Fundraiser Success!!

Smiles, to me, are what make an event a success. And guests of the Slow Food Asheville fundraiser held at our farm last Saturday were all smiles. The event was also a success in raising funds for airfare to get our WNC delegates to Italy next month for the international “Terra Madre” Slow Food conference. There were just over 150 ticket holders and the silent auction brought in a good share as well.

It was a pleasant surprise that so many folk — nearly half — did not buy advance tickets but paid at the gate (the 80-some-odd advance ticket sales made me a bit nervous about what the final numbers would be). I could understand a lot of gate sales if the event was in Asheville or even one of the other small towns closer to “civilization,” but I had not anticipated it to be so much a factor with an event that is about an hour’s drive from where most folks hail.

Fresh Rosemary sits beside the stuffed chickens being sewn up in the pig.

Fresh Rosemary sits beside the stuffed chickens being sewn up in the pig.

It was really cool watching the Porcetta prep process on Friday. Porcetta is an medieval dish where a whole pig is deboned, then stuffed with whole deboned chickens, which are themselves stuffed. Chef Mark made a yummy stuffing for the birds out of some of our beef and bacon from last year’s meat harvest. The beef and bacon were finely chopped by hand and mixed with fresh herbs from the garden, creating a wonderful sausage. By deboning the birds and pig, the final roast can be sliced clean through to reveal all the nested layers.

The final porcetta with stuffing layers revealed

The final porcetta with stuffing layers revealed

We left the head, hooves, and tail on, but because the pig was all trussed up into a cylinder (everything tucked against the body), the final assembly didn’t look very pig-like past the head area.

Speaking of the head area, the expression on the pig’s face was rather serene … as it should be … Wilbur had a great life eating wonderful slop containing fresh milk, eggs, corn, and table/garden scraps, he ran and played, had a clean death while sucking down some more fresh milk, and then had people fawn over him for hours and hours to prepare him for others to enjoy and sustain. All meat should have it so good!!

Mike retrofitted a homemade spit to use with the borrowed VFD cooker. It was elegantly simple in its functionality … as all great designs are. Notched wood blocks on the end cradled the homemade handled spit. We wanted to rotate a quarter turn about ever quarter hour and needed a way to lock the spit in place so that the weight of the pig wouldn’t rotate itself out of the desired position. So, Mike added a screw to the block on the handle end. With vice grips clamped onto the handle and the screw riding inside their handle, the spit was locked in place. I think I may have to call him Mike-gyver from now on.

The guest chef, Mark Rosenstein, got very attached to the pig after so many hours of preparation. At one point, we got word that someone had approached the pig-serving area and was about to start carving it. I had to run out and stand guard to reserve that honor for Mark … an honor he well deserved!!

Mark was fabulous throughout. He had this great, calm, even temper and was totally flexible. He was funny when someone would ask him to clarify some nit-picky thing like, “Mark, should we rotate the spit a quarter turn or some other increment?” … Mark would respond with some obviously exaggerated answer like, “I think we should turn it exactly 7 and a half degrees every three-point-two minutes” … which seemed to be his way of saying, “Hey, relax, it’s not an exact science, it will be o.k., we can modify as we go.” I worked in the restaurant biz (mostly waiting tables) for about 10 years, and I can say, a chef with a relaxed attitude is a rare and wonderful thing!!

Lots of folks helped to make the event a success. Of course, all the delegates pitched in time and materials, but that’s to be expected since they were the beneficiaries of the event. But many more folks came to help too, just because they love and support Slow Food and wanted to help promote it’s philosophy linking food, community, and environment. THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!!!! And the cherry on top is that all the volunteers were these really fascinating people who I hope will become longterm friends. After all, Slow Food is as much about community as it is about food…just another way in which the event was a success!!

Volunteers press cider on event day.

Some of the many wonderful volunteers, shown here manning the cider press: JD Blethen, Phillip Kendall, Barbara Swell, Theta Drivon, and Julie Mansfield

To view all the pictures for prep days and event days that I managed to take myself (not enough, I know … more coming from others soon I hope), please click through to the event photos post.

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Fundraiser Photos

Each album represents a different day. I recommend the slideshow view. You’ll need to run each day’s slideshow separately.

Pig Harvest Day

Thursday, Sept. 16, we slaughtered and cleaned the pig that was roasted overnight Friday-Saturday for the Saturday fundraiser.

Food Prep Day

Friday, Sept. 17, is when the ratatouille was prepped, fruit sauces were made, the pig was stuffed and started cooking, as well as table/chair set-up, flower arranging, etc. etc.

Event Day

Saturday, Sept. 18, was the big day. This is when all the vegetables got roasted, salad & dressings made, tables dressed, final house & property spiffing. And it was all the great volunteers and donors that made it possible!!! The auction was a resounding success with nearly every item sold. The side dishes that local restaurants donated were outrageously good. And all the volunteers were cheery, self-motivated, and totally on-the-ball.


Chuck Blethen, one of the WNC  Terra Madre delegates, shared his photos here.

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Pig Harvest

Last night, John came back from feeding the pigs some premo slop (I had cleaned out expired canned goods from the pantry earlier in the day), and he announced that one should not pour the slop in such a way that it lands on a pig’s head …. not unless you are prepared to wear the slop yourself when the pig gives itself a good sloppy shake. Oh, John, he’s always good for some unintentional comedy!!

Wilber Relaxes Before

Wilber relaxes next to the cow just minutes prior to "harvest"

Today, after Mark & Susi deboned chickens and made beef-bacon stuffing (stuffed chickens will themselves be pig stuffing), everyone gathered in the former potato patch to help “harvest” one of our Berkshire pigs, which will be slow-roasted for the fundraiser that Slow Food is having here on the farm this Saturday. The photo here is of the pig relaxing prior to the deed. I will make a separate page with the post-deed photos for those interested in seeing the process. They are graphic, so if you do not wish to see pig from bullet to butcher-block, just don’t click through to the photo gallery, which I will add as soon as I have a chance to figure out the photo album plug-in I just installed.

Gathered for the harvest.

Randall's Pig Harvest Serenade

Randall plays the pig to the other side.

Randall was one of the butchering experts present (Mike the other). Randall prefers not to be present during the actual kill. From around the other side of the house, up on John’s mural, his fiddle serenade helped calm all actively involved, maybe even the pig too.

David & Phillip Kendall

David & Phillip Kendall

David & Phillip Kendall showed up to deliver tables and chairs right before the kill. Phillip jumped in and helped with the processing along with Mike, Dory, Mark, Randall, John, and myself.

Yet another unintentional comedic moment provided by John at the very end of the night… John went into the woods for a “gut run” … on the edge of a drop-off, he swings the very heavy bucket to toss the contents, looses his footing, and he and the bucket both went tumbling down the hill. He somehow managed to not injure himself nor rupture the bucket contents. Too bad it wasn’t caught on film … the description alone had us red-faced with laughter.

Click here to view all pig harvest photos…

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Community loves back the farm

Daisy in her Healing mediation

Friday, Saturday & Sunday September 4th. Dory and I have had our in town (friday) Yoga with Joe Taft (yowser) and stopped in to” Chai Pani” for Indian lunch with Leigh of Mountain Express, chatting with one of the owners and inviting them to the Terra Madre Slow Food event that is being held on the 18th at Sunswept. Dory and I managed to find some assorted plants to replace the weeds that we would be pulling on Saturday. Friday nite Mary Ellen of (Artist way group) and friend Eli arrive to enjoy the evening with us.

Saturday begins early with Eli and Mary Ellen assisting Dory tossing the rest of the hay bales into under the slab away from weather. As morning unfolds Dory is on the Tractor Bush-hogging all the fields on Ananda and above the house an all day event for her you Go Girl!!   Leigh and (mom in law) Sam/Claudia join in the clean up along with Vanessa cleaning, weeding and replanting the front garden spiral and grotto area.  Vincente and Andre were in the fields weed eating away while John continues to paint his incredible offering to the Sun and Moon on the concrete slab.   Dory and Mike of Mike Whitney with boyz (Leeland and Hardy) attended to the continuing education and creati0n of Bio-char.  Mike was also replacing the Apple cider press parts with some cherry wood as well as fixing some water issues and sharpening tools to cut up that healthy comfrey!   I was scrambling along with others cleaning up the grotto and front garden spiral.  There was barn cleanup, horse petting, dog petting and while this was moving forward there was a big PORK roast slow cookin its way with a peach/tomatoe/onion/pepper/balsamic marinade to feed the team later on.  I had big hopes to press  cider on Sat nite but we were all too bushed, everything was set up and in place for Sunday tho and the Hot tub was calling my name along with the best Best Mojitos I have ever had sans Vanessa (she has become my personal fav for mix mistress) !!!!! Yeah mojitos with dinner which everyone helped cook. Vanessa also whipped up a white farm peach cobbler and Camille came just in time with coffee ice cream.   Leigh and Sam slept over, I think the mojitos and warm bath water were calling to them more than the drive home so we had a farm full of inhabitants.

Sunday am Dory has whipped up one her Amazing cornbreads yet again along with some yum eggies and hot chocolate for the boyz.  As morning unrolls dory has found that Daisy has a bad right lower leg she is  hobbling up at the barn so she is left free to wander a bit out of the fencing to see how she will progress.   Smart Cow that she is winds her way down into a shade and finds rest and healing where of all places but at the site of the Tibetan prayers and Homa.  She spends most of the day relaxing here getting up now and then to eat grass and water finding the view and shade to her liking.   The group is about now Leeland, Hardy, Sam, John, Mike, Vanessa &  me are in gathering of the apples mode.  Vanessa had gotten down most of the pears that were left we scoured the garden trees and then made our way down to the low field and filled up the front end loader…up we go washing and loading for the first press of the season, pear-apple yum……..Good job everyone we drank a few gallons and put up 16 1/2 the lower trees have that again on the branch, another days press.  Sam says her good byes and we are winding down another day Vanessa has found whats left of the rum and made us some Pina coladas thanks girlfriend.  A visit from friend Randall Lenear who brings his good vibes to our space and David Kendall appears at dusk with a load of apples and some friends who get to use the press and watch the sun go down another day full of community and cooperation I am a lucky human.

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Another visit home

Here I am again at the farm, So grateful there is a place to come that captures the moment of season shifts, starlight, and good company.

I got in late sunday nite did some unwind in the hot tub and crashed in the Granny flat (each room has its name here), a great nights sleep and then into the mix.  Day one monday I am in doing mode, WOW I check the logs behind the pond cabin and yippee there are a whole  big bowl of Shitakes some to eat and freeze.  Dory and I pick tomatoes Yum, get some of those into the freezer for winter mealtime.  John and Dory are off to get hay over Caldwell mountain with the trailer, while I gather myself to embrace the everything of here so good.  When they return we unload ALot of hay.. then as dusk approaches the 3 of us go back to reload trailer and truck.  Yum dinner and we do the 3 robots on the couch and crash.  Day 2 Tuesday I begin by sorting out the back freezers for this years harvest getting the defrost on and then out in the garden to pick veggies.  Carrots and Taters, beans, beets, and chard, oh my, then more of day watering visiting Grace the horse while dory puts here through her paces. In the afternoon dory and I return with the truck to get last bales of hay on the field.  I am puttering about as I do and getting the dinner ready as Camille and Diana will join us.  Beef stew with carrots, celery, parsley and onion, and a dash of home canned tomato sauce, potatoes (fresh dug purple and red) with parsley and rosemary fried in olive oil, harvard beets (with local honey to sweeten), chard and mushrooms, and tomatoes with basil and oregano drizzled with balsamic and oil.  Then the hens ( Camille, Diana, Dory and I) decide to shoot up to Max Patch to watch Venus rise through the setting sun and Smoky mountain back drop.  The hay was high so it was especially quiet and mystical walking the mowed path and sitting to be with the starlight being shined on us.  Another stellar night of milky way shooting stars and fullness.. here I am in day 3 completing my freezer task now the big one is defrosting and I have chopped down the ragweed along the flower beds, I heard a clamoring and looked around to find the pigs and cows had come to watch me wrestle the weeds I guess mish-el Tv is good stuf for animal entertainment.  I am  happily and joyfully entering into evening.  Bless this farm and all it offers I am one lucky girl.

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Once in a lifetime…

Plans for the fundraiser are really coming together.

Chef Mark has a nice outline for the food-prep and cooking schedule. We have several folks already eager to help out over the three days. Food-prep will start two days prior to the actual Sept. 18 fundraiser … well sort of, since technically you could say food prep began months ago when crops were planted, chicks and piglets were bought, etc. … so, really just the final stage of food-prep will begin Sept. 16th.

Still, more hands will be needed for the chopping, serving, and cleaning before, during, and after the event. So, if you have a heart for volunteering or just want in on what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime cooking extravaganza, we would welcome your participation!!

I say once-in-a-lifetime because it’s very rare these days for a feast of this size to be done truly from scratch, truly farm-to-table, all the way. And the centerpiece dish — Porcetta — is an old-world dish that is rather time-consuming (deboning the pig, deboning the chickens, stuffing chickens, then stuffing pig with stuffed chickens … result after 12-20 hours of slow roasting is a super succulent, boneless roast that can be sliced to reveal all of those nested layers). Because it requires a whole pig (expensive), expertise (deboning), and loads of time (slow roasting), hardly anyone does this preparation anymore. So, yes, from the foodie, culinary side of life, very once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!!

For the vegetarians, there will be loads of non-meat dishes and loads of produce prep. We could also use some fresh apple cider pressers. We have a beautiful antique apple press that we’ve hooked up to a bicycle-pedal arrangement for the cranking. Makes it a lot easier, though still definitely exercise.

To volunteer or get more info, drop us an email. We have space for overnighting if you’d like to participate more than one day.

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Countdown to culinary delights…

The Slow Food Asheville “Mountain Fire” Terra Madre Fundraiser is just a month away now.

Sunswept will be hosting the event on September 18, which will include a homegrown, scratch-made, medieval fantasy of fire-kissed foods, with a slow-roasted Sunswept Berkshire pig as the centerpiece.

The fundraiser will help eight WNC organic farmers and slow food producers (two from Sunswept) with travel expenses so they may attend the international Slow Food “Terra Madre” conference in Italy this October.

We hope to have 200 people attend. So, a big event! Tickets are $45 and will be available soon on the Slow Food Asheville website.

Many hands are going into bringing this about. Each of the WNC Terra Madre delegates is contributing time, materials, and talent. Our guest chef, Mark Rosenstein (founder of The Market Place restaurant), will be soliciting local, slow-food-minded restaurants to contribute additional side dishes. Many friends of Sunswept will be pitching in for the extensive food prep … we will even butcher the pig and some 30 chickens here on the farm.

Check out the planned menu, and let your taste-bud imagination run wild…

Slow Roasted Porcetta
whole Berkshire pig, stuffed with young chickens and hickory-roasted overnight,
served with wild fruit dipping sauces

Chargrilled Chicken
seasoned with the devil’s own fiery chili pepper rub


Riot of Fall Salad
with Cider Dressing

Whole Wheat Wood Oven Breads
served with roasted red bell pepper spread & herbed egg salad

Spiced Apple Sauce
infused with autumn flavors

Ember-Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
Potatoes, Garlic and Butternut Squash

Wood-Fire Baked Ratatouille
Gratin of eggplant, tomatoes & sweet peppers


Sicilian Cannoli
Rustic Apple Tarts
Honey Ice Cream

The fundraiser will also include a silent auction of many fine, local crafts and services including several of Dory’s handmade jewelry pieces.

Before dinner begins at 5:30 p.m., folks will be able to preview the auction items and tour the farm, starting at 3 p.m.

We will be pressing fresh cider for the dinner that afternoon as well. Our press is a beautiful antique from the 1800s that we’ve added pedal-power to. Folks will be invited to give it a whirl themselves if they like.

There will be live music featuring friend CaroMia during the meal.

For even more details, check out the press release article we’re sending out to all the local media.

In addition to supporting the Slow Food philosophy and wishing to bring back all sorts of useful learning from Terra Madre that we can use here on the farm, Sunswept decided to contribute heavily to this event because it is also supporting the formation of a Spring Creek Food Group.

Seven of the eight WNC Terra Madre delegates are in Madison County and are in the process of exploring collaboration as a “food community.”

These types of food groups are often called Presidia. They are collections of artisanal food producers that collaborate in various ways to let small producers be more economically viable. Italy has some of the most long-lasting and successful Presidia in the world, and we are all hoping to learn from their example as one of the many objective in going to Terra Madre.

We don’t know what form the Spring Creek Food Group’s collaboration will take. Often, these groups form around a single type of food, but our group is quite varied — more joined by geography as well as dedication to organic, sustainable production methods.

So, this is all very new, fresh, and unformed as yet, but we’re very excited about starting the ball rolling and eager to see what shape things take.

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yoga pics

Daniel has shared his photos of  Mado and Meghan’s Fullness Retreat here on the farm.  Fun Food Friends, good yoga.



yoga early in the morning while the sun crested the ridge and began the day

singing saturday night, chanting, dancing, and food from the gardens prepared by many hands helping emma in the kitchen

when the retreat started we didn’t know each other well, through the coming together on a sticky mat we gave voice to a circle of seekers open to the possibilities.  If Space is held open to the possiblities,  the universe shows up!  We can stand as witness to moment along side the cows, pigs roosters, sun moon and song in the night, and thunder on the mountains all talking with us as we sing ourselves out.

We carry within us now a grain of  that positive gift, of just that simple mind change, to know you can hold the possibilities open every day, and, that the universe will show up.    all boats rise.

mado and meghan held the balance asking us to step into grace and express fully into each move and to feel your neighbor’s support in doing the same.  the birds aang the cow blessed us with moos, and  the piggies snorted from their pasture view.  the shade of tent gave rise to breezes up drafting a dance with the sun.warm wonderful feelings of all of this.

please come again.


There is a new moon on Monday/Tuesday, a new cycle begins again and with that for me one part of summer is released so the more internal expansion might begin more so. Summer solstice as a peak of year is what I find in many ways, and the rest of the seasons of the cycle hold a support place to solstice.  First  just the glow of summer, and then stabilizing the thrust of the year, maybe comes the digest of the year and recognizing the fruit of this year’s growing time, another ring of growth like on a tree  I find it hard to pull new things into the world more after solstice.  Filling the cup is the message I hear that now and look to prepare and seed another beginning, next cycle, next year. So for me, the garden is stable, and a clear month for metal smithing and making,, the other hat I wear.  Thank you people for a ravishing mid summer’s night.  On to the tower,  the life guard’s station, my shop, away from phone and computer. Metal and myself and my horses.  Room to stretch right there.  Others will blog Enjoy!!

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comings and goings

 Prayer Vessel Ceremony June 20 2010

comings and goings

Michele is a force for sure.  When we are here and Michele is here, all boats rise together.

Younger family went west for a 10 day boating date with western family, so, Michele headed south for the cool(er) hills of Sunswept Farm. We sometimes call ourselves the 3 robots, for you old scifi channel buffs,  commenting on the world as it passes by, and one soap in particular.

Michele got down here saturday night of the yoga retreat that was here last weekend in July with music and singing in the cool night air  here on the farm under the peaked lite tent.  For the final morning yoga Sunday, there were about 20 people here, michele included.  We teamed up for breakfast for the 25 yogs and massagers ( michele got one of these too), musicians and us. Mi’chele always helps with the program of getting the assistants into the kitchen makin with us.  We made lemon curd and maple scones for the lemon curd to go on. ummmmmm  our new french friend did great following the director of curd, michele..  (please laugh now)  we had lemon squeezing along with orange, hummus, home grown sausage patties and more.  So the moving this place into a more better hum is what happens when michele is here.  While sleeping well in the cool mountain nights and rising as we do, we got lots done.. we got to have a horse spa moment, where we took each horse, Joyti, Grace & Bob out to the front of the house, where michele had hot water, and horse shampoo, & scrubbers.  the horses had 4 hands scrubbing everywhere, itching everything, ears, chest, belly ( very dirty bellies).  each horse just stood there, didn’t move at all.  we had dropped the rope cause each was just in such pleasure mode, why move?

friend veronica came along a week later, with a tamale plan, something that happens here every now and then. something happens, something in the air, maybe it is break between summer session at ab tech and fall, so some have a more still moment. but long time buddy, veronica, AKA veronimale brought all the fixin’s and a friend to make tamales. To the corn and masa makin’s we added homemade  chicken stock and lots of butter, and some of our slow cooked pork for filling, along side of black beans and greens and a few more friends to help eat the moment.  that night we also met WWOOFers for the first time, young folk who go from farm to farm to help and to see how people do their selves, moving like a traveler through to >>?? some destination that seems to be mostly self defined.  that was lots of fun.  through the week and a half people seemed to come and go and come,  along side of picklin, and cannin’   we weeded and laughed a whole!!! lot. Michele is planning on being here for much of the summer 2011.. oh boy the circle , an arc is established with 3 or more…meghan ganser shared her thought that this land has it’s own dharma,, we circle in our way around this truth as co-owners creators here, ah let the cool breezes flow through as well.  bye michele with love and gratitude for the connection to the universe. lightning strikes here in the mountains, again. more to come

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make your own biochar

At the turn of the gardens from spring/early summer crop offerings to fall garden, we have added our homegrown!!! biochar to the lower garden raised beds.  yay!!

Some was saved to do a “real” experiment, and chart up what we find.  Real tracking will happen in the greenhouse at the house.  there biochar will be added to one of the two beds only, the other bed will receive fertilizer in the form of the same composted manure and  rock phosphate, and some additional lime.  the biochar bed will also receive some additional lime.

Way back in May we made our first biochar.  Mike Whitney and i packed a central 55 gal steel drum w/as much scrape wood as would fit, turned it end

up with open end on the bottom to reduce the oxygen available to the inside of the barrel, and so we wouldn’t make a bomb..

Then we put a large portion of a bigger 500 gallon oil drum around this filled 55 gal barrel. in the donut like shape around the 55 gallon barrel, we built a wood fire made of high temp refuse like very dry twigs and brush of all sorts laced with more dense stuff to keep the fire going.  To make biochar is to get a fire going around that inner barrel that gets up to about 900F and stays there for a few hours.  This makes the wood inside the 55 gallon barrel hot enough to turn the contents into this particular kind of charcoal.  We have done our little experiment twice now fist time we got the inner barrel hot enough the second time we didn’t.

What we got from the inner barrel first time, was a very fine dust of charcoal, shiney, slippery, way too easy to inhale if you stir it.   maybe

we got 15 pounds of biochar that we then added to some of our wonderful manure from cows, horses and chickens, barn fodder, and put that in another 55 gallon drum, plastic this time and then added water.  Oh what a brew it made.  yum if you are a worm and pooh eating things and such.. we let that steep & cook under some old grain bags as a lid for about 2 months.  Now we have moved and used in the garden.  empty barrel remains,, nourished raised beds arise. i got to say that i was in the garden transplanting celeries for a while after putting the biochar down.  By the time i left the garden  the plants near what had been spread were already saying thank youfor the nourishing bump. i could already see a difference.  maybe it is just me, but,, ummmmm..that was fast.

Here is a youtube from James Lovelock, founding thinker of the gaia principle, speaking about biochar:   james lovelock

also a youtube about biochar that will knock some socks.if you like the facts  .

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