“We are as gods to beasts of the field. We order their birth and the time of their death. Between times, we have a duty.”
~Terry Pratchett (via Granny Aching) The Wee, Free Men
Just over a week ago, a dear friend of mine took me on a field trip. Ohio in summer is not a favorite of mine and I was just home from a summer away – to northern climes and northern light and adventures blanketed by northern breezes. Part of me was not keen on spending a day outside…..
But as luck would have it, we were gifted with a day back here that felt like northern climes and northern breezes; the first breath of early fall, which is always such a treasure in southern Ohio. With that, it already felt like a day touched with a special form of magic.
And so, Penny and I headed east out of town, to Grassroots Farm, which, from where we normally stand, felt a bit like the edge of nowhere.
We were visiting old friends of hers (now new friends of mine!) on their land of farmish dreaming. We were treated to a welcome I have seldom experienced and that which I am still processing (and making art!)
Upon arrival, we were greeted at first by the front guard of working dogs who were greatly excited to see us, but who also know their manners.
Soon we hopped into a four-wheeler adventure to tour some of the farm property and to get a sense of what Grassroots Farm philosophy is all about.
My first impression of both Susan and Drausin, the husband and wife team who are Grassroots Farm, is that of a tremendous passion for the work they do. Work with the land itself, with the animals, and with the food those animals and gardens become. There is a sense upon arrival at Grassroots Farm of a strong sense of ‘Place’, something I feel is often lacking in Ohio, generally speaking. I was reminded of the relationship my friends out in Taos on the Pueblo have with their animals, which is beautiful and not found in most places.
Drausin is mostly the farmer, and Susan, mostly the cook. But it is clear that it’s a team effort. I rode along and soaked in the imagery with my eyes and with my camera. Imagery which would become sketches…..
…and then eventually some ‘Art’ once back home with proper paints.
I, like many folk I know, have a difficult relationship with meat as a food source. But over the years, I have come to know the sources of meat which make me comfortable to be the omnivore my body feels meant to be. I want to know where my food comes from. Not just meat, but vegetables as well. It’s become more and more important to me to develop a relationship with my grocer, my butcher, my farmer. This may seem like a first world luxury. Well, you know what? It is. And it’s a worthwhile place to put our first world resources. Business follows where the money goes, and if this style of farming is where the money goes, ideally, this is the direction the farming will go. This feels like a good direction.
The animals at Grassroots Farm are raised in traditional manners much more sustainable than most of today’s more popular ways of raising meat. Or even vegetables for that matter. I was fascinated to hear the complex relationship the folks at Grassroots Farm have with their animals.
I was introduced to many cows, some dairy and others meat cows, but all cared for with diligence. There are dozens of varieties of grasses grown at Grassroots upon which the cows feed. How many people do you know with digestive issues, food allergies, immuno-disorders related to food? So much of these issues stem to the very food our meat is given. Modern industry lacks the quality of feed, the time taken, to raise animals properly for processing. I worry sometimes that in modernity, we are losing our ability to make food for ourselves in the future. In this visit to Grassroots farm, I was, for once, hopeful for a sustainable future in food production.
It’s not all beef and dairy at Grassroots, there were also sheep and pigs to visit. All farmed with the same impeccable attention to detail as the cows.
Drausin and Susan have committed a part of their land to being permitted to drift back into natural wetlands which is so good for everyone. These bits of the property especially felt enriched with an otherworldly magic.
While farming occupies the day to day for this couple, meanwhile, preparations are in full swing for a private family wedding for which Drausin has created an altar of stone. During our farm tour, some tweaks were made on the stone work, displaying the attention to detail this family is made of.
I’m certain those involved in the upcoming nuptials will be pleased. It’s a fairytale setting indeed!
The wedding altar was not the only stone work to be found….
Drausin builds beautiful tributes to his family throughout the property, as well as places to enjoy time together. I was honored to visit a few of them.
One of these especially magic places has a fire pit and some seats around for enjoying after dinner time and sunsets. I did a small painting of this space which has an old well-stone set in place. The stories that stone might tell…..
Soon the farm part of our adventure was over, but the fun was just beginning….
We were to be treated to some of what the farm had to offer, through the culinary brilliance of Susan…
Everything about this table spoke of love for this food and an artful sense of presentation.
Most of the food was quite simple, actually. But complexity was to be found in Susan’s mixes of herbs and other subtle flavorings.
Her mussuka stew of zucchini and ground lamb was as divine a dish as I have had in recent years, topped off with a fresh yogurt concoction.
I am excited to visit Grassroots Farm’s farm stands in the coming weeks now that life is settling down, as Susan’s recipes are available for purchase. To add a bit of her culinary magic to your day to day table would be a gift to yourself ( and the world at large I think! )
But alas, as all good things must end, our day was beginning to golden into evening…..
We could smell September on the breezes at last. And see it in the light of things…
Old Nick, now retired, laid and listened to us chit-chat as the sun sank.
We talked of food and land, and family and friendship. Drausin left us to finish his farming for the day. Penny and I did dishes and sang Susan’s praises for the dinner she had prepared and shared with us.
It all felt a little old fashioned. A little timeless. A lot beautiful. Beauty-filled.
As we pulled away from this magic place against the gloaming of the evening, we knew we had shared the gift of a magical day. I knew I’d run home to make some paintings. As that is what I do. And I knew that Susan and Drausin would prepare for their oncoming farm tour (which was this past weekend – do sign up for next year!!) and their daughter’s wedding soon to come, and the general day to day that is, Working on a Farm. I marvel at the work they do and appreciate that it is so close to home here. If you are local to me in the Cincinnati region, Grassroots sells their meats as well as Susan’s frozen prepared foods at Hyde Park Farmer’s Market and Milford Farmer’s Market. And be sure and stop over at their beautiful blog to see what they are up to between market days.