bag of mixed salad greenslimes
bunch of lavender sage and mint
small head of cabbage
Looking back, this weeks box seems to be lacking the crowd pleasers that our last few boxes had. After the honey, the avocados, the snap peas and tomatoes, I am looking at this weeks box and I am feeling just a little bit bored. But hey, that’s what CSA is about sometimes right? I got a call from our neighbor across the street. He says the golden nugget tangerines are ready for us to pick. In order to remember these gems, you need to have been a member for over two years because Toby’s trees did not produce last year. So it has been a while since we had these. I really think these are the best little orange fruit candies I ever had. Also, I am spying about a case worth of avocados in the lower orchard. And I am feeling like my week will not be complete if I do not get up there and get those little guys. So if all goes well, we should have some amazing avocados and gold nugget tangerines in our box next week.
So, I want to talk about tomatoes. Before I do. I want to re post this image from two summers ago.
This is the image I am holding in my mind and heart for this summer. As many of you know, It was a rough year for tomatoes. We were completely unprepared for the deer invasion that ensued last year. Within a matter of days, we lost the majority of our planting of tomatoes. I remember sharing about Rachel, Tocayo and I actually camping out at night in the gardens until the fences could be raised. Unfortunately, the later plantings did not bring us the bounty that most of us were used too. This year, we are taking better precautions. And it is likely that we may actually end up with more tomatoes than our small group of workers and volunteers can keep up with. I so look forward to those kind of challenges.
I hope I am not coming off too negative with my post this week. I know that I usually prefer to share the part of farming and community that fills my heart and soul. But I feel like it is unfair to you guys to not share some of the real things that go on inside me too. Especially those of you who have stuck with us through thick and thin, year in and year out. It is obvious that my weekly writing is not the only reason why you have stuck with the CSA for so long. So I guess I do not need to be so worried about it then. I recently started doing some roof construction again. Not because I do not want to farm anymore. But because I want to keep farming. It is crazy. I spend 8-10 hours on a roof in east county and all I can think about is hurrying back home so that I can farm until sunset. It is definitely forcing me to manage my time better. And with the extra money, I feel like we can take care of some of the infrastructure issues that have been going unattended. So, things are definitely happening and changing. And I think that in the end, it is better for the farm.
Someone wrote that a farmer has two good years. His first year. And next year. This quote is painfully funny to me. Because I know it is true. And I do not care. I plant to farm next year and the year after that. And the year after that. I swear that this summer is going to be the best tomato season anyone has ever seen. I believe it. I can see it. And it makes me want to get up in the morning at 5 am. And no one can take that belief away from me. Have you ever laughed and cried at the same time? Well it is not that bad actually. It beets being boring!
A farmer that I really look up to wrote something about what I am talking about. Here it is…
Why I Farm
The following essay by Farmer John is reprinted from the Farm News: Week 11, September 10, 1994
I’ve written plenty in the last few weeks about the obstacles in farming – the decay of buildings, the unreliability of help, the capriciousness of weather, the uncertainty of bugs and blights, the financial horrors. So, do you wonder why I farm, why anyone would farm? It’s kind of hard to say…
Our neighbor showed up this week and said, “I got the arthritis bad, but why wouldn’t I after 30 years of beating up this body – broken bones all over. Broke my ribs twelve times working with those cows, broke both ankles, dislocated my shoulder, had to milk with one arm in the air. Whatcha’ gonna do? Cows gotta be milked. Couldn’t get any help. We offered sometimes up to ten dollars an hour, and we couldn’t get kids to show up more than two days. You gotta get the cows milked. It just got so I did it myself – didn’t care what was busted.”
Our neighbor didn’t say exactly why he farmed; it’s just not farmerly to talk about such things out here. But I noticed in his speaking that there was something he liked very much about farming, or he wouldn’t be doing it.
Another farm family nearby is legendary for getting their crops in first. They move fast, all ages, in a spritz of tobacco juice and beer. Even the 80 year old grandpa, his hip smashed by a bull, races to the barn at 5 in the morning. Several of them are missing toes and fingers from machinery accidents. The last finger the family lost didn’t even stop the haying.
It’s hard to explain just what causes a person to stay in such a life. For me, as I miraculously type with all ten digits, I think about when I suddenly went from a fleet of cars and trucks and an arsenal of machinery down to nothing in the early eighties.
My boots were worn out, and I didn’t have the money for another pair. My mother bought me boots. I will forever remember the exquisite sensation of walking what was left of this farm, secure in my shiny rubber boots, feeling somehow that those boots had restored me to the land. The land has a feel underfoot that melts me to it.
And then there’s the smell – our machine shed has a smell of eternity, a musty ancient fragrance from before my birth and into the hereafter. There’s the rhythm – the barn door opens and closes; the swallows return; the brome grass swishes.
On NPR, Susan Stanberg interviewed a Mayan girl in the Yucatan Peninsula (through a translator). She wanted to know why the girl weaved all day long. The girl didn’t answer to Susan’s satisfaction, so Susan persisted.
“Is it because you can sell your weavings for money?”
“Do you weave because your ancestors weaved and it’s a way to stay connected to your people?”
“Do you weave because you love the rhythm and the patterns of weaving?”
“Why do you weave, then?”
“I just weave.”
I don’t stay on this farm because brome grass swishes; that’s a fringe benefit. The closest I can describe my bond to farming is a shudder I get, an irrepressible vibration when it’s time to work the fields. I can be eating, sleeping, or having a great conversation, and when the time is right to plow or plant my body registers some mysterious sensation, an irresistible beckoning. My legs take me to the work, put me on the tractor; I am all surrender. And the joy of pushing dirt around, the ecstasy of spraying potentized silica, the thrill of organizing little dots of green into straight lines on bare soil – these invoke in me a subtle delirium.
For two years I toured rural Illinois with a play I wrote about a farm family losing its land. Audiences wept and laughed. Once an old man caught up to me backstage. He said, “Let me tell you how to farm. There’s only one way. You farm ’til you’re down to your last nickel. And then you keep farming until the nickel’s gone.”
Like a drug, the land can lure a person into destitution. It can overshadow ones love for others. The land can embolden, exhaust, ennoble. It can nurture, destroy, sustain.
I don’t know why I farm.
I just farm.
One more thing. We have a date for the spring CSA member work party. It is going to be Saturday May 23rd. From 9 to 11:30 and a potluck afterward. If you have never been to the ranch, this will be the time to come. Nothing beats the majestic beauty of Blue Sky Ranch in spring. We will post more details about the work part next weekk. Mark your calender!
In case you did not know, arugula is not just for salad. 20 Arugula Recipes
There are a lot of “herbed” lemonade recipes out there. An easy one is two lemons squeezed into a quart container. Bruise the heck out of one sprig of mint, sage and lavender. Put the bruised herb in the container and then squeeze in a little agave syrup. Fill the rest of the container with water. Let sit in the fridge for a few hours.