To celebrate Earth Day this year we’re welcoming new friends from Three Lily Farm up in Maine. While planting trees and improving recycling practices are the usual virtues sung on Earth Day, for Frank Giglio, chef, teacher, farmhand, poppa to Wilder and co-founder of Maine’s Three Lily Farm- everyday is Earth Day!
Frank and his family aren’t living the life most of us are accustomed to. He lives far from town. His family makes their own butter. Their home is solar powered. Frank and his family are what us city and suburban dwelling folk often refer to as “off-griders”…
Situated on 26 beautiful acres is the farm that Frank, his wife Camille and son Wilder call home. A wild forager’s dream-scape, the family’s expanse is filled with gardens, wild foods and animals. While it may seem daunting to consider leaving behind the conveniences of modern living, Frank and his family say while they had little experience prior to moving to their farm, there is no place they’d now rather be.
Please welcome Frank to Garden Eats today- we know his family’s way of living off the land will inspire how you celebrate Earth Day today and everyday to come.
Garden Eats: In 2012, you purchased an off-grid solar-powered home on 26 acres in Maine with your wife and son. Sounds liberating! This has no doubt changed your life in many ways. Have you been happily surprised, yet challenged by this transition?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: I’m in love with this home, the land, and the community we are a part of. I am continually surprised by the abundance of food this land provides thanks to all the planting that happened here in the late 90’s. Also, our spring fed pond is one of my favorite features.
When my wife and I moved onto the property, we had little prior experience with running and maintaining a solar powered home. It took nearly 6 months to realize the system was not running as efficiently as it should. A few upgrades later, our system is running in tip-top shape and our home runs and functions just like any other.
It is a real blessing to be a bit detached from the grid, not relying on as much electricity or fossil fuels to run our home. From November until May, we unplug our fridge and use our root cellar to store our food.
Coming into our 4th year here, we are feeling more and more dialed in and at home. The surrounding landscape is starting to take shape and yield a lot of food for ourselves and our guests.
GE: You advocate, practice and teach people about re-wilding their diet. Will you please explain what this means for our readers so they can understand how connected to the land they can be and why re-wilding is eco-logically minded? Have you found since re-wilding your diet that your body naturally gravitates to how much of whatever it seems to need?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: The act of re-wilding is to move something back towards its natural state. With the industrialization of our food system, we have gotten very detached to eating real, wholesome food. Re-wilding our diet is a way to look back to a time where people roamed free and ate the food that grew naturally and contained valuable nutrition.
Adding in wild plants, meat and fish has allowed me to find more balance and has brought forth a closer connection to the natural rhythms of the earth. Focusing on eating a local and seasonally based diet allows me to look forward to certain ingredients which are consumed during their peak season and most optimal nutrition.
GE: You have a root cellar, few people do these days. If that’s not possible or practical, what do you suggest as a substitute?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: If you have the space, I think a root cellar is a very practical addition to a home. While mine was built by the original owner and is likely much larger than my current needs, I feel very blessed come November when I can unplug the fridge and use a natural cool space to properly store most of my food. There are many different ways to install a root cellar. The book “Root Cellaring” has been a great resource as I make subtle upgrades to mine.
My next goal is to implement an ice house which is an inexpensive insulated shed of sorts that stores ice from my pond for year round refrigeration.
GE: On foraging, it’s trendy. Luckily our readers and clients send photos asking, “can we eat that?” Obviously living off the land naturally teaches us what to and what not to eat, but do you have advice for foraging newbies?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: First and foremost, never pick and eat a plant, berry, root, etc that you are unsure of. While most plants won’t kill you if you have a taste, many can make you quite ill if consumed in large quantities. If you want to start foraging, I would suggest finding books that pertain to your local ecosystem. Make sure there are color photos so you can get a good visual.
Find a foraging expert in your neck of the woods and go for a wild food walk. Finding someone who can confidently identify, harvest and process wild plants is important so that you will know what to do with the plants once you harvest them for yourself.
GE: Why an e-book and not print? Working on any new titles?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: E-books are easy to get out to the public. We are finding many people want digital copies of recipes. While I personally enjoy physical copies of recipe books and collections, the general public has shown interest in our digital offerings more so than our physical versions. That being said, we are currently looking at options to print our e-books in the future.
GE: You make your own butter. Is it a relatively easy process most people can embrace? What about ghee, do you isolate the fat?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: Making your own butter is very simple. If you want, you can make butter by spinning and vigorously shaking a jar full of fresh raw cream. It is a very easy process and with quality cream, it can be done in minutes in the food processor.
Ghee is a traditional food and an ideal cooking fat. Because the milk fat solids are removed, you are left with pure butter oil. Many folks with dairy sensitivities find ghee to be easy on the body without any negative reactions often associated with dairy consumption. Because it is cooked for a longer period of time than clarified butter, it takes on a wonderful nutty flavor. Ghee also stores well and does not require refrigeration like butter does.
GE: Is your son embracing this lifestyle naturally? What advice do you have for people who might be considering raising children remotely to keep them socialized?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: My son Wilder is living up to his name for sure! When the snow melts and the green grasses fill the landscape, he prefers to spend most of his time outdoors, usually naked, playing, climbing, and hanging with the animals. With like minded families in the surrounding area, we are keen on making sure he gets plenty of social time and a chance to hang with kids both older and younger than him.
When he is older, we will allow him to make decisions for himself regarding school, sports, and other activities, but for now we wish to allow him to be young and explore as much as he desires.
GE: Thanks so much for joining us today. What’s ahead, what new projects are you working on?
Frank, Three Lily Farm: Our goal here on Three Lily Farm is to create a solar powered culinary education center and retreat so that folks from across the globe can come learn to be a part of nature. We continue to put on our culinary retreats which happen here in Maine during the warmer months of the year.
Also, our online culinary programs continue to grow and expand. Currently we have 3 courses that run throughout the year and I will continue to offer new courses in the upcoming months.
GE: Awesome, thanks Frank! We have so many friends up in Maine now, hopefully we get to visit Three Lily Farm in the future too!
You can learn more about Three Lily Farm and their upcoming Home Apothecary course here. Follow Frank around Instagram to get a visual on how his family spends their days and be sure to say you learned about his farm here at Garden Eats!
Happy Earth Day 2015!