Welcome to Common Fare

| 5/27/2011 1:35:04 PM

Let me introduce myself … I’m someone who is fascinated and fueled by all things food. But not fancy, complicated food — just good ole, real, common food. When I say real food I mean real butter, real meat, real heirloom and organic vegetables … you know, food the way our grandparents ate it before scientists at big corporations got ahold of it and ruined it. Hank Karen 

My husband, Hank Will (editor in chief of Grit magazine), and I farm on a small scale in Osage County, Kansas, where we mainly raise heritage livestock — Highland cattle, Mulefoot hogs, Katahdin sheep, chickens, turkeys, and geese, and a mess of dogs, of course, in various stages of obedience. We also grow a good-sized vegetable garden of mainly heirloom varieties. I am the editor of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed’s magazine Heirloom Gardener, and Hank’s great grandfather was a legendary pioneer seedsman in North Dakota (Oscar H. Will Co.), so I don’t think we’d have that any other way. I recently became an Extension Master Gardener in Topeka, so I am attempting to grow our garden with great care this year, hoping to increase our yields and eventually get us selling at the farmers market.

Besides growing food, cooking food, and eating food, there are a lot of other things that go on around our farm — mainly DIY projects for inside and outside the farmhouse. Hank and I are a strange breed … we can’t wait for the weekends so we can figure out what project to tackle next. Whether it’s facelifting the kitchen; painting the roof of our converted Butler grain bin goat house; processing and smoking sausages; harvesting hedge posts for a new sheep fence; scything hay; making hay rakes and pitchforks; or harvesting walnut trees for a new butcher block island top; most weekends we don’t even leave the farm. We get our entertainment from the animals, the stars, the plants, and the fires we build. We have decidedly rejected the consumer-driven lifestyle, and we try to make as many of the “things” we need as possible. After reading Shannon Hayes’ book Radical Homemakers, I was firmly on board that ship (in steerage, mind you), and now I am devoted to making our home a place of production, rather than just consumption.

About a year ago, I started a farm-based, bread-baking business called The Local Loaf, and every week I bake bread and other goodies to order. My daily balancing act consists of writing, editing, photography, housework, cooking, animal husbandry (dogs and livestock), gardening, volunteering for master gardeners, and once in a while, a lunch or walk with a girlfriend. It’s a big change from the days when I sat hunched over a computer under fluorescent lights as the editor in chief of the Hobby Farms group of publications. Back then I was so stressed out and burned out that I had little time to actually devote to this love of mine; but now, it’s all changed and life has begun anew.

Common Fare will chronicle all the things that go into making our farm—Prairie Turnip Farm — a center of production. If you’re so inclined, check out my other blog. Until we meet again …

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