“I sent in a deposit. No one contacted me. I can’t go back,” I blurted out. “I drove from State College. Is there a Holiday Inn around?” I then gave him the details of my need for a weekend escape. Rusty said his wife Claire was expected to return soon from a conference in State College (how ironic) and he would talk it over with her. Rusty and his brother-in-law were about to move a piano from the house to the second floor of the barn. He suggested I take a walk on the trail through their woods. Alone.
When I returned, Claire was apologetic for failing to let me know of the course cancelation (too few participants). Then she and Rusty welcomed me to stay for the weekend.
Instead of the yurt, which is massive—30-feet in diameter—I would stay in the straw bale house (the farm interns who normally live there left for Florida) with (oh my gosh!) a king-sized bed to rest my sleeping bag upon. Even my pillowcase of lavender gingham matched their gingham pillow. The adobe walls, deep windowsills, and stone floor reminded me of Provence so my years ago. And, there was a composting toilet, which I knew all about, thanks to my Humanure Handbook reading.
Rusty and Claire Orner bought their 30-acre farm in 1998, just a year after Paul, the kids and I moved to Fleur-de-Lys. Their sons Walker and Ashton have grown up planting potatoes, weeding raised beds, harvesting basil, tomatoes and peppers, as well as other farming chores, and eating the bounty of their family’s hard work.
That evening we ate grilled hamburgers, yellow Korno and red Jimmy Nardello peppers, and shiitake mushrooms, and a marinated heirloom tomato salad. Claire showed me how she mixes ½ cup yogurt and ½ cup water into 4 cups of oats and lets it sit overnight to break down the phytic acid so the following morning the oats are easier to digest and release beneficial nutrients the body can absorb. The science behind it all is in the Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” book, which is packed away in one of my moving boxes. I must have skipped that chapter.
Rusty made an applesauce-red raspberry-blueberry mixture earlier in the day. We smeared a film of the blend onto freezer paper-lined cookie sheets, and placed the trays into the farm’s closet-sized dehydrator to make fruit leather for a Sunday treat.
Quiet Creek Fruit Leather
2 cups apple, chopped with skins on
2 cups pear, chopped with skins on
1 cup strawberries
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup pumpkin, chopped without skin
2 cups water
½ tsp. dried green stevia
Place all ingredients in a pot, cook on medium until all fruits are soft. Blend smooth and pour on freezer paper. Dehydrate for three days.
Before heading out into the night, Claire handed me a booklet Rusty wrote and illustrated on growing shiitake mushrooms in Western Pennsylvania. Oatmeal and raspberries would be served at 7:30 a.m., and then we’d start the bread and make pizzas for lunch, and…. By the light of the straw bale house I read about cultivating shiitakes but was more taken with the author’s note: “The Orner family strives to Live, Laugh, Love and Learn daily with God, each other, their community and the world. It’s not what we do for a living, it’s what we do for a life.” A family mission statement, what a powerful idea.
To be continued…