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Posted 10/2/2012 7:19am by Stacey Roussel.

We are getting close to the start of our season evidenced by the fact that I am having trouble sleeping at night.  The pressure to produce shares every week is strong, but I really believe that our shares are worthy of the goal.  

 

Your support is essential to what we do.  Your support provides fuel for our local economy, a safe and careful home for the animals that work with us, two internships for young people who are testing out what being a farmer really is about, opportunities for other growers to work with us and share their bounty, two volunteer shares that allow our vegetables to penetrate further into our community.  

 

In return, you receive the promise that our small farm remains green space in ever growing Greater Houston.  You receive a promise that we won’t pollute the air or the water we all share.  You receive a great value in produce that is harvested and delivered so close to home.  The challenge of cooking at home and eating so many vegetables is not easy. I know how hard that is and I appreciate your support and willingness to take this journey with me.  Please remember that our gates are open to you, as I really believe that people should have a connection to the place that their food is grown or raised.  

 

Notes from the field...

The rain over the weekend was wonderful, really perfect to germinate the seed we planted last week, mustard, kale, spinach, boc choy, cabbage, fennel, radish.  This week we are going do tractor work and prepare for shallots and garlic.  The shallots will be harvested this season, and the garlic will be harvested in the spring, God willing.  

 

We harvested, shelled, and froze 40 pound of peas last week.  They will be in your first share.  We were ready just a little early with our harvest, but you should be happy to know that they will be easy to use in the kitchen.  No shelling this season in the kitchens of our members!

 

We are also moving our chickens.  Moving chickens takes time, but is essential to their health.  Fresh ground keeps their environment clean, builds our soil and makes their eggs so very good.  Fresh bugs and green grass make them so happy.  Our chickens are part of a whole system that allow us to produce a quality product with very little off farm fertilizer and no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.  

 

Deliveries...

I am thinking that October 15th will be our first delivery.  We are still trying to work out delivery dates.  

  • I am certain that Houston will be Tuesday at Rice. 4-7  
  • Richmond, Barry Farm, Sugarland, are looking like Wednesday.  Renee Smith, from the Barry Farm, will be helping me with that delivery.  Renee is working on her weekly schedule.  We will know soon.  Keep posted.
  • Lake Jackson-I am waiting to hear back from Angela Lashley, your driver.  Tuesday or Wednesday are the target dates.  Please note that if you still have an outstanding balance, I need to understand if you are still committed, ASAP.  713-305-2005
  • Farm Pickup-Looks like Tuesday or Wednesday pickup.  If you have a preference, let me know.  
Posted 9/17/2012 11:31am by Stacey Roussel.

My rain gauge shows two and three fourths inches of rain since Friday, rain that was really needed.  Our plants have responded favorably.  The peas look wonderful, okra has new bottom shoots (this will increase harvest over the next month), turnips have tops and the carrots have germinated!!!!

 

This morning I found some standing water in just a few rows (not ideal for soil health), but it looks as though we are nearing the end of the rain with cooler temps to follow. I am expecting for those rows to improve quickly. 

 

Today, I saw the first flower on the cucumbers started last month, we have transplanted the cabbage and boc choy from the greenhouse.  This week we will plant lettuce, greens, chard, cabbage and broccoli in the greenhouse to replace those that were moved out.  

 

Our chickens have been moved since the last email.  They are working new ground that will be used later in this seasons rotation; our chickens are very busy ladies with lots of ground to cover.  The eggs yolks in my breakfast this morning were bright orange.  

 

I want to share with you the story of two interns that we have working with us on the farm as our season progresses.  Clay Zydobylak and Jacob Hilton are an integral part of the work I do.  We could not grow variety and quantities we do without their hard work.  Look for their stories to come soon.  

 

Thank you for your support.  Your farmer-Stacey



Posted 9/6/2012 4:09pm by Stacey Roussel.

This is not about Chic-Fil-A; it's about our culture and our values and why people line up to eat chicken.


Where do your allegiances lie?  Where do you make a stand?  Do you believe in our freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to love?  


The whole episode made me sad because the result was tons of fried industrialized chicken consumed.  What are we doing?  What are we saying is important?  


Striking to me is a family that I know.  The Smith family owns Barry farm, a small operation in the heart of Sugar Land!  Their farm produces eggs, grass fed pork and lamb.  While we were seeing footage of the lines at the above mentioned establishment, Renee (momma smith) was posting pictures of her daughter eating raw okra. The week of the standoff, the Smiths bought 20lbs of okra from our farm to can and preserve for their extended family.  Layla decided that she liked raw okra, now that is something to write about.  


So Today, I am taking a bit of my morning, to write about what I feel is more important than if we support what the CEO of a fastfood chains says, and that is the decision that we make 3 times a day -what we eat,-how we eat, -with whom do we share our meals.  


These are important choices that either increase or diminish the quality of our days.  Thinking about and planning for this takes time and maybe an uneasy phone call, but the results can be so beautiful.  Please think about the way your food was produced, how you prepare and consume the abundance this earth provides.  Every meal is a small miracle and should be a celebration of the goodness it reflects. 


I don't mean to diminish your position a devisive, contoversial issue; I only want to raise the fact that food should be a unifying issue. Care for the earth, the animals, and the people in the supply chain should bring us together and move us forward. 


I give thanks to you for taking the time to read this, and we pray that there is a goodly share on every table everywhere. Farm on, Smith family-thebarryfarm@yahoo.com

Posted 8/25/2012 8:18pm by Stacey Roussel.

This is the first in a series of updates.  I hope it finds you well.  We are progressing towards our season with some success.  The weather has been good.  I am grateful.


The days are getting shorter, and nights are a bit cooler.  Fall is on the way.  We had wind out of the north-east one day last week.  Such a difference from the gulf breezes of the past few months. 


Peas have been planted, 6 rows of peas, each 200 feet in length. Another two rows to be planted this week.  I would really like to purchase a sheller.  The machine runs over $300, but would save each of you time in shelling.  This is an investment in community, and I hope there is room in our budget.  


Radish, turnips and beets have germinated.  We are half way towards our prelimary weeding of those rows.  Carrots did not germinate well.  I have more seed on order, no worries, there will be carrots. 


Kale, lettuce, mustard, and spinach were sown in rows that followed our chicken tractor.  The chickens were fed rice hulls from the gin in town and milo from a local farmer to supplement our corn ration.  I did not worry thinking that they had eaten all the seed; instead, we are growing rice and milo in those rows as well.  Clay and I decided to ride that out and see how things go, I have more seed ordered just in case and growth is fast on the greens.


Squash and cucumbers are growing well.  We will be planting beans and more squash this week.  


Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli transplants are in the greenhouse and will be bumped soon.  

Those are my notes from the field.  


School starts in Fort Bend on Monday.  If any moms or dads would like to join me in the field to both lament and celebrate the beginning of school, I will be weeding lots of raised beds on Monday.  9-12 with chicken salad lunch to follow, if you are interested.  No children under 4, the weeds are tall and we might loose them.  


Thank you for your support. Let me know if you have questions or concerns.  We are projecting the middle of October for a start date.  


Your farmer, 


Stacey- 713-305-2005







Posted 7/25/2012 7:19am by Stacey Roussel.

I promised to send this email when we had plenty.  That time is now.  There is lots of okra this week following all of the rain.  If anyone would like to buy okra by the pound, we wil bag it and pick it for $3/lb.  Farm pickup between 7-11.  Please call before coming so that we can make sure there is quantity. 


We may also have-eggs, kale, sorrel, basil, oregano, mint, and zinnia, and sunflowers.  


Stacey


713-305-2005

Posted 11/26/2011 8:51pm by Stacey Roussel.
By popular demand- The ingredients in pancakes are so simple. Flavor Is altered by the quality of what you use. Farm eggs better than store bought, cake flour better than all purpose. Here is what we made this morning. 1 cup of flour 1 egg 1/2 cup of milk (whole better) 1/2 cup of cream 2 tablespoons of coconut oil 1.5 teaspoons of baking soda 1/2 teaspoonof salt 1 tablespoon of sugar 2 heaping spoonfuls of leftover sweetpotato mash More milk as needed for consitency Butter for your pan. Ground cinnamon for sprinkling. Honey and pecans...Mmmmm Mix it all together really well. Cook on a warm skillet.
Posted 7/20/2011 6:58pm by Stacey Roussel.

This entry was created by Jill Thaxton, a writer and a member of our CSA.  You can read more of her work at www.jillthaxton.com.  Geaux Jill!

For my 40th birthday this year, I made the pledge to begin writing in earnest, and this time for money.   I had written earnestly all my life, but had written for pay only once.  I had always thought that I would raise babies, and then I would start my writing career.   I couldn’t imagine drumming up the strength to write late at night, knowing that I’d be awakened again in a few hours by a crying baby.  My “baby” had just turned three, so my excuses were over.

One of the first people I thought to write about was Stacey.  If you are reading this blog, you already love her, and probably love good food, too, so you can see the attraction.  Stacey graciously agreed to have me follow her around the farm from sun-up to noon, followed up by more detailed questioning.  She told me to dress ready for labor…hat, sunscreen, gloves, closed-toe shoes…this was going to be a real, dig-in, get your hands dirty kind of interview.  Frankly, I was nervous.  I’m the sort of air-conditioned, soft, urban housewife that sweats only at the sideline of soccer games.  Could I hack five hours in the heat?  I didn’t know, but I knew the experience would be worth risking possible embarrassment.

Clumsily dressed for the part in my husband’s oversized fishing shirt (Stacey always wears long-sleeves, so it must be cooler, right?), explorer hat cinched on, work gloves ready, I followed, and I watched, and I asked questions.  The hazy, cool, morning flirted with rain, but the clouds drifted away into a typical bright July Texas day.  It was hot, and I followed Stacey some more, planting a few seeds here, weeding a little bit there, and, um, accidentally pulling out two lovely celery plants in the process.  (Sorry Stacey!)  I mostly watched and took notes, but did enough work to witness the abundance of life teeming on the farm.  Yes, she does have chickens and goats, not to mention the growing plants, but I am talking about the tiny life that is only discovered by turning over soil.  Little bugs darting here and there, crawling for cover, smaller creatures so tiny you can’t see but you can smell…a rich, earthy smell only created when the ground is nurtured enough to be kept in a beautiful balance.  I was learning firsthand the difficult, but satisfying work that is needed to grow the nutritionally dense, taste-bud pleasing clean food that led me to Stacey in the first place.  By the end of the morning, I was gratefully in awe of her diligence and commitment to organic farming.  I hadn’t passed out from heat stroke either, but I was ready for rest under the shade tree.

Stacey handed me a cool coconut water drink and assured me that as her farm had grown, so had her body’s endurance.  As her story unfolded, I heard a tale of conviction; small steps counterpointed by big leaps, mistakes, and overcoming fear in order to move forward with turning a dream into reality. 

Far from my idea of an experienced farm girl turned farmer, I instead heard of a believing husband encouraging a disillusioned accountant, together buying a farm with a four year old and newborn in tow, reading and learning on-the-job.  A story of clearing four-plus acres with a weed whacker, losing chickens to a predator, hand planting squash seeds with a baby in a car seat nestled in the grass beside her.  The more I listened, the more I realized that Stacey was helping to weed the fear in my own heart.  I am in the middle of transitioning from writing to calling myself a writer, putting my words out there for people to judge and see my mistakes.  Ahead of me are long hours of (air-conditioned) work, research, queries, and rejections.   I was reminded that Stacey’s current physical strength wasn’t forged overnight, but was built one day at a time, over years. 

Fear of Texas heat might have kept me from getting my hands dirty, but it is only by getting dirty, be it from soil or ink, that we ever really accomplish anything.  I had to get my hands dirty that day by pulling farm weeds, weeds that represented far more for me than garden nuisances, weeds with names like fear and procrastination.  The image of Stacey bending over her garden, entertaining her young daughter with the watering hose, inspired me to write this blog entry in the day hours, in between stories, bike rides, and laundry, not waiting until later.   I giggle now, at the thought of Stacey waiting to farm by moonlight, after her girls were asleep.  You can’t see many weeds then.

Professional Weeders

Posted 5/22/2011 9:48am by Stacey Roussel.

Being fully alive, aware of your senses, tuned into beauty, creativity, inspiration, and love.  To be fully engaged in our humanity and not distracted, but in the moment. 

Do you remember sitting at a table engaging in an experience of a meal?  The smell, the texture, the color, the taste, the company all pointing to building a knowledge that you are loved.  Eating is something that we do to sustain life, but this act represents so much more.

This was my experience as a child.  We would spend every Sunday with my grandparents.  My parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, occasional friends, extended family.  My grandmother would cook enough food for us to eat all week.  She was building memory and building us as a people.

I still remember the smells and the tastes of that modest kitchen.  Maw-Maw was not a gourmet cook; but she cooked amazing things.  Jambalaya, crawfish bisque, gumbo, green beans, mustard greens, beets, lima beans, fried chicken, “gentle” roast.  I still remember how happy I would be to smell the fried chicken outside her door and walk into the kitchen to see her fryer cracking and popping the chicken to a crisp.

I ate my first kiwi at her table, intrigued by its color and beauty.  Pineapple upside down cake, red velvet cake, peanut butter rice crispy treats, or bread pudding.  Always followed by community coffee made by paw-paw, his contribution to our dinners, oh along with the stories he told and bull he shot. 

We saw the seasons change in the yard that produced loquats and bananas and in my maw-maw’s kitchen that produced meals reflecting those seasons.  When my maw-maw passed, I learned that she had not only been cooking for us, but for everyone she knew-for birthdays, for funerals, for babies born.  The gathering following her funeral was a house filled with rooms of food, a reflection of community at its very best, the community that she built. 

When my aunt and my mom cleaned out her kitchen, we realized how simple her tools were.  A couple of cutting knives, simple well used stirring spoons, pots, lots of Tupperware that has been handed down because it’s still useable.  They saved her gumbo ladle and her green bean pot for me.  I am going to put that pot to good use today. 

On NPR this morning a speaker said one of the most sustainable acts that we can participate in is cooking in our own kitchens because we will not make the same compromises as those who are cooking overly-processed, packaged foods for us. Selecting produce, cheeses, and meats based on goodness and taste will ensure the best nutriet value. What taste good is also good for you in other words.  The act of preparing food for people you love connects you to them in a way that you won’t be able to ever measure. I still use my maw-maw’s cookbooks, some of them are over sixty years old.

What strikes me most is the happiness that I remember from those times with my family, and it’s the experience of the food today that often transports me back.  Being fully alive, aware of your senses, tuned into beauty, creativity, inspiration, and love.  To be fully engaged in our humanity and not distracted but in the moment is my goal for today.   I have some onion to chop.  Get cook’n.

Posted 5/16/2011 12:37am by Stacey Roussel.

If I were ever to write a book, the first chapter would be entitled “dispelling stereotypes”. When you close your eyes and think of a farmer, tell me what you see?

If you’re like most Americans, you probably see your grandfather as a boy and imagine the world he grew up in. Very few of us are lucky enough to be either farming today or related to someone who is doing this important work. If you are reading my blog, you are in some way connected to a farm… a real life farm with a real life family facing real life struggles and experiencing real life joys. In my daily discussions, I hear so many people that have misguided stereotypes of modern farming. They imagine a farm totally free of weeds where the farmer husband rides out on his old tractor to tend to hundreds of acres while the farmer wife stays at home and bakes bread. In the evenings, they cuddle on their cypress porch of the original family homestead, watching the sun set. This idyllic picture is beautiful, and in a few cases spot on, but doesn’t reflect the majority of farmers that I know.

Our picture is a bit different. I didn’t grow up on a farm, so Jay and I saved and sacrificed to purchase the land I grow on.  Every piece of equipment I use was either purchased by me or borrowed from my neighbor. A vast majority of what I’ve learned has been through trial and error and shamelessly relying on farmers that know a little bit more than I do and are willing to share what they know. My house is often more messy than I would like for it to be (and there is no way my children actually wear all of the socks that I find in nearly every room of the house). My husband works in the city at a job that allows our family to farm. He travels to odd places and leaves the house at 6AM and returns at 7PM. Our whole family is normally still working through our routine until 8PM (followed by dinner and dishes). In the late evening I reply to e-mails, market my product, Facebook, and try to remember to update this blog. When people spend a week with our family they are usually shocked by the pace of our life. As my mom says, “every time I go outside there is some living thing that looks like it wants something from me.” Oh, how happy that makes me.

I visit other families engaged in the same work as I am, I witness some of the same joys and travails. I frequently see piles of paperwork that needs to be sorted through, tools that need to be put away, and piles of unfinished projects that need to be finished. I see families that are working sun up to sun down, working spare jobs if they need to, and still in love with what they are doing.

It’s a life style that we have become addicted to. Weekends are spent doing special projects. My daughter has an hour of chores to do before going off to school. If she encounters an animal that needs extra attention, it means eating a slice of bread for breakfast as we race to miss that long light in between us and the elementary. My 10 year old gave away her EZ Bake oven since she bakes bread using the real oven. My husband barely knew how to turn a screw driver when we got married but now can pull a fence with pride.

So back to dispelling stereotypes… when you see those perfect veggies at a market or in your share it’s because the farmer and the volunteers got the oddly shaped ones, they taste better ;o) . When you come to my farm in the field you will find a budding anthropologist or maybe a rocket scientist (seriously), a teacher turned mom, a psychologist or maybe a pipeline engineer - all generously giving their time and talent for a share of veggies. If you would taste my dinner at night, it may be simple, but it will leave you with wonder at what earth can create with seed, nutrients, sunlight, and water. You will meet families that are redefining what it means to love food, the land, and the community from which it comes. 

One thing that has always been a central part of what we do is education. My work is a constant education.  Jay and I invest in knowledge, and we try to encourage new farmers and try to help them learn from our mistakes. One young man has been working with me for a couple of years and is becoming very capable. The other day he told me that he has learned that he never wants to be a farmer. I was shocked and asked him why. He said, “Farmers need to perform on so many different levels, I don’t think I could do it.” I pray that he will figure out a way to make it work because once you have that taste in your mouth, anything less is a compromise you taste with each meal. I still have so much to learn, and sometimes the work and the decisions seem overwhelming, but turning away from this work would be denying who I am.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Please, hug your farmer, today!

Posted 5/5/2011 10:53am by Stacey Roussel.

“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.”  Sara Ban Breathnach

That is a beautiful quote, and one that encourages me that the rains will come again, even if it has been dry for over eight weeks. I have been doing my best to properly irrigate everything, but nothing is better for plants than true spring showers and the best irrigation system will never replace that. But I’ve got to work with what is given to me and for weeks and weeks I was watching my zucchini, green beans, and tomatoes and wondering if they’ll survive the dry and windy conditions that the gulf coast has been gripped by. On Easter Sunday I had given in to my doubts and sent a foreboding e-mail to my CSA members. It essentially read like this: “it’s dry, expect very little in the share this week, I’ll make it up to you somehow.” I was showered with beautiful letters of encouragement from my CSA members (which reminded me why I prefer the relationship-building experience of a CSA over so many other impersonal methods of getting produce to market).

 But then a tiny miracle happened. Zucchini and green beans popped up over night. On Sunday there was nothing, and by Tuesday, everyone’s bag was full of spring goodness. I was astonished. I had done such a good job of lowering expectations that some members were blown away by their full bags. It was fun to celebrate the surprise with each member.

 Life moves fast on the farm (even when we don’t get rain). Christmas of 2008, my mother-in-law gave my girls some baby goats. We bought them from Blue Heron Farm, and so far, every Thanksgiving our goats go to their farm to be introduced to their willing Billy Goat, Scooter. This year, Poinsettia just didn’t “look” pregnant…. Well until I noticed that she was dilated. A few days went by and I knew we would have a new kid at the farm. Sunday I was home alone, Jay and Jessie Clare had gone to the Needville Hunting Show (one of our town’s biggest spring attractions) and Emelie was at a friend’s house. I had planned to relax for a couple of hours after putting some clothes out on the line. When I was outside I started to hear all of the goats making more noise than usual. I walked over and noticed Poinsettia in labor. I grabbed my phone and called Christian (of Blue Heron farm). I thought I was going to have to help out, but just as I reached Christian’s voicemail, a tiny goat kid (now named Dusty) was delivered. When the voicemail picked up and I was just floored at what I had seen.

Life is humbling. I love what I do and to be honest I even love being humbled. I love having my hope rekindled by a spring that I didn’t expect. It has been a tough spring for a lot of farmers. If you’re out at a farmer’s market this weekend, give them a hug, maybe buy an extra beet or bit of cheese, and let them know that you’re on their side and appreciate the work they do.

Your farmer, Stacey

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