Farmer John Writes: A Bath of Light
Week 17, October 2nd – 7th
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 Peppers
Brassicas — Broccoli
Cooking Greens — Chinese Cabbage, Spinach (in bag), Mizuna (in bag)
Root Crops — Potatoes
Salad Greens — Lettuce
Alliums — Leek
The Symphony of Our Farm
Food occurs in the context of a farm; it does not materialize on its own. A symphony of many elements of the farm organism gives rise to the food. As I have mentioned previously in Farm News, when I toured with the documentary film about my farm and my life, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, I often grappled with an obvious audience interest in food that far exceeded their interest in farms.
One doesn’t raise a child for a specific, quantifiable outcome. One creates a nurturing environment for a child that will ideally result in the best outcome possible, the best life possible for the child. Similarly, the whole farm–not just the productivity of the farm or the fertility of the soil or the adherence to organic standards, etc.–must be nurtured to create the best outcome. This is why I invariably turn my attention to the buildings as the season winds down a bit (and to machinery repair and painting in our heated shop when the freezing cold arrives.)
Need to Hurry
Fall imparts a distinct urgency. With its arrival, I focus on preparations for the upcoming winter and the more distant future. In spring and summer, the fieldwork presents itself to me, and there is little discretion regarding whether to do the fieldwork or not. In the fall, after the weeding, transplanting, trellising, greenhouse work, direct seeding are behind us, with mostly only the harvest demanding our attention, I suppose I could choose to relax a bit. However, I have never chosen this relaxation option in the fall. Fall is when we can advance or finish our building projects—roofing, painting, window repair, etc.
Upkeep and organization have been never-ending challenges here for my whole life. Check out this overview of the last 45 years of building renovation at Angelic Organics: Metamorphosis of the Peterson Farmstead. The rate at which we paint and repair buildings has hardly matched the rate at which they decay. This fall, though, I am determined to bring many of our lingering maintenance and construction projects to completion.
The Allure of Completion
I feel accountable for any unfinished project in my life, including leaky roofs, peeling paint, inadequate drainage systems, incomplete wiring, unwashed windows, messy closets, records that are not current, drawers that are not organized, doors that don’t open or close properly, machines that aren’t shipshape. My wife Haidy has similar standards. While the weather is suitable for working on buildings, my small artisanal crew–proficient in carpentry, roofing, painting, woodworking and almost any other building skill you can name–will work steadily on building upgrades and completions.
To convey the scope of these challenges, think of our farm as a small village. A mental inventory of the number of doors I am responsible for reveals well over 100–just walk-through doors, not cabinet doors or cupboard doors. Windows number well over 300. (Primo’s father Rafael has recently undertaken to wash almost all of them.) Drawers, closets, cabinets and cupboards —uncounted. Some day, as soon I can manage, the contents of every drawer, closet, cabinet and cupboard will be orderly and completely intentional. The impulse for achieving this level of organization is not so much to control my environment as it is to not be controlled by it. Every action on a farm should be supported by order, not thwarted by it.
The goals of all my building and organizational projects are, in varying degrees depending on the project, to: 1) enhance functionality; 2) facilitate longevity; 3) ensure safety; 4) reduce maintenance; and 5) create beauty. Note that the first four goals are related to sustainability. One could make a case that even the last goal, to create beauty, is related to sustainability, since beauty contributes to the well-being of humanity, and a healthier humanity is a more sustainable humanity.
A Bath of Light
An exciting project this fall is the installation of a 3-panel window in place of the loft door that, until 1964, we would open so we could get hay and straw into the haymow. The door is located at the peak of the north end of the main barn. In 1964, we installed a different system in the barn that let us more efficiently put the hay and straw in the loft from the south end. Therefore, until this fall, the big barn door on the north end of the barn had not been opened since 1964. Replacing this door with a window will bathe the barn loft with a broad swath of soft natural light —natural light, one of earth’s greatest blessings.
A Bath of Color
For those of you who have visited the farm, you have certainly noticed that our buildings have an unusual color scheme for a working Midwestern farm. The colors were inspired by the colors of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, which are predominantly red, orange and yellow. I balanced these lively colors with ocean teal as a trim accent. (Notice the red, orange and teal in the photo of our barn above.)
Some of our buildings now need re-painting. I plan to expand the current palette of farmstead colors with two of the new colors in the photo below. The seven panels on the right are colors currently used on the farmstead. Next to these colors we already use, leaning against the middle and left sawhorses, are additional color candidates. (The gourd is present as inspiration for a possible color combination of yellow and green.) Currently, we plan to add two of the colors leaning against the middle sawhorse, Thai Basil and Persian Gold. In deference to the Caribbean, we might do just a teeny splash of the vivid blue and pink leaning against the left sawhorse.
In Mexico, in the towns and the haciendas, these saturated colors somehow harmonize with one another. Perhaps it’s the combination of light, land, and construction materials. I’m sure the buoyant Mexican culture also has much to do with the success of these colors.
Does this bath of colors belong on a traditional farmstead in northern Illinois? I guess that’s for the observer to decide. As the most steadfast and long term observer of the farmstead, I feel they celebrate life itself, and they are a tribute to a country I dearly love, Mexico.
I have been paying special attention recently to what Rudolf Steiner said about Goethe’s color theory, as opposed to the color theory of Isaac Newton that is prevalent today. I am just beginning this quest. For those of you who would like to investigate further, consult Waldorf Journal Project 9: Goethe’s Theory of Color and Rudolf Steiner’s Theory of Color presented by the Bali Center for Artistic Creativity.
If I were to start painting the farmstead all over again today, I would probably lazure it, according to Rudolf Steiner’s indications for painting. A lazured farmstead would be most magical, and would celebrate life in a more nuanced way than the saturated colors above. See examples of lazure here and via google searches. You will also find inspiring examples of lazure painting indoors right on the farm at Metamorphosis of the Peterson Farmstead, by Nancy and Tom Melvin, hosts of the Ravenswood Manor delivery site since 1992. Also, see the work of the practicing lazure artist Charles Andrade at www.Lazure.com.
Painting much of the farmstead, installing a large loft window, installing eaves troughs, and repairing doors and windows are just some of the projects we plan to complete this year. The crew works astoundingly fast. Most days, I wonder how they could possibly have accomplished so much. Just in the last year, they have repaired and re-roofed five of the farm’s buildings—large jobs tucked in amongst numerous other farm demands.
There are other exciting transformative projects in store for the farmstead late fall and winter. I’ll share them with you when they are more picturesque–when they are underway or complete.
The attention we lavish onto the buildings will ideally enrich the souls of the people beholding and using them. Beauty needs to prevail in our everyday surroundings, so as to elevate and ennoble our fellow human beings.
Around the Campfire
Therapist: Wow, do clients need attention today! They want to be coddled and stroked.
Farmer: I think I should bring you my farm for at least one session, probably more.
Log in to your membership using your email address to view your membership details and schedule vacation holds and temporary pickup site changes. These are nifty features. Note: If you want to schedule a vacation hold or temporarily change your pickup site, make sure to do this 14 days in advance of the day for which you want the changes made.
Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return 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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Upcoming Events at Angelic Organics Learning Center
Woodland Survivor Campout (10/14-10/15) – Camp in the beautiful woodlands at Angelic Organics farm and get hands-on instruction for constructing a natural shelter, fire-building, tracking and wild edible plants. Includes dinner Saturday and breakfast on Sunday using ingredients from our farm! Learn more: www.LearnGrowConnect.org/events