October 18, 2019

Ripple, Ripple, Ripple

Valle Vidal 
By Nancy Collins
22nd September 2019 

The Shuree ponds are my main focus during our stay in Valle Vidal. 
Mainly because of the calming and beautiful atmosphere I always find when water is near. 
I watch as the wind rushes across the surfacing of the water creating ripples
 which quickly expand cross the pond. These ripples are mesmerising. 

I start taking a series of short films which aim to capture the hypnotising effect these patterns create. 
I am interesting how one body of water can look so different at different times of the day and in various weather conditions. 
I experiment with varied angles to catch the light bouncing of the water and try to get the ripples to absorb the shot.

Through my experiments I become interested in the edges of the water. 
Where an interruption might create disturbances in the flow of the ripples. 

The sunlight on the water can be equally amazing and blinding. 

There is so much shape, texture and light to be found in water.

October 14, 2019

Corny Wednesday and a tale of two shelling methods

Anton Chico
Jake Gatehouse

An aspect of spending the week on Jen’s farm in Anton Chico that I found intriguing and eye opening came on what was labelled ‘Corny Wednesday’. The midweek day that featured all things corn, blue corn specifically with a few dashes of Amaranth seed harvesting thrown in for good measure.

After setting the amaranth seeds out to dry atop a blue tarp spread out in the mid-morning sun, we moved onto corn. The blue corn we were tasked with shelling had been harvested in 2016 and been stowed away in burlap sacks in the seed storage room. Visits to this room were welcome for a few reasons, it was considerably cooler than anywhere else and was also stacked full with super interesting seed samples. However, the room was also home to a bounty of harvested shallots and garlic which gave the small room a glorious aroma, and one that would leave me huffing and bathing in the scent for a good while. 

We learned that ‘shelling’ corn was the term used for separating the corn kernels from the cob and that there were two available routes to take. 

The Manual
This method required you to rub two ears of corn against one another in your hands in a twisting motion, using the small dimples around each kernel to catch one another and release under the pressure, thereby relieving kernels from the cob. We were warned of blisters, and soon enough I noticed flecks of red upon my knuckles (some accused my approach to this method to be too aggressive). I did enjoy this technique as it was incredibly satisfying when a large cluster of kernels was excavated and landed in the bucket below, but equally frustrating when two cobs just did not want to get along, or one was too wide to get a good grip upon. However, no bother, just select a different cob and send the un-shelled to the second method.
The Machine
This was an updated approach to the job compared to bare hands, but also carried the rickety evidence of age. Jen said she bought it from a second-hand store where it was being sold as a household decoration. A cast iron crank with teeth that would gobble up the corn, separate the kernels and then spit out the bare cob, leaving the bucket below to play catch. Each cob would take a matter of seconds however a group of around 3 or 4 people would be needed to smoothly operate this blue corn guzzler. One to crank, one to feed, one to weigh it down and one to hold and angle a paper bag so that the kernels would funnel cleanly into the bucket. 
There was a lot of differences in these two approaches to shelling corn and it became a topic of conversation to ponder over what is gained and what is lost during these forms of processing the crop. There is the obvious fact that with the machine method, a greater amount of corn can be processed in a quicker amount of time compared to the manual, in effect ‘saving time’. The volume of corn processed compared to the manual acts as quantifiable proof of this. Yet this is exactly the issue we spoke of after the corn shelling hour was up, the point that industrial machines work on quantifiable proof to exist and to justify their existence. And subsequently what they eliminate is the unquantifiable, the ceremonial, the conversations, the knowledge and stories that are shared and facilitated when a group of people sit around a bucket and share a task. And of which then become a necessity in passing the time. But is that really time lost? This was perceivable during the hour we shelled corn. Compared to a gently mull of conversation and clink of kernels hitting buckets that was coming from the manual team. The conversation that occurred in the machine team was pretty much all centered around the machine, organizing to make it run, then all conversation would be cut off when the crank was turned. It became evident that despite the task being the same, the differing methods created distinctly different spaces. I spent most time in the machine team so cannot speak of the conversations of the manual team, but the interrupted and fragmented ones that us on the machine team had eventually led to being ones of ‘let’s get this job done as quickly as possible’. Focusing on the task at hand due to our cranky friend but perhaps losing a more social aspect of tackling the task at hand.
Efficiency diminishes diversity
I guess the huge irony or hypocrisy of this industrial and quantifiable world we live in, is that there is an enormous loss that comes with it, as was demonstrated by the machine and the lack of diversity that it instilled in the process. Despite being the same crop, the variations in size and shape was vast and when you think about it not surprising at all. However, if a cob was too thin or thick, or shaped in a way that was awkward for the machine, it was rejected, or in an act of defiance would jam the system. These ‘rejects’ would then have to be sent over to the manual team where they would be shelled. So, with these systems that speed up the process it also creates huge amounts of waste of perfectly fine corn. Food waste is a huge issue in our society, being on Jens farm and participating in the seed exchange and being exposed to all these wild variations of shapes and colors of common foods was such an insightful and tasty treat and one of which I was very grateful. Also the gnarly stuff tastes WAY better!!!
Spending time on the farm and getting a glimpse behind some food processing techniques was a fabulous experience and one that I relished since having lived in large metropolitan cities my whole life and being ever too familiar with that lingering sterile flavor of supermarket food (obviously apart from when Mumma Gatehouse is behind the stove). So, a chance to go to a source of food and work to process that food and eventually eat it was an absolute delight. The farm and farming did take on this microcosmic quality and working on it would lead me to think of wider issues that exist in society. And it was with this hour of shelling, and the two differing approaches that stuck me most, because it made me think of the disconnection from food that exists today but also a wider, human disconnect. A disconnect that was exemplified by these two differing approaches, that show a small development of technology however a large difference, and the role of machines today and the human loss. The benefit of advanced technology is undoubted, yet It’s easy to see what is gained and sometimes harder to see what is lost, and what is fundamentally considered more important in our capitalist reality. That disconnect of process and engagement between people was evident even though nowadays both of these techniques would be considered manual. I wonder what the advanced electric corn guzzler would look like. YouTube would have the answer no doubt
 ‘Corny Wednesday’ was a great and thought-provoking day. Processing the corn, then grinding the corn, making fresh masa and tacos, and of course Bill’s goat. What a meal! 


October 13, 2019

Hands on Seeds

Ben Schoenburg
Anton Chico
October 2, 2019

So many seeds, processes, human-powered tools, and food. Amaranth was threshed by hand over a tarp and winnowed by pouring it from a height to let the casings or chaff blow away. It was then popped on a hot pan and eaten. Apples were picked, fed into the grinder, pressed, and drunk. Corn was shelled, winnowed, and ground to make masa, cornbread, and atole. Seeds from plants with the most desirable traits were stored in the seed vault to await the next planting. At the farm, each process begets another in a reciprocal dance of renewal and decomposition.  

October 12, 2019


Katie Keavenly
Anton Chico

Wow! So much to say about our experience at Jen’s farm in Anton Chico. Seed sovereignty, social justice, sustainability, history, land and water rights, acequias, and community supported agriculture were just some of the topics we were introduced to and which we discussed at length. What really was most meaningful to me was the collaborative and community processes we engaged in together. 
We were able to experience the process of harvesting corn, shucking it, grinding it into flour, making tortillas, then filling our bellies with tortillas+fillings. We all worked together to complete these tasks, making it more meaningful as we shared the work, as well as sharing stories and conversations.  The process of making apple cider was so fun as well. Collecting apples and putting them through the cider press was a collaborative effort in which we all got to enjoy the fruit juices of our labor. 
Being at the farm reawakened my awe for the magic and intelligence that exists in every seed. The fact that something so tiny can produce towering trees and an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables that sustain our existence, is by far one of the most amazing things on this Earth. 

Cider press in action:

October 11, 2019

Journal Day 16

By Wheeler Fink
Anton Chico
September 15, 2019

October 10, 2019

Farm Colours

Anton Chico
By Nancy Collins
16th September 2019

On Jenn and Bill’s farm in Anton Chico the vibrant colours are compelling. Buckets are overflowing with blue corn, plums and chilies. Purply pink amaranth sway in the breeze and juicy red apples dangle from trees. The beauty of farm life is present in the rainbow of colours we experience. From seed to table we are taken through the steps it takes to produce the food we eat.

There is something magical in the hands on, sensorial method we take;

Sinking your arm up to your elbow in a bucket of corn, feeling the kernels run through your fingers
Swaying on ladders
Picking your way through rows of fruit and veg
Grinding the corn till your arms ache
Feeling the sun on your back as you learn over amaranth seeds
Pressing your palms into the damp earth as you nestle a baby tree into its home
Seeing water flow down irrigation ditches you have helped dig
Smelling cloves of garlic stored away for winter
Tasting the cold sweetness of home grown apple cider

Are all part of the experience.

Seed and Food sovereignty is ever present in our minds as we learn to question where food comes from, the impact of growing techniques on the environment and the ever demanding food market.

October 9, 2019

Fresh Apple Cider!

By Hyunju Blemel
Anton Chico
October 1, 2019
1.       Pick the apples.

2.       Wash the apples.

3.       Place apples in the top of the press.

4.        Crank the handle to crush the apples into chunks.

5.       Press the apples in the barrel by cranking again.

6.       Collect the cider.

7. Enjoy!