Sunday, October 24, 2010

What a Slacker Blogger's Been Doing Lately

About a week ago, my old friend, Sean Carnage of, called me out in the public forum of Facebook about my slow-down in blogs. I assure all of you the slow-down has not been for naught. All that infrastructure that I've been writing about for months all came to a glorious head in the months of September and October. When I say infrastructure, I will clarify. I now have my fence. I now have my storage container. And on a personal note, I have a brand new driveway and garage!

So I've been doing my part for the economy. Some of you may read that last paragraph and say, "that's wonderful." And it is wonderful, but for those three separate jobs of fence, storage container, and new garage, I had to deal with no less than eight separate contractors plus the Teamsters. The thing I've learned about contractors over the last two months is that they're only on time when it comes to asking for a check. What this amounted to was being held hostage, as contractors don't seem to have a day-to-day comprehensive plan. Instead, they ask some critical question that should have been determined several weeks prior every two to eight hours for every day on the job.

Take for instance that first ever video on The Garden Life and Times of Justin Husher, which was shot, directed, and executively produced by Birch, with some Apple product. Now this video shows me in desperate times, a man beaten by nature. I was tasked with the removal of 12 wooden fence posts on a rainy Thursday so that the fence guys could put their subsequent other fence posts in on Friday. Now being that these contractors bid these jobs from paper proposals without ever having been to the job site, how were they to know these old posts were in their way? And subsequently, personally, how was I suppose to know that these fence posts were in their way, or that I (and not them) was responsible for removing these posts, being that these contractors never came out to the farm?

So when the fence guys finally did get out there and were finally putting their posts in, the process came to a halt on the south side of the farm when the fence guys informed me that the wooden posts were in their way AND that it was not their job to remove them. I scrambled calling everybody I knew for help. Like the ol' reliable that he is, Birch came to the rescue. First, we tried digging the posts out, then digging plus sledge-hammering, then digging plus sledge-hammering plus drilling posts into the fence posts to give us a better grip. Through these processes, we were able to extract five posts in two hours and were feeling broken.

Of course, that's when Subee-1 came to the rescue. Basically, Subee-1 became a battering ram extraordinaire. What we hoped to accomplish with 50 sledge-hammerings was completed with one or two rams from Subee-1. Subee-1 so thoroughly loosened the fence posts, we no longer had to do any digging, and the posts literally just pulled on up. The last seven posts came out in an hour. I encourage everybody to check out the minute long video, and if you're a National Marketing Manager for Subaru of USA, then it's a must.

As of now, the fence is completed. It looks great. Sterling Fence did a great job and were a pleasure to work with despite the last minute scrambling. The Federal bidding process for my Stimulus dollars saved me and my grant a lot of money, which ultimately allowed me to afford my shed, which is actually a re-purposed storage container.

For the record, I want to thank Randie Kuhn of OSU Extension. Because without her, the Re-Imagining Cleveland Grant would be and would have been nothing.

Now back to the shed, I opted for the re-purposed storage container instead of your run-of-the-mill shed because I didn't want it to get stolen. This is Cleveland, and entire 10 by 10 sheds have disappeared overnight. Given all of the horror stories about the neighborhood from the mouth of Pete Gagepro across the street, I wanted something secure, and a flimsy ol' vinyl shed from Home Depot wasn't gonna cut it.

At this point, I obviously now have my shed, but it too had its share of prep work. There were two days of weedy tree removal, performed with a calorie-burning handsaw and not a gas-burning chainsaw. However in hindsight and for future applications, a chainsaw would be welcomed. There was the two days of site prep, which included the tilling and leveling the area one day, and spreading and leveling four tons of lime stone the next.

However I would have given thrice the site prep for the paint prep, which there were five days of and really sucked. These five days could be roughly broke down into two days of scraping/removing Hyundai decals, a day of sanding/rust removal, a day of using gnarly solvents to get rid of the leftover sticky of the decals, and a day of Rustoleum priming coupled with a Dr. Bronner's light hempen soap bath.

The painting was fairly easy with each coat taking about a half day per application. I got a lot help with the actual painting. Lisa Carlini of Origins Beanery is featured in the action photo above. My long term vision for the shed includes painting the mural of my logo on the front and a DIY green roof on top.

Whilst all this was happening, the farm stuff on the farm didn't magically take a leave of absence, and Gordon Square Farmer's Market just ended for the season on October 30th. For the last market, I had paddy pans, mizuna, baby bok choys, radishes, basil, and sundrieds. Though in the middle of October, I still had eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. I feel fairly accomplished in my late season offerings as I didn't use any kind of season extenders.

And whilst all the all of this was happening, I still had to break down and plant in for the season. My 17 pounds of garlic was literally just planted and mulched on Halloween weekend. The sunchokes got in the week before that.

I'm almost at a critical rest for the year. Basically, all I need to do is one last seasonal mow, which should happen later on today. When I write "critical rest," I refer to things that I have to do and not those I still want to and can do this year. I've liberated 36 yard bags of leaves so far for my farm composting. I would like to make it an even 100. Again, it's not critical, but I'd like to do it.

Going in to the winter future, I promise I will try to write more. I have a million topics to write about: trains of thought, my first season reflections, cultural critiques, advertisements, reporting on wine and cheese events, etcetera. Speaking of wine and cheese, it feels like there's a local food event everyday here in Cleveland. I went to two events last week and will be checking out another two this week. The beauty is the fervor-ed pitch is coming from all corners of the city, de-localized and de-centralized.

Needing a winter time activity other than surfing Australia, I'm also in deep contract negotiations with Gardens Under Glass to come aboard and learn hydroponic gardening in the Galleria of downtown Cleveland this winter. Last of all, Green Urban Enterprises may be going to court and suing over a purchase of a faulty piece of machinery bought earlier in the season. We'll have to see on that one, but I was hoping to avoid litigation as long as possible as part of my business practices. It's a shame that there are con-artists in the world.

That's what a slacker blogger's been doing lately.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Local Foods Week Cleveland

From October 2nd to the 10th, we celebrated the first hopefully annual Local Foods Week in Cleveland, where Cleveland Foodies were instigated into taking on the "Eat Local Challenge" that comprised of three harrowing tasks. Task 1 was to eat a local meal a day and post photos (of which I'm trying to comply now). Task 2 was to attend a local food event. And Task 3 was to support local farmers, farm markets, and restaurants.

Obviously, I personally accepted the challenge and won! However, it was not the elegant, graceful win that I had hoped for. Prior to Local Foods Week, I had imagined lush daily meals made with subsequent daily trips for farmer market goods. This week-long culinary epic horizon was crushed with the eight-pound shoulder that I slow barbequed, mopped, and pulled (pic 1) over apple and oak logs for six and a half hours on October 1st in celebration of rock band, La Otracina, making their way through Cleveland for the first time in two years. The shoulder was from a non-certified organic Creston, Ohio hog that I bought half of several weeks ago. Those french fries in the picture are Yukon golds from the Farm.

Though La Otracina are skinny Brooklynites, they ate wholeheartedly that evening, as did other musical luminaries like Lightning Fingers and Josh Snuff. October 2nd was the "official" start of Local Foods Week, and we (me, Sarah, and Otracina) partook in the Challenge with non-vinegared and instead chili powdered pulled pork breakfast burritos (pic 2) with purple onions from Old Husher's Farm, Morgan Farm Stay eggs, organic herbed cheese bought from a Amish Go-Between at a LEAF event this summer, and leftover bacon-mashed pinto beans from Rose Angel on W 58th. The condiments were Texas Pete Hot Sauce from North Carolina, Chipolte Tabasco from Avery Island, Louisiana, and Cholula from our brothers and sisters in Mexico. Day One, check.

Day Two was my favorite individual day of Local Foods Week. This is because I cooked the least and ate the best that day. Eating the best came as a courtesy from Lakewood's most aggro farmers, Bay Branch Farm. Yep, Annabel and Eric opened up their home and hearth for us heathens. The table-spread picture above (pic 3) is from the Bay Branch Party. My personal fave was the Yukon Gold potato salad with arugula accents (both grown at Bay Branch). However, Sarah begged to differ and preferred the beet salad (more Bay Branch produce) with the Lake Erie Creamery Chevre. I cooked up a pair of blue hubbard pies (pic 4) from the farm, and though there were three pumpkin pies, mine was the first to go. This probably had more to do with the fact that we brought a spatula and drew first slice, rather than some competitive tasting, as Ryan Kennedy's pumpkin pie was no less delicious. The chit-chat was great and ultimately devolved into subject matter relating to the competitive state of urban farming in Cleveland, Ohio. Day Two, check.

Day Three was a mellow day for me and Local Foods Week. Remember that eight pound shoulder and the other blue hubbard pie? Day Three, check.

Day Four was another no-cook day for me, but that evening I went to the Growhio Web Launch party. Thereby, completing Task 2. And since the Party was graciously catered with tasty treats from Flying Fig and Ohio City Burrito with a conscious effort to include locally grown food in the offerings, I was able to get my local foods meal in that day. Growhio's mission statement "is to increase demand for local food products and services by acting as an educational resource for information seekers, consumers, and future local food participants." Not only that, I'm "supposed to be" Growhio's first featured farmer with a question and answer style interview. Considering that Old Husher's Farm is not mentioned even as a link on the Growhio site yet, I'm starting to wonder if that "supposed to be" has fallen to the wayside. I should probably follow up with them on that. Regardless, Day Four and Task 2, check.

Day Five was Wednesday, hump day. It came with its own little micro-challenge, to eat at a restaurant that regularly buys from local farmers, of which there are probably about 10 to 20 of these restaurants in the area. Right here in my little village of Lakewood, Ohio is Root Cafe. Root is a coffee shop with an amazing beer and food selection. They buy from five or six separate farmers in the area, including Bay Branch. As you can guess, Day Five was another no-cook day with my local meal being provided by my pizza lunch at the Root (pic 5). Day Five, check.

Day Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine went a little something like this: pulled pork sandwich, followed by another breakfast burrito, followed by more pulled pork, then some Italian sausage from that same hog with some purchases from Gordon Square Farmer's Market on Day Eight and little snacks of blue hubbard pie peppered throughout those days. This was kind of an uneventful way of concluding the First Annual Local Foods Week Cleveland. But when you do a whole shoulder, it's best to eat it all.

Right now in Cleveland, we're celebrating our 2nd Annual Beer Week. Last year, the Week was hardly a murmur, meaning I didn't know it existed until after it was over. This year's Beer Week has a ridiculous amount of events and brewers flying in from all over the country. Sarah and I indulged in a food and beer pairing at the Beer Engine that matched 15 of Boulder's Avery beers with 15 petite courses. My favorite pairing was the sour beers with the stinky cheeses, which are two food groups that I generally dislike, but completely synergized together. The word on the street from the Cleveland Beeries is that this 2nd Beer Week has "blown up" from last year. Let's hope the same for next year's 2nd Annual Local Foods Week.