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Revolutionizing the food system…through jam

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 30, 2012 by leekornhauser

Alright, I’m gonna say it: Eating jam can be a political act. Maybe I’m stating the obvious: Eating food that was sought out, scavenged, and/or produced with the intention to provide food in the future is food activism…nowadays. (Jam, of course, is also entirely devoid of politics—it used to be a very commonplace/non-radical item on folks’ agenda and for those simply interested in having (good?) food to eat in Winter/Spring.) Nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable made available (like during Winter) is magic to me, and an intelligent use of the human mind/body.

tart cherries: rescued

So often it feels like a rescue mission: nothing seems more sensible than capturing waste (i.e., food) from the plants/insects/soil/humans that worked so hard together to make. Deep in the throes of food activism, we rescued blemished or overripe melons rather than letting them die in the field, we braved insect stings, bramble wounds, questionable tree branches, and the extreme tedious task of handpicking to produce these gems, without mentioning the risks taken in the kitchen. One of our mantras since the beginning days of Elder Fire has been, ‘pick to preserve’, plus, when you’re working with limited funds and resources, you don’t really have a choice.

Jammaking is a true labor of love. It’s a farm kitchen art we hesitated to resurrect being pretty big sticklers about sweets, even towards ones that consciously cut back on them. Seriously, we were never jam people: never bought or made it until we started to farm and the fruit started calling to us from giant mulberry trees, when we took turns climbing, shaking branches, and catching berries with a sheet, a family fun event requiring many hands and no fossil fuels.

black mulberries bout to be jammed

Food grows wild all around us, and as farmers we have come to deeply appreciate native plants and fruit bearing perennials, i.e. things we didn’t have to plant and raise but get to enjoy and feed from/graze on. And it’s worth going through with making the jam and its entourage of dishes when you’re making enough to share. But it’s not only activist work we’re all doing here, it’s romantic and fun and sensational. Homemade preserves, like most slow food, tastes better than anything you can obtain commercially; maybe because opening a jar of a small batch, organic preserve, lovingly made and creatively crafted, conjures vivid memories of the growing season, voicing narratives of storm, drought, Summer, Spring and Fall and Winter in ways only real food can.  I’ve felt the real meaning in it all and its possible you will too: sharing food moments like these with friends and family connect us to each other and to the land a little bit., or a lot.  And, darn it, it tastes good.

You and your grandmother and your child can enjoy a season’s worth of wisdom and all its little triumphs tomorrow or a year from now, keep a little capsule of time in your cupboard or give to a friend, six bucks a pop for seriously handmade artistry. But our ability to offer them to you is, perhaps appropriately, seasonal at this time. Find us at the last 100 Mile Market (@peoples food co-op) THIS HALLOWEEN, (tomorrow) THIS Wednesday  from 3-7, and  one last Bank St. Market on Saturday 7ish-12:30. Now let me introduce your sweet little slow food friends, the spreads you’ve been waiting for:


Tropical Melon Moon, smooth as silk and breezy! Our heirloom French cantaloupes cooked down to a smooth preserve with notes of fresh citrus and pieces of crystallized ginger.

Tomato Marmalade, Bright from citrus, tangy from citrus peel, and perfectly sweet and fruity from our ripe heirloom tomatoes. This is a gorgeous and delicious marmalade.

Sunset Spread, our popular Orange glow watermelons cooked into a jelly with chili flakes and rosehips and sweetened with local honey—this one will bring back light from those summer months, and could be worked beautifully into a savory dish.

Autumnberry Peary, tangy and sweet wild harvested autumn olive berries blended with local no spray bartlett pears make a delicate, colorful, juicy and thick spread for toast, desserts, yogurt, or for pairing with cheese. The color on this one can’t be beat.

Vanilla Ambrosia, our heirloom cantaloupes cooked down with organic vanilla bean into a looser preserve, sweetened to make a creamy and luxurious topping for pancakes, ice cream, toast, you name it.

Maiden’s Voyage, we explored newish ground for this one! Our purple tomatillos, red jalapenos, and fresh lime make for a sweet and sour with a touch of heat jam. Use it for the base of a sweet and sour sauce, try on tacos like a sweet salsa, on a bagel, or with a soft cheese.

Heart of Summer, pink watermelon jelly made from the juice of our heirloom watermelons, cooked down with star anise—this jelly will turn around a gloomy day and remind you of being a kid. Put it on toast, pb+j, yogurt, or ice cream, or_____!

Spiced Pear, chemical free and locally grown/harvested pears picked by our friends blended with soaked organic Turkish apricots and dusted with Chinese 5 spice makes for a warming, sophisticated, and outspoken pear butter like jam.

Sunrise Spread, this sweet, glowing gem will catch your eye and brighten your day. Our golden husk cherries are the heart of this jam, paired with fresh organic oranges and cooked to a thick marmalade like texture—it melts on your tongue and has a slightly tropical flavor that is great on its own, eaten with a spoon. Our farmstead jams/jellies/marmalades/chutneys are made in small batches, on site in the farm kitchen (not inspected by the USDA). We’re proud because we use:

°   Wildcrafted SW Michigan fruits

°   Fresh fruits, herbs, vegetables grown by us using organic methods

°   Fresh produce grown by friends using organic methods.

°   Certified Organic fruits, herbs, spices grown by people we don’t know and purchased at our local cooperative grocer.

°   Organic cane juice crystals or local honey

°   Pomona pectin (allowing us to use less sweetener without affecting the gelling of the jam/jelly)

°   Fresh squeezed organic lemon/lime

°   Lots of love and inspiration


Fermentation: One of the World’s Greatest Farm Arts

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2012 by leekornhauser

Fermentation and farming have gone hand and hand for us, always. As a fresh food lover and lover of food alchemy, fermentation is as deeply satisfying an art form as farming–at least for me. But the two seriously go together. For farmers that don’t have/can’t afford cold storage–and have a tiny fridge for ourselves that is already filled with ferments–we use fermentation partially as a means of waste diversion by allowing as much perfectly good produce, that had only one opportunity to find a home (market) but didn’t, to be preserved and glorified by the all magical lactobacilli.Image


Sometimes at Elder Fire we grow things specifically with the intention to lactoferment it: this year, it was primarily cabbage, more cabbage, pickling cucumbers, kohlrabi, turnips, hot peppers, and radishes that were sown with the intention to ferment. Most times we work with whatever is leftover from market, or whatever we have an abundance of in the field, in addition to produce from other growers that inspire us (like garlic/garlic scapes from Heron Homestead, yum)–but there is no end to the experimentation and plant food combinations, and some of the best ferments came about by chance or a wild and crazy idea. ImageWell, I’m here to tell you the joy and art of fermentation is not just ours as growers, though having an abundance of fresh veggies certainly initiates the process, it’s, of course, all of ours, as locavores and foodies and health nuts and artists and alchemists–nothing fancy or doled out or sold by the FDA is necessary to make delicious and perfectly safe lacto fermented food.ImageAs of several weeks ago, we started bringing fermented veggies to market, and have had great feedback!    With new ferments being made every week, new ones are then ready every week; it’s an exciting venture for us to have something new to add to the palate every couple of days. Here’s a list of some of the ferments we’ve brought so far:

Chipotle Kraut, Farmer (kim) Chi, Fennel Relish, Fennel Kraut, CROCK pickles, Mixed Veggie Pickles, Garlic Scape Chipotle turnips/radish, Sweet Chili Sauce, and Fire and SMOKE hot sauce. 

This week we’ll have new ones to share–so stop by for a sample and see what we’ve been up to. Oh, and there is a farm to fermentation workshop in the works out at the ole Elder Fire–so stay tuned, and in the meantime, eat some ferments.


Elder Fire 2012 CSA Program: Almost Everything YOU Need to know about it!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2012 by leekornhauser

Elder Fire Farm Arts Community Supported Agriculture


Our CSA has sprouted, at last, from nearly a decade long germination process doing radical work towards building a more local and equipped foodshed with a sustainable infrastructure—one that’s good for the people and the land—while acquiring the skills to actualize our personal and shared dreams as a family and community. Being committed to the SW Michigan grassroots effort to co-create, localize, and grow a truly sustainable and transparent food system means building trusting/meaningful relationships between people as producers, consumers, neighbors, and the land, while at the same time transforming the obstacles and beliefs that allow/encourage a disproportionate number of people growing food to the ones consuming. CSA allows us to deepen and develop these connections, as well as become more sustainable on the local level, by sharing some of the responsibilities and the joys of food and medicine production, ultimately bringing us closer to one another and with the land that provides these necessities and more.


Indeed, the role we play in this scheme as a community food producer, but also as members of community and as stewards, demands us to be deliberate and intentional with the seeds we plant, the ‘what, where, how, and why’. We seek to make our methods, our values, and the skills we gain from this work as transparent and accessible as we can. Therefore, the plants and plant varieties we choose each year are based on a multitude of factors; organic/heirloom seed availability, hardiness to our zone, choice flavor, visual appeal, storage potential, potential to save seed, nutrient density, disease tolerance, and medicinal properties of plants are all vital in our decision making so that we’re able to grow a diverse range of staple crops and adventurous ones, alongside plants that heal bodies and the soil.


Based on obvious and variable seasonal factors, weekly shares will contain carefully selected varieties of vegetables using only organic methods (for instance, cooking greens/kale, lettuces/salad, onions, kohlrabi, cabbage, all sorts of roots, heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, watermelons, muskmelons, sweet corn, cucumbers, husk cherries, parsley, dill, beans, peas, edamame, squash (and more), as well as wild and cultivated fruits, cut flowers, culinary and medicinal herbs, and mushrooms (like shiitake and oyster). We’ll share interesting family/farm inspired, seasonal recipes and, perhaps, other surprises along the way.


Our CSA is a 20 week program, starting the week of June 10 going through October 27.

Weekly pick up locations are:

Wednesdays 3-7pm @100 Mile Market (@ People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo) or

Saturdays 7:30am-12pm @ Kalamazoo (Bank St.) Farmers’ Market


At this point, we have a very limited number of Summer shares to offer for a cost of $350, which breaks down to $15-$20 worth of freshly picked produce each week. Share reservations are made upon receipt of the Member Agreement Form and check(s) made to Elder Fire Farm Arts. Payment can be made in full or with a “down payment” (approx. 1/3 of the total share cost) along with post-dated checks dated for the first of each consecutive month for the remainder of the share cost, ideally being all paid up by the first week of our CSA season so that we’re not having to keep track during the very busy parts of the season. As you may know, this up front investment helps provide the funds/seeds/operative tools/etc. needed for the chance at a successful growing season, it is a model we believe and have participated in for years both as shareholders and as beginning farmers—here’s to the (re)emergence of it all.

Elder Fire Farm Arts

Membership Agreement Form CSA 2012




Choose your pick up location


_____100 Mile Market/Wednesdays/3-7pm(Peoples’ Food Co-op of Kalamazoo)

507 Harrison St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

_____Kalamazoo (Bank St.) Farmers’ Market/Saturdays/7:30am-12pm

1200 Bank St, Kalamazoo, MI 49001

____Elder Fire Farm Arts/Saturdays/5-7pm/On-Farm Pick Up

10400 S. Gurd Rd, Dowling, MI 49050


Your payment plan

Please make checks out to Elder Fire Farm Arts.

Prior to April 1st, please mail to Elder Fire Farm Arts, 470 Egleston, Kalamazoo, MI 49001

April 1st and onward, mail to Elder Fire Farm Arts, 10400 S. Gurd Rd, Dowling, MI 49050

Enclosed is my check(s) of:

In Full ($350)______     OR       Initial Payment of $________with post-dated checks for the following amount $_______ $________=$350

Member Agreement

☯   I will receive a full, weekly share of Elder Fire produce that will vary in size and weight depending on the time of the season.

☯   I agree to support the farmers by sharing in the inherent risks of agriculture (poor weather, drought, hail, crop failure, pest problems, etc.) and the rewards (fresh, local, organically grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, etc. the harvests of a good season). I understand this principle and agree that there is no guarantee on the exact amount or type of produce I will receive in my share. By participating in CSA I am supporting the local farmers (and our foodshed), as well as allowing for more equitable food distribution.

☯   By becoming a member I commit to picking up my share weekly and understand that if I, or a designated other, is unable to pick up my share it CANNOT be saved or picked-up at a later date unless prior arrangements have been made with the farmer.


Member’s Signature

Persephone, Hades, Demeter, Us

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20, 2011 by leekornhauser

Perhaps you don’t know this, but I have a deep fondness for Greek mythology and Paganism, in fact, most narratives involving human nature, the celestial meaning of our seasons, characteristics/wisdom of beasts that roam Earth, the element of spirit that imbues life here–I could go on, but I won’t–this post is about Autumn and Balance. Persephone~Demeter~r80r95.jpgWhen I’m a crone, I will know truths about the earth that aren’t fully intelligible to me now–but the crone in me knows some things, intuits others: This time of year, this fleeting transition, this bridge between time and space and transformation and quiet on earth is also one of seeking the balance amid constant change, finding individual strength to face winter, overcoming fears of approaching dark/death, and, I think, taking risks. I won’t recap the myth involving Persephone, Demeter, and Hades, but I suggest finding several different readings of the story, all of which are easily accessible if googled– because these readings, myths, and interpretations help us, and I’m pretty sure helped millions before us (ok, maybe also hindered…but that’s a different post), find great solace/understanding/beauty, and perhaps most importantly, our place in this wild world. As a farmer, I find the responsibility even greater to observe and understand the language of earth and her seasons: living outside, living one step off the ground in our yurt separated from the earth only by canvas and wool–has pushed me further down the path of learning these truths, and facing these fears, and it is something I had expected, desired.

My favorite season, of course, at its Kore (another name for Persephone) is about balance: Balance between dark and light–balance between polarities of all kinds; It is true, I’ll make this post even more personal, my life’s journey has been a struggle with polarity: charted paths or (mostly) uncharted ones, a life of the mind (graduate school) or a life of the body (farming), a life of togetherness-We (I am a twin) or separation-I, and perhaps with the most pain, being a human being of the West having to choose between (intelligibly) inhabiting male or female–for some of us, this choice is best left undone; for all of our choices, we have to learn to follow our heart and take risks, discover if there is even a choice to be made. This either/or world is something we have, and with great harm, imposed on the earth, which, of course, balances all things if left to her own devices!Copyright ©2007 Susan Eleanor Boulet Trust

Seeking the balance on earth is harder than ever, so it seems, after what we’ve done. Can you feel it, too? I am one person of the Midwest, surrounded by woods and corn and soy and pasture, and it is quiet here, quiet enough to feel earth feel. I check the weather often, but have also gotten quite good at intuiting it–I see these fear ads of typhoons and hurricanes and threats, telling us how we should all be afraid to die at the hand of Gaia, and they’re real; has the earth always been this angry? I don’t think so. Storms like those are a serious warning signs of our bad choices, and will quickly swallow the earth if we don’t stop imposing our false needs and security onto this land and water and sky we’ve been blessed with as Stewards. We all know this–but how far do we each have to go to keep earth intact–is that even earth’s/our Destiny? 2012 is right around the corner, and after this season on the land I’m not sure what all the signs mean–where are the Crones? Please share your comments and your thoughts, your wisdom.

My fear of Death, the underworld, was seriously manifested this Spring and Summer with the great winds and storms; to me, they’re unforgettable. I spent many hours in panic of the winds and splitting trees and lightening and not having shelter, not being able to go underground, the safest shelter…and I’m pretty sure those levels of stress take years off one’s life: Yet, how does one come to Peace with the destruction of the natural order we’ve caused?

No, this time of year causes me no fear–these calm winds and rains that tell us Fall is here and coming all at once, that Persephone will soon descend and perhaps find shelter there, most likely to return again in Spring, is a great comfort. Thank you, Persephone, for choosing Balance, death and life, Mother and Lover, fertility and barrenness, both instead of either/or.

Perhaps it is simply time for us to share old, maybe ancient stories, recall myths, build altars to honor and celebrate the Balance that we each seek, that earth finds (even amongst all of the barriers and poisons we’ve unleashed and invented), to eat the seeds of the pomegranate and not fear Death, to honor and taste all the fruits that this season of chaos has given us before the barrenness returns, and darkness once again dominates light.

Hades & Persephone, enthroned in the underworld | Greek vase, Apulian red figure volute krater

Kale Wraps are Forever

Posted in Uncategorized on August 26, 2011 by leekornhauser

We’d like to introduce you to our dear friend, The Kale Wrap (TKW).

Today's Kale Wrap: Our kale (curly and lacinato), white cucumbers, green onions, heirloom tomato, tahini lemon parsley dressing, on a millet-flax lavash

Kale wraps are simple, yet there are some requirements in our household for making them:

ALWAYS slice kale in thin strips, chiffonade as they say.

USE what you have/need to use veggiewise,

BUT ALWAYS use Sami’s millet and flax lavash (ok, you can use tortillas, but don’t expect “to die for” good)


ALWAYS make a raw TAHINI based dressing. (Heather, who’s sitting beside me, disagrees with this rule–and she’s somewhat right, kale wraps can be made with oil based dressings-or any dressing that suits your fancy (except probably shouldn’t be store bought…but that’s a different post) and still be absolutely delicious, but they won’t be addicting like The One).

Our preferred dressing of late is always without measurements, but resembles the following:

  • A BUNCH of italian flat leaf parsley (at least one bunch, this is the best aspect of the dressing)
  • A 1//2 cup  or more raw organic tahini
  • A Lemon or more
  • organic extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons
  • celtic sea salt, several pinches
  • OFTEN we add unpasteurized MISO (the sweet varieties, always from South River–which makes the best commercial miso we can get our hands on), a tablespoon or more depending on the amount of tahini used.
  • tablespoon or so of water–add more depending on your desired thickness, but we tend to like it quite thick! Cause Kale likes it thick.
THE key to the dressing, and The Kale Wrap at large, is one tool:
The IMMERSION BLENDER. But use your upright blender if that’s all you have (but we strongly suggest you getting an immersion blender, even if it is just to make dressings like this one, but it’s great for making soups or sauces, too).
Heat up lavash, PILE on the kale (seriously, this is actually why the kale wrap exists: to consume large amounts of kale in one sitting),
throw on toppings (onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, kimchi, hot peppers, anything),
and then,
cover everything in the dressing,
make sure the kale is coated in the dressing;
if it looks like it’s going to be messy, it’s perfect.
Send us a picture of yours.

How the other part of that ‘we’ got here.

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2011 by leekornhauser

I come from a family of healers and farmers and homemakers.

These most probably aren’t the labels my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents would’ve used (I’m quite sure they aren’t)—but so much has been their paths, nonetheless, and such has been mine; they are the ones whose walking have made the most sense in my heart.

My twin (Jess, on right) and my older sister  (Elizabeth, wearing our grandma’s homemade dress)

and I (Lee) were raised in the suburbs of Detroit (Southfield first and later Bloomfield Hills) by my father, cardiologist, and mother, retired nurse, my Hungarian-immigrant-Holocaust surviving grandparents Helen and Sandor—who died several years ago at ages 102/ 98 from natural causes—and by 3 other women who shared the responsibilities of our rearing: Willeen (my 2ndmother), Felice (a sensitive non English speaking (“illegal?”) immigrant from Poland), and Kitty (a badass from Livonia whose tickling is seriously painful). Someday I’ll write a book about all of them—but I want to keep this in the realm of farm blog, if possible.

Of course my grandparents grew up on farms, like most of peoples’ grand/greatgrandparents, until war and political unrest or available work moved them to cities. I attribute their longevity primarily to their agrarian roots, to clean air, the food they grew, raised, harvest, stored, prepared, and ate as developing children and young adults—and to the close familial relationships their lives fostered—and their big hearts. They, like many of their generation, and, I’m guessing, like many American immigrants who have the space, had a quaint garden where my Grandfather grew roses for his/our kitchen table, where I pulled out my first magical carrot, cherry tomato, bean, and fed squirrels peanuts (yes, I’m aware this is weird), and played, of course. I could say more about these moments, their lives and their longevity—but so much of their lives weren’t spoken, but rather attempted to be forgotten or remembered or translated; the truth is, Helen and Sandor touched my heart/life in ways only they could: my sisters and I have no choice but to carry the fire. And as much as they would’ve rather me had continue graduate school and become a professor of English (as were/are the values of their/our time and American culture), I desire a simple, earthy life, longevity and health, and family time, and time to meditate and be grateful, and homegrown organic food, and music played for loved ones, and magical cooking, and making clothes, and woods and pastures and bees and goats and chickens and horses, and homemade everything; yeah, the fire has spread and it keeps spreading, this must be my destiny.

And my Mom’s folks? Well they’re from a small town farming community in Saugus, Massachusettes, so is my momma. My grandfather baked his own Swedish coffee cake/bread with cardamom and raisins or no raisins in honor of his roots, he got up early and sliced us oranges or grapefruit when we visited, or made banana pancakes, and he loved the crap out of gardening (he was particularly proud of his squashes, I think, and he sent us those sometimes). I think he enjoyed gardening more than anything, just like my dad’s dad. And my dad loves being outdoors more than anything except his family. So, you see, the inclination comes from both sides, all sides—they dosed my subconscious to value the homegrown-outdoor thing—and my grandma Helen and my mother dosed me to value the homemaking thing and child loving thing, and then, around my college years, I grew to kind of obsess about where my food comes from and made every (every!) meal organic, local when organic, and from scratch—and what you have now is someone who has tried on several coats, can’t take any of them off, and still kind of obsesses over these things and more.

I don't play pool, really, but don't let this photo deceive you: Both of these men gardened their bow-ties off!

I’ve struggled with health problems since puberty. Be it a twin thing, or not breastfeeding thing, or growing up on conventional meats, milk, vegetables, or  inheriting IBS, or like I presume, a pretty impressive combination of all the above—who knows, but it has been a hindrance to my every day life. So many of my discoveries about myself as an adult have come from the work of attempting to regain my health/ reach my full potential, and from attempting to deeply understand a vast array of social, literary, political theory. That said, much of my energy has been devoted to healing—another aspect I must have inherited. My ways are very different from my parents’—a natural phenomenon—and it hasn’t always been easy for them to accept—BUT they are now among my biggest supporters, and I’d probably be a much meaner and stingier person without their love and influence.

Add in my years at the Food Co-Op of Kzoo and year at Eaters’ Guild Farm of Bangor (read the last two paragraphs of Heather’s blog “How we got here” to know more about these places, the kids she done birthed that are a huge part of my life and my heart,  and to find out how we made the transition to here) and that leaves me pretty much sketched out (with glitter) for you all. I’d like to tell you more about the farm, but that’s another post.

I’ll leave you with this:

I want to grow food and herbs and roots and make food and think thoughts that help heal people and help the earth and the winged, burrowing, walking, running, swimming things all recover from the damage civilization has caused. And really enjoy life in the process.

Thanks for reading about me. Now send me a link to your blog so I can read about you.

It’s July… and the blogging must begin…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 9, 2011 by leekornhauser

Hello! My vision for keeping a lively and extensive blog library documenting our experiences out here in the wilderness/farminess of Three Rivers, Michigan has finally come to fruition…I think! Internet was one of the first things we acquired out here, but creating the time and space to document all the life, change, trials and errors and general observations is a balance we are far from mastering. Nonetheless, it is in our hearts to bring Elder Fire to the world wide web, to share our lives and our farm with you and in turn, yours with us. Expect recipes, photography, videos and tutorials! Expect the unexpected, for that is what comes with a life of living off of the Land. Next post will give a quick history of our roots and bring yall up to date We’re looking forward to sharing the harvest of our labor with the community(ies) that have supported us for so long; we’ll do our best to keep this blog fresh, engaging, and useful as we enter and continue onward into the Unknowable!