It takes a whole community to sustain diverse rotations that mirror Nature
Hay to feed livestock in winter. Hay to pay bills and barter for land we rent to grow crops. Hay to rotate with vegetables, breaking pest and disease cycles organically. Hay to stir this aging man’s soul. In the tall grasses of a hayfield, I see my wife’s golden hair, dancing in a July breeze. Alfalfa reaches up through the dense growth like her lovely arms. And on a particular bend in the ring of hay, round and round the field, her blue eyes shine in the lush flowers. My children come to me in the hay fields, too. Almost every stage in their growth for 19 years of the 25 we’ve been married, has been marked by hay-making, spring, summer and fall. When they were little, it sometimes took three or four of them to haul the bales off a chute from the baler into the wagon and up onto neat stacks. They rode different old wagons and employed old machines we’ve used over the years we gradually increased our means and ability to farm. Surely they too recall moments lovely as well as challenging making hay. A fox that used to openly watch our progress in a certain field we used to hay. A mother pheasant, leading 20 or more chicks across our windrows to tree-line safety in another field. Ripe berries we pulled from branches and vines in passing round edges of hot fields. Sometimes I see from years gone-by some of my children and their friends dancing to the beat and noise of the baling machine, as I did my son in-law Aaron this past Sunday. One of our 3 old wagons (from the 1940s) got a new cedar “dance” floor that cost at least $800 this past spring. He was riding and dancing thanks to son Micah and volunteers from UW Madison who put together what you all helped pay for. In cutting hay now, I’m almost always alone in thought and memory. Higher paying jobs away from us have rewarded our 5 children’s drive and determination in ways Scotch Hill Farm cannot. Three of them and two spouses did manage to join us with a number of friends to Scotch Hill on Sunday. In a single day, we baled more hay than our farm did through all of last year’s drought. It’s rained so much. I cannot recall ever taking a first cutting of hay this late in season. One only has to lose a week’s work making hay once because of rain, to be forever thereafter vigilant. This year, I’ve only found two short blocks of sunny days to cut, rake and bale hay. I see lush fields of fallen hay along the highways into Madison, rotting brown in wet windrows that other more daring farmers attempted. A number of corn, soybean, hay and wheat fields along the way are still under small lakes of water. And many fields have patches of brown and yellowed plants drowned by this year’s downpours. We’ve lost a few beds of vegetable varieties in a low spot in our home field, washed out in one of those torrents. Yet most of the land we farm is on high enough ground to have survived. Diverse plantings we still follow on less than 45 acres (in an ocean of millions of acres in single-crop grain farming), as well as grass paths and mulches we employ, help cut chance of flooding here, too. Every day this week, some one or more of you who support our farm has shown up to help tend or harvest vegetables. We can’t thank you enough. Never have Tony and Dela tried to do so much with so little paid farm help. Volunteer support has kept us moving forward in raising vegetables, our primary income, as well as making hay that helps sustain our vegetables, soil and farm. Please, please keep volunteering as you have time. It takes a whole community to support sustainable and organic farm practices.
This Week’s Vegetables include:
- Leaf lettuce mix
- Snow peas
- Green bush beans called “Provider”
- Bright Lights Chard
- H19 Little Leaf Cucumber
- Shuyho Long Japanese Cucumber
- Patty Pan (round yellow summer squash)
- Garden Extra Broccoli spears for Madison area THIS week/ local and Chicago area NEXT week
Cooking Tips for the Week –
As the summer bounty begins to weigh heavier in our weekly deliveries, we need even more brown paper grocery sacks donated to Scotch Hill so that we can double bag them for you. Summer squash, beans and cukes are beginning to add weight to the deliveries. We wash, slice and eat most of our fresh vegetables (including every item on today’s list) raw in salads, on sandwiches, as snacks or appetizers with cheeses, pickled relishes and organic crackers. At breakfast, we sauté some varieties in a little olive oil with dried herbs, then pour in our eggs. And all can be incorporated into stir fry or soups. Don’t forget to try the great recipe ideas of our blogging subscribers by linking to Dela’s Scotch Hill Farm Facebook page. Refer to the great photos Amie Eckard Lee has been taking weekly of our list of vegetables there, too.
Summer Squash Bake, from Simply in Season, Herald Press, 2005
This dish can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake it; just give it another 20 to 30 minutes in the oven. Adding cheese or meat makes it a main dish, while without them it’s a delicious side dish. Mix together in a bowl 6 to 7 cups zucchini and/or yellow squash (shredded or chopped, removing spongy seedy parts if using mature squash) and one small onion (minced). Combine with enough water to cook or microwave until tender (3 to 4 minutes – shredded zucchini may be used without cooking). Drain. Put half of the following - ¼ cup butter, 2 to 3 cups herbed croutons or herb stuffing mix - into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or a deep casserole dish. Add the squash mixture. Top with the other half of the reserved butter and croutons or herb stuffing. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.