Will Mulch for Food

Posted by: on Mar 7, 2013 | One Comment

coppercricketLast Thursday night my husband and I went to the Eastern Shore Locavore monthly potluck dinner. The Locavores are a local social group of people interested in growing, consuming, or promoting local foods. Our friends were hosting the dinner. Unfortunately, the end of February isn’t the best time for local food unless you still have stores from last summer. And while the group’s intentions are good, the dinners wind up mostly social. The conversation waffles back and forth on food, the environment, taxes, and even healthcare. However, one of the benefits of the group is that sometimes you find yourself in conversation with a local farmer.

So, on Thursday, with all the seats at the table full, I sat in the living room with the hosts and Arthur and Carol Upshur of Copper Cricket Farms. I’d met both Arthur and Carol before and emailed back and forth with them for work. But I hadn’t had the opportunity to really get to know them. I quickly found myself agreeing to visit their farm early the next morning and by visit I mean work.


My girly garden gloves

Friday morning, I woke up early as usual making breakfast and lunch for my husband. I then put on my dirtiest clothes and went to the local building supply store for garden gloves. Despite telling myself to buy gloves since early this past summer, I still hadn’t. The building supply had a whole half aisle of gloves. I tried to avoid the floral ones, thinking the plain black looked a little more serious and less decorative. However, the only gloves on the whole wall that fit my small hands were floral with blue, hot pink, or neon green cuffs. I chose the green with orange flowers. Fortunately, I already had glorious muck boots, knee high heavy-duty rain boots for working in the field or marsh.

I picked up my friend and we headed down to the farm. We were there by 9:30, a little bit of a late start for the farm community. The farm is down in Machipongo, VA almost to Eastville on the Bay side. The road meanders down toward the creek passing several houses before setting you down at the farm and continuing onto their house, which is right on the creek with a spectacular view of the Bay. They own about 50 acres but only farm an acre and a half. First Arthur gave us a tour. He showed us the barn, a beautiful red barn built to withstand hurricanes and some day hold solar panels on both sides of the roof. The barn has a counter and sink running down the middle for processing and they are in the process of building a cold storage room. And my favorite part of the barn, just to the right of the large barn doors is a wood stove. Just a few steps out the barn door is the gate to the farm. The whole acre and a half is fenced in, I presume to keep out deer. Within the fence are 4 ft x 50 ft beds and chicken tractors. They have around 50 hens and a rooster for each chicken tractor.


The barn (and a brief moment of clearer skies)

Once we toured the barn and garden, we got down to work. It was good to move around because the wind was cold and the sky grey. The work warmed us up. Our task that morning was to mulch a set of the beds and paths so that weeds won’t grow. First we spread leaves over the paths and beds then we lay hay on top of the leaves. The wind scattered the leaves doing some of the work for us as long as we spread in the direction of the wind. We spread the leaves and hay thicker on the path. The layers are left shallower on the beds so they can still be planted. As we unrolled the hay bales we checked them for black widow spiders. Fortunately, we didn’t see any. We chatted as we worked and the hens nearby clucked away scratching in the dirt. It took until lunch to finish the section we were working on.

Once finished we picked some of the remaining winter crops, broccoli and a few radishes (a variety I can’t remember the name of but not the little red ones that are so typical). We bought some eggs and were invited in for lunch. Carol had baked a fresh loaf of brown bread and heated up some venison spaghetti sauce. However, for my friend and I (both vegetarian), she lay out cheese, kale, and homemade pepper relish from which we made grilled cheese. I had never had a kale-pepper relish grilled cheese but I highly recommend it. We finished the meal with oranges, tea, and homemade oatmeal raisin cookies.

It was a beautiful day despite the permeating grey of the sky. The work was rewarding, getting me outside and out of my head for a few. And the company was lovely, kind, and giving. Arthur and Carol were open and giving. They enjoyed talking about their farm, how they started, and where they plan on going. If you have the chance, visit one of your local farmers. Get them to show you around and if you can volunteer a few hours. You’ll get more out of it then you put in, I promise. Plus you might just find yourself walking away with fresh produce or eggs. Although, I insisted on paying for the eggs.

1 Comment

  1. Grandma
    March 8, 2013

    Hali, I love your blog. I enjoyed the text, but particularly the photos – nostalgic. An acre and a half is PLENTY of farm for two people. Just an acre of garden kept many of us busy on our farm in the 70s.
    What’s a chicken tractor?
    Lots of love, keep it up!


Leave a Reply