1405 SW Vermont St.
Portland OR 97219
United States



Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter 18 November 2012

Sarah West

10am Sunday morningWe will set up the stall at Hillsdale this Sunday, perhaps with a couple of additional generations on hand to help. The market bell tolls at 10:00 am.

This newsletter often has a brief essay appended to it. Quickly written without a great deal of attention to grammar, we treat them as personal and ephemeral notes from the farm. Nonetheless, some have the potential to be reworked into something more substantial. The current issue of Art of Eating (link) has a reworked and extended version of last January's "Vegetables of Vinegar & Salt" as a book review. If the reception is kind, perhaps the publisher will accept other essays. Don't worry, even if he gets a lot of negative responses and vows never to publish another Boutard essay, we will still pound out these newsletters just to enjoy the Sunday morning banter they generate. If you are curious and not a subscriber, Pastaworks, among other places, carries the magazine.

Here is what we are bringing to Hillsdale:

Cornmeal: Roy's Calais Flint and Amish Butter. We will also have some whole kernels of the flint with slack lime available for hominy.

Pulses: Dry beans and chick peas. Full complement. This week we will remember the Soldier beans. There is a reason we still toss and turn Saturday night; there is always something we will forget.

Cayenne Peppers: whole dried.

Garlics and Shallot: Soft necks and the grey shallot.

Horseradish: The Bohemian parmesan. In German, horseradish is meerrettish, meaning "sea radish." It originated along the Baltic Sea coast. This year we decided to side dress it with a heavy dose of sea salt, more than 150 pounds in the 400 foot row, in hopes of coaxing a bit more flavor from the root. Through the 19th century sea salt was treated as an important soil additive. With the advent of synthetic fertilizers, its use stopped because of the risk of over-salting the ground. With organic farming methods, this is not an big issue, and certainly not in rainy climate such as Oregon. As we dug the roots last week, we noticed that plants sent of a mat of fine roots along the area where we banded the salt. The plants were clearly seeking out the salt and, in terms of flavor, we are very happy they found it.

Spuds, black radish, carrots, Hamburg parsley, knob celery, yacón

Winter Squash

EndiveGreens: Endive, escarole, cress and rocket. Fennel as well.

Preserves: Still a limited selection.

Apples: Leather coats. Likely Ashmead's Kernel and Reinette Gris.


The Visitors

One chilly January morning a few years ago, we watched a young mink splashing about in the stream at the base of the canyon for an hour or two. In the winter, the young disperse and find their own digs, and this one was passing through on its way to a new territory. In recent years, we have noted several road killed minks, perhaps indicating an increase in their population. On the south border, our neighbor watched a young cougar bounding about in the grass seed field on an early autumn morning, another offspring of predators looking for new home range.

On occasion, we have watched pileated woodpeckers working some of our snags, but they are soon chased away by the acorn woodpeckers, earlier visitors who chose to stay and are intolerant of any other woodworking birds. Their behavior changes when goshawks and coopers hawks pass through, using the residents of the oaks as a quick snack on the way to other places. The woodpeckers stay close to the trunks and communicate the location of the hawk in quiet, urgent calls. This September, a coopers hawk caught a flicker unawares, and we have photo of it with a lifeless flicker, beak agape, in its talons. The scene was as dramatic as any captured by Audubon but too gruesome for a full month, so it won't appear in the calendar.

Some visitors pass through without us seeing them. The depressions made by hooves in soft soil tell us that a stag or bull elk passed through while we were sleeping. The bones and sinew of a deer's hind leg was found on the low ground, betraying another drama missed by us.

Our farm is part of a bridge, or maybe a set of stepping stones is more apt, between the Coast Range and the Tualatin Ridge dominated by Bald Peak. Ecologists call these areas "wildlife corridors." Our approach to farming, with its rough fields and perennial crops, has enhanced the quality of the connection, providing creatures cover in their transit. It doesn't hurt that we provide a lot of great nesting habitat as well, thus having a few flickers to spare for the hawks.

Peter and Pam Hayes of Hyla Woods share our affection for the natural components of the landscape. We have batted about the idea of a collaborative effort to link the farm and forest lands of the area. Working with Faye Yoshihara from the Food Front Cooperative board, Peter and Pam have proposed a loose collaboration called "Tualatin Headwaters: Producers in Partnership." The idea is to put together a gift package of Hyla Forest maple cutting boards, preserves from Ayers Creek and wine from Montinore Estate Vineyard. This will be the first step of a work in progress.

We have a lot to figure out, but we are drawn to the project because we understand some our visitors were raised in forests flanking Mount Richmond that are carefully managed by the Hayes family. Maybe the coopers hawk we saw here nested on Mount Richmond and passed through the Marchesi family's vineyard feasting on a few robins or starlings. Anyway, we are part of Portland's backyard, and the waters from our lands flow through the city, so it will be fun open up a discussion about the connection we have with each other and the city.

We will see you all Sunday,

The Boutards of Gaston
& Ayers Creek Farm