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Scrap Kitchen- Farming from Scratch

  • Commons and the Myth of Burnout

    19 FEB. 2024 · Commons and the myth of burnout In which Magda reframes 'burning out' and extols the virtues of community and commons https://xandua.substack.com/p/commons-and-the-myth-of-burnout ~Transcript Below~ Hi, welcome back to Scrap Kitchen. This is my third episode so far. I think I'm going to call this one Commons and the myth of burnout. Previously I have had some things to say about burnout. I have previously written about https://the-dots.com/projects/the-comeback-kid-refresh-magazine-503556, but I had an interesting reframing recently. Please note I don’t want to be all clickbait-y but more share what was presented to me. I'm going to hopefully rationalize it. Housekeeping: my interview with https://open.substack.com/users/17147811-iona?utm_source=mentionsfrom https://open.substack.com/pub/cherrylogis now out! So I just came back from a conference; OEFFA, the https://conference.oeffa.org/ conference. I'm currently in Michigan, but they're very kind and they let people from different states come. The whole conference was really interesting. It reinvigorated the already-building excitement in me to start farming this season. And I got to see a lot of really fascinating people talk, especially about things that are very close to home. I love going to these kinds of conferences and making friends with people. Got some very interesting takeaways. Asking for help One of the people who spoke was Sophia Buggs, of https://www.facebook.com/LadyBuggsFarm/, who gave an absolutely heart-wrenching speech about asking for help. Specifically with long Covid and the complexities of her as a woman who is Black, saying that she could not breathe. Because of long Covid, but also because of the compounding stresses that she was under (working in farming and going to DC). Eventually, she had to ask for help and while she received it, the speech was more about learning to ask for help. This struck me, as someone who had Covid and then took a very, very long time to recover. I spoke to a friend a few months back and she asked if I still needed a full day in bed every week. And I was like, what? Then I remembered that actually when we met (in Colorado on a farm), I did actually need one full day in bed [per week] for months. For the whole time I was there. At the time I was still suffering from long-Covid and nursing myself back to health slowly. That conversation was a really interesting reminder of not how far I'd personally come. But also what destabilizing events I was just absolutely (actively) forgetting from my own history. How hard it can be to ask for help in times like that. ‘Burnout’ I also listened to https://slowfoodnations.org/participant/jim-embry/, who recently won a James Beard award recently (along with seed keepers Ira Wallis and Rowan White). He’s a seed guy. He's also a slow-food movement guy. He had some amazing things to say, that boil down to how we treat the world the same way we treat women. So we need to treat the world and women better. We need to return to ancestral knowledge and the knowledge keepers within indigenous communities. And it's people of colour and women and queers and indigenous people who will be leading the climate recovery. In his second talk at the conference, he was asked how he does it all. He is a speaker, travels around, works a farm etc. His response stuck out to me. His answer was this; that we have in some way been conditioned to think that if we get too politically involved or we get too invested within our communities, we will #burnout. That the weight of it all will just crush us and that we'll not be able to do anything anymore. And while that is a possibility, if we take on too much and bite off more than we can chew, we could absolutely get crushed by the weight of our own ambitions. His point was this:If you are building community if you're building a web of reliance and mutual support, mutual aid, mutual encouragement and shouldering the burden for someone else, they also shoulder the burden for you. We create an interwoven mycelial network of support. And so by doing the scary thing and getting involved in our local political scene, getting involved in our local communities, doing acts of resistance (that are at times technically illegal or at times just like scary because we haven't done them before), or relearning things, that it seems a little intimidating. By doing that, you stabilize yourself within a community. Within a space. You give the community a chance to help you. In turn you get to serve your community. His response makes me think of a book that I read recently; https://www.fariharoisin.com/who-is-wellness-for by Fariha Roisin. I heard about the book because I was listening to Nikki Franco's https://open.spotify.com/show/6qXh3yHWkY0GeBBwzbPwYZ where she interviews the author. Roisin was saying (it was actually a very Capricorn sentiment of hers), isn't it so sexy, so exciting to be beholden to other people? To have a responsibility to other people. We could go around and be little islands, but it's so exciting that we are interconnected because it means that you are accountable to people, they're accountable to you, and you get to work together. So here is my jumble of all those interconnected little things. This week on the farm (that we're managing) We're doing a lot of little things to get ready for next year. I am going to be doing a germination test on some corn that my boss saved a couple of years ago. Glass Gem corn and Dakota Black. This season I want to grow these out in the three sisters, which is corn, beans and squash, and it's an indigenous technique native to America. Well, to Turtle Island. But I need to check that the corn will grow. To do this she's given me some pots of corn. I am (quick and dirty) going to put them in a little Tupperware with a piece of wet paper, and I'm going to put out a ten by ten square of each corn type and then see how many germinate. That will give me a germination percentage, which is actually something you have to do by law if you're going to be selling seeds. But I'm not going to get into the technicalities of that. But I'm doing germination tests this week. We're also seeding onions, building, and continuing to build our new soil table, which I talked about https://xandua.substack.com/p/ep2-snowmelt. We're going to a meetup for veg growers in the area. We're going to some training on how to make sure that your veg is kept clean post-harvest. Just to make sure that we're up to date on all of the laws or the guidelines. Long Term Updates There are no true updates. But I am really, really hopeful, which is an update. When we were at the conference in Ohio, there were four or five different offers from people who were saying, I have two acres, I have a greenhouse, I just need to find some young people who want to farm it. Which made me so excited (if I was going to live in Ohio). But still, the idea that there are probably farmers like that in the UK who just don't know where to look. As long as we keep putting our word out there, we might be able to connect with them. And even if we connect with them, and it's not the right person, as long as we keep growing our networks, we can connect the right people to the right farmers. If anyone listening to this has any farmer connections who happen to have two acres (and a greenhouse), please get in touch lol. But otherwise, very hopeful, very excited. It snowed in Ohio while we were there. Lots of the people at the conference had made points about not getting snow anymore, and then it snowed. It's still not to the same extent that it was pre-climate chaos, but it was beautiful to see, so I got to see a little bit of winter that I thought I was going to miss. I'll keep you updated. Thanks for listening. Bye. M Find me on https://instagram.com/xan6ua, https://the-dots.com/users/magda-nawrocka-weekes-1014419 and my https://xandua.com/. To support my work, please consider https://www.buymeacoffee.com/xandua. If you missed the last update, https://xandua.substack.com/p/ep2-snowmelt.
    Escuchado 8m 57s
  • Snowmelt

    12 FEB. 2024 · Ep.2- Snowmelt In which Magda bemoans nice weather, suggests you save seeds and shamelessly plugs an upcoming interview. ~TRANSCRIPTION BELOW~ Hello, all. Welcome to Scrap Kitchen, where I start a farm from scratch and tell you about it. This episode is called Snowmelt. It was a name I came up with when I was planning this out, and that was before the snow all melted. I’m keeping the name because it fits in with what I want to talk about. But know that the snow has melted. It’s gone, it’s been gone for a while. Technically, the name is very accurate. https://www.spreaker.com/cms/shows/6082116/%%checkout_url%% Right now, I'm drinking https://xandua.substack.com/p/departures-and-dandelions tea, which has a very similar bitterness to coffee. It's made from the roots. I think that's kind of funny because I'm reading a book that is the first in the https://www.goodreads.com/series/117103-the-dandelion-dynasty, and my logo has a Dandelion in it. So I'm very much on theme at the moment. I'm sticking to the brand this week. Farm Updates This week, what we've been up to on the farm (that my partner and I are managing) is a lot of cleaning and prepping for the early season planting. We have three high tunnels (well, one high tunnel and two caterpillar polytunnels) on the farm. We've just spent the last few days cleaning them all out of the dead plants and the landscape fabric that we didn't get to last year. Along with weeding them and prepping the beds. That is raking them smooth, ready to be seeded into. In the next couple of weeks, we're probably going to plant spinach in those beds. Maybe some rocket (or arugula, as they call it here) and probably some radishes, turnips, and maybe some green onions (if we get them seeded in time). And beetroot. There’s quite a lot planned for those beds. We've also been doing some DIY. We bought this big sheet of plywood and several sticks (planks, bits of wood) of 2x4s. The goal is to make a new seeding table. We're somewhat copying (taking inspiration) the seeding table design from Broadfork Farm (where we worked before). This consists of a box but with diagonal sides which you can put another sheet on top of it to balance your seeding trays. So the seeding table is a good height. All this soil (from the box) you put into trays, that you then put seeds into. We want the table to be a good height for the person who will be doing the seeding (to accommodate previous injuries). Ergonomic seeding. Hence redesigning the seeding table. https://xandua.substack.com/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share&action=share Aside from that, we've been doing a lot of computer work. Making posters for the CSA and updating various spreadsheets so that we're ready for next year. We're also interviewing people over the next few days for farmhand positions. It’s actually been kind of busy. Snowmelt (off vibes all round) I wanted to call this episode snowmelt because the snow is melting. Obviously. But more because of how unseasonably, unfathomably, awfully, but also wonderfully warm it has been. Recently. It's been 15 degrees Celsius. I don't know what that is in American numbers, and I don't care to learn. It's been 15 degrees Celsius in February, and that is absolutely awful! I mean, it's lovely. It's lovely when you feel the sun on your face. It's glorious that I can have my legs out in mid-February. A random woman walking her dog sang a song at me about having my legs out in early spring, which was a lovely community moment and a little jarring, if I'm honest. But, this is our reality. As the climate continues to change, it makes me think back to last year when we were working in really, really strong smoke. On certain days we didn't go to work because there was so much smoke in the air (395ppm). And then that makes me think about people forced to work while there's still smoke in the air. There are these horrifying pictures of the California wildfires and the migrant workers still in the field, just masked up in dangerous fire conditions. It’s just abhorrent. https://substackcdn.com/image/fetch/f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F7ca85f14-7623-44a7-9862-fe1896876851_750x115.jpeg I talk a bit more about the inequalities within farming (which I'll probably touch on almost every time I talk) in an interview that I did with my friend who writes https://open.substack.com/pub/cherrylog. It should be coming out pretty soon, so keep an eye out for that. I also, this is a running theme (it's almost as if wildfires are becoming more and more common), https://xandua.substack.com/p/milk-thistle-wild-fires. We're going to keep working in adverse, worse and worse conditions. Not only are they uncontrollable conditions, it's just going to be more of everything. In Rhode Island, where my dad currently lives, his friend grows a lot of tomatoes. Big up Mark Gravel, who gave me some banging tomato seeds. Steve has had loads of tomatoes just die because of the amount of rain that they had last year, or there's a lack of sun (in the UK), or there's way too much sun, or it's 15 degrees in February. All of this more, this unseasonability, is something that we have to design our farming systems around. It’s something that we have to breed for when it comes to seeds. So if I haven't said this already, my true love, my passion, my I don't know ( I was going to say Magda-opus, but that's really corny) is seeds. I want to breed climate-resilient plants. The best way to save a seed is to put it in the ground. Owen Taylor and Chris Bolden-Newsome at their best on the Seeds and Their People Podcast. ‘Saving’ seeds in a special little seed bank up in fucking Norway (or wherever) is great. But they won't be able to adapt to the climate as well as if you grew them every single year and saved the strongest ones. If you want to do something, anything to make yourself and the plants around you more resilient; save seeds. Save seeds from your strongest, hardiest, toughest, wiliest tomatoes (or whatever else you grow). Future generations will thank you for it because that's what's actually going to survive. I probably want to talk a lot more about seeds, but I'm conscious of time. Longer-term Updates A little update on what we're doing in terms of getting land and everything else. We sent out a couple more of our mini CVs. This is what we want. Here's our vision kind of things. We've been looking into various funding options and we're still trying to look for land. There are a lot of very interesting YouTube videos on how to just ‘claim land’ in the UK and I don't think we're going to be doing that. Just like podcasts, literally anyone can make a YouTube video. We are still putting feeders out for people whose land we can use with permission. So that's the plan for now. Yeah, that's basically all I wanted to say. I don't want to ramble on too much on these things, but also we will be going to a conference this week. An organic farming conference in Ohio. And I'm really, really excited to be going. Bringing it back to my https://xandua.substack.com/i/141375720/my-pillars I talked about before, this will involve doing some connecting with other farmers and some knowledge sharing. Well, I'm going to absorb all their knowledge and I might occasionally say something kind of possibly helpful, but realistically, I'm going to be the sponge. Then I'll wring out that sponge for everyone else (this metaphor is getting disgusting). Okay, well, that's all I wanted to say, I hope you all have a lovely week. And, yeah, stay hopeful. Enjoy this unseasonable, terrifying weather. M Find me on https://instagram.com/xan6ua, https://the-dots.com/users/magda-nawrocka-weekes-1014419 and my https://xandua.com/. To support my work, please consider https://www.buymeacoffee.com/xandua. If you missed the last update, https://xandua.substack.com/p/ep1-the-lay-of-the-land.
    Escuchado 8m 41s
  • The Lay of the land

    6 FEB. 2024 · Ep.1-The Lay of the Land In which Magda rambles about the farming tasks of spring and introduces the podcast and its aims. --- TRANSCRIPTION: Hello, welcome to Scrap Kitchen. This is my attempt at a podcast, or not really a podcast but voice notes .I have been sending voice notes to one of http://cherrylog.substack.com/ as we live in separate countries. I thought it would be a good way of charting how we go from, we; my partner and I, go from having no land, to maybe having land, to maybe starting a farm. And maybe I should take those maybes out and make it a little bit more clear. Hi, I’m Magda. I wrote the Scrap Kitchen newsletter for about a year when I first started farming. Towards the end of the season, I got kind of exhausted. Because farming is really hard (but so worth it). It’s now two and a bit years later and I’m going to go for something that’s going to be a little easier. Hopefully a little easier to maintain and that is this voice note/podcast thing. So join me as I try to start a farm with my beloved. This episode is called The Lay of the Land and I have a lot of notes here about what I want to talk over. Along with somewhat of a time limit which I hope I will stick to. Starting from the beginning. This is the start of February, I’m here in Michigan on unceded Anishinaabeg Land. I, with my partner, manage a farm. It is a certified organic farm, it does U-Pick, it has a CSA, we sell at our farmstand and might start selling at markets. We grow a lot of vegetables. This will be my fourth year of farming. Since I quit my job mid-pandemic and moved to a different continent and learned how to save seeds (and farm). I got pretty disenfranchised with working in a start-up (ew). Mid-PannyD everyone freaked out and resigned, I was no different. I realised what I wanted to do was work the land, feed people and grow climate-resistant crops. I wanted to do it in a way that aligned with actually caring for the land. I had to find somewhere that did that (places that do that in the UK do, that's not why I left). I am an American citizen so I thought you know, I've never lived there. May as well try. Which leads to us trying to find land now. I met my partner because he also quit his job mid-pandemic to go become a vegetable farmer in Colorado. After three years, and it will be four, of farming in the US, we want to go to the UK and start our own farm. So we're looking for land. For those of you who don't know, or have no idea what the UK farming scene is like, it's really hard to get land. Land is owned in massive parcels by people (or companies, or families) who've owned it for thousands of years. Or hundreds of years. Just too long. It’s quite hard to just get 5 acres. To get around this my partner and I created this sheet with our experience, what we’re looking for (land-wise), and the vision for what we're going to do. We've been sending out to anyone and everyone we can think of. Hoping they will send it through their network. So far a couple of people have gotten back to me. Not with land but with other connections, so we have to chase those up. As of now, we have no land and we have no visa (we're also going to try to get a visa to get my partner to the UK so that we can do, you know, the farming). So you are joining us, well me (he's a part of this but this podcast is just going to be me chit-chatting), at the beginning. The hope for this podcast is that, in a similar vein to https://ismatu.substack.com/, you'll get to see me learn in like real time; How to do all of the background stuff for farming. For people who are interested in starting farming, they'll realise oh fuck this is all the work that goes in! And for people who are already farming they'll get to say, yeah I remember when I was at that stage. Learning in real-time, showing you what it's like to be a first-generation farmer, trying to share knowledge on where people learn how to do this stuff, how we do stuff, why we do stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years, since my life became seasonal, assessing what really matters to me. It comes down to three things. My pillars. Nourishment- is feeding people. Trying to give people healthy food, that's cheap. Connection- is trying to build and be a part of vibrant mycelial communities/ networks. It's mutual aid. Getting involved and invested with where you live at any point in time, even if you're only there for a couple of months. Knowledge- at all points I want to break down gatekeeping. My background is a degree in biochemistry, which solidified to me that access to information comes through money (and academia is awful). People should have access to all information and resources. Scarcity around knowledge is really short-sighted. I don’t want to perpetuate the restriction of knowledge sharing, especially when it might help someone. That's the basic overview… https://substackcdn.com/image/fetch/f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fsubstack-post-media.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F863ce0f8-0d99-4b7e-a642-86ed33ae139f_2000x1500.jpeg Right now it is a sunny day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The snow has melted mostly. It was very snowy a week ago. We've been out to the farm and interviewed a couple of people who'll be working with us and started clearing up the high tunnel. We need to start planting some seeds. We'll be planting lots of alliums this year; that means onions, garlic, and leeks. We're going to start loads of trays of onions and leeks pretty early so that we can put them in the ground as soon as possible. As soon as it stops threatening to freeze all the time. A lot of the farm work right now is doing computer work. We have eight massive spreadsheets; crop, harvest, and sales plans abound. Anyone who thinks farming isn’t maths and science is wrong. It is intense! But also pretty fun (because I am a Capricorn). Aside from spreadsheets, we're going over systems. Creating documents to make it easier for volunteers (we have a lot) that come to the farm. We want them to be able to at a sheet and know how to do something. Especially for things they might forget, they can come back and like look at this sheet that tells them how much a box of carrots should weigh. We're also ordering seeds. The most exciting time of the year! It’s like Christmas for farmers. When all your boxes full of seeds turn up you get to think about all the things that they're going to turn into. All the possibilities also saved a lot of seeds last year. I saved a lot of tomatoes and the year before lots of beans, butterfly blue peas, and luffa (a whole lot of luffa). I'll probably talk more about seed saving later and why it's so important. Now is the time to sit in the gestational darkness of spring. To think about what the year might become. To put things in place so that we can make it into a good year. The other big news on our farm is that we've released our CSA. So people have started buying our CSA shares for the coming year. For those who don't know, CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. It's a box or a bag of vegetables every week for however long it runs. Buying a CSA helps a farmer because it gives them funds at the start of the season. When they haven't started selling food directly to consumers. It means that they can buy seeds or pay their workers for the first couple of months (don’t get me started on farmers and debt, we do not have time). If you have a CSA in your local area, I would suggest you get on it. There are, at least on our farm, options for people to access our CSA/produce if they are on food stamps, if they're on SNAP benefits or any other food assistance program. And various farms do that. So there shouldn't be anything like stopping someone (obviously societally there are) from getting access to fresh nutritious produce. At least on solid farms (that are trying their best), there is usually no financial barrier to people getting access to the vegetables that they need. Do not be afraid to ask your local farmer if they do that. And if they don't, fuck ‘em. Side note: it’s a purposefully difficult process to set yourself up to accept food assistance payment. Almost as if they want to discourage small businesses from partaking by bogging them down in bureaucracy. Okay, well that got way more dramatic than I was expecting in my first voice noite/podcast. But since these are just voice notes, just going to chart how I feel, it doesn't matter if you don't like my style. That's okay. And if you do like my style, then you can listen and learn in real-time along with me. So there it is. The Lay of the Land. Thanks. Bye. M https://substackcdn.com/image/fetch/f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F83353183-30d2-44a0-b5dd-b2a8b185a306_652x654.png Find me on https://instagram.com/xan6ua, https://the-dots.com/users/magda-nawrocka-weekes-1014419 and my https://xandua.com/. To support my work, please consider
    Escuchado 11m 24s

We're starting a farm! Or at least we're trying to... After 3 years of learning and growing (and one more to go) Magda and her beloved are ready to farm...

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We're starting a farm! Or at least we're trying to... After 3 years of learning and growing (and one more to go) Magda and her beloved are ready to farm for good.

We're talking no-till, organic, soil-focused, community-building, back-to-the-earth goodness.

If you're looking to learn more about farming or just want to see how this goes, join the journey. With in-depth weekly updates as we try to secure land, crop plan and get a visa, all while managing a farm full-time in sunny Michigan.



Follow along on Subtack: https://xandua.substack.com/
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