Growing The Growers Filming Trip 2010

Diary with pictures of our trip to the USA and England to meet with people that have successfully encouraged more people to garden and farm organically

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Leaving the USA

Mike and I said goodbye to Fred and Jan in White Post Virginia. They went on to New York and we put our feet up at 'Greenwood' for a couple of days. The arrangement was that we would meet at Heathrow airport for the next leg of our filming trip.
We said 'au revoir' to Winkie and Matthew after they drove us to Dulles Airport, Washington where we boarded a plane for JFK airport, New York. Dulles Airport is quite an amazing piece of design.  The grand sweep of the un-interupted roof is amazing it is also an efficient place to fly from.
Our international connection was from Newark so when we got to JFK we looked at the options. Public transport or taxi for two. Taxi won.

View from the taxi window.

 As a devoted fan of The Sopranos I just have to put in this very ordinary image of  the sign post when we left the New Jersey Turnpike. It is in the great spirit of 'we were here' one of the few tourist moments on this journey!

We had hoped to pick up a sensational Italian meal on the way but it didn't happen. We tumbled onto a plane, closed our eyes and woke up in England.

. . . oh and how could I forget!

Thinking about eating and also about 'must plants' this spring  and I reaslised that I just have to mention Meredith's honeysuckle sorbet.
'Die for' is all I can say and if you are in the enviable situation of being able to go out at night and pick a bucket of these fragrant blossoms, do it, and turn them into sorbet.  Did a bit of websurfing looking for recipes and came across this on the slowtrav blog:
"There are a few things I’ve eaten in my life that were so good they almost made me swoon and this sorbet is one of them. It’s a cult classic dessert here in North Carolina and every spring, people flock to my favorite local restaurant, Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, to eat this stuff. Bill Smith (the chef at Crooks’ and a 2009 James Beard finalist for best regional chef) created this recipe after doing research into medieval Arabic and Sicilian recipes for flower ices.
Pretty much every Southern kid learns how to pluck a honeysuckle blossom, pull the stamen out, and then eat the tiny drop of honey inside the flower. Well, this sorbet tastes like a combination of that honey droplet and the aroma of honeysuckle when it’s in bloom."
Here is Bill Smith's recipe but don't think there won't be a Locke Store incarnation coming soon!
From Seasoned in the South: Recipes from Crook's Corner and from Home

By Bill Smith

Makes about 2 quarts

4 cups (tightly packed but not smashed) honeysuckle flowers, leaves and stems discarded

5 1/3 cups cool water

1 1/3 cups water

2 cups sugar

Few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Speck of cinnamon

Place the flowers in a nonreactive container (glass or stainless steel) and cover with the cool water. Weight down with a plate. Let them stand on the counter overnight. In a small saucepan make a syrup out of the sugar and water by boiling it until all the sugar is dissolved and it begins to look lustrous and slightly thick, 3-5 minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent the sugar from recrystalizing. Cool the syrup completely. Strain the honeysuckle infusion, gently pressing the blossoms so as not to waste any of your previous efforts. Combine the two liquids and add the merest dusting of cinnamon. You don't want to taste it but you can tell if it's not there. I use the tip of a sharp boning knife to measure it. Churn in an ice-cream maker. This does not keep for more than a week. 

Sitting here back in front of my computer at Allsun Farm I breathe in deeply, think honeysuckle and am immediately transported to Virginia. I will never forget driving around in the evening, car windows open, drenched in the perfume emanating from every roadside ditch.


One last story before we leave the USA for England.

The very smallest of the Mackay-Smith clan had trouble with the name Winkie and it didn't take long to morph into the easy to pronounce and endearing 'Wizzie'.  When the four of us arrived at 'Greenwood' it was hot and we were a bit tired. We were warmly greeted by the great 'Wizzie' and within minutes we were downing her famous sweet tea.

Daughter Juliet is right on the ball. When we were at Locke Store there were containers of 'Wizzie's Tea' in the refrigerator. Now we have news that she is into commercial production - three cheers for Wizzie!

Burwell Morgan Mill

Over the road from Locke Store is another treat. A lovingly restored flour mill in full working order. Not surprisingly the baked goodies served up by Juliet are made from flour ground just a stones throw away.

The good news was that the mill was grinding so over the road we went cameras at the ready.

The following pictures are of the mill pond and the water race that powers the wheels.

Old millstones rest against the wall outside the mill.

Mike rests on the race waiting for me to stop taking photos.

Stepping inside from the rather stern stone exterior you find yourself in a wonderland of wood and wheels and lard greased cogs. 

Here are a few close ups.

Everything is huge and heavy we find it hard to comprehend how millwrights do their job. It is also heartening to know that they even exist and are able to keep something like this in working order. 

On this visit they were milling blue corn meal (used to make blue corn chips).

This is the hopper feeding the corn kernels into the stones

Volunteers run the mill on a day to day basis and they are more than happy to explain how everything works.

The volume of grain that goes through this mill is now quite small and so there is a lot of spare storage space that is used as a museum.

A special paddle is used to scoop out the freshly milled flour to check whether the grind is fine enough. 

. . . . and visitors have quite a selection of flours to choose from if they want to buy some to cook with when they get home.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vine Ripe Farm

Vine Ripe Farm is a story duplicated all over the world. Older people with a farming dream buy up some land and start growing food. Not all of them succeed but many do. Determination, skill, clever marketing, innovation. an eye for quality  and an openness to learning are all part of what is needed.

Jim Justice and his partner have all these qualities and they are lucky to have Locke Store a short drive away. 

You can learn more about this farm on the Vine Ripe website but while checking the dot com I did discover that he is now thinking about driving over to the store one or two afternoons a week and selling more of his produce off the back of his chevy truck.

Juliet has certainly 'Grown the Growers' in her neck of the woods.

Here are some shots of the farm. Of course we could have stayed there all day - lots of things to talk about.

The shed, he house in the background, farm stall,
Australian looking dog and our old friend the garden cart.

A marquee had been set up ready to sell plants.

There was a good selection of early summer seedlings.

Baby mousers are always engaging.

Compost of course - and lots of it. 

The poly tunnel  was being used for propegation.

We liked these cheap tables, plastic pallets on top of concrete blocks.

Terraced beds on what is a quite steep growing area. 

Round bales are rolled out as mulch.

Somehow discussion got round to scythes
and I promised Jim that I would forward him some information
on the European grass mowing blades and snaths. 

Locke Store, Millwood VA

Juliet, Winkie & Matthew's middle daughter has always been interested in food. She and Meredith did a bit of market gardening early on and in 2002 Juliet decided to buy this storefront in Millwood and turn it into a shop that sold a range of organic and locally produced goods.

We involved Mackay-Smiths and other friends in the first visit that we made to Polyface. and when were were planning another visit we were thrilled to find out that Juliet and Joel are now friends. Juliet has run workshops with Joel, has sold his produce at Locke Store and now has made another leap. She has followed Joel's example and has leased 10 acres of her land to a chicken grower Dave Farinholt, who once worked with Salatin. He now uses the same methods as Salatin to raises Cornish Cross meat which Juliet can sell just a few minutes drive down the road at her wonderful shop.

We were privileged to be invited to a huge family barbeque at Juliet and Charles home. I left the camera behind that night so there are no photos of the extraordinary feast. Dave's chicken and locally sourced vegetables and salad. The meal finished with desserts to die for. Juliet is an extraordinarily cook. Beer and wine flowed and we were able to share a few bottles that Fred had organised from Australia. He of course did take his camera so the evening did not go unrecorded.

Here are some pictures taken the next day at the store.

These jolly hanging baskets brighten up the front verhanda.

We enjoy a coffee and muffins.

Inside there is fresh, frozen and bottled food, 

You can buy lunch or a snack from the blackboard menu.
The staff will also cater for functions.

Not always easy to find in this part of the world!

People eat in and take food away.

Some of the day's blackboard selection.

There is an extensive range of wines.

. . .  and an extraordinary array of beers. (There were heaps more in the fridge.)

Behind the scenes is a well equipped kitchen.

Juliet and her offsider hard at it.

Sweet, crunchy and locally grown.

A small stash of prawns acquired before the oil spill stopped further harvest. 

Bowls of salad waiting to be dressed.
While were filming in the kitchen we were all called outside. Jim, the local vegetable grower had just arrived with a car full of produce.

Jim from Vine Ripe Farm

Baskets of vegetables in the back of the car.

Juliet is organising a quick trip out to Vine Ripe which is just down the road.