors are broad-winged hawks headed to the humid forests of the Yucatan and Central America. The swainson’s hawk, he says, from the Great Plains, will fly all the way to the pampas of Argentina to spend the winter.

Simon has seen more than twenty thousand hawks land for the night in Hazel Bazemore Park, like a feathery blanket covering the trees along the Nueces River, and he has been there in the morning to watch this flock of raptors take flight into the warm, blue sky.

Simon says his favorite part of the migration comes just after the first cold front of the year, when the greatest diversity of hawks can be seen riding in the brisk north wind. The first good cold front comes to South Texas this weekend, so now is a good time to dust off your binoculars and plan a visit.

Luckily, for the chickens, these hawks fast during their long journey south, so the laying hens of Corpus Christi can rest easy in their roosts while dark clouds of raptors pass overhead in slowly circling silence.

(Hawk Watcher with Binoculars)

(Hawk Watcher with Binoculars)

(Tiny Hawk Watcher)

(Tiny Hawk Watcher)

Hawks spotting scope sky 9-29-14


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