In the spring of 2009, my thoughts had become focused on returning to the farm that I had grown up on as a teenager. Initially I did not know why, but now in reflection it was to give me a place to heal. After more than thirty years as a successful financial supervisor, analyst / instructor in the corporate world, coupled with love and support from my better half, both were now gone from my life.
After a lengthy battle with cancer, Mary-Anna, succumbed to its ravages in the winter of 2005. With the downward economic trends of the times I had become another faceless number in the pool of the unemployed. Although it was frustrating to have my resume continually rejected, I could always find comfort in tilling the soil and growing things at my home. For more than thirty years I had successfully grown vegetables and flowers and received the benefits of their fruit and beauty, but more importantly it connected me in thought to my mother Rosetta Devine and grandparents Julius and Grozilia Coles.
Year One : 2009
So in the spring of 2009, with a roto-tiller, some muscle and an idea, I began by breaking the soil at the farm, which had not been tilled for over twenty-five years. Although the task was arduous, I found satisfaction as the plot was transformed from lawn into garden and the ground was planted with green beans, peppers, tomatoes and other items. Four weeks later I was able to see the initial fruits of my labor and then… …the forest varmints invaded my Eden! The rabbits, deer and groundhogs dined with glee as they and their families ate everything to the ground. Then I remembered my Mom enclosed her garden with chicken wire. I had forgotten how “developed” the rural farm area had become, the animals were limited in their space and now fencing was required. Round One – Varmints win. I, however score points in persistence and experience.
Year Two : 2010
After licking my wounds, my brother and I rebounded in 2010 by fencing in an area of 60’ X 80’ with seven foot deer fence netting and with 5” of chicken wire buried deep around the perimeter garden perimeter. Round Two – Varmints on the outside looking in. YEAH! We win. Now that the area was secure, I planted a multitude of veggies – some for sale and some for friends and family – including jalapeno and cherry chili peppers.
During the course of the season, my brother suggested that we clear some of the wooded area on the property for future expansion. So we had two acres of trees toppled and stacked to provide virgin farming area for new opportunities. Over the season of 2010, I was able to sell some produce and donate the balance to local charitable organizations and churches.
For me, particular joy of the harvest has been to transform fresh mature jalapenos into dried chipotle peppers. The smoky flavor they provide to food is so alluring to the taste buds. I use whole peppers to cook meals from scratch, but I also pulverized them with an old coffee grinder so I can shake them onto sandwiches and individual platters to enhance the taste. This year on a whim, I also decided to smoke the cherry chili peppers on a mid October Saturday morning.
The following Tuesday morning I sat at my computer and completed employment requests with attached resume for three positions because I have to get back to reality and find a job. In the late afternoon of this same day, I saw the peppers dried over the weekend and was curious for the flavor of the Red Cherry pepper. So I went to the refrigerator for some food but the shelves were bare for a taste test item. Then in the fruit bowl I spied a solitary Fuji apple and after a moment of thought I said to myself “Why not”!
So I crushed the cherry pepper into a paper towel for some fine dust particles and sprinkled them onto a medium slice of Fuji apple and took the bite. The apple sweet combined with the mild chili heat was gloriously intoxicating.. As I savored the taste of this new union, a vividly clear epiphany unfolded in my mind. “You have access to land to grow chilies and the resource of trees that have been toppled to smoke the fruit. Make a way on this path or work for someone else”.
With that vision Rosetta’s Spice Farm was born. With it we honor my mother who cooked with love and savored flavor. So I began to develop chili blends of savory and baking spices to enhance taste while enjoying the health benefits of chili peppers. And it was the best legacy my mother could ever have passed on to me!