Tie That Binds

IMG_2559I want to tell you about our awesome time in Frostburg, MD; sharing in community with Jon Felton and his kinfolk at the Savage River Farm. And, I will tell you of all the practical ways we shared during our time with these friends, but first I need to get out a few poetic musings about community. For, as we travel, we are continually blown away and encouraged by the ways we are “put together” with others.

So, if you’ll bare with me…

Blessed be the tie that binds… There is a beautiful community out there, hidden yet available, woven together with a tie that binds our hearts in love. The deepest love possible, the love of One who would lay down his life, lay down his life for every tongue, tribe or creed. This love is unfaltering, secure and safe. It is a tie that brings freedom, not bondage. For this gift, we are thankful.

The tie allows for the flow of life to transpire, like that of the interdependent relationship of vine and branch. We stay close to the source waiting with anticipation for opportunities to be united with kinfolk, in order to exchange the witness of our creators goodness, faithfulness and grace; slow to anger, quick to love. When these moments happen, we are filled with such amazement and joy, and our cup runs over.

Honestly, I could geek out about community all day. None the less, our cup surely did run over in Frostburg, MD and continued on through Harrisburg, PA, Shepherdstown, WV and Philadelphia.

IMG_2569We’ll start with Frostburg. Our host was Jon & Leslie Felton, who we had know about for years. Many of our friends, spoke of this “Jon Felton” and when we were coming through this area, we knew we needed to spend time with his family. So, we reached out and his response was welcoming and encouraging. He invited us into his community, linking us up with friends at Savage River Farms as a place to park our bus and neighbor alongside for the week.

We arrived on a sunny afternoon and settled into our field at the farm (which later we had quite the adventure getting stuck and unstuck). We sat down with Ben and Hana, the owners, and came up with a plan that allowed us to learn, serve and share in community with them.

IMG_2570The fella’s got busy in the fields, replanting and pulling weeds. It was fun to see our bus rider, Chris, get his hands in the dirt for the first time, soaking in the goodness of growing food. The guys also learned about how shiitake mushrooms are grown, including holes drilled into logs, a spore paste lathered into the holes and once in that position, a solid years of rest. Then, moving the logs to a water source where they soaked for 24 hours, were stacked like lincoln logs, covered and with in the next few days, mushrooms began to burst forth!

Meanwhile, Graciana and I spend most of our time in the farmhouse kitchen, making meals for the crew. The farm, about three years old, offered much to do, and with the longer summer days, the crew was making hast to get things done. Needless to say, meals seemed to be the last thing on anyones mind. So, it was natural to offer this gift. Plus there was nothing more pleasing that seeing the smiles on folks faces after they enjoyed a meal, refreshed and ready for more hard work. We also helped Hana with the Farmers Market, setting up, selling, meeting town locals, and packing up.

IMG_2603Mid-week, we went to the school that Ben and Jon taught at and we shared our merrymaking, encouraging the youth in identity, reconciliation and moving towards a life that is filled with joy and love.

Later, we spent a little time in Jon’s studio laying down gang vocals for fellow creative, Mark Van Steenwyks book, Wolf at the Gate. 

At the end of the week, we moved the bus to downtown Frostburg, city of about 8,075 residence and home to Frostburg State University. We hit the area just after school let out, so got more of the local feel for the place. We learned that Frostburg was originally called Mount Pleasant until 1820, when the government developed a postal service, and the town was renamed Frostburg. We also learned that the town was one of the first cities on the “National Road,” US 40. But most of all we learned about Jon & Leslie Felton and their love for their family and community. We learned about Jon’s involvement in a traveling arts carnival, “demonstration village” experiment, and education and social outreach project, call Carnival de Resistance. We also met many of his kinfolk and one evening we all shared a foraged meal sourced and served up by local chef, Horvey.

IMG_2649At the end of the week, we shared in song at Dante’s Bar, a local establishment on the main drag. We opened the night with a song circle, then a Holland’s set and Jon’s band, Soulmobile finished out the evening with a rollicking set of originals! That night we met, fellow band mate, Jake Compton, who invited us to his hometown of Harrisburg, PA. So, we exchanged info and set a date!

As our week came to an end, we took a moment to soak it all in, the goodness that comes when we engage in community, entering into that interdependent relationship, and caring for one another. We are thankful for moments like these where we are woven together with  kinfolk in ways we never dreamed possible. We are forever bound to these friends and look forward to the day we get to roll back to through.

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Farm to Table

IMG_0749Farm to Table. It’s the new hot hashtag, all the rage. Restaurants popping up all over the country who partner with local farms so that they can claim the freshest food in town. Traveling chef’s like Jim Denevan from Outstanding in the Field have gotten in on the action by linking up with farms to put on exquisite farm to table dinners, using ingredients picked or slaughters that day, selling tickets to the first 50-200 people willing to pay anywhere from $150-$1000 a meal.

As we travel we find ourselves seeking out the freshest, organic foods we can find. Firstly because of our health, and also because we want to support local as we make our way. We thought we had a pretty good grip on where to find fresh food and how to cook with local ingredients but nothing tops what we learned during our week in Lafayette, LA on the Gotreaux Family farm.

It’s been a week since we last sat at the Gotreaux family table sharing our last meal and saying goodbye. As I sit at my desk eating my egg salad sandwich made with the fresh eggs from their farm, hatched the day we left, I am reminiscing about our rich time with them.

This was our third visit with this awesome family of 12 and unlike previous visit where we just observed farm life, this time around we were invited to actually work alongside of them on the farm and in the kitchen. Craig helped build a brooder house (nursery for baby chicks) and Banjo learned how to care for and catch the organic Tilapia. We all had our hands in the dirt on harvest day and on market day Graciana and I got to make our first meal for the whole group, 18 of us in total. We had the help of the twins and through out the week they would stay by our sides, helping us navigate in the kitchen, find or pick ingredients, and prep cook. Occasionally, some of the boys would drift in the kitchen, observing and if they weren’t busy I’d put them to work. We also had the help of our friend, Victoria Jones, one of the Gotreaux’s interns.

IMG_0755Our first meal out of the gate was Moroccan Vegetable Ragout, fresh-baked naan, Greek Salad and Blueberry Pie. All but a few ingredients came from the Gotreaux garden. The dinner was a hit, and as the week progressed we were invited to cook a few more meals. Because of the cold rainy weather and ingredients available we ended up choosing hardy winter recipes. Our menu included:

Dinner: Sweet Potato, Red Bell Pepper soup, Cheesy Cauliflower Bread, a Garden Salad and Aussie Lemon Bars.

Lunch: Turkey Burrito’s, side of Guacamole and chips/salsa.

Dinner: Rosemary Potato Soup, Fresh Baked Baguette, Arugula Pear and Fresh Parmesan Salad, Choc No-bake cookies.

Formal Dinner: Fresh Tilapia Ceviche appetizer, Savory Chicken Crepes, Spinach Apple Blue Salad, Aussie Lemon Bars.

IMG_0832There is nothing like cooking with fresh ingredient but I have never had the privilege of cooking with eggs, vegetables, dairy, or tilapia that was fresh picked or caught that day and not just that day, but moments before I used them. I could ask for anything and if it was in season and available it would be brought to me, ready to use. I might ask, do you have celery and one of the girls would answer yes, walk out the door, over to the garden and minutes later walk in with celery. And, did you know that most nutritious, delicious part of the celery are the leaves? I learned that celery is really not meant to go to stalk and the pale green celery we buy in the store looks and tastes nothing like the lush dark green savory celery I used in my Rosemary Potato Soup. I still love ants on a log, but I’m not sure I can go back to the vacant celery stalks in the grocery store without feeling like I’m being duped.

IMG_0848There is also nothing like cooking for 10 (plus our two) growing young people, all excited see what I can do with their harvest, ready to try something new. Each meal, I could feel the anticipation and when they sat down to give my recipes a try, they were open and honest about how my flavors impacted their tastes buds. Thankfully, they liked most of what I made.

I know the rest of my family had an epic time on the Gotreaux farm and that they each have individual stories that are just as profound. But for me, as far as travel experiences go, the opportunity to learn and create with the freshest ingredients, cooking alongside some of the most precious souls, and watching so many beautiful smiles as they raised their forks to mouth will go down in my top ten moments of community and growth. Farm to table has taken on a new meaning to me. It’s not just the new hot thing to do, it’s not just a marketing term, it’s an inspiring way of life and we are so blessed to have had the opportunity to live it!

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By the way if you are interested in any of the recipes that we made during our visit with the Gotreauxs please visit  Behind The Apron Strings; Recipes from the Road.

Wisconsin Rhythms

When we arrived in Wisconsin back in June, we all had mixed feelings. We were excited to see all of our dear friends but anxious to see how our community would receive us back into the fold. Northeast Wisconsin, in particular, is a tough egg to crack. It’s a region with a definite rhythm. And, if you don’t beat to that drum then you don’t play in the band, so to speak. We’ve learned to walk humbly in this community, listen and learn the rhythm. All the while, gently encouraging different rhythms. I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been gone for a year and our perspective is different but this time around, we noticed much more reception to the “different” that we bring as a family and as The Hollands! We are so grateful for the open doors here in our home state. In the last two weeks we’ve performed about twenty times with double slots daily. As we get ready to head to Minnesota, we’re trying to soak in these last few moments. We are looking forward to one more pass through in September as we head to the West Coast for the winter.

Some of our highlights from our Wisconsin Tour:

The Fox River House, Appleton WI. This little gem is full of bright, creative and thoughtful folk.  We really felt like we were at a family reunion. We meet kinfolk from the moment we arrived until we departed. We were inspired by artist like Washington D.C’s, Chad Brady and a darling named, Elysa who did this pen and ink on a paper plate while we were performing. The Pizza was great and Jess, Laura and Patti took great care of us.  The spirit of hospitality is welcoming at the Fox River house and the twinkle lights in the beer garden make us feel right at home.

Gordon Lodge-Top Deck, Baileys Harbor, WI- The food is amazing, specially the desserts! Our favorite is the Creme Brulee. The staff offers a kind smile and helping hand and the owner/management treat us with respect. This is one of the most gracious and welcoming five star resorts we’ve ever performed at. They offer music Friday’s and Sunday’s in the summer. We arrived early and took advantage of the paddle boat and lounging in the shade.  Also, Gordon Lodge offers the best sunsets in Door County!

 A classy, sassy boutique in Fish Creek, WI. The Brilliant Stranger is owned by our friend, Dawn Patel. Dawn, is a creative visionary and when she invited us to come and play a set in her boutique we said, “Yes!” We enjoyed Luna Coffee and sang to folks who were happy to have a sit and listen, then shop joyfully as our music carried through the store. Grace and I were delighted, at our finish, to be able to pick out a special dress each. Craig was happy with his coffee and Banjo got a YoYo.

 Terry Naturally, Green Bay, WI- Wednesday nights, one of our favorites, the Terry Naturally Farmers Market is small but relaxed with a set up like a mini-festival or back yard party. Debra, the owner has her grill rolling, offering dinner for less than you would pay at a fast food joint and it’s all natural yumminess. There are a handful of venders, including a few farms from the area, Soap and beauty makers, Tea, a lemonade/popcorn stand run by a little guy about the age of 12. Also, Joyful Henna Designs is there with her rugs and pillows and calm comfort. And, there is always good music from 4-6:30. 🙂

WE LOVE YOU WISCONSIN!!