Week No. 5 News. Vegetable list, Recipes
Tony & Dela Ends family at Scotch Hill Farm, Brodhead, Wis. – Our 20th Season
A cobra hoe extends from my arm many hours of the day now. It strikes back and forth at thousands of weeds and grasses, uprooting them from around the lovely plants Dela and I’ve planted and transplanted.
As I work, I think of Dela, this best friend I’ve had in life these 27 years together. I think of friends, family and part-time workers, too, whose hands since April all lovingly tended each seed, placed each plant in place with us in this fertile soil.
Beds of sweet potatoes, summer and fall squash, celery, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, melons, and on and on. All rely now on this hoeing and mulching for liberty from weeds and grasses that would strangle or inhibit them from breathing, drinking, feeding, basking in sunlight and the elements.
As I finish each section of weeding, I return to a hay wagon carrying bales of oat, wheat or prairie grass straw that we grew, baled and pulled now with tractor or pickup truck to each planting. I lift bales from the wagon and carry each down the rows of hoed vegetables.
I break open bales. I remove chips of straw, placing them end to end, between and along each vegetable. Each square of straw mulch closes down on each little expanse of uprooted weeds and grasses. They shade out sunlight for all but the crop we’re working to protect until harvest. If we can mulch a crop, it saves us 3 to 4 times of hand weeding Rain this year is making it hard for us to apply the mulch fast enough. We’re struggling to keep up. Rain has also washed out or damaged some crops you would normally have gotten from us by now.
Rich thoughts run on and on through each process and practice we attempt to keep garden and field going through each unique season. It’s like an endless conversation seeking solutions to life’s questions. Few thoughts in farming are original. Nature teaches us, if we let it, timeless ideas. We draw them anew from directly experiencing Nature’s life on the farm, dawn unto dark.
Human beings who’ve farmed contribute to our instruction greatly, too. Thoughts I tried to share with you last week about focusing on taking until what’s taken is forgotten came from a 16th century French humanist. Kentucky farmer, essayist and poet Wendell Berry quoted him in “The Unsettling of America.”
I learned of Berry on our first encounter with CSA farms in a coalition tour 21years ago. I checked his landmark book out of the library. It cut deep into my thinking, deep around the world’s weeds that were trying to strangle my own heart. That was in our first year on a Wisconsin farmstead we began to save from decay and neglect. We began practicing CSA the next year.
I’m reacquainting myself with this book since finding it for sale used several weeks ago. The book reminds me why we’ve found our way back with such difficulty to a life’s work that 9 in 10 ancestors who came to this land practiced. An industrial age has gradually, effectively displaced farming’s essential values with its own, even as it efficiently removes farm families from self-sufficient lifestyles, conservation and stewardship.
Specialization and mobility have been key in this displacement and relocation. As long as consumers, who now number 99 in 100 people across this land, treasure specialization and mobility, even organic farmers will have trouble serving and protecting what is necessarily rooted to a place like Scotch Hill and utterly dependent on our being generalists – not specialists.
So much to know, learn, do. So much to buy and acquire. So much to maintain. So much to accomplish in a day, in a season, in a lifetime. Does it feed something else in you to realize your dollars spent on this food nurture a food system that does not exploit fragile resources or people, that sustain by biodiversity and intricacies, passion for a place and its preservation? Taste it tonight. Cook with it, preserve it this week.
This week’s vegetables: Oregon Giant snow peas, sugar snap snow peas, radishes, lettuce mix, cress OR bok choi, chard, oregano and basil, first cucumber OR zucchini, a bar of Dela’s soap made from our goat milk, vegetable oils and natural ingredients. Recipes: Megan has them for you at www.scotchhillfarm.com and on a farm facebook page; Dela’s photo of the vegetables helps identification; link to Karen’s blog for more cooking, eating ideas. Come see your farm when you can. Please let us know when to expect you.