In the Jewish calendar, years don’t leap – they get pregnant. How so? Well, every once in a while the Jewish year contains an extra month of Adar, and the year is “pregnant” with this 13th month. This year is such a year.
Why does it contain an extra month? Well, calculating the Jewish calendar is an intricate balance between the seasons of the sun and the cycles of the moon. The sun and the moon dance to the beat of a different drum. Which means the moon doesn’t actually and perfectly cycle through 12 months each solar year. Because of this, if we followed a strictly lunar calendar our seasons would be off.
Who cares? We care, big time, and to get them to dance together we are willing to add an entire extra month to our busy schedules. In Hebrew, adding this extra month, is called the Sod Ha’ Ibbur, which means “The Secret of Pregnancy.” Why is it a secret? The simple explanation is that it was never known in advance which year would get the 13th month. At times the month was added for winter needs, or spring needs, such as unripe barley, the growth of fruit, wet earth on the roads or even when young pigeons had not become fledged. Whatever the particular reason for that year, the intent was always clear – to align our lives, moment to moment and day to day, with the natural world.
The deeper secret is … that it’s more than just a mitzvah, it’s the mitzvah. A mitzvah is a type of law, like a law of nature, from Creator to Creation, and the calculation of the moon is the very first mitzvah. In fact, Exodus describes this mitzvah as being given to people immediately upon leaving Egypt even before the giving of the Ten Commandments.
Rashi, the famous medieval commentator, asserts that the Torah as a whole should have started with this mitzvah. For it is this deep knowledge of, and alignment with, the natural world and its cycles that we are famously described as being taken out of Egypt and made a “Chosen People.” It is the explicit answer to what many Jews have undoubtedly asked over the centuries – chosen for what?
When we speak of being Chosen, it is in the sense of Isiah’s “Light Unto the Nations,” which is as Deuteronomy declares, “Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, that, when they hear these decrees, shall say: ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” Our tradition is clear as it what these decrees are, as the Talmud says, “what is the wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples? It is the science of the cycles and the planets.” We are chosen because we choose to align ourselves with a deep knowledge of the natural world and its cycles.
Huh? Haven’t we lost that? Perkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, an ancient Midrashic source, grappled with this same question and explained that the Sod Ha’ibbur, the deep understanding and alignment with the natural world, had been lost during earlier exiles and returned, and foretold that it would be lost again during our exile and would surely return once again. For everything is a revolution – a cycle – like the monthly waxing and waning of the moon. In our own time, we are witnessing a revolution and rebirth of the deep desire to understand the natural world and to be in alignment with it, the return of the Sod Ha’Ibbur, the Secret of Pregnancy.
In the Baltimore area, Pearlstone Center is a growing resource for that rebirth, with an array of exiting earth-based programs. Pearlstone’s Passover Family Farm Festival is on Tuesday, April 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and will be celebrating spring thanks to the extra 13th month this year. Festival-goers will be learning different ways of natural building, making bike-blender smoothies, learning about wild edibles, spending time with our animals and enjoying a farm-to-table, kosher for Passover lunch. This is one of the many great ways to learn about the land in the context of the Jewish calendar!
Pearlstone will also being hosting The Shavout Beit Midrash on June 10-14, which will include all night Torah study, a beautiful Shabbat experience, cheese-caking and much more!
For a fully immersive multi-day family experience, Family Farm Camp, June 30-July 4, offers campfires, music, harvesting veggies, milking goats, collecting eggs, cheese making, pickling, pita baking and a warm spirited Shabbat!
Well, we have come to the end of a very abundant season. I hope everybody ate well, and learned a lot; I know I did both.
I want to take this chance to thank everybody who helped out over the course of the season: staff, apprentices, volunteers, interns, and all of our wonderful CSA members. It is truly a meaningful experience to grow—literally and figuratively—in such a supportive community.
We will be sending a survey out soon, please take some time to give us your feedback; we take everything into consideration when planning for next year. If surveys aren’t your thing, feel free to send me an email or give me a call (Naomi@pearlstonecenter.org or (410) 429-4400 ext. 238).
We hope to see you next year!
The last share ever (until next year) included:
Puree of Winter Vegetable Soup
1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about five more minutes. Add the carrots, kohlrabi, turnips, potatoes and water or stock. Bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, wrap the ginger, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and peppercorns in cheesecloth. Tie them up to make a bouquet garni, and add to the pot. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer one hour. Remove the cheesecloth bag, and discard.
3. Blend the soup until smooth with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. (Do not put the top on tight; cover the top with a towel to prevent hot splashes.) Pour the soup through a strainer into a bowl; press the soup through the strainer with the back of a ladle or with a pestle. Return to the pot and heat through. Add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt, and serve.
Note: To make a quick vegetable stock, cut away the dark green outer leaves of the leeks, wash thoroughly, and simmer in a pot of water with the peelings from the carrots while you prepare your other vegetables. Strain, and use for the soup.
Yield: Serves six.
Advance preparation: The finished soup will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator. Whisk before reheating.
What are all these strange things?
The grass that you see in your share isn’t just any grass, it’s lemongrass. Used in many Asian countries, lemongrass can be used as a spice or as a tea. It has medicinal qualities, and helps with cough and cold symptoms. You can keep it in your fridge and use it fresh, or you can hang it up in your kitchen to dry it out.
The weird looking tubers we gave you are Jerusalem Artichokes, also known as sunchokes. Despite their name, these plants are not native to Jerusalem, nor are they artichokes. They are actually in the sunflower family, and native to North America. The flowers form the tubers underground to store nutrients. You can use them the same as a potato.
The CSA closing event is this Sunday, October 27, 12:30pm. Come out to Pearlstone, plant some garlic, network with other members, and give us some feedback. We want to continue to adapt our CSA program to the best it can be for all our loyal members.
Hope to see you there!
In celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, we have sweet potatoes this week! We were much more successful in harvesting sweet potatoes this time. They’ve gotten bigger, and thanks to the crazy rainstorms we had last week, the ground was nice and soft. Pulling the sweet potatoes out was a breeze.
I can’t believe that there are only two more weeks of CSA left! My Thursdays are going to be so boring.
We are having a CSA closing event on Sunday, October 27. Come out to Pearlstone, plant some garlic, network with other members, and give us some feedback. We want to continue to adapt our CSA program to the best it can be for all our loyal members.
Get excited for leeks next week!
Don’t stop the beet.
This week’s share was:
Red Pepper and Fennel Bulb Salad
Preheat broiler. Grill pepper under the broiler until the skin is blackened, and the flesh has softened slightly. Place pepper in a paper bag or resealable plastic bag to cool. Remove the seeds and skin (the skin should come off the peppers easily now). Slice into strips.
Set oven to bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place pine nuts and sesame seeds on a baking sheet, and toast until beginning to brown. They’ll smell great!
Combine lettuce greens, fennel bulb, and red pepper in a salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce and vegetable oil. Pour over salad, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts and sesame seeds, and season to taste with ground black pepper.
In all of Pearlstone history, we’ve never been able to successfully grow winter squash. This is not for lack of trying, last year our plants looked great, and then all of a sudden they contracted some horrible disease and died before producing any fruit.
This year, something changed. I don’t know if it was our desperate pleading to the summer squash deities, something in the air, or maybe the billions of inches of rain we received this summer, but whatever it was, we are grateful. Our plants were massive and gorgeous. They produced and kept producing. The bugs never found them, they were unblemished, and we harvested over 200 pounds. And then they died. But that’s all in the cycle of annual plant life.
Once we harvested them, we cleaned them, and set them to cure for a couple of weeks, now they’re coming to your table. Enjoy!
The share was:
Delicious Baked Acorn Squash
Part of greenhouse maintenance is replacing the plastic every five or so years. Ours was a little overdue, so earlier in the season we pulled the giant piece of plastic off. We left the greenhouse roof-less for a couple of months in order to flush out the soil that’s in there, and also because it gets really hot in the summer. Yesterday, we unfolded the new piece of plastic, and put it on. It was an incredible feat of strength, coordination, good timing, and a lot of luck. Not to mention help from not just the farm team, but the program team, maintenance team, construction team, and a few crucial volunteers. The greenhouse is now functional, and very hot these days. We’re excited to use the new digs to start growing for next season.
The Share Was:
Roasted Beets and Sautéed Beet Greens
This past Sunday was the Autumnal Equinox, which means a lot of things for us at Pearlstone. Firstly, and most obviously, it means that it is now officially fall. This is evident in the cooler weather, changing leaves, and lack of tomatoes; also, it’s now dark when my alarm clock goes off at 6:17 am. We’re now spending a little bit less time putting things into the ground, and are mostly focusing on trying to sustain the plants we do have, and ripping out the dead ones.
But most the most exciting thing about this particular Autumnal Equinox, was the wedding of Josh Rosenstein and Teri Jedeikin. Josh is our farm director, and he’s been at Pearlstone in some capacity for the past three seasons. Teri is our volunteer coordinator, and does a lot of work in our women’s orchard and children’s garden. It was the perfect day for a wedding, it took place in the woods at CampMilldale, we had a huge farm-to-table feast, and danced the night away. Mazal tov Josh and Teri!
Don’t forget that next week is back to Thursday!
Chag Sameach (again),
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Something you learn quickly in the farming world is that things don’t always go as planned. We had really hoped that the sweet potatoes would be ready by now, and some of them were, but most of them certainly weren’t. We found some of them, but we’re going to wait a few more weeks to see if they grow more. On the flipside, we thought that we had finished harvesting potatoes, but we found almost 45 more pounds. It’s nice to always be surprised (at least that’s what I tell myself).
We’re on to our second to last week of having an off schedule. Next week we will also be picking up on a Tuesday (September 24), and then it’s Thursdays for the rest of the season. Thanks for being so flexible!
The share included:
Here we are at Thursday again, but don’t get too comfortable, both next week AND the week after, we have pick ups on Tuesdays (September 17, and September 23).
We’re in to three weeks without rain, and coming from a summer where we were used to rain at least every other day (whether we wanted it or not), this has been quite an adjustment. Luckily, we found the hose and a sprinkler, and I think we’ll be ok.
You might be saying to yourself, “Hey, what’s that vegetable that looks like a flying saucer?” That’s a Kohlrabi, and it’s one of my favorites. Not only does it look awesome, but it has great flavor, and all parts are eatable (except maybe the skin). The bulb has been described as a cross between a potato and broccoli. The greens act like collards or kale, so don’t forget about them!
The share was: