Week 8 (Chicago Week 6)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Bright lights chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Last kohlrabi until fall
  • Zucchini (you may find zephyr or Lebanese squash)
  • Broccoli
  • First tomatoes
  • Rossa do Tropea onions
  • Snow peas (ok, its really the last time this week)
  • Maxibell French green beans
  • Provider green beans
  • Patty pan squash

Sustainability in a Meadow Lark’s call

I walked Sunday morning over soil I tilled, planted, mulched and staked for sugar snap peas – back in March. A warm July sun broke through rain clouds. It warmed thought and feeling for this patch of ground.

Everything about sustainable farming involves thought and feeling. It is rich sentiment for gifts of Nature, of a place, of knowledge for organic growing practices. Equally important, of course, are gifts of people who serve and protect what gives life quality and health.

Just the day before my little walk, a volunteer crew of Milwaukee and Chicago area subscribers descended on the spent pea vines. With good-hearted joy for the beautiful day, they removed the dying vines and thriving weeds that had evaded my mulched paths. They made compost piles with the vegetation. That will return to the soil minerals our appetites for peas have stolen.

With Elise and Dela guiding them Saturday, the 10 volunteers pried up all the metal T-posts and wooden stakes, which I drove into the ground 14 weeks ago. They carefully extracted wire I’d strung tightly between the posts. They untied the twine and rolled up the trellis. I enjoyed watching them undo my work as I picked green beans with others of the group.

Sunday, I admired again all their hard work. It was now neatly sitting in an old wooden wagon I once used to deliver shares. Fencing that held up the peas we all enjoyed from a month of harvests lay ready for a shed’s protection over winter. For ones accustomed to working days on end alone (Dela, Elise and me) so much work completed so quickly seems a miracle.

Smiling up at me from the area cleaned of withering pea vines and our saved materials used so many years, were faces of each wonderful friend to our farm who worked that miracle here. Other faces came to mind, too. International students from Beloit College (from China, France, Central America and Russia) came here April 23 for sustainability lessons.

In less than a day, students from around the world unraveled and affixed the pea trellis to my wired stakes along the mulched paths. Now, again in less than a day, it was all removed and ready for planting cool season crops for the fall months to come.

Our volunteers accomplished many other things this work day in July: 100 lbs. of beans and buckets of squash harvested; careful weeding; long rows of tomatoes tied up off the ground – all that night a good soaking rain freely reached roots of hundreds of plants. This saved countless tomatoes from blight, so heavily weighted to the ground their plants had become..

All day Saturday we enjoyed the wonderful friendship and camaraderie of these helpful souls. We broke at mid-day for a savory potluck together. And after picture-taking and a little camera clowning, the group all headed home without seeing some of the greatest things they did for us here at Scotch Hill.

Through Saturday, I confess that I hadn’t stopped thinking about my youngest son Micah. He’s been working the past year to start his own farming venture. He works off-farm full time, too. My heart is with all our 5 children. Yet Micah, who lives right here and farms now, too, is most often in view.

Volunteers did so much vegetable crop work Saturday that I was able to help Micah harvest oats and hay for his dairy goats. With rain coming and our old machinery at times failing, we worked to gather much-needed grain and forage.

From the John Deere tractor fender that Micah once rode as a child, I watched at his side as he steered my 1945 All Crop Harvester along the field of oats. At one point suddenly, he stopped the work and descended the tractor. He warded off a fledgling Meadow Lark from the path of our cutter bar.

It was the same little bird I myself had twice earlier worried about, as I thought of how our harvest would disrupt its nesting. Away to safety flew the tiny bird. Without a word between us, Micah returned to tractor and machine.

Supporting this family, these methods, this food production, keeps us farming with heart. It lets Meadow Larks keep singing. It sustains generations in a world where work, resources, Nature are otherwise exploited and cheapened. Hear its song as you enjoy this week’s harvest of many hands.