Week 11 (Chicago Week 9)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Augustus sweet corn
  • Sugar baby watermelon
  • Heirloom melon
  • Cucumbers
  • Artisan cherry tomatoes
  • Slicing tomatoes
  • Beets
  • Mediterranean OR zucchini squash
  • Patty pan squash
  • Provider beans
  • Kentucky wonder beans
  • Dragon tongue beans
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 2 eggplants

Silent action in CSA over silent despair

Dew hangs heavy and long through much of a morning mid-summer. If I rise early wanting to help with hay, harvest oats or rye, bale straw, these August days I must wait till noon.

I can’t let a night’s moisture upon the ground spoil crops sensitive and susceptible to mold. I think of the chickens and turkeys that will eat the small grains, the goats who need dry hay and feed over winter. I take no chances. I wait till the dew passes.

Sunday I spent the entire day weeding and mowing. Even when it’s wet, I can do that, must do that. Today I hope to split the day with harvesting. Certain corners of fields, however, really press me to stay once I turn to tend them now. Everywhere seems to compete for my attention. Weeds are pressing, afflicting all our crops.

Our son Joel helped bring down a big dead elm in the yard of our farmhouse. Son Micah helped me re-till beds and mow dense garden paths. It felt so good to feel them working near me, instead of off in the worlds they’ve chosen vocationally.

Stacking the wood later in a modest first pile made Dela and me realize again how very much more wood winter will require to keep an old farmhouse warm. Thoughts and interpretations of our country lives first come to us in silence. Our voices affirm to each other Nature’s messages in its plants, soil conditions, insects and birds, climate and weather.

In farming, there’s the silence of solace and wisdom coming into our hands and hearts by experience. Farming’s activity keeps us from the human silence of despair, of giving up. Violence and thoughtlessness tempt human beings constantly to fall into this other silence. We see a perfect world being ruined so stupidly. We’re left speechless and sorrowful. We’re dumbfounded.
In an essay penned more than 25 years ago, Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry urged long and patient protest to preserve qualities of ones own heart and spirit against silently giving in and up. It makes me see our lives today as a kind of protest.

To farm silently on with values, to purchase fresh foods out of a community garden, are together protesting dependence on greed and exploitation for sustenance. They protest removal from our hands of every fine little detail in harvesting, washing, pruning and prepping of raw vegetables and produce for our plates and palette.

Protest preserves human dignity in a person, in a people’s soul. Modeling dignity and character in what we do – far more than in what we say – is each successive generation’s only hope of preserving what’s vital to life. 

In face of what we protest – control over collective good, extraction from collective resources, which ruin balance, upend sustainability – the turning of soil, tending of plants, subscribing to these acts in loving, local relationships, well, it’s all we can do, isn’t it?

So much light came into our yard facing south with the big dead elm’s falling. Sun filled the space over a lower wall of saplings rising in the fence line. It surprised us how even dead branches block out so much light. Berry’s words also remind us that without mourning the big elm’s loss, feeling a sorrow in its passing, we cannot find or enjoy the light. This week we’re called to a listening session with Gov. Walker. We shall go to protest loss of our way of life and light. We don’t  hope for any victory over darkness, just over that which comes to our own hearts in silent, inactive despair.