Farmer John Writes: Barns up Against a Wall
Week 8, August 1st – 5th
Your Box This Week — Saturday Deliveries:
Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.
Fruiting Crops — Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, Zucchini / Summer Squash, Eggplant
Cooking Greens — Bunched Kale
Root Crops — Beets with Greens
Alliums — Sweet Onions
Herbs — Basil, Cilantro
Sign up for the Free Recipe Service
Make sure you sign up for the Local Thyme recipe service we offer with your share. Local Thyme offers storage and handling tips and recipes customized to each week’s share. It has received many great reviews from our shareholders. Check out this sample recipe: Keralan Stew with Corn, Summer Squash, Kale and Sweet Pepper.
The Color of Weather
I wrote about unusual weather in Farm News last week—here’s more: for June, 2016, the average daily temperature was 73 degrees; for June, 2017, the average daily temperature was 58 degrees. That’s a 15 degree difference— huge. In addition, we had a very hot week in June, which compromised our spring broccoli and spinach. Without that hot week, the year to year difference in average temperatures for June would have been greater. The crops are late this year in part because of these temperatures and, in part due to the rains.
About the rains…as noted, I don’t go much by weather reports this year—they are woefully inaccurate. On my bare arms, I feel the moisture carried by balmy winds from the southwest. That moist air will almost always usher in a rain within 12 hours or so. The air changes color ahead of time, too. It becomes purplish/yellow, like a bruise. I suspect that most people don’t see that color, that it is seen mostly by people who live by the weather.
“Do you feel the rain coming later today?” I asked some of my crew late Wednesday morning. They nodded solemnly. They knew that we had overgrown lettuce seedlings that had to be transplanted, arugula and cilantro that had to be seeded, garlic that needed to be harvested, and hundreds of CSA boxes that needed to be packed that day.
The soil was barely beginning to dry from former rains when Primo went to till the fields early that afternoon. He had to till shallow so he wouldn’t bring up mud. By late afternoon, the lettuce was transplanted, the arugula and cilantro were seeded, some of the garlic was harvested, and the boxes were packed.
Oh, my, did it rain again that Wednesday night!
Before this last rain, the carrots we were going to harvest for the Saturday delivery were still in the field. They were lovely—long and tapered, bright orange, with strong tops. Many of you enjoyed the carrots from this seeding this past week or the week before. This final stand of carrots declined from pristine early in the week, to dissolved when we went to harvest them this past Friday; they were spoiled–ungiveable. In some cases, only orange stains of mud remained in the ground where the carrots had been. Fortunately, we were still able to fill the CSA boxes to the brim on Friday for the Saturday deliveries.
On Friday afternoon, after the pack, I could smell Lake Michigan 60 miles away in the wind coming from the east. That’s rare; it only happens every several years. This time, though, it wasn’t just the lake and the fish I smelled; there was a mucky, swampy odor in the wind. The breeze was picking up the festering odors of fields between here and the lake; fields with standing water; fields that won’t dry; soil that has become anaerobic; corn and soybean roots rotting, dissolving, like our carrots.
My parents built our main barn in the 50’s, so we could milk our 34 dairy cows in comfort, instead of in the decrepit old barn in which we had been milking.
We’re now roofing the last leaky section of the main barn. It should have been roofed at least 10 years earlier. I thought that earnings from my tour with the film The Real Dirt on Farmer John would pay for the barn roof. The farm itself could not pay for it, but I thought that, ironically, a film about the farm would pay for it—not so. I came back to the farm in 2009 from that 5 year tour to a barn that was almost in ruins. I proceeded to gradually save it—a demanding, expensive, and glorious process.
A barn goes for a lot of reasons—taxes, no use for it, expensive upkeep, insurance premiums…I understand the reasons. Problem is, when these reasons prevail, then the barn goes.
I’m not someone who can justify letting a barn go. The barn is a part of me. My wife says it’s part of her, too, and she didn’t even see it built. But she feels the barn inside of her, like I do. When the barn isn’t doing well, we both know it and feel it inside of us. That’s why we are so relieved to finally be roofing the last leaky section; it is relieving a pressure inside of us.
It’s not just our barn, or the constellation of farm buildings at Angelic Organics that we care about—it’s the barns throughout the land. We wince when we see one crumbling; rejoice when we see one in its full, robust glory; nod when we see a barn saved with an unfortunate wrong color roof or material. “At least it’s saved,” we’ll reassure each other.
We notice the irony when we visit a farm with a painting or a sketch of its former barn up against a wall in the living room. The picture freshens up easily with a spritz of Windex, vs gallons of paint and pallets of shingles freshening up the real thing. We understand that everything in life cannot be ideal, that there are restraints, considerations, burdens, bills—we know this. Haidy and I face all these same forces that conspire to turn a barn into dust, into ash, into rustic panelling, into a memory, into a playground attraction too dangerous for kids, into a fire hazard. We get it. We understand why barns go. We’re just not able to let our barns go. We see them as a gift to humanity, to the farmscape, to the future. We treat them accordingly. You can find documentation of this commitment over the years at Metamorphosis of the Peterson Farmstead.
David, one of our pack volunteers, brought over three windows he had made in his woodworking shop to replace three hopelessly decayed windows that were teetering on their sills in our packing barn (our smaller barn.)
“Barns have souls,” I said to David. “I feel their pain as I see them going to ruin.”
“I feel it, too,” he said, solemnly.
Our Pack Volunteer Program
Check out our popular Pack Volunteer Program in last week’s issue of Farm News.
Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return Them, Especially if You have been Stockpiling Them
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly, and then the box bottom might later burst open with fresh, organic local produce heading towards the floor. Please carefully flatten your box and return it to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place it in the location where your box is delivered.
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Cheesemaking on Angelic Organics Farm | Saturday 8/5, 10am-1pm
Join Angelic Organics Learning Center for this hands-on workshop introducing the process of cheesemaking from start to finish. Get real experience making ricotta, mozzarella and more (and you’ll have a chance to meet the goats!). Finally, sample your very own handcrafted cheese! Learn more at LearnGrowConnect.org/events