I have just returned from a long weekend retreat of relaxation at Tassajara Hot Springs. I took a gardening and cooking workshop that was so gratifying and soulful. The three women teachers were Wendy Johnson, Annie Somerville and Laura Burgess, who have very different vocations, but live their life in the spririt of the way. I was so inspired, I wanted to share some of their wisdom with you.
The gardening workshop started in the morning after breakfast and we were all gathered around Wendy, our fearless leader who started Green Gulch Farm back in the early 70's. Here is a woman farmer, ahead of her time that gained experience as she went along. I was in awe of her pioneer spirit.
As we gathered, we said a meditation prayer first to start our garden journey and to remember that this is buddhism at work. We mark the beginning. We had a shrine and made an offering of a small plant or flower tip to mark this beginning. We put them all into a small vase or on the shelf of the shrine. We bowed to show our respect.
The combination of deep meditation and activity infuse the garden with appreciation and gratitude. Remember, Wendy suggested, "that a garden is always tied to the uncultivated world out there. How will you cultivate the ground? Keep it fertile? Strong and clear? Propagate? Or will you behave in horti-torture?," she asked as we laughed and giggled. But she was right. What were my intentions in the garden? How did I want to proceed? I had already gotten way too far ahead of myself on previous occasions and gotten overwhelmed. I began with too big a plot, thinking I can plant MORE, its easy to do with a 6 acres. But, the more you cultivate, the more you have to tend. How will I do that?
As Wendy imparted her wisdom, we clung to her every word. "A garden makes you fully live in the present moment. It takes cultivating, propagating, tending and harvesting, you have to integrate
pests, and arrange flowers. It all takes time and patience."
In between composting information and seedling handling, we tasted dirt, we planted a few flowers and tied a few tomato plants. Wendy calls Breakfast the mix for tiny seedlings or propagated plants; a third, a third, a third or one part soil, one part leaf litter and one part sand. Lunch is half soil mixture and half compost. She doesn't recommend using bone meal because it's by-products are from slaughter houses. She recommends that if you use a commercial amendment, use OMRI, an organically certified product. "Always know where your products are coming from, and follow the tread," she said. We are all part of it, and how we spend our money has a direct relationship to the outcome of our planet. There was never a more true moment for me. When you follow the tread, you will realize that we are all responsible for the spill in the Gulf. Our dependence on oil keeps us drilling. So how can we stop the oil flow?
Wendy showed us how to pick off leaves of the tomato plant to allow more light to transmit to the plant and therefore, produce more fruit. Tie the stems up. Trimming will also stimulate production. Tomato plants like to get 16 hours of sunlight a day. Remember to cut right next to the plant, do not leave a nub. That is how disease gets started in a plant. If you overwater a tomato plant, it will crack. Water 2-3 times per week, but deep watering. Scented flowers are good companion plants to the tomato. She taught us to never leave compost in the sun. It could ignite. It's better to make it in the shade. Wendy's book is also filled with so much advice and information, you will carry it around with you and follow it like an instruction book.
Annie Sommerville, Chef at Green's Restaurant began cooking at Green's almost thirty years ago. Her demeaner is quiet, unassuming and lovely. She has an inner strength that radiates from her. All of her experience at Tassajara has prepared her for the hectic and often never the same day twice kind of experiences she is now engaged in at the restaurant. Her organizational skills in the kitchen are extraordinary. Her recipes divine. We tasted a delicious eggplant salad that I am still thinking about and would like to make. Also, a beautiful farro salad that I am including here. I didn't take any pictures of the food because I was grilling green onions, summer squash, pepeprs, bread and eventually, nectarines. The food was so yummy and none of us were humgry for dinner. Everyday Greens: Home Cooking from Greens, the Celebrated Vegetarian Restaurant
Laura Burgess, teacher of the highest order, was available to us all to help us with anything that we didn't know or had questions with. She is a teacher in a k-8 school in San Francisco and my friend's son now 9th grader, had her as a third grade teacher. She was his favorite teacher. When my friend went to a conference of several teachers that year and was complaining about how her son dragged his feet when going anywhere. How it took so long to get him even out of the car to run errands, the other teachers comiserated and offered suggestions. Laura simply said, "what is wrong with that." Why shouldn't he have his own pace? We are always rushing, rushing, running, and how far are we really getting? It is imperative for us to stop rushing our children and asking them to be on our schedule. We should really be on theirs. They are our teachers, just as we are theirs.
I am suggesting that we all take a collective breath and slow down. Even just for twenty minutes a day. Breathe, contemplate, and slowly think about how your own life could improve by this practice.
For myself, I have taken the intention of KIND, SLOW and PATIENT (Even, and especially while driving). I am saying it everyday. Kindness is most important to me and slowing enough to really see people, trees, plants, life and patience is for myself so that I can extend it to others.
What will your intention be?
Farro Salad with Roasted Peppers and Arugula
This salad is a summer delight. Add fresh cherry tomatoes and freshly slivered basil for an alternative.
1 cup farro
red wine vinaigrette (follows)
1 each red and yellow pepper, roasted, peeled and diced
a generous handful of arugula
salt and pepper
Place the Farro in a large pot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil, lower the hear and simmer until the grains are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Make the Vinaigrette
Drain and toss the warm farro with the vinaigrette and peppers; set aside to cool. Just before serving, toss in the arugula and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Red Wine Vinaigrette
Makes about 1/2 cup
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk everything but the oil in a small bowl. Slowly pour the oil in, whisking until emulsified.
By Annie Somerville, Greens Restaurant San Francisco Fort Mason