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Of the Earth: Taking a summer solstice stretch

  • Elliston Bingham of JuJuBee Farm shows his goat’s milk soap to Ashfield resident Gail Abbott at a recent Greenfield Farmers Market. For the Recorder/Wesley Blixt

  • BLIXT



For the Recorder
Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Elliston Bingham of JuJuBee Farm is not opposed to sharing a thing or two during a long, engaging conversation at the Greenfield Farmers Market tent where he sells exquisite goat’s milk soap. My friend, Gail Abbott, coaxed me over to his tent recently, saying that I would enjoy talking to Bingham. She was right.

This is some of what you might learn, or want to already know, if you stop at his tent, next to the Hearthstone Artisan Bakery table:

Bingham came from Jamaica in the early 1990s, a native of the northern coastal town of Falmouth in Trelawny Parish; he lives in Shelburne Falls, where he keeps goats and works at the Bridge of Flowers, as well as doing some carpentry; he is installing solar panels to power his soap-making operation; he worked at the University of Massachusetts Amherst farm, where some of the students named one of the goats “JuJuBee”; he used to sell goat milk and cheese, but it became far less complicated to simply sell soap.

What does this have to do with food and farms, other than JuJuBee Farm’s role in the local agriculture community and economy?

Well, just this: As we hit the high summer solstice, it may be time to simply kick back, take a stretch, chat with Bingham in the shade of his tent and for me to provide updates on some of my recent columns.

ZZZzzzero: With all the hubbub (notice we avoided “buzz”) around the Langstroth Bee Festival, you may have missed a report in the journal, Science, indicating that bees are able to understand and work with the concept of “zero.”

“Bees demonstrated an understanding that parallels animals such as the African grey parrot, nonhuman primates and even preschool children,” the authors write. It is also worth noting that Ed Hillary, who first summited Mount Everest in 1953 with Tensing Norgay, once said that his most notable achievement was as a professional beekeeper in his native home of New Zealand.

Stopping by the coop on a snowy evening: Since my backyard chicken coop column, I have been targeted with a flood of emails from chicken-keeping websites. In the process, I’ve learned, for instance, that poet Robert Frost lived and worked as a poultry farmer in Derry, N.H. from 1900 to 1909. During that period, he published a dozen articles for two trade journals: The Eastern Poultryman and The Farm-Poultry. So, speaking of which, why did Beethoven get rid of his chickens? All they said was, “Bach, Bach, Bach …” I’m hoping that we can now put this thread to rest.

Thanks to Susan Pelis, an elementary school teacher from Greenfield who weighed in with this addition to my column on coastal Maine advice: “Five Islands Lobster Company in Georgetown is on an active fishing wharf, so it is a somewhat rustic atmosphere. There are picnic tables that overlook the five islands that surround this quaint, bucolic setting. Bring your own tablecloth. You also will need to bring your own adult beverages. Water, soda and milk are for sale. There is a lobster shack and a place where you order fish dinners and sandwiches. My favorite is the grilled salmon sandwich with a mustard dill dressing (instead of mayonnaise). The grilled haddock sandwich is just as delicious, too!”

Still composting: After three years in development, the Greenfield-based Compost Cooperative is up and running, and has started diverting waste away from the landfill. As you will likely remember, the co-op is an outgrowth of a Greenfield Community College program at the Franklin County Jail, and has set its sights on redirecting some pretty large waste streams, as well as serving households.

According to organizers, one of the first customers has been the newly opened Ice Cream Alley at 221 Main St. in Greenfield which, they add, uses all compostable items.

“They also understand the importance of building a collaborative economy,” Compost Cooperative organizers said in a press release. The group credited the People’s Pint and Cherry Rum Auto for helping out, at the same time Compost Cooperative launches a Kickstarter campaign. The co-op is scheduling free audits for potential commercial customers, which entails analyzing and hauling compostables for one to two weeks and coming up with an individualized estimate for each customer.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at: wesleyblixt@me.com.