Week 10 (Chicago Week 8)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Chard
  • Broccoli and/or cauliflower
  • Provider and Ky Wonder green beans
  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Long and short cucumbers
  • Bell and hot pepper
  • White Lebanese, zucchini and patty pan squash

 

 

Puzzling over potatoes about how to sustain life

It happens, as all seasons happen.

A sudden crispness under foot, in the air, in the food, upon the land. It isn’t a chill. It isn’t falling temperature. It gradually becomes that, of course.

I know this change I sense all of a sudden at this time each year has more to do with humidity. There is a dryness in warm sunshine, a relief from steamy July. It signals a turning in all life. Plants are changing. The garden is changing. We as farmers, as human beings must change. Fall is coming.

Midway through a season, in the bounty of August harvest and a second planting, seems grounds for denying that this turning is taking place.

A child of August, I’ve been even more unwilling at first sign of autumn, to cling to growth out of birth, to cling to summer. As growing seasons have come and gone, I’ve embraced garden and field a little more each year I aged. For a time, it became harder and harder to let go.

I so love seeds, soil life, the plants that rise up from them. I so love the plunk of moist, firm vegetables into buckets, trays, tubs. I love seeing all the color and variety standing in rows of brown paper bags on dunnage racks in the walk-in cooler, waiting to be delivered to you.

I so loved (in the midst of Soil Sisters weekend) seeing two of our five adult children (thinking about each of the others, too), as they helped about a farm we all nurtured and loved for 22 years.

I loved seeing our Jim pointing out so many things that came to his mind and heart about the place as he toured visitors through our plantings, buildings, lives. I loved feeling Micah on the hay rack, stacking behind me as I steered the baling machine along what he’d cut and raked of a lovely, dried clover, alfalfa and grasses.

I loved thinking about the animals eating that hay, the animals long before them that ranged about our pasture, rounded county and state fair rings in exhibition, nurtured this place, too; nurtured our bodies, our souls.

Then comes that crispness in the air, that clarity of vision, sharpness of senses, signaling the inevitable change in life. What it means is deeper than a change in weather patterns.

How is it that sustaining something good means letting go of it? What lesson lies here for you? For us? For Scotch Hill? For our lives as consumers and growers together?

I began this past week mowing down potato plants, peeling back the straw mulch away from them, and carefully forking along the rows, lifting up the soil. In my wake, black trays slowly fill with golden harvests.

Brown windrows of the straw and dead foliage somehow dwarf the beauty of the yellow potatoes in the dark, turned soil. From life, to death come bountiful “apples of the earth” to feed you. From shading out weeds in a season, to decomposing over winter, comes mulch for soil organisms

I leave work early in the afternoon and amble with a pair of dogs down our country road. I feel naughty to be doing this. My thighs thank me, though, the farther I stretch them down this peaceful passage. And thoughts of fall, of how it contributes to sustainability draw me on.

Everything seems made so clear on this first day that I’ve sensed autumn’s coming. Mown weeds are pushing up what must be a tenth time in all of this season’s rain.  Mosquitoes are subsiding. Late summer’s lazy locusts emit their chirping from ditches and tree lines.

Summer’s warmth and green every direction mask the changes that will everywhere turn everything to winter. Ten weeks of harvests left, then fall shares come with November. It’s half the season left. Yet it makes life and what nourishes us seem so short. Come enjoy it with us, sustain it with us before another season is gone.