Author: Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Farmer’s Market, a birthday celebration, and a new kitten

Farmer’s Market, a birthday celebration, and a new kitten

June marks the beginning of our farmers’ market season at the Huss Project. For the second year in a row, we’re hosting a market on-site, where we sell our own produce as well as produce, sweets, and other goods from local producers. It’s a lovely way to connect with our neighbors and share healthy, local food.

Huss Project Farmer's Market
Huss Project Farmer’s Market.

This year, some of our folks have designed super cool activities for kids during the market, including a “mud kitchen,” where kids can make mud creations and “serve” them to each other. There’s also a giant sandbox, a fairy garden, a reading fort, and so much more.

Another addition to this year’s market is the Fresh Food Initiative, which is a partnership with a regional food bank. During market hours once each month, families in need can come pick up a box of groceries that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.  We really enjoy creating a fun, welcoming space where everyone has access to fresh food, no matter what their circumstances.

Fresh Food Initiative
Fresh Food Initiative at the Huss Project.

Between market days, we did manage to get away for a few days to celebrate Rob’s birthday. Lake Michigan has so many beautiful beaches and we try to enjoy the lakeshore at least a couple of times each summer. We spent three days in a row on the beach, despite some cooler temps and rain.

At the beach
Enjoying the sunset at Lake Michigan.

One unexpected surprise this month was a new kitten to join our menagerie! She showed up skinny, dirty, and hungry after a big storm with tornado warnings. She called for help and we answered. We haven’t quite settled on a name yet, but she tends to go by Stash (short for Ms. Mustache) and she charms the socks off everyone she meets!

Kitty!
New kitty friend!
Visiting parents, new animal friends … plus mushrooms and eggs!

Visiting parents, new animal friends … plus mushrooms and eggs!

May started with a sweet visit from Rob’s parents—our first time together after all being fully vaccinated! It was lovely to be able to share a meal together, and then take a walk at GilChrist to visit the goats. Little Bert is new to GilChrist, but he’s a sweetheart who loves attention and fits right in. Puck’s only a little jealous of the new guy.

Puck and Bert
Puck and Bert

In a bittersweet milestone, we enjoyed our first fully vaccinated, post-pandemic meal in person with our friends and co-workers from the Huss Project, but it was a goodbye dinner as some of our folks finished up their year-long term and made plans to move on to other work. We’ve SO missed sharing meals around a big table!

*cino community 2021
*cino community 2021

At the farm as the weather warmed up, we worked on a number of projects in addition to starting seeds and transplanting. Thanks to our friend Jonathon who harvested some oak logs and ordered mushroom spawn, we were able to start a variety of edible shiitake and wine cap mushrooms. It will be a couple of years before they’re ready to harvest, so it’s an investment in future deliciousness.

Forking hay
Prepping a mushroom bed.

We weren’t the only ones excited about the warmer temps. The chickens are glad to be out of their winter home roaming the greener pastures of the farm, eating insects and fertilizing the beds. We’re really thankful to have so many animals in our lives, especially these ladies who kindly give us so many eggs!

Huss chickens
Chickens at the Huss Project.
Grief, vaccines, and new life

Grief, vaccines, and new life

April has been a hard month, with both new life and loss. Less than a year after Kirstin’s Grandma Beverly died, her Grandpa Duke passed away. A man of great kindness, generosity, patience, joy, and faith, Grandpa Duke was a huge influence in both our lives. He was one of those people who was always so happy to see you and made you feel unconditionally special and loved. So many of us will miss him dearly, and it’s now our job to keep bringing that remarkable love into the world.

Vaccinated!
Getting our second COVID vaccination shot!

On the day of the visitation and funeral, it was lovely to see our families, though we had to buzz right back home to receive our second vaccination shots. We both felt pretty crummy the day after and hunkered down on the couch for the day with movies, soup, and the cat, but we felt very glad to do our part to help our world emerge from the devastation of the pandemic. We’re especially thankful that being less susceptible to the virus ourselves helps protect the kiddos in our life who don’t yet have the option for a vaccine.

Daffodils
Daffodils in our back yard.

And even in the midst of grief and the pandemic, new life is emerging! Spring is always a reminder that there is hope and life all around us. The greenhouse at the Huss Project is full of seedlings, and we’ve got a few on our windowsill at home, too, sprouted from pepper seeds that Kirstin’s dad gave us.

Pepper seedlings
Pepper seedlings.
Syrup, garlic, and a goodbye

Syrup, garlic, and a goodbye

In late February, the sap started running which means: syrup time! Our friends Dan and Margaret are conducting an experiment tapping black walnut trees on the Huss Project property that we all help tend. Most folks tap sugar maples for their high sugar content, but we recently learned that black walnuts make excellent syrup as well. It’s been nice to spend time around the fire with friends watching the sap boil and thicken while there’s still a bit of a chill in the air.

Swinging with Henry
Swinging!

We’ve continued to stay close to home during the pandemic, but we did venture out this month for a lovely outdoor, socially-distanced visit with Kirstin’s family. Her sister Alyssa came out with the kids all the way from Idaho to spend time with our grandpa as he gets up in years, and Kirstin enjoyed hanging out with nieces and nephews on a sunny afternoon.

Garlic at Huss
Garlic at Huss

More sun and warmer temps have meant that things are starting to get busier on the farm for Rob. The garlic we planted last fall is starting to pop up, and we’ll harvest the scapes (a sort of mini-garlic that grows out the top of the plant) in late spring, and the full bulbs mid-summer.

Hand salad
Hand salad!

One of Kirstin’s favorite spring rituals is the first “hand salad,” which is a bite-sized collection of some of the first tasty greens to come from the soil. This one contains lemony sorrel, oniony chives, and savory parsley—hum!

Minna
Minna at GilChrist

While so many things are coming back to life, we also experienced a very sad loss when the pony where Kirstin works died unexpectedly. Minna was a sweet old gal generally in very good health until one evening when her heart started shutting down. We’ll really miss her a lot, though no one will miss more than her goat pal, Puck.

Big tree!
Big tree

In happier news, we enjoyed the annual pancake breakfast at a local alternative high school that makes maple syrup from the trees in the forest next door to the school. We’ve lost count of how many years we’ve gone to this breakfast—it’s a lot!—but this year was the first time we visited the nearby county park, which has many HUGE old growth beech and tulip trees. A hike in the park will definitely become part of our annual pancake pilgrimage!

Letters, winter, and sourdough

Letters, winter, and sourdough

This winter, though stressful when it comes to national news, has actually been quite pleasant at home. One of the delights has been receiving letters from our three-year-old friend, Mira. With her mom’s help, she writes a letter a day, complete with drawings and stickers. We love it, and can’t wait to hang out with these friends again when the weather warms up!

So much snow!

We’ve actually had a real winter this year, with regular snow and a lovely snow storm this month to accompany a big cold snap. Between our home downtown and Kirstin’s work at the retreat center, we got lots of good exercise shoveling snow.

Zuzu still enjoying the wood stove.

We’ve also been getting good exercise hauling wood up the stairs to our second floor home for our new wood stove. We’re not sure if we’ve been more excited about this, or our cat Zuzu, who spends her day meticulously calibrating her body temp nearer and further from the stove. Hot apple cider on the stove after shoveling has been a real treat.

Mmmmmmm …. sourdough bread.

Another lovely winter treat has been a new sourdough recipe Kirstin found. The starter we use is from our friend Sylvia from years ago, and after trying quite a few different recipes, we think we’ve finally found one that makes a dependably delicious, easy, beautiful loaf of bread. Tuesday is quickly becoming soup-and-fresh-bread night, following Monday spaghetti night.

Retreat.

With the pandemic continuing, we’ve been staying close to home, but Kirstin did get the chance to go on retreat in one of the cabins at work for a few nights. It was nice to have some quiet time to read, sleep, and just think.

New sign for World Fare!

In the meantime, Rob finalized plans to get a new sign installed on our building for the store on the main floor. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s going to look great! It will be nice to have a refreshed look as the weather gets warmer and leans toward spring.

Standing for peace, building community in a new year

Standing for peace, building community in a new year

We kicked off the new year with our very important tradition: Belgian waffles! Usually we’d have a big crew around our kitchen table for brunch and even though all that is on hold because the pandemic, we still enjoyed a sweet breakfast with our friend Willard’s maple syrup.

Waffles on New Year’s Day!

While we were still off work, we turned two bushels of apples from our local orchard into apple sauce, dried apple rings, and apple butter. These join a wide variety of canned and frozen foods we put up when they were in season throughout the past year. Eating local, in-season foods is very important to us for many reasons, including nutrition, supporting local farmers, and of course: the pleasure of anticipation and indulgence! Among our winter favorites: Monday spaghetti night features sauce Rob made and froze from tomatoes he grew, and Kirstin makes an amazing butternut squash mac n’ cheese.

Our fun with food is about to get even closer to our kitchen. Since 2003, we’ve helped out with a volunteer-run fair trade store on the Main Street level right below our home. This winter, we’ve been working on adding local and organic groceries, which involved a major rearranging of our small store space. We can’t wait to be able to get most of our groceries right downstairs, and we’re looking forward to raising a child who knows the shop as part of our home, and all of our fellow volunteers as part of our family.

Coming soon: Local and organic groceries in World Fare!

Even while we continue to build community in our neighborhood, the news on a national level has been pretty chaotic, with disturbing violence at the U.S. Capitol. In response, a friend of ours organized a weekly “Stand for Peace” event a half block from our house. Even though it’s just a small thing, standing outdoors for an hour on a Sunday afternoon—even in sub-zero temps—has helped build relationships and encourage our neighbors that we each have a part to play in creating a society that works for all people.

Stand for Peace in downtown Three Rivers.