Week 2

Week 2: Bunyip bunyip bunyip!

Plantain is a common "weed" that is used in a variety of medicinal ways.

We’ve still got some slim pickings this week, though with a little more variety compared with the last box. We’re also including an experiment in wildcrafting, a plantain salve, which is used for minor skin irritations like bug bites and rashes. Jump down the page to learn more about what’s in the box, and fill out a preferred veggie form here, if desired. Regular pickup is still Eleanor’s parents’ house, 325 Russell St., Madison, WI, Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm (unless we’ve discussed differently with you). If you ever can’t make it during that window, let us know, and we’ll either skip your box that week or plan an alternate pick up time for you (depending on your preferences).

Now, you might be wondering about the title of this email (bunyip bunyip bunyip). What is a bunyip, you might ask? It’s a large amphibious creature from Australian Aboriginal mythology that lives in inland waterways. Wait, why are we talking about bunyips? Let me tell you a story (though admittedly, it may not be as dramatic as other bunyip tales)…

Part of our long-term goals for this land is to manage the water on it. We’re on the downward slope of a hill, and there are several deeply eroded trenches across the land that water habitually flows down when it rains or snow melts, sometimes quite fast-moving. These unintentional waterways contribute not just to runoff, which we want to avoid as much as possible from our uphill neighbors, but also to the loss of topsoil (a huge problem with modern agriculture), not to mention the big soggy area at the bottom of the hill. Our solution: create swales (basically trenches) along the contour of the land to catch the water and redistribute it across a larger area. Slow it and sink it, in other words. Eventually, we plan on having rows of fruit and nut trees running along contour, with understory shrubs and groundcovers underneath, all provided with water from the swales, sending their roots down into the soil, breaking up compaction, bringing up nutrients from below, and raising the water table.

To get to that point, we need to mark out where the contour lines fall on the ground. One cheap and (we thought) easy way to do this is to use an A-Frame, which, using a weight that hangs down like a plumb bob, tells you when both of its feet are on exactly level ground. Brad spent a morning constructing an absolutely beautiful A-frame, but when we took it out into our lumpy and bumpy field, we quickly realized that it was not going to be the tool for the job; our readings were just too inaccurate. Brad, distraught, suggested in a slightly dramatic fashion, that we give up and just guess, but Eleanor likes researching things, and quickly came across other people online who had the exact same issue as us, and luckily they had found a solution. Enter the bunyip!

A bunyip, in the context of permaculture design (not mythology), consists of two even lengths of wood with measurements on them (we glued yard sticks to a couple of 2x3’s) with a long, clear, flexible tube connecting them. Fill the tube with water, and voila, you can tell if each board is at the same height as the other one (because the water levels out). Unfortunately, we didn’t take any pictures of the bunyip in action this weekend, but a few friends (thanks Gabrielle, Nate, and Victoria!) helped us mark out our first short row of contours. Now that we have this, we can start planting things along it! We’ll be coming through before too long with our little walk-behind tractor to dig a swale. This is really exciting for us, because even though it’s just a small start, it’s showing us what the shape of the land will be as we progress with this crazy vision of ours.

You can just barely make out the pink flags marking the contour in this picture. Can you find them hidden amongst the giant ragweed?

In the Box

Unfortunately these will start out a little sparse the first few weeks, but we assure you if all the tomatoes and squash we planted produce as they are supposed to, an abundance will follow later!

  • Salad Mix (Kale, Mustard Greens, Spinach, Lettuce, Lamb's Quarters)
  • Green Onions
  • Garlic Scape(s) (These are the flowering stalks of garlic plants. We cut them off to force the plant to send more energy into the garlic bulb)
  • Sprig of Basil
  • Plantain Salve


Garlic Scape

1. Slowly chew on the raw garlic scape until you have eaten the whole thing (approximately 2-5 minutes)

2. Enjoy the garlicky flavor and think about how this fibrous vegetable is probably calorie negative, so that is neat!

Garlic Scape Dressing

  • Garlic Scape
  • Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

1. Cut the garlic scape(s) up finely and place in the bottom of your dressing container.

2. Just barely cover the scape with equal parts vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle some salt to taste.

3. Use a spoon or other good mashing tool to mash up the garlic scape pieces into the liquid.

4. Add between 2-5 times the vinegar/olive oil mixture to your mashed up scape/vinegar/oil mixture.

5. Put it in the fridge for a little or lot of time, but just remember, a watched dressing doesn't infuse, so close your fridge and just come back later.

We've done this and just had the dressing right away letting the scape pieces fall into the salad. You can also wait though to let it infuse or use just the liquid and add new liquid to the remaining scapes. My guess is you can probably do this for quite a while, but I've never managed to test its limits!

Brad's Food Philosophy Corner

Brad shares his reasons for farming, one per week!

Small Scale Economic Interdependence

I used to think independence was a great virtue. Then I read Ayn Rand and became convinced! While I don't deny the many practical benefits of focusing on personal independence and economic self-sufficiency, I’ve come to appreciate that there are hard-to-define, hard-to quantify, and hard-to-control values that are lost (community, belonging, meaningful work) when values of independence are our sole target economically and personally. These lost values and the lack of clarity around how to achieve them are one of the contributors (in my humble and limited perspective) to our societies depression and loneliness epidemic (especially amongst the affluent). In smaller-scale, interdependent or co-dependent economic relationships, I argue, these values are byproducts that exist in the background even if they're not discussed or consciously acknowledged. When you know and depend on the person producing your food, you care about their well-being (hopefully!). Likewise when the person producing the food knows and depends on you specifically, they will care about your well being and be reminded of the importance of their work. The predominant global food system is in stark contrast. The fate of buyer and producer go unnoticed to each other. No-one is unique and everyone is replaceable. Maybe we decide the cheap, uninterrupted convenience of globalizing everything is worth losing these nebulous values, but let us ask the question! My take: we vastly underestimate the role of these values in our well-being and we vastly underestimate how the goals of economic independence and globalization undermine them.