Week 14 (Chicago Week 12)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Uncle David’s Dakota Desert Squash
  • Another fall  organic squash variety
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Dragon Tongue beans
  • Bell peppers
  • Red Roaster UW organic trial peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Purple basil
  • A garden surprise (everyone gets something different)

Almost every farming task I tackle brings some tool or device to mind. If I’m lucky, I find what I need has been returned to its storage place from previous use. Then I can set to work quickly.

At times I feel in my hands or attached to one of our tractors, the inventiveness of the implement’s creator. Human need birthed an idea, often worked out and perfected over years. Human response to this world made so much more work physically possible to grow food, to care for the world.

An industrial revolution rather dramatically steered so much inventiveness away from the countryside into urban and suburban dwelling places. Labor-saving devices that primarily pamper and comfort the 98.5 percent have radically turned almost all attention away from need and toward want.

As one with Dela of the few still engaged in farming, I realize when I don’t have something I need (or think I need) to grow food and tend soil, I play down the thing’s significance. I whistle the tune to “Always look on the bright side of life.” I figure out a way to do without. I keep going as best I can without perfection.

Losing the plastic roofs to the hoop houses in a storm this summer, coupled with almost weekly rain since, has had a bright side of life. On a ladder above the buildings’ giant bean stalks one day this week, I poked my head into the cool breeze and discovered this truth.

It was mid-day. I’d come to the beans after filling six trays of tomatoes. It was now time to assess what could be harvested of pole beans. In August in past years, I couldn’t even be in a covered hoop house past 10:30 a.m. Heat by then was suffocating in that enclosed space.

With Elise returning to France, her internship with us ended, harvesting pole beans fell on me this week. I found ladders to pursue the vines 12 feet into the air. I discovered another up-side to losing the plastic covers.

At this point in the growing season in past years, heat and humidity were blighting and killing off the beans.

Varied skill sets, ability and interest of volunteers and paid part-time helpers by mid-summer has also often left so many beans unpicked in the ever-more-dense foliage, too. Many missed beans turning to seed signal to the plants that it’s time to let go of life. In harvesting this week, however, I was amazed to see so many of the pole bean plants still vigorously producing. They are surely responding to abundant water and relief from heat. From the top rung of the ladder, I welcomed that breeze, too.

There are a couple of down-sides, with which you, dear subscribers, must help your growers. Pole beans in every stage of life are hanging from our plants. We try to be careful in discerning what to discard on the ground and what to plunk into buckets, trays and finally bags for each of you. Our old eyes sometimes fail us in fatigue.

It’s easy to spot a pole bean so new to life that one can enjoy it raw. Other Kentucky Wonder pole beans may seem too big to be edible, but spines removed and sautéed in olive oil or butter, they’re often just as delicious as new beans.

I surprised Dela with a stir fry that included a handful of pole beans I’d been harvesting one day this week. We both agreed it was quite good – until I found by eating, a single, stringy bean that it had escaped my quality control. Here’s where we need help, dear subscribers, or at least ability to look on the bright side of CSA life.

Dela and I – with a single part-time worker, and your own volunteer help (whenever you can make it) are attempting a workload at least seven adults should share daily. Fine tools and farm implements we’ve learned to use well, straw mulches, hard work and inventiveness have helped us keep up with tasks headed into late summer. We look to each of you from here on out for perfect responses to our limits and imperfections.