Where did you grow up, currently live and any other places that you call home? Any favorite seasons/plants/animals of those places that stick out?
I grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit, Michigan. I am currently living in rural mid-east Michigan and am working towards transitioning full time to north west Michigan. I spent 6 years in the Sonoran desert of Arizona and that region will always be my home in my heart away from home.
The subtle cusp of spring into the increasingly fast pulse of spring- mid April to early May in my region is always my favorite time. The quickening pace of farm work, days spent seeding, gathering the first feral greens, turning our hoop house beds over and tending the first spring crops, watching and hearing the return of the warm season birds, all of the bubbling potential and greeting the sun back home. This is always such a tangibly special time of the year.
Sandhill cranes nest on the land where I live. They migrate here in droves and their call is the trumpet of spring. I love to watch them feed and sing to each other in the adjacent wet pastures as I go about my work. Later in the spring, they trot around with their colts, and in the summer they hang out in our backyard picking grains from our chicken’s poop as we pasture them around our yard. I have become very close to the cranes and other birds I am lucky to cohabitate on this land with.
What is your work about? How did you find your way to this work?
I work at the intersections of agriculture, education, exploration, and inspiration- with a deep personal under current of community reskilling/remembering. In my current role, I manage and direct a youth based educational farming program in the context of both modern and ancient Jewish agrarianism. Within this, we explore how we can relate to the land where we live while acknowledging the tieback to our agrarian jewish ancestors. The core of my work both at this farm and otherwise- is giving space, resources, opportunity, and support for both adults and children in educational, agricultural spaces. I found my way to agriculture after a painful stint with drug addiction, dis-ease, depression, general malaise, and loss for where I belonged and fit into the world. Learning how to grow food for myself and for others was almost akin to a rebirth in my life and helped pull me out of a very dark and scary place.
What is your morning routine?Since my husband and I both farm, we wake up pretty early, around 6 (in the growing season) when the birds start to absolutely shriek outside our window (we call this “noisy noisy bird time”). I feel very fortunate that we get to spend our mornings together. I try to have a big glass of water with a squeeze of citrus or a mug of broth before coffee. My silly little coffee routine is one of the highlights of my day. I use local raw cream, various herb and mushroom extracts, bovine collagen, etc to make a blended frothy coffee that I can enjoy either in our front sun porch room or on the couch on our back patio. I haven’t been much of a breakfast eater the past few years but I am trying to get better about having something savory, protein dense, and nourishing to start my day. From there I hop on my bike and ride over to the farm to meet my team and start on my list for the day.
What's your self-care flow? When depleted, how do you refill your well?
Self care for me looks like doing something each day to take care of my future self and reaping what my past self has done for my current self. It means making sure I commit to doing what I need to do now to meet the needs I might have when I’m feeling low, slow, or in a bind. I try to make sure to create something every day that brings me joy and serves a purpose. Typically that means crafting in my kitchen putting food and herbs by for a later time. Physically, I do not feel rejuvenated or rested by napping or laying around. I feel much more refreshed, relaxed, and at home in myself after going for a bike ride, a walk, or harvesting some feral and cultivated plants to play with. I love to challenge myself and have been enjoying weight lifting the last few years. I have a heavy desire to be a strong and capable woman for a very long time and weight lifting has become a conduit for me to see if I can try to make that happen. My work puts me in the sun all day, which I enjoy, but tending to my skin and staying hydrated are definitely always important.
What gives you the most pleasure in life?
I get a lot of pleasure from sharing the produce I grow or the food I make. Selfishly, stumbling across a patch of edible wild mushrooms is kind of a rocketship to pleasuresville. Also, as sappy as this sounds, my husband’s laugh and smile really do it for me.
Describe your perfect day.
My perfect day is in late July on the sandy shores of northern lake Michigan. There would likely be several aged cheeses, dead ripe local stone fruits, sparkling waters, and salami or two in tow. After a few hours biking the lake shore trails, hot and stinky and ready for a dip, pulling off trail to a quiet spot to strip down and jump into the clear, cool, blue water. A lake Michigan Mikveh (jewish ritual bath) as I tend to call it. Followed by an hour or so of laying around in the sun before hopping back on a ride where maybe there are some fun mushrooms to oogle at!
What is your grocery shopping routine like? Any staples?
Even as a devoted bulk buyer/grower/preserver, I still really love to hit up local markets and seasonal farm stands. In the summer I will stop at almost any farm shop/roadside orchard to pick up quarts and quarts and quarts of ripe stone fruits. My husband and I purchase our meat by the whole/half beastie, so we don’t do much meat shopping outside of that. When we do, it’s usually for jerky or pieces parts of the animal that we don’t get much of from a bulk purchase (tongue, heart, oxtail, etc). As for veggies, I feel very lucky that I am in a farming role that accommodates an all-you-can-eat/preserve benefit so there isn’t much outsourcing in the way of vegetables. My raw dairy pickups are once a week and that takes care of a lot of our fresh dairy needs. Other than that, we do stop in to preferred grocery stores biweekly or so for things like yogurt, citrus, condiments that we don't make ourselves, avocados, olive oil, coconut water, coffee, etc.
What are your top 3 favorite cookbooks/books?
Oh gosh this is a hard one! I’m going to give you three of each.
The Jewish Book of Food
The Joy Of Cooking (can’t go wrong with this classic!!!)
Radical Homemakers - Shannon Hayes
East Of Eden - John Steinbeck
Against The Grain, A Deep History Of The Earliest States- James C Scott
Describe for me your perfect picnic spread.I love this question!!
- Cured meats like salami/coppa/bresaola and an assortment of tinned fishies
- Some sharp n tangy hard cheeses from various dairy animals
- A beautiful, bubbly, cold, alcohol free elixir to sip
- Sliced up cucumbers, kohlrabi, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and other finger friendly veggies from the garden drizzled with olive oil and flakey salt (is there also a burrata ball tucked in there?? hmmm)
- Various stone fruits and berries with a big bowl of freshly whipped cream (sweetened with herbal honey)
- A bouquet of flowers from the cutting garden- the eyes need to eat too
How do you support yourself using plants?
My relationship with plants is rooted in reciprocal tending. I tend them, they tend me. This for me goes far beyond the tangible of working daily to cultivate plants, and into the aetherial/spiritual nature of what happens within these actions. While I absolutely do my best to work with herbal infusions, tinctures, oils etc daily, it really is the BE-ING with plants that is the most supportive. Something I really make an effort to do is to come out to the farm, to the forest, and where the plants are to just observe and relax. My work as a farmer and as a hobby subsistence forager puts me in a mental space of “get it done and do, do, do, do”. It’s important for me to step back and relate in a way where I can look through the lens of noticing, slowing down, enjoying, and just existing with the plants around me without an agenda or having to “do” anything
Current favorite plant allies you’ve been working with?
I run super dry and do my absolute best to consume moistening herbs every day. I am loving my marshmallow root infusions, seaweeds, roselle, and linden leaf + flowers. I’ve also really loved adding freshly dug and roasted dandelion root to my coffee pot in the morning for some spring liver loving and it’s delicious flavor. Cleavers are definitely heavy on my spring rotation too!
Any upcoming projects you want to share? Things you’re currently looking forward to?
My husband and I are working on building and developing our new farm project Northwoods Farmstead and Skills Center in Hersey, Michigan. This is one of those projects that will never be “done” per say, but we are really enjoying the process of breathing life into this farm. We are working on building the farm footprint, getting ready to begin construction of a rental cabin on the property, renovating our centennial farm house, and setting up resilient, food bearing, community scale systems.
Follow along @alexandraskyee