We have a front door neighbor...okay, so they're kind of down the street, left at the intersection and up the hill neighbors...but I can still see them if I walk out the house and down the drive to get the mail, so technically they're within eyeshot neighbors, but neighbors nonetheless. Anway, we'll call these neighbors the Andreadis's. That's their last name, after all. I had met Christen Andreadis a few years ago while playing Welcome Wagon when they moved to our little area of the community. Then last year her husband Jason came over to ask some questions about the farmers market while I was pulling weeds out of the walkway. We talked a bit and then life went on.
This past spring that all changed when Daisy gave birth to two ewe lambs, Sunny and Flower. After several years of having an abundance of milk, she didn't have enough for both of them. I wasn't keen on using powdered milk replacer and remembered Jason saying they had goats, so Young'un and I took a walk up to their place to see if they possibly had any milk I could give to our girls.
Over the months of getting milk for Sunny and Flower via the goat lady (that would be Christen and how I have her listed in my cell phone contacts), I found her to be quite a fun and interesting young woman. We have common interests that expand past each of us having husbands, three children, and small farms. For example, persimmons. Yes. You read that right, persimmons.
Honestly, I had never seen one until a few months ago when she mentioned she had a tree and brought a few over that weren't quite ripe yet. I had never given them a thought. I know I had seen the name, but like so many other things since moving here, I hadn't ever thought I'd actually get face-to-face with one. That's when my persimmon fascination began.
Did you know an unripe persimmon tastes, to put it politely, horribly bitter? Well, it does. Don't ask me how I know. I'm sure you can figure it out, and I don't mean like when I asked Kid to test the electric fence for five bucks to see if it was working. Here's the thing, when the skins on them are soft as a baby's satiny cheek, when the insides are mushy squishy, they're ripe. They're also one of the yummiest things Mother Nature has given us, so it's weird I don't see more of them around. The first time I bit into a ripe one I thought of something along the lines of a tomato texture...but the flavor is one I can't describe. It doesn't match up with other fruits I've had, and it definitely doesn't taste like chicken. It's just a flavor all to itself. I just had to go on a recipe quest to see what I can do with the little marvels.
I haven't really found a whole lot of recipes for persimmons, but what I've found and tried so far has been wonderful. You know I'm a genuine bonafide choc-a-holic. Well, I found and tweaked till I made it mine a chocolate persimmon recipe that is spectacular. Truly. It's raining out. If I made those muffins and put one out on the patio today the rain would stop, the clouds would part, the sun would shine, and angels would sing. Truly. No joke. They're that spectacular.
I've even made persimmon jam. It reminds me of the lovely flower blossom jellies Eldest makes in the spring for the farmers market. The jam has a lightly sweet taste. I enjoy putting it on my toast when I want some sweet without a strong flavor to follow. It's like a highlight to the bread.
Yesterday while I was lost in making apple butter, I was thinking it would be nice to make some more muffins and jam this week. I asked Christen if she by chance had any left and she said she'd go look. I didn't think after the wind we had days ago there would be many if any at all. While I was at Boy Scouts last night with Kid and Young'un I had a message from Christen that she left a bucket of them on the patio. I was excited to know they were waiting there for me. Eldest was home, so I asked him to take them inside. When I got to the door, excited to see the little orange beauties, he was waiting for me. He said, "Mom, do you know how heavy a five-gallon bucket of persimmons is?" Why no, I have no idea, but I gather heavier than I would have imagined. Then again, it doesn't take a whole lot of pulp, weight-wise, to make the muffins. Eldest told me he had to put it up on the counter to keep the dogs from getting in them because they would have eaten every one if they were left on the floor. I forgot to tell him persimmons are a magnet; there's few animals around that won't go diving under a persimmon tree to get to those goodies. Shoot, I'd join them in the dive! I walked into the kitchen and there it was...a five-gallon bucket full. FIVE GALLONS. When I saw the bucket they were in I couldn't help but laugh because of the slogan on it. Yeah. Let's do this!
So, there you have it, folks. My persimmon connection. Thank you, Christen, for the persimmon introduction. I'm still amazed at how many of those little buggers come off of one tree. There's a little one next to Christen's big one just waiting for spring transplant at our farm. I may not have many grow on it next year, but knowing it will be out there with my expanding fruit tree grove is exciting! Smiling & Waving, Sharon
Our farm produce has been Certified Naturally Grown for five months, officially since receiving our yearly inspection and certificate this past May. Our poultry is also part of the program, needing the yearly inspection completed, which I hope to get a fellow farmer over here for uber soon. Next year we'll be pulling our apiary into it. We raise our bees naturally and have since they came here last year. Baby steps, you know? Since I've been quiet for months, having stories busting to get out, I've decided to start with this one and then move on into another that wants to be told tomorrow.
I know you're wondering, "Hey Sharon, what is Certified Naturally Grown? I don't know what that means." Well, pull up your chair because it's time you know. In a nutshell and from the world of Sharon, it's our farm raising what we enjoy raising without using synthetic chemicals. No synthetic insecticides or herbicides. No synthetic fungicides or fertilizers, either. Nope. None. We also say heck no to chemically treated seeds and a wooooah Nelly no way Jose to genetically modified seeds. Many times I'll say we're, "Organic by definition, not by government association." I like the standards we follow through the Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) program. I feel it's a better fit with our family farm. First off, as much as I'd like to be able to actually tell folks we're "organic" and use the organic logo without having the hounds of government descend on me, we just can't afford the price tag. CNG is an affordable option for us to stand up and say, "Hey, we're here and this is what we do...," and we do it with the backing of a great organization where we keep each other in line, in check, and following the standards set out for us, some of those standards trumping the USDA in my opinion.
Okay, now that I've said that, and you're on the seat of your chair, I see that question on your face. You're saying, "Yeah, but if you're keeping each other in line, whose to say you won't let each other slide by?!" Well, that's where you have to understand we work together as an organization, making sure each other is following the standards. Just because we don't have an inspection by an official government person doesn't make us any less credible. In fact, the person that was here earlier in the year to inspect our gardens won't be here next year. It'll be someone else. We can't have the same person inspect two years in a row. I can assure you when I'm asked to inspect someone's CNG farm I'll be making sure they are doing what they should be doing. When I sign my name to that inspection form it will be there because I see what is supposed to be. If you go to the CNG website to look at a copy of an inspection form or any documentation that I've signed you'll know it's there because I am an honest person. I have no qualms about calling someone out about this. Oh, yeah, that brings up another point...CNG has what they call transparency when it comes to every one of their producers. You can see the paperwork on-line from the application we fill out to the inspections we perform.
When I asked a good friend of mine if she is going to consider joining CNG she said no, that she doesn't feel it's necessary. She is an honest person who would never lead her customers on. I get that. Truly. She's awesome and I know everything she does is what I do and she's spot on with what she tells her customers. However, I know others that say they're doing what we do and then squirt Round-Up around their plants to keep the weeds down. GAH! I won't even get into the pink coated corn seeds. Kind of makes me woozy.
Our poultry ~ the chickens, ducks, and geese ~ are fed a USDA Organic feed. According to CNG, the feed doesn't have to be from the USDA Organic program. It can be purchased from a non-GMO producer or mill that will sign paperwork that states they follow the growing standards for their product of not using GMOs or synthetic chemicals. Sadly I haven't found a one around here that can state that fact, so I buy Organic feed from a feed store. That feed costs me $35 for 35 lbs. Yikes, you bet'cha that's a lot of money! Non-organic feed at that particular store costs less than $13 for a 50 lb. bag. What? You want to know why do we pay that huge difference in price? Well, that's an easy one. We do it because we care. We care for not only our family but yours, too. Yes, our chicken eggs cost you a little more money than others in the area. So do the ones with the Organic label at Wal-Mart...and theirs are still more money than ours. We have duck eggs, too, which I don't ever see at the grocery.
So, there you have it folks. I could go on about being Certified Naturally Grown and why we are thrilled to be a part of the CNG family, but you look like you're ready to to get up, stretch your legs, and go put that fishing pole you've been holding on to over in the pond. I am in the middle of roasting pumpkins for pies, anyway, and the timer is about to go off, so I need to get back to that. Just remember...as the ducks and geese swim around you...as you much on that lettuce I'll be serving up with supper...it's all good. It's Certified Naturally Grown. Smiling & Waving, Sharon
I'm the queen of our farm, although the animals wouldn't agree. My title is Head Chicken Wrangler, but most days I'm just called Mom. Life on a farm is full of family and hard work and I wouldn't have it any other way.