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Posted 10/7/2019 7:36am by David Zemelsky.

Dear Friends,

I hope that you won't think it presumptuous of me to share with you about my trip to the Shetland Islands.  If so, just skip ahead to  the food part of the letter.  I'll understand.

The first thing that you need to know is-why Shetland.  And I got asked that a lot.  Not just by friends of mine around here, but by fellow travelers and even the citizens of Shetland.  Why would you want to go visit a very small isolated place in the middle of basically nowhere.  A place where the sun shines sometimes and the wind blows all the time.  The answer to Why Shetland is not easy to answer.  I'll start by saying that it looks so damn inviting on the map!

Two years ago, just before Ty got sick, we made a decision to go travel.  This, in itself was a rare decision on our part.  We'd barely gone anywhere in all our years together.  Her vote was for Italy and specifically the mosaics of Ravenna.  My vote was for Shetland.  She, at least, had a professional reason for her choice.  Mine was just a gut feeling.  We "compromised" on going to Italy.  "We'll go to Shetland on our next trip". 

When the diagnosis of cancer came, we very quickly realized that the trip (we'd now bought tickets) should be cancelled in favor of treatment.  Whether that was a good decision or not remains a mystery to me.  I do know that the treatment looks to me like it hastened her death.  But we'll never know  So now, two years later, I decided to do the Shetland trip.

Shetland is really small.  One can get from one end to another in less than  2 hours.  My trip was well planned, but only because I enlisted the services of Sarah from Sponzo Travel (Yes, this is a plug!).  With her help, I was able to get a well formulated trip going.  One can take a ferry to Shetland. Its 12 hours.  It made most sense to just get there, so I flew into Sumburgh Airport on the very southern tip of Shetland.  From there, I picked up my tiny Kia and began my first mantra.  "Look to the right.  Drive on the left."  This worked. Oh.  One more thing about arriving in Shetland.  In order to leave the airport, I had to cross over the landing strip of the airport.  There was a person at either end to direct traffic in the event that your departure coincided with a plane arrival.

My next six days were spent sleeping in Lerwick, the largest and only city on Shetland.  Beautiful, quaint and easy to get around.  I used Lerwick in a most effective way.  Thanks to a great walk book that I picked up online,  I'd  pick a destination that looked great and drive there and then walk.   This was absolutely wonderful and rewarding.   Two important things to say about walking. 

First is that the trip convinced me-I am a walker.  Who knew?  I've known for some time that I"m a runner and a biker, but didn't realize that walking is totally me.  I would refer you to Thich Nhat Han's very wonderful book called "How To Walk ".  The main premise is that every step is an opportunity to arrive where you are.  In other words, being able to immerse yourself in the Now will help you to become fully present.  How many times in our day to day life, to we get totally distracted by details, both large and small who's presence in ones brain can be annoying and nonproductive.  To me, this is a lifetime pursuit.  One that I'm very willing to engage in.

The second thing is that Shetland is positively beautiful.  Not in some of the ways you might think of, but in its own unique way.  No trees and a constant wind.  A wind so strong that for the first time in my life, I began to understand how disruptive wind could be, especially if it knocked you off your feet.  That never happened to me, but it got close.

I got a new respect for birds and seals.  They were mostly everywhere.  There was one walk that I took around a large penisula where a group of six seals followed me avidely  for most of the first half.  They were so curious about what I might do next.

On day six, I visited the only vegetable farm on the island (according to them).  It was called Transition Turrifield.  It was a small place, with a lot going on.  They grew most of the same things we did with a lot of success.  Which is amazing because there's a lot going against farming in Shetland.  For one thing, the soil is oozing with wet.  Their outdoor plot had a big moat around it that would help with soil drainage.  They had numerous Hoop Houses (called Polytunnels there).  The actual hoops were the discarded hollow tubes from salmon farms that were used to deliver food to the salmon.  Very resourceful.  Early on they made a call to people around to bring them discarded tires.  They would mound them up and use them as a wind break.  Again , very resourceful.  But, as Penny (one of the owners) said, the damage to their crops from wind was of big concern. 

Climate change has affected them, too.  The days were often less sunny now affecting crops as well as the quality of the light.  Penny expressed concern for their future.  But even so, she showed me the sight of several more polytunnels that will go up in the next few years.  Their mission is to both educate the community about the value of growing, and hope that other people will start their own gardens. Additionally, they must make their farm a viable business.  It was an amazing project that looks like its working.

My next stop after Lerwick had to be cancelled-a big disappointment.  Off the mainland of Shetland by 20 miles is the very small and very mountainous  island of Foula.  Because the wind was so fierce at this time, the ferry was cancelled.  Instead, I went to Yell (yup, no spelling error here!).  I spent two nights there and continued enjoying and relishing the walking.  It was here that I began to appreciate the Norse tradition of Shetland.  I saw on my travels in Yell, many excavated Norwegian sights from 1000's of years ago.  Shetland use to belong Norway, but the king of Norway in the mid 1400's  used Norway as a security deposit for his daughters dowry.  Somehow, the Norwegians never got it back after this.

My last stop on Shetland was Unst, which is the most Northern piece of land in the UK.  It was here that I went to Hermaness, a bird sanctuary.  Its beauty is unmatched in my book.  It is home at certain times of the year to hundreds of thousands of birds, including the Puffin.  Unfortunately, the puffin had already moved on before I arrived.

I'll stop my description there and leave you with a few thoughts.  First, it was wonderful to travel on my own.  At the time, I was nervous that it would be lonely.  Not at all the case.  The situation helped me to be adventurous and decisive.  This trip will probably be a trip of a lifetime for me.  I feel lucky and in awe of how amazing the world really is.  And complicated.  For all its pristine qualities , the local newspaper was full of a controversy between those who wanted to reduce the carbon footprint by utilizing wind power and those who were equally concerned that a wind project would destroy the peat environment that one finds there.  It occurred to me that WOW, even in a remote place like this, there are no simple answers.

I hope that you enjoy the photos.


Moving on to our food.  There's lots, as you have learned to expect.  If you'd like, come to the Durham Farmer's Market this Thursday (and for the next two Thursdays after this)  on the green from 3-6pm.  If you'd like to order from us and pick up at the shed,  please write us back before 8 AM on Thursday.  Your order will be waiting for you in our shed at 54 Fowler after 2pm on Thursday.  If you come after dark, bring a light.  Self pay in the payment jar.

Orders in by 8a.m. Thursday for 2p.m. pick up out front.

If you're ordering or picking up for the first time at the farm please reach out to us with any questions or if you'd like to check the place out.

Remember please email  directly at our new address starlightgardensdurhamct@gmail.com

Simply replying to this email will do the trick

Cherry Tomatoes are now officially a Summer Memory.  I hope you enjoyed them.  Regular tomatoes?  We hope to have some, so order up and we'll see what we can do.  $7/lb.
New! This is our first week for shed orders!  Ginger and Turmeric.  Both are of excellent quality and flavor.  They are totally a different and better experience from buying either one at Stop N Shop.  And its smell is also amazing.  For the ginger, the stems are also of use for teas.  Turmeric's value  as an anti-inflammatory are well known and documented.  A good sized piece is $5 for either one.
Peppers of multi colors and the same for eggplants-both $5/lb

Salad Greens- $6/bag


Pea Tendrils-$6/bag

Braising Greens-$6/bag

Red Russian Kale-$6/bag


Swiss Chard,Kale and Collards $4/bunch

Bok Choy -$3.50/head

Potatoes- newly dug and as full of flavor as anything anywhere $5/lb

Garlic -$3.50/head

Hot Peppers- $4/basket

Radishes- $4/bunch

Green Lobo Radish- $4/bunch

Hakurie Turnips $4/bunch

Beets- $4/lb



Lemon Grass, Thai Basil, Holy Basil, Parsley and Cilantro $2/smallbunch

Award Winning Flower Bouquets $8/each

Last word would be a public appreciation for Jen and Joel's work while I was gone.  I almost think that the place runs better when I'm gone!  In any case, thank you both.  A spectacular job was done!.

Have a great week

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10/6/2019 9:21pm Shetland