For eight years, Susan Waughtal and Roger Nelson (both 58) have had a mission: “We feel it is our privilege and responsibility to celebrate regional creators and to open our farm and share the good life at Squash Blossom Farm with the community,” says Waughtal.
“What Susan and Roger are doing is nothing short of astounding,” says author Teresa Marrone.
The pair’s latest celebration of regional creators will be “an informal, hands-on, up close and personal afternoon with three authors,” including Marrone, called Books, Banter, and Little Bites.
Books, Banter and Little Bites will run from 2:30-6 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, and will feature a book signing by Lucie Amundsen (author of Locally Laid), Spike Carlsen (author of The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects), and Marrone (author of Dishing up Minnesota).
Squash Blossom is a picturesque farm near Oronoco. It is dotted with black and white guinea fowl, boasts regular Sunday wood–fired pizza meals featuring local music from 4-6 p.m., and hosts cultural events including a Picnic Operetta with tidbits served between bouts of belted lyrics. The farm dates back to 1910, and Waughtal and Nelson have farmed it using permaculture principles. Waughtal describes the farm as having “gardens going crazy and baby ducks and teenage chickens running around,” but the farm feels comfortably familiar, like a bucolic, art-filled version of your own backyard.
Amundsen will describe the fine art of building a “successful pasture-raised egg business.” Waughtal says that pasture-raised eggs, like those raised by Amundsen and Squash Blossom, are both delicious and nutrient-packed in part because they’ve been laid by “savvy chickens that know how to hunt for worms and bugs.”
Carlsen, who’s written several books focused on wood, will show people how to build a Leopold Bench, a simple yet comfortable six-board bench. He’ll also share other tips about backyard building.
Marrone plans to “lead folks on a wild food ID session” where she’ll point out naturally occurring edibles that can be found in Squash Blossom’s pastures and woods. “Foraging can be done in rough areas of rural acreage but also in city boundaries and in places like suburban office park shelter belts,” says Marrone. Some of the items that can be foraged at Squash Blossom include black walnuts, wild mushrooms, and elderflowers.
Both Carlsen and Marrone have ties with Squash Blossom. “Our annual Cow Puja and Farm Fair is featured in Teresa’s book Dishing Up Minnesota, as well as our Tomato Tart recipe. Our greenhorn farmer experiences building fences and erecting a high tunnel greenhouse are relayed in Spike’s Book of Homestead Building Projects,” says Waughtal, who promises that the tasty tomato tart will be one of the bites the event will feature.
As Waughtal, an avid devourer of books, puts it, “good books are such a gift,” but to Marrone, the event offers an “opportunity for city folks to get out into the nearby country to learn about how quality food is produced.”