The Epicurean President

Jefferson tomatoes

Thomas Jefferson was our most brilliant president. He helped invent America, a new nation, from scratch. He conceived a grand vision for our country, articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and he served two terms in the White House to bring his vision to life.

America, at that time, ended at the Allegheny Mountains, but Jefferson saw a horizon that stretched to the Pacific Ocean–a land where thousands of new farms would rise from the black soil.

He sent Lewis and Clark to explore this wilderness, and at the opportune moment, he purchased the land from Napoleon. Jefferson personally drew the state lines of Middle America, and it is the choicest farmland on the planet.

Jefferson lifted our laws, our culture, and even our gardens from the dank conventions of Europe, where peasants fought for scraps from the tables of the lords. In Jefferson’s America, every man and woman could rise above his circumstances to create something beautiful–to create a better life.

For Jefferson, good food and wine fed not just the physical self; it freed the mind to dream. He was at his most creative when dining well. He designed his home and gardens at Monticello, an architectural masterpiece.  He invented the swivel chair, the dumb waiter, the lazy Susan, and he invented what was, up to that point in history, the best plow in the world.

Jefferson was an ambassador of agriculture. He toured the lush gardens of France and sent sketches to farmers back home. He purchased the best Merino sheep from Spain to start a new bloodline in America. And he literally risked his life by smuggling Piedmont rice out of Italy to help invigorate rice production in the Carolinas.

Jefferson mailed thousands of rare and unusual seeds to farmers across America.  He introduced tomatoes, okra, and many other vegetables to the American palette.

For Thomas Jefferson, good food and wine, enjoyed in a beautiful setting, with the intelligent conservation of decent people, was the highest achievement of mankind.

We will celebrate that achievement, that epicurean ideal, at the KEDT Food and Wine Classic this Thursday evening.  The VIP reception will be held at the art museum beginning at 6:30, and the main event will be at 7:00 at the Museum of Science and History.  Tickets are available here.

The best food and finest wine in Corpus Christi will be laid out in the museum, with the art and history of our country hanging on the walls. Good people will be there, and excellent conversation. The only thing needed to bring the evening to its perfection is your presence.

A Land Free of Garden Pests

(Kayla in Vineyard in Cephalonia)

(Kayla in Vineyard in Cephalonia)

My wife and I stood with a farmer in her vineyard in Greece, on the western island of Cephalonia. The hills rose behind us into the mountains, and in front, the ground sloped gently down to the Ionian Sea. The grape leaves were green in the hot sun, and not a blemish on them.

The farmer laughed at our questions about garden pests. She said garden pests had never existed in Greece. She fertilized her soil with sheep in winter and picked her grapes in the summer and never worried about pests. Farming, for her, was that simple.

Coming down from Delphi, the road winds in and out of the rocky cliffs, and on the last rise above Itea, the Gulf of Corinth appears, blue and shining, and for thousands of acres down to the water, olive trees, and not a pest upon them.

There are miles of well-tilled fields along the roads from Pirgos up to Patras, onions, cabbages, lentils, and chickpeas, patchworks of tomatoes and sugar beets, then fields of pumpkins with the vines withered in the reddish dirt, and finally ripe round watermelons with green and golden stripes; and in all of that farmland, there is not a single pest.

In Athens, fig trees grow from the broken sidewalks where pulpy fruit drops between the cracks and the seeds sprout, and nobody bothers to cut them down or tend to them, but still the trees grow tall and the branches sag with the weight of fresh figs, and there is not a sign of pests upon any the trees.

For reasons of climate, soil, and plain old luck, the gardens of Greece have been blessed since the age of Achilles.

South Texas, of course, is far from Greece, and this is not a land free of garden pests. Gardening today is actually more difficult than it was for our ancestors. Native Americans tilled the soil in a time of garden purity, before Europeans introduced non-native pests to the soil.

The worst of our pests came from Asia in the 20th Century. These plant-devouring insects proliferated mainly due to industrial agriculture. The chemicals meant to kill them only made them worse.

But, as we have learned on our farm in Rockport, you can virtually eliminate the pest problems from your garden. We cannot restore the American Eden, but we can recover the garden purity of former days—a purity that is highly effective in practice.

In this series on natural pest control, we will explore strategies to fight pests; including some ancient techniques that may surprise you. Next week, we will discover how garden design–the placement of the plants themselves–can repel pests from your garden.

(Kayla in Itea, about to swim to the other side)

(Kayla in Itea, about to swim to the other side)

(Grape Leaves)

(Grape Leaves)

(Vineyard View toward Mountains)

(Vineyard View toward Mountains)

Vineyard, Kayla and Justin Greece 9-2011

Next Farm Share to Begin in January—Sign up Now!

Various Lettuces and Spinach, Intensively planted

Various Lettuces and Spinach, Intensively planted

Friends, the next Four String Farm Share will begin January 6 and run through the end of March. To sign up for the program, please click on the link below.  We have a limited number of shares available, and we will secure the shares based on who signs up first, so please sign up soon to secure your place.

Click here to sign up now.  The sign-up form is also available at Coastal Bend Health Foods.

The Four String Farm Share is a weekly box of our farm fresh products. Your box each week will contain a wide variety of our freshly-picked produce and a selection of our eggs, chicken, pork, or beef. The contents of the box will change over the course of the program depending on season and availability.

Four String Farm will deliver your box on your designated day each week at noon to Coastal Bend Health Foods (on either Tuesday or Friday, please let us know your preference). I will e-mail you in advance with the contents of your box. In these messages, we will also offer details about how the food is grown and include recipe ideas from Kayla.

The cost of each weekly Farm Share box is $68. A $272 payment will be due on the last drop of the month to keep your farm share coming for the next month. You are more than welcome to pay for all three months up front as well. For January, you can pay when you pick up your first box.

In addition to the protein/produce in your box, as a farm share member you will receive a 10% discount on all Four String Farm products sold at Coastal Bend Health Foods. And as a further thank you, we will include a new CD from our radio program, “Your Wholesome Heritage Garden, Volume II”.

Each week, the produce in your box will reflect the harvest of our farm. Many factors influence availability: seasons, weather, pests, and unforeseeable circumstances.  The contents of the box—the volume and variety—will vary each week. Some weeks, the boxes will be very heavy, and other weeks, the boxes will be relatively lean.

We will provide a balance of produce and protein in each box to deliver the maximum value over the program. Every week, you will eat just the same as our family.

The protein selections will include a wide variety of cuts of pork, beef, chicken, and eggs—whatever is available that week in the cycle of raising animals. Animals are part of our farm, and they are essential to growing our produce, so we include them as part of our offering. You will enjoy a great diversity of tastes and flavors in these cuts, raised on pasture or gardens, and grown completely without steroids, hormones, or antibiotics.

Additionally, each week, Kimmi will include a special item in your box from her store, a sample of something really good, like honey, produce, or other healthy and delicious products.

Our goal is to provide your family the greatest value over the program. We want you to be very happy and satisfied with the quality, variety, freshness, flavor, and health of your food. By partnering with us over this period, you make it possible for us to focus on your family and bring you the greatest value of wholesome and delicious food.

We will begin another Farm Share in April that will run through the end of June. The first choice to sign up for that program goes to current Farm Share customers. So, by signing up now, you can secure your place for six months of farm fresh food!

Thank you, friends, for your partnership with our farm!

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 www.racheldurrent.com)

Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner (photo courtesy Rachel at http://www.racheldurrent.com)

Happy Thanksgiving Turkey!

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

(Four String Farm Pastured Turkey, from the cover of The Bend Magazine, photo courtesy our friend Rachel at http://www.racheldurrent.com)

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.

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