Week 3 (Chicago Week 1)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Kohlrabi
  • Garlic scapes (a cutting from the plant to help the bulb grow; chop or mince into cooking as you would the cloves)
  • First taste of snow peas
  • Onion bunch
  • Cherry belle radishes
  • White icicle radishes
  • Basil plant
  • Bright lights chard (use as you would spinach)
  • Leaf Romaine
  • Crispino iceberg lettuce

Fruit budding – some even ripening – from flowering trees we planted years ago around our farmyard seems early for this time in June. Signs of climate change?

Tomatoes are already taking shape on those varieties transplanted from our seeding greenhouse into the longest of our high tunnels. Lush plants in long rows, enclosed and in open air, need twine now to suspend their growth above the moist soil.

Spates of scorching heat, interspersed with just-in-time showers and storms, have nurtured hope for a good- yielding season. Our minds never stop thinking, though, about the good Earth that gives our hands purpose and defines our work’s meaning.

One storm in the night washed across new plantings and transplants. We found straw mulch out of several paths, caking a handful of squash and tomatoes with mud. Hundreds, even thousands of other plants seemed revived by the rain, though, from the 90s weather.

Little by little, straw keeps getting laid around the many rows of plants. Everywhere I work, weeding and laying mulch, across several fields and plantings, I marvel at the soil and weed varieties defining each unique space. Here a certain type of weed dominates. There, another. Each signals specific mineral and micro-biotic deficiencies. Our world is trying to communicate with us. Are we listening?

Ecologists remind us that weeds are Nature’s way of trying to heal back the soil to what Nature established there over ions of time. Forests, wetlands, prairie, depending on the lay of the land and flow of water. Each of Nature’s plantings yielded up native species to feed, heal, protect millions of insect, bird and animal species. Each provided human beings this good Earth as a fertile, hospitable, healthful home.

Some scientists believe balance for all life cannot indefinitely abide more than about 100 million people. At 7 billion population, with forecasts of 9 billion approaching the next half-century mark, everything I touch about this land seems more fragile by the season.

Our closest neighbors, who moved here in 1994, the same year we arrived at Scotch Hill, shared an evening with us recently. We were making deviled eggs for another neighboring family’s party. We made a party of it ourselves with wine and conversation. Talk turned serious. Linda reflected aloud about the quarter mile between our farmsteads. It is a silent, tree-less walk on our country roads. “At your house and our house, we hear the songbirds, but we hear nothing on the walk in between,” she said sadly.

I envision out from our property across more than 200 million acres of mostly corn and soybean plantings, so many, many more of Nature’s plantings destroyed. Even the tree lines and hedge rows have been removed and destroyed to plant commodities.

A Lutheran pastor shared a prayer with me – for me – recently. It was that each one of us be moved from complacency to act. We all work hard, I know. We give of ourselves to many causes, too. Much that seems to oppress what is good in life seems beyond our control. Perhaps discouragement to the point of discounting our individual abilities to make a real difference is a far greater concern than complacency.

This work, growing food organically, listening to Nature, tilling and keeping fertile soil, tells me that the highest good is the Earth. What we do together, in support of this community, in support of sustainable agriculture, frees us from complacency.

In an act of cooking, eating, sharing food – food grown with native species plantings, pollinator borders, tree and shrub restoration – we should feel encouraged, too. We are acting together. Response to climate change? Amen.