Farm to Fork

Farm to Fork Dinner
Farm to Fork Dinner at Whispering Winds Farm

For the first time ever, I attended a Farm to Fork dinner. (I know, I know, why did it take me so long…) It was at Whispering Winds Farm, home of Freshly Doug Vegetables, a local CSA and farmstand farm. It was held inside their heritage barn which has quite a nice view of the valley. We were serenaded by the band Cabin Fever and Pacek Winery kept the mood jovial with some delightful white, red, and dessert wines. 

Char and Doug, Freshly Doug Vegetables

Considering that this was their first ever dinner, our hosts, Char and Doug, were quite well organized. There were a few hitches, such as some of the vegetables not being harvestable in time due to the cool weather, but they persevered. Menus were slightly changed. Last second details were modified. Everything came together in the end.  

We had a nice time hanging out on the farm, talking to the goats, walking the fields, sipping wine, and chatting up the other guests. I was able to talk to the chef, Devra Gartenstein, who created the recipes we enjoyed. She has several cookbooks published and some were given away in a gift raffle. (No, I didn’t win one, but The Neighbor, who went with me, did win a Freshly Doug Vegetables hat. I’m almost jealous.) Devra’s blog is, where she writes extensively about good food.  

If you find a Farm to Fork event in your area, go! It’s a great way to spend an evening. 

Sustainable Small Engines

One-stroke Engines at the Silvana Fair

One-stroke Engines at the Silvana Fair

At the beginning of the last century, farms would use small, usually one-stroke engines to power all kinds of activities. Most connected to belts that ran tools, such as sheep shears, small wheat threshers, or other processing equipment. They ran all day on a quarter gallon of gas, but could require almost as much oil as gas to keep everything moving. The one-stroke action meant that the wheel turning the belt would slow down between strokes, causing variances in the speed of the tools. These were tough engines, though, and many lasted through decades of work, as long as they were maintained. They were the work horses of food processing and most every farm had one.

Australian Engine

Water-cooled, one-stroke engine used for sheep shearing in Australia

By mid-century, tractors had belt drivers attached to their drive trains and the little one-stroke engines weren’t needed anymore. They were stored in the back of barns and storage sheds. Today, farmers  and antiquers are discovering these old engines and restoring them. Small, organic, biodiverse farms are rediscovering their many uses, albeit slowly, as they learn more about what they are and how they work.

I know of two sources where farming gearheads can find valuable information about rebuilding older or antique farm equipment:

  • – This site has tons of information and numerous discussion boards on all manner of older engines and equipment. I could spend hours there learning about threshers, harrows, and such.
  • The Small Farmers Journal – The journal reprints information and manuals on all kinds of farm equipment, horse-drawn or otherwise.

Do you know of other resources? If so, send them to me and I’ll repost them here.

Wild, Wild West – Part 2

Today, a link to a Missoula news story flipped across my twitter feed. It announces a new fiber cable broadband system covering 300 miles across both the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal areas. In combining this new system with existing networks, most of the state from the Rockies to Idaho will be wired. This means that by 2013, Western Montana is going to have quite an extensive broadband capability across an huge area that also provides beautiful scenary, lots of land, and a motivated workforce. Now that’s a recipe for a robust economy!

So, how does Washington State compare? Not well. We may have the fastest speed in the U.S. (Ephrata, at 27Mbps download), but very little of the state has any coverage at all. Many areas within an hour’s drive of the big Microsoft campus are shockingly underserved.


The Wild, Wild West

Sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find something like this: Wyoming Town Creates Broadband Bonanza. It’s a good thing, too, because the latest report shows that rural areas without broadband could be in a sorry state, economically: 

“While broadband will not bring immediate economic transformation to rural America, regions that lack broadband will be crippled.” – Sharon Strover, Researcher, University of Texas

By the Sea

Seaside, ORWe finally reached the pristine Oregon Coast on one of the first warm days of the year. We piled into our 5th floor, ocean-facing  hotel room, opened all the sliding doors and windows, sat down, and watched the water. What is it about the sea that makes me want to stop and stay?

It was here, finally, that I was able to find restaurants that served local, organic foods. What a relief! I don’t think I could handle even one more processed, food-service meal. Blech.

Portland, also, has many fabulous restaurants serving local, organic foods which you can easily find online. However, we didn’t stay there long enough to sample very much. I’ve visited Portland many times in the past and enjoyed so many good meals there. They even have a chain of local, organic burger joints which I quite like, called Burgerville.  The last time I was there, they were baking organic shortcakes to go with the in-season strawbwrries they had just received from the farm that morning. Yummy!

My favorite place to go in Portland is New Seasons Market. They are so much more than just organic grocery stores. When you walk in, the first thing you see is the Solutions Counter, usually staffed by a nutritionist or chef. There, you can  find what’s in season, get help with a nutrition question, or discover recipes for the produce you are buying that day. Amazing! Then you walk into the store proper, which has a bakery, a meat counter, a cheese counter, and many other fully staffed departments where they make value-added products, in-house. You can meet the baker who made the loaf of bread from the grain grown by a local farmer. You just can’t do that anywhere else. I really like the Policies page on their website. Under Special Requests Policy, for example, it simply says “Yes”.

After a couple of days lounging on the beach, drinking fair-trade coffee, watching sand castles being built and then washed away by the tide, we decided that we missed all our animals just too much and that we needed to go home. (Sigh.) It was time.

The route we took was across the mouth of the Great Columbia River, which is just an awesome sight. The Astoria-Megler Bridge, which spans the river at that point, is 4.1 miles long. The part you see to the left is tall enough for very large container ships to pass under. Truly, the Columbia is one of the wonders of the world.

As soon as I got back to the Puget Sound, I got stuck in a traffic jam. I’d completely forgotten about those. I’ve had better welcomings.