Farming

Perfect Pesto Recipe

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My amazing chef husband gave me permission to share this recipe in celebration of spring - yay! Now, you can wow your guests with this gorgeous sauce. Oh man, I can’t wait for all of my basil plants to grow so we can make loads of pesto this summer. Fresh basil = absolutely one of the best smells ever.

Perfect Pesto

courtesy of The Korean Farmer

2 cups fresh basil, packed

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano (this is authentic parmesan cheese made in Italy)

1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil, such as grapeseed oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup almonds, toasted

Add all ingredients except olive oil to a food processor and process. Add a little water if you need to make it smoother. Remove from food processor and stir in olive oil.

To toss with pasta (even better, with fresh pasta!), add pesto an empty bowl, then the pasta. Add a couple ounces of leftover pasta cooking water. Toss until glossy.

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And that photo above that I took a few years ago on our back patio in Dallas? It stirs something deep in me. Maybe it's the beauty of simple food - Texas-grown produce made into salad in the Polish pottery bowl given to me by Steven’s Gran on our first North Carolina road trip. Or the fresh green of that pungent pesto that I can smell through the photo. Or that it was all eaten outside that spring evening with friends and wine atop the tablecloth I scored at an outdoor market in India 15 years ago.  So many favorite things, all in one little square.  

What Gathering Around the Table Has Taught Me

Photo: Sarah B. Gilliam

Photo: Sarah B. Gilliam

On a warm October evening, eleven long tables were set end-to-end to form one big, long table down the center of a meadow. Dressed in white tablecloths, mismatched fabric napkins, clear glass plates, flickering candles and lanterns, magenta and orange wildflowers in turquoise Mason jars, and twinkle lights draped overhead, the table shined like a beacon as dusk started to settle on the Tennessee hillside.

A young man played guitar in the background. In the pasture near the table, without any electricity, chefs created a makeshift kitchen using fire and iron grates and grills. Over these burning coals, they cooked the finest seasonal, farm-fresh fare: fire-roasted squash, potatoes, and beans, fresh bread and desserts, homemade pasta with Bolognese sauce, and porchetta from pastured pork that had been happily raised in the adjacent pasture.

As this fresh and rich meal was being carefully prepared, 88 dinner guests slowly began arriving. Everyone was chattering excitedly; no guests were in a hurry. As they passed over the crest of the hill encircled by blazing autumn trees flickering at the edge of the forest, they saw the long table set for them, waiting for them, and their eyes widened. Each person chose a seat with friends they already knew - or perhaps, they were brave to sit next to someone new. They sat and talked and awaited the first course, and soon, wooden salad bowls piled high with buttery lettuce grown in the field just down the hill were placed before them.

This scene is real - it’s from the first farm-to-table dinner we hosted on our organic produce farm in October 2017, and it was absolutely life-changing for me. This surreal night of gathering both old and new friends on our own farm at a long table under the stars and twinkle lights, was a dream literally years in the making. Even so, I had been slightly nervous about welcoming people we didn’t know to a dinner on our land just steps from our house. Would this feel invasive? Would it go smoothly? These people were purchasing tickets and trusting we would deliver. But my husband and I moved forward with the clear vision He’s given our family to gather people around the table on this beautiful land He’s entrusted to us. I’m so glad we did.

Before we even got to the feasting part, the behind-the-scenes preparation and anticipation of gathering around the table brought unity. Every friend, farmer, chef, and artisan involved in the event offered up their God-given gifts and abilities, and with each person doing his or her part, things went smoothly. A close friend offered her time and expertise as our event planner, and without her, we would have missed many important details.

Others came over and hustled to finish constructing our barn, paint a mural on the side, hang signs, and cut tree stumps to hold lanterns. Our photographer/farmer neighbor grew and picked the wildflowers that would dress our tables and agreed to capture photos during the evening so we could sear it into our memories. For the bonfires and cooking fires, her husband delivered trucks of firewood from his own woodlot, selecting the most fragrant varieties so you could walk past the fire and smell the sweet perfumy wood scent perfectly intermingled with the savory smell of food. The chefs spent hours developing and collaborating and prepping an exquisite menu.

And we did it because of one reason...it’s the biggest thing that gathering around the table has taught me: The table is for everyone.

There’s something about gathering around a physical table that unites us.  No matter who you are, where you’re from and whether or not you recognize it, feasting together is something human beings were meant to do.

In Scripture, God repeatedly compares the Gospel to food and drink and welcomes us to this feast of all feasts. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8, NLT)

In the book The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Clay Clarkson, they share a quote from author Leonard Sweet that’s a perfect analogy of the table:

“The first word God speaks to human beings in the Bible - God’s very first commandment - is ‘Eat freely’ (Genesis 2:16, NASB). The last words out of God’s mouth in the Bible - his final command? ‘Drink freely’ (see Revelation 22:17). These bookends to the Bible are reflective of the whole of the Scriptures: Everything in between these two commands is a table, and on that table is served a life-course meal, where we feast in our hearts with thanksgiving on the very Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation: Jesus the Christ.”

Clarkson goes on to detail the importance of “tableology” in the Bible and how an actual, physical table draws people together. Clay Clarkson says the table creates unity and interaction with other people who you look at face-to-face and becomes a physical anchor where people sit and stay for awhile without wandering. “It creates a physical unity - all who sit at the table become, in a sense, one with the table, and so one with each other while at the table...And that in turn helps to create koinonia, which means fellowship or partnership with others.”

Gathering around the table in community is something that’s innate - it’s how God wired us. I’ve experienced it firsthand over and over again...

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, some of our best Thanksgiving holidays were those where people we barely knew from the community accepted my mother’s invitation to join us. She always opened our table in a cramped dining room to anyone she would meet at church or the grocery store or just in town. “Do you have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving?” she would ask. If they said no, she would invite them without stipulation, and most Thanksgivings, several new friends would show up. We added chairs and all rubbed elbows while we reached for spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. We welcomed people into our small, humble home and family traditions. It might have been uncomfortable at first, but once we sat down around that table, it just felt right.

Our farm dinner took months of preparation, a small army of friends volunteering, and the talents of some of the best chefs around. It wasn’t thrown together but was carefully planned down to every last detail and aesthetic. But it’s just one example of a feast, because we can prepare any kind of “feast” in our homes using any kind of food or table. It doesn’t have to be fancy - it just has to be welcoming and created with love, offering a taste of what Jesus ultimately has to offer us as we nourish people’s souls and bodies. I’ve written some practical steps on how to do that in this post: How To Engage Your Family in Sharing Meals Around the Table.

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I hope for another table...except this one will be filled with every single person I know and love, and it will go on as far as the eye can see. The feast will stretch on for hours, and no one will have any food intolerances or restrictions. We will never be full. Our souls will be satisfied in a way we could not even fathom now if we tried.

One day, it will happen...

“In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! In that day the people will proclaim, ‘This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.  Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!” (Isaiah 25:6-9, NLT)

Until then, I’ll keep remembering the tiny glimpse of heaven’s feast that we experienced on a warm October evening, at a long table in a meadow under the stars.

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This post was originally written in November 2017 as a contribution to JellyTelly.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 188: Analog Living + Reading Classics

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In this episode, I share about how to “slow down time” in the midst of very full days in my life as a farmer, homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, and writer. I also share a story about how I delightfully misplaced my phone a few weekends ago. I learned so much from Tsh about reading the classics, and it definitely convinced me to pick up a few new ones I haven’t read yet!

You can also check out my Day in the Life post on Art of Simple that inspired this podcast episode. Drop me a comment here or on the AoS site, and let me know your thoughts!

A Day In The Life - For The Art of Simple

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In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing a typical day in my life right now as a homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, writer/creative, and organic produce farmer. If you’ve never taken the time to record a typical day in your life, I highly recommend it - it was quite an eye-opening experience!

“Recording my day in the life helped me recognize that slowing down time is important to me, as much as it’s in my control. The more I pay attention in the little moments, the more I’m able to pull back the reins on time. So, after I wrote this, I came up with a new daily motto that I’d like to share with you…”

Continue reading…

And The Two Shall Become One, Separately - For The Art of Simple

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Here’s my latest post for The Art of Simple - And The Two Shall Become One, Separately. For some reason, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. Maybe because the topic is so important to me, it’s a crazy story to weave together, and our marriage really has been hard-won through a lot of challenges and trials. But I can honestly say today I couldn’t be more thankful to be a on a team with the Steven Bailey and also for the ways we are wired completely differently.

People often ask how we’ve been able to handle working together in addition to the challenges marriage brings. But the practices that help us work together successfully are the same ones that bring freedom to our marriage—we strive to be a team, and we celebrate and respect our separateness within the team.

Keep reading…

I’d love to know your thoughts!

Ode to Dirty Fingernails

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Everyday, here on Kindred Farm, we witness the circle of life in all its beauty and brutality: orderly rows of lettuce heads resembling giant green and purple roses, the excitement of new baby chicks arriving, the sweet smell of dirt-covered rainbow carrots straight from the ground. Then there are dead chicks, dead chickens, dead mice and chipmunks left at our doorstep. One morning, we spent hours trying to reunite tiny baby mice with their mother, who still had one attached to her nursing. We’ve had 4/5 of a litter of kittens lost to predators and a beloved farm cat buried after being hit by a car. My body has been pushed to its physical limits by using muscles I didn’t even know existed to lift soil with the broadfork, hammer stakes, and use “the farmer walk” to haul full buckets of water on each arm up a hill. Second to naturally birthing a baby, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked.

But by making this new life and pushing through my fears, I’ve truly found my unique self and clarified what I have to offer the world. God is healing the wounded part of me that said my voice wasn’t important enough to be heard. It’s not a perfectly polished platform, but it’s mine...it’s my voice.

I can also laugh at myself now when I completely fail at something, because seriously? Life is just too short to try to be perfect anymore. Here’s a favorite story from my first month of farming last April - go ahead and laugh at me!

We had gotten our first batch of chicks in the winter and now they were big enough to be moved out of the shed into their new “Henstream” (the mobile chicken trailer where they would lay, roost, and sleep at night). My husband Steven was gone for the evening at his personal chef job. So I was in charge of checking on the girls at dusk to make sure they all made it inside the automatic chicken door. No big deal. I strutted out there. At first glance, all looked fine. Then a lone chicken caught my eye who was still roaming around. I chased it around until I finally caught it and stared at the door of the Henstream to figure out how to unlock it in the dark with one hand and without disturbing the freaking biggest spider you’ve ever seen. I took a deep breath, wrangled the door open, squealed like a 12-year-old girl, and shoved the chicken inside as it squawked. Phew. But it wasn’t over yet…as I was leaving I noticed something looked strange at the chicken door. Oh no…is it? It couldn’t be… Yes, there was a chicken head/neck hanging completely limp out the chicken door while the rest of its body was inside. I frantically called Steven and told him that one of our chickens got decapitated and it was all my fault. I told him that HE was going to handle it when he got home. Fast forward an hour…he went to take care of the dead chicken and came back inside laughing, “Um, it wasn’t dead! It was just frozen in shock. I opened the door and nudged it a little and it popped its head up and walked away.”

You’re welcome.

We’re privileged to be in a community with so many hard-working and inspiring farmers, both male and female, who are out there everyday in the elements, doing hard and valuable work - caring for animals, growing beautiful and healthy food, advocating for sustainability, stewarding the earth. Here’s to you! Here's to the bug bite scars, the sore muscles, the constant need for a shower, the frustrating moments when you can't figure out why something isn't working. The self-doubt and the victories and the breathtaking moments at sunset when you can't imagine doing anything else - those are all a part of the journey. Those dirty nails aren't going away anytime soon, are they? Good. Because in sifting the soil through our fingers, we become more connected to our roots, to who we are as humans.

Farmers or not, we can all do our part in redeeming the earth, little by little. Because once you've held that privilege and joy in our hands, you can never go back. In the best possible way.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 140

Hey friends! Just wanted to share that I'm on the podcast Simple with Tsh Oxenreider today, talking about Kindred Farm and all the ways farming has personally changed me. It was truly a joy talking with Tsh and sharing my/our story!

"I had all these fears, but it’s actually been the complete opposite of everything I was afraid of. I’ve actually found myself in a lot of ways since becoming a farmer that I completely did not expect...Farming has pushed me physically and emotionally and helped me learn what I’m capable of as a woman."

Listen to the whole thing here or in iTunes - it's episode 140...

"Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" - For Wild + Free

I'm so honored to have a piece entitled "Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" in the latest Wild + Free bundle called "Wander." Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community that has inspired me like no other - it's full of diverse yet like-minded mamas all across the world who want to provide the space and time for our children to explore, engage with the world, and have the freedom to become who they're meant to be as childhood is preserved and slowly unraveled. Each month, they release online bundles chock full of articles and tutorials to inspire homeschool mamas, or really anyone who wants to parent more slowly and intentionally. The monthly subscription includes a gorgeous print magazine as well. You can subscribe to the monthly bundles here

Here's a little sample...

What's Saving My Life Right Now: May Edition

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Our local library. I looked suspiciously from side to side to see if anyone was watching me when I found Capital Gaines, The Magnolia Story, The Road Back to You, and Boundaries all at my local library on the shelves. With no one trying to reserve them! I did have to place a request and wait a few weeks for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street but it was utterly worth the wait - completely magical. I feel like I've struck gold every time I leave the library. Even if I don't get to keep them.

Getting up early. I've said this before, but getting up early is saving my life right now. I think I'm finally in a rhythm of rising at 5:30am when the first tiny rays of light peek through my bedroom window blinds and my husband starts the coffee grinder. While we're at it...

Nutpods. I love my tiny, perfect cup of coffee with Hazelnut or French Vanilla Nutpods creamer and some Vanilla Creme Stevia. My husband and I preview the coming day before our girls wake up. It's priceless. But oh so necessary.

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Working my body hard again. With spring comes the return of the farm work rhythm here at Kindred Farm. Of course, there was work to do all winter long - tending the pigs and chickens, washing eggs, and keeping up with the lettuce growing in our greenhouse. But early spring is when things really pick up again with all the prepping of new rows, planting, cleaning up the farm, and our first farm dinner of the season in April. The first few week or so, I felt like I was going to collapse as I adjusted to the hauling, squatting, hammering, lifting, and planting literally thousands of lettuce plugs by hand. But now, I'm feeling so much stronger. I'm ever thankful to have a body that works, and I want to honor that by using it to its full potential. My wide-brim farm hat and dirty knees are back, and it feels good.

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Adventuring with my family. We all work so hard Monday-Saturday: homeschooling, freelance writing, farm chores, and my husband works several 14-hour days cooking for his personal chef clients. And then Sunday, we Sabbath hard. Usually, we've been going to the early service at church and then just hanging out at home, maybe having some friends over for dinner. But on Mother's Day, we loaded up the car early with our Keens, Chacos, cooler bags of snacks and the most perfectest ever Simple Mills chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing that my husband made as a Mother's Day treat. And we had that flutter-of-excitement-in-the-stomach-about-to-leave-on-a-road-trip feeling. Ya know? We wound our way through Tennessee backroads and then into the foothills of the mountains near Chattanooga, where we took a last-minute detour to explore Rock Island State Park, which we absolutely loved!  Powerful falls, lots of hiking over boulders, and an epic swimming hole. We even found a little beach where we swam in the headwaters of Center Hill Lake. It's at this beach where we unveiled the aforementioned chocolate cupcakes. And, ya'll. Maybe it was the fact that I was sunning myself on a rock after swimming in the icy cold lake in the middle of a stunning setting or the fact that I could enjoy a luscious dessert that was also gluten-free and dairy-free. But I actually said, "This is the LIFE" out loud after I took the first bite. Wee bit embarrassing, but it's true. Afterwards, we headed to the cutest little town in Tennessee: Bell Buckle, where we ate at a meat-n-three cafe and then swung by the local ice cream parlor. Completely in love with this town. On the drive home through gorgeous rolling hills, I reflected on how this Mother's Day was everything I wanted: exploring and adventuring with my family. We all need these moments to refresh and recharge, don't we?

What's saving your life right now? I'd love to know!

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*This post includes affiliate links - meaning that if you click on any of the links and buy those items, I'll receive a small commission. The price is the same for you, though!

Lighting Your Own Candle

Do you ever let life happen to you? And then suddenly wonder why you feel so stressed, on edge, and disconnected from your own story?

Me, too.

Author Sally Clarkson said in a recent episode of her podcast, At Home With Sally,

"A wise woman takes care of her soul. And we do have agency. We have the ability to cultivate joy, to cultivate delight, to light a candle in our darkness so we can stay alive. We have the ability to roll up our sleeves and write a great story."

When I heard this quote, I actually pulled over in the shoulder of a winding country road to write it down.

Mamas of small children, I know it's hard to find time to "cultivate delight" in the middle of a crazy day where you're meeting everyone else's needs and reheat your coffee five times and barely have time to feed yourself. I homeschool 3 and 6-year-old girls, and we just started our farm, and I'm trying to foster this writing thing, and we eat three meals a day at home and...and...and...I'm with you.

But we have agency.

So, here are some ways I've found to "light a candle" in the middle of the day for myself so I can keep my soul alive, outside of who I am as a wife and mother.

  • Light a candle. Literally.

  • Put some fresh flowers on the table. If possible, go outside and see how many fresh wildflowers you can find (dandelions count!) and put them in a little jam jar on your windowsill.

  • Listen to an encouraging podcast. Since we live in the country, it takes about 15-20 minutes to get almost anywhere. I let go of the guilt and decided that every few days, it's OK for me to pop in my headphones in the car, let my girls play and talk in the backseat, and have some "me" time while driving. Here are my fave podcasts right now.

  • Invite a friend over. You know those friends who make you feel safer when they walk in the room? Those are who you need nearby. We weren't meant to live in isolation, yet so many of us stay in our own homes with our children all day, and while we love them fiercely, this can also be a breeding ground for discouragement and anxiety. All you need to do is extend an invitation and have some coffee or tea on hand - it encourages my heart so much on tough days to have another mom to talk to while our children play. It takes off the burden for awhile and reminds me we're meant to function as a community, a village.

  • Get up early. I'm so not a morning person. But lately I've made myself get up an hour before my children so I can have some time to myself, and while it's taken a lot of discipline, I've quickly seen the fruits of it. With two children now, I'm finally doing what so many other friends have been telling me - just having an hour to yourself in the morning works wonders for your entire day.

We are able to write the story of our days - a story of frustration and negativity, or a story of delight and joy. The choice is ours. I choose joy. What will you choose?