Winter on a farm isn't exactly chill. There are still chores, animals to tend, seed catalogs to be pored over.
But in those quiet moments, there's plenty of time to reflect on the thrilling successes of the past growing seasons. That's the heart of a free e-book put together by Quillisascut Farm's Lora Lea Misterly, a visual feast featuring photographs by Ben Delaney, a lovely poem by chef Greg Atkinson and an essay by me. Greg and I and a number of other scribes attended a writer's workshop at Quillisascut's Farm School of the Domestic Arts in the summer of 2011, an incredibly productive retreat facilitated by the great Gary Nabhan.
Far out of cell phone range in Rice, we wrote and wrote and read our work in front of fellow writers. We laughed and cried and sang. It was kind of like summer camp. But we also got up at 5 and milked goats. We gathered walnuts and foraged huckleberries. We learned to make cheese and helped cook meals from ingredients we harvested in the garden. If ever there was a more delicious way to drive home the lessons of true sustainability, it's spending time learning about the Herculean efforts that go into growing food and making something as simple and simply wonderful as goat cheese. The FULL story was beautifully told by Lora Lea and Seattle magazine's wine editor Shannon Borg in a book called Chefs on the Farm that was published a few years ago, with recipes by Kären Jurgensen and photos by Harley Soltes.
This new free e-book should come with a warning label: Reading this will make you want to jump in your car and drive five hours to Northeastern Washington. Yes, Rice is far, far away, near Lake Roosevelt, near Kettle Falls. About 90 minutes to Spokane. Fortunately, you can do this if you sign up for one of the classes on this year's calendar. Courses that include Intro to Farming, Baking in a Wood-fired Hearth Oven and Intro to Cheesemaking. No writer's retreat this year, but there's a workshop for culinary professionals and a session dedicated to Sense of Place. Spending five days on the farm will, indeed, convince you that it's a very special place. Restaurant Marche's Atkinson said it feels like home.
"In India, when someone is feeling down and out, tradition suggests a return to home. A week or a month of eating what's grown there will restore the body and the soul to its rightful state. While no such tradition exists in America, there is a kind of restoration that takes place when we return to the land and eat whole, natural foods for a while. Cooking and eating for a week at Quillisacutt always works for me," he said.
You'll have to wait a few months, but in the meantime, take a gander at Winter Stories.