Whether walking the fields, tending the animals and growing food, the rewards of our family farm are rich. Work is our companion. Farming has taught us about cycles of seasons, soil enrichment, composting, and animal husbandry. Although not organically certified yet we follow organic principals and do not use sprays or herbicides. Farming is our lifestyle of choice and thus we share our bounty with hotel guests. From our garden we harvest most of our food for the year. Mother Mac is 93 years old and still works in the garden with us. Gifts of tender greens, onions, peppers and tomatoes are picked fresh to use in Oak Street Hotel quiche. Garden abundance is canned, dried, frozen, preserved, pickled, fermented and eaten fresh. Many early mornings are spent walking through the garden gathering ripe produce and berries to bring to the hotel for preparation for guests.
Berries are abundant from early summer to late fall. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and juju berries give hotel guests a colorful variety to eat fresh, in pie or baked goods. Fruit compote is a favorite in Greek yogurt parfaits. Flowers add vibrant color. Perennials are Mother Mac’s favorite for fresh flower arrangements. In the fall the pumpkins we nurtured all summer make extravagant displays on the hotel’s front porch and gardens.
Chickens thrive on organic feed and green pasture. One year for my birthday Mike, my husband, built me a chicken tractor from this and that around the farm. We move it with the hens to new pasture every few days. Our hens love it. Fresh brown eggs with rich orange yolks mean happy chickens. Hay season keeps us busy as we cut, haul and store hay for all of the animals.
A clover/orchard grass mix is in one field and an alfalfa mix in another. The horses, cattle, goats, and hogs love the taste of hay from their own backyard. Growing gourmet garlic is a new venture as we teach our son how to plan, plant, tend, harvest and market a single crop. Scapes, seed and culinary garlic are sold at local farmers markets, online and at the hotel. Long lines of lavender beds separate pasture fences. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Lavandula Intermedia are grown for fresh arrangements, culinary uses, compotes, gift items and more. Lemora’s Lavender is a gift line exclusive to the Oak Street Hotel.
Living sustainably on an organic farm is of great importance to our family knowing how we care for our soil will affect future generations. Hogs eat garden waste, fruit, and egg shells with relish. Chickens eat smaller garden squash and other vegetables. Cattle and horses eat corn stalks. Two large compost bins recycle horse manure for the garden and pasture. We waste very little. As farmers and lovers of the land there is always a long list of things to do or new ideas to try. For this next year we hope to begin vermicomposting with worms, enlarge the lavender area and plant heirloom fruit trees.
Additional images of the farm (click image to view enlargement)