My Farm to Table Education – Part 2

Dear 2 readers,

Well, BALLS.

I am officially a horrible, neglectful blogger.

This was supposed to be done 4 days after my last post.  Sigh…

I make no excuses. It is what it is.

 

Week 2 of off-campus Farm to Table took me back to Elgin, first stop – RRR Farm.

RRR is adjacent to the expanded Green Gate Farm land, but brought a very different experience.

Not only do they grow and sell seasonal produce and have pigs and goats, but also cows, more farm dogs, and kittens. (Oh my goodness, the kittens… be impressed, friends.  Though tempted, I did not bring a single furry friend home. A classmate, however, did). While there, we spent plenty of play time with the domesticated lot, helped load a stubborn pig for processing, dug holes, erected fence posts, and planted fruit trees.  In 5 years, we’ll be able to return to see them bearing as a result of our labor.

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Bernhardt’s Fruit and Veggie Farm was our 3rd/5th day of the week exposure.  It is a well oiled machine, having been established over 30 years ago and kept in the family.  Their organization is impressive, as is their on site commercial kitchen, in which they concoct a myriad of wonders to sell at farmer’s markets, including sauerkraut, kim chi and melon sorbets.  Those of us who spent time with the Bernhardts were lucky enough to get the best of both worlds.  We harvested, weeded and planted on the farm, and then helped prepare for market in the kitchen.  It was a joy both days. 

Worth mentioning – it was here I saw my first live scorpion, clear and tiny, lurking in holes I’d already dug and seeded bare-handed.  I am not generally squeamish about much, but can I just say EEK!

I have since arranged to spend some of my externship on this farm as well.

  

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I rounded out the week at Yegua Creek Pecan Orchard.  The scenery was breath taking and heart breaking in turns, as they recently lost 1500 trees and have planted 200 new ones.   This was the most diversified business of the bunch.  They not only harvest and sell pecans, but also market pecan oil, pecan coffee, wood and wood work items (cutting boards, wall hangings, etc), and a host of pecan food stuffs.  A minimal amount of limb clearing occurred, but most of my time there was concentrated in their kitchen, making champagne pecans, pecan cookies and experimental recipes.  I learned to sort pecan halves, which is easier than it sounds, but done by hand for quality control.  Think about that next time you price local pecans…

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After we returned to campus, we hosted a Round Table luncheon, the menu for which we composed and prepared from an assortment of food generously supplied by the farmers.  Over lunch, we talked about our experiences, the pros, the cons.  We got feedback from those farmers who were able to attend, and gave it to the people at school who coordinate the block.

For me, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience, on which I plan to build over the years.   The relationships between farmers and cooks directly impacts the quality of the food at some of your local restaurants.  I encourage all of you to contribute a little forethought and research to your next food outing.  Consider trying somewhere that uses locally grown ingredients.  Compare their wares to the usual, convenient chains.  Maybe you’ll be able to tell the difference – especially at peak season, in which we are sadly NOT currently.  Maybe you won’t.   Either way,  the purposefulness matters, if only to know you tried.  And report back!  Comment!  Let me know!

 

For now, tell me, where and what are you eating lately?

 

 

 

Museums and May

mailCATXSV20Yesterday was International Museum Day. When I discovered that fact, I couldn’t have been happier to have the perfect excuse to plunder Austin on exhibit. That’s just the nerd I am.

To observe the occasion I decided to visit a couple of local spots – a difficult choice, given the volumes housed in the area, not to mention state.

But there are more days in the year. More weekends to fill. More blogs to post at some later date. For now, a brief sidetrack:

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(After driving my otherwise reasonably temperature controlled vehicle around town for an hour or so) It’s mid May. Balls to that!

Back on track –

I settled on the Austin Museum of Art’s Arthouse – one of two locations housing its works, and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Both, as it turns out, illuminating and entertaining choices.

When I stepped into the Arthouse, I was personally welcomed by its staff, briefed on the exhibits, and told admission fees were waived in celebration of Museum Day. (Classy first impression, check!)

The first exhibit, “Constructed Landscapes” by Seher Shah, was both aesthetically interesting and intricate in its simplified form.

Oh hell, I’m no art critic. But I did like it. Here it is:

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Then I wandered into a short film exhibit, featuring Cinthia Marcelle and Tiago M Machado’s “O Seculo.” It was about ten minutes of trash being chucked into a street, complete with sound. I’m told it represents the industrial growth of the twentieth century. I consider myself a thoughtful, fairly open minded person in these matters. I sat through it twice, just to give myself time to mull it over. I get it – sort of. But the mundane presentation left me underwhelmed. Maybe that was the point.

A still:

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Finally, the interactive work titled “Temporary Insanity” by Pinaree Sanpitak consisted entirely of varying orb-like shapes meant to represent the female form, which responded to movement by rocking, humming, and creating their own rhythm. A concept I would have enjoyed exploring on my own… as it was, I found myself in the company of polyester-pantsed, sensibly shoed seniors who clapped, stomped and shouted at the artwork in an attempt to coax responses.

“Pearl, which one you wanna talk to?”

Oh well.

On second thought, what a fabulous idea for a children’s experience. Field trip, anyone?

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Next stop, the Bullock Museum, featuring the “Story of Texas.” The three level building houses a comprehensive history of the state, from native roots

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to pirates – or rather, their remains

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to missions

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and the moon.

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I was one of about 5 people NOT there to see the IMAX version of the new Star Trek movie… Although that would be cool, too. I found it a very well presented experience, far more impressive than even swelling Texas pride, more informative and thoughtful than so many stereotypes might offer. I feel all citizens, no matter where, should make the effort to learn about the places they inhabit. I know I plan to continue to do so.

Thinking back, there are other places that made big impressions on me over the years. A short list of some of my favorites:

The Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL

The Hershey Museum, Hershey, PA

The Ben Franklin Museum, Philadelphia, PA

The Smithsonian Museum of Art and National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

The Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, MS

The D-Day Museum, New Orleans, LA

The Pink Palace Museum, Memphis, TN

The American Textile History Museum, Boston, MA

The Natural History Museum, Salt Lake City, UT

The Field Museum, Chicago, IL

There are too many!

What are some of your favorite museums? Maybe they’ll be next on my list.