It was 6:15 on a foggy Friday morning and there I was, crouched over an orange bucket with my hand plunged up to the elbow in icy water mixed with ground quartz. Next to me Zach and Ross knelt hand-stirring the mixture in their buckets, and eight other apprentices and farm staff stood silently around us waiting their turn, Cynthia holding the cow horn in which the quartz had been buried for six months. We were completing the final stage of biodynamic prep 501, a soil preparation used in the biodynamic system of farming that Love Apple is committed to following. The preparation is stirred and applied at dawn, when the light filtering through the morning clouds can illuminate the quartz mixture as it is sprayed above the plants in the garden.
Biodynamics is the agricultural practice developed by philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and while creating preparations for soil health out of stuffed cow horns and intestines may seem strange to some, when Cynthia told us the quartz prep had to be stirred clockwise and counter-clockwise for an hour to combine order and chaos, it made sense. In the past two months I’ve been on the farm I’ve acutely felt the balance of order and chaos in my life—the order of milking the goats each morning, eight-hour farm days, and sitting around the kitchen table each night, and the chaos of being thrown into a new place and life where you live, work, eat, and drink with an ever-shifting group of people. At 6:45 that morning as we stirred, Ellen—the baby of our group at 19, the greenhouse pro from Maine who’s been here seven months—quietly went round and said her goodbyes, and we were still stirring as she left the garden for the last time. That afternoon we saw off Tory, a two-week volunteer from Manresa who made us breakfast sandwiches and seemed to always have been here, and this week we say goodbye to Phillip, our constant source of new music (listen to this) and amazing grilled food. There’s order and chaos in all relationships, and in life, Cynthia said softly as we continued to stir, and it made me realize that letting go of people who’ve become such good friends—both on the farm and off it—is a chaos that’s never easy to be prepared for.
Part of spraying the soil prep is investing it with energy and positive thought, so as I misted our quartz mixture over the garden beds I decided I would do just that. I thought of the night before, when Tory made Manresa’s famous garden beignets for farm dinner while we laughed as everyone at the table had to put on their best foreign accent. I thought of Ellen and Tory and Phillip, the things they’ll go on to do in college and culinary school and landscape architecture, and then I thought of all my other apprentice friends, the people they are now and the people they’ll be after they leave. I thought of people I love outside the farm, friendships I’ve let lapse as I’ve become more rooted here. Did I feel a little bit corny? You bet. But when I was done I felt as though a bit more order had been restored to the chaos that always comes with saying goodbye.
Manresa’s Garden Beignets
The recipe for these delicious savory beignets was just added to the Bon Appetit website as a part of the story on Love Apple and Manresa in the August issue. They are absolutely amazing, and having made them every night at the restaurant for the past few months Tory was an expert. They may look tricky, but don’t worry–the process is actually not as intimidating as it may seem, and the results are well worth the effort. Enjoy!