It’s all in a day’s work, season’s work to sustain what we value most in life
First light. Baby goats crying for hay and grain. Roosters summoning us to feed the hens. Sheep bleating for food, too. I rouse to their calls and think of our children Holly, Heather, Micah, Joel, Jim as I pass the empty bedrooms in our old farmhouse. I sigh a blessing on their own days apart from us. Water for all the animals. We must remember to check water several times a day in this heat. Lists of things to do from the night before grow longer as we work through morning chores. Sometimes at this time of year, I have 3 hours of things done by the time the first part-time worker or volunteer arrives to help. And most helpers have been gone 5 or 6 hours when darkness and mosquitoes drive us back into the house at night. So much gets done here in a week, it seems a year has passed by the time I try to write it all down to you. In successive days of temperatures above 90, Dela and I begin to feel disoriented. We caution teens and adults helping us to respect their limitations and drink water, plenty of water. Each plant among 60 varieties calls out to us with personal needs, too. A season’s blessing for one variety may be a curse for another. Snow peas and leaf lettuce thrived in all the rain of early weeks. This week, I had to move a sprinkler across the pea rows for a full day and night, trying to prolong them. Yet they’re flagging in this heat and won’t make it much longer. Water can’t save the long beds of bolted lettuce, either. They must be cleared, mowed, compost tilled into their soil, and re-planted with fall crops. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants have been waiting, longing for sunlight and heat, their cue to begin yielding. They did not like so many cloudy, cold, rainy days. A farmer’s frustration is not unlike an adult watching children take on their separate identities, reach maturity at their own pace, grow at their own rate. We are not magicians. Our work is alive, miraculous and mysterious. We do all that we can do. Then we hold our breath, watch and wait. One morning this week, 10 Girl Scouts and moms arrived from Oak Park, Ill. They helped milk goats and learned to make cream cheese. They helped tend animals and plants. They were a huge help at harvesting, pitching in wherever they were asked to help and listening so closely, thinking aloud so clearly, as Dela and I talked about this life, this work growing and raising food, connecting food to people, figuring out how to finance it all and make it keep sustaining communities of soil, plant, animal and human life. Such renewed courage it gives us to share a few hours with these young lives and spirits. You can be actively part of it all, too, this Saturday, a scheduled workday from website and facebook calendars at Scotch Hill Farm. Come for any length of time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Bring a dish to pass for the noon meal if you want to potluck. Temperatures are supposed to fall 20 degrees thanks to a cold front and hopefully a storm or rain Friday. Bring along someone you’d like to learn about this place, these people, these products, this organic, healthful, ethical thing we all do to sustain the Earth.
This Week’s Vegetables include:
- Leaf lettuce mix
- Snow peas for Chicago; everyone else gets a bundle of beets
- Green bush beans
- Garlic, freshly dug, may need to dry a bit
- H19 Little Leaf Cucumber
- Shuyho Long Japanese Cucumber
- Summer squash)
- Broccoli OR Cauliflower
- Onion with green top
Cooking Tips for the Week
Any good cookbook has a recipe for pesto. You have the basil and garlic you need. Be sure to consider making that delicious addition to many types of meals. We also suggest this recipe from Mollie Katzen’s The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without 2007, Hyperion.
Dramatically Seared Green Beans – Once the beans are trimmed, all you need is a large hot pan, and the rest is one big, quick sizzling action! This will keep for up to a week in a tightly covered container (or zip-style plastic bag) in the refrigerator. Place a large, deep skillet or wok over medium heat. After about 2 minutes, add 2 tablespoons organic canola or peanut oil and swirl to coat the pan. Turn the heat to high and wait another 30 seconds. Add 1 pound whole green beans, trimmed and a big pinch of salt. Cook over high heat, shaking the pan and or using tongs to turn and move he beans so they cook quickly and evenly. After about 3 minutes, taste to see if the beans are done to your liking. They should be relatively crunchy, but you get to decide if you like them cooked a little more. Keep going until they’re your kind of tender. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic and some red pepper flakes, and cook for just a minute longer. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.