Farmer John Writes: The Hush of Order

 In Farm News

Harvest Week 6, July 24th – July 28th, 2018

Your Box This Week – Saturday Deliveries:
Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. Share contents often vary over the course of the week. And, as always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.

Fruiting Crops — Sweet Corn, Summer Squash, Sweet Peppers

Salad Greens — Lettuce

Cooking Greens — Kale

Stem Crops — Fennel, Celery

Alliums — Sweet Onion

Herbs Cilantro, Sage or Parsley, Anise Hyssop

Sign up for the Free CSA Meal Planning Service
Make sure you sign up for the Local Thyme CSA meal planning 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: Grilled Corn with Cilantro Lime Butter.

I know that most of our shareholders are signed up for the free and popular Local Thyme meal planning service that comes with your membership, but this week I’m going to also include a link to storage tips and recipes for sweet corn from the out-of-print Farmer John’s Cookbook.

Sweet Corn:

A Great Farm Field Day
The weather turned lovely for our Field Day last week (learn more about our Field Days at It was threatening enough in the morning to discourage some of our shareholders from attending, but for those who attended, it was a fabulous day, with hayrides, delicious food, and great conversations.

A Building Tour
I gave a tour of the buildings to a wide-eyed group, highlighting the many infrastructure improvements and organizational upgrades we made over the past year. Young Jo Haas, who I have mentioned several times in Farm News, noted that it was in many ways a tour of the Farmer John Museum—from the farmhouse I grew up in through the recent transformations of the farm office and the barn interiors.  

Jo Haas

Frequent observations and exclamations were made on the tour regarding the orderliness of the spaces. There is no clutter on the office desks, no random accumulation of stuff in the myriad rooms we toured. In the farm shop, the tools hang in neat rows on the walls, and the immense amount of inventory we manage for building maintenance and machinery upkeep is organized on rows of tall, deep shelves. Order is paramount on our farm, especially because the diversity of machines, buildings and crops that we manage could easily tilt the farm into chaos. As counterpoint to our busyness, order creates a hush, a stillness. It is an outer version of a meditative state.

Emptiness is an element of design. An empty wall might contain and express all the loveliness that that stretch of wall requires. Or an empty wall might need a painting to adorn it. We don’t organize spaces to the point of sterility. We strive to organize space to the point where the space itself is fully expressed. What’s in the way of that fullest expression, we ask ourselves? What is needed for that fullest expression? More order? Less order?

In concert with our ideal of fully expressed spaces, we continually exercise intention. A question we often ask ourselves is “is that item intentional, or does it just happen to be there?” Intention provides the ongoing current, the impetus, for how we maintain spaces. Are we always true to it? No. Do spaces get disorderly? Yes. As an effective aspiration for how we maintain our spaces, though, intentionality is a superb, highly actionable guideline.

(The tour did not include Haidy’s and my home, built in the 1840’s, where we also assist the spaces in achieving their fullest expression through the ongoing exercise of intention.)

In my early 20’s, I built an organizer for commonly used fasteners for the farm shop. It was an interesting endeavor, as it caused me to impose limits as to how far organization could go. Because we commonly used standard thread hexagonal bolts in a variety of lengths and diameters, I created cubbyholes to accommodate the respective sizes. 

But then, there are many other types of fasteners, such as hardened standard thread bolts, fine thread bolts, machine screws, lag bolts, eye bolts, cotter keys, plow bolts, roll pins, lug bolts, and carriage bolts that we use less often, and they also have specific lengths and diameters. Facing the need to manage these distinctions was an exercise in differentiation—how specific to be? How general? (I face the same challenge in writing this newsletter.) 

I organized some of the categories, such as lag bolts, that were common but less common than the standard thread hexagonal bolts, according to length, with all diameters of a particular length occupying the same cubby hole. Some categories, such as lug bolts, plow bolts and wing nuts, were assigned one cubby hole each, regardless of lengths and diameters. And some categories, such as corks, bungs, and plugs, shared a single cubby hole.

Hardware organizer built by Farmer John circa 1972, still in use

Here is a 32 page chart dedicated to the distinctions of fasteners: (Just ponder the names of some of these fasteners: ogee, mating screws, kaptoggles, shoulder bolts…Who came up with these names? How did these names come to be accepted? And how did the fasteners themselves come about?)

And then there are turnbuckles, hooks, bushings, grease fittings, O-rings, wire connectors, pipe fittings, hose clamps, threaded rod, fuses, cable clamps, retaining rings, set screws, hitch pin clips, lock pins, retaining rings, lock nuts, taps, dies, and threaded inserts—each in an assortment of sizes. We use all of these items on the farm (though, of course, not every size of each of these fasteners, but which size might we suddenly need? That is the mystery and the challenge of inventory management.)  And now, with so much farm equipment coming to the U.S. from other parts of the world, metric fasteners are another large category of items for us to manage.

Not to forget–fasteners for construction and remodeling, which we also often do on the farm—dry wall screws, pole barn nails, wood screws, finishing nails, masonry nails, dry wall anchors—this requires a whole other stream of organization and distinctions.

I knew a person in Mexico who strove for the ultimate in differentiation. For days, she organized the many books in her library, first according to height. This didn’t satisfy her, so she organized them according to their color—that didn’t work for her. Then she organized them alphabetically by author—not satisfying. Then she endeavored to organize them by topic. 

The lesson is in how to achieve balance. There cannot be a cubbyhole and a label for every individual item in our farm inventory. We need varying degrees of differentiation. Too much differentiation, and we will do nothing but sort, organize and label items and the farming won’t get done. Too little differentiation and our farm devolves into chaos and the farming won’t get done. At Angelic Organics, the rough edges of farming—the disorder of weather, the surprise of a broken machine, the unexpected loss of a crop—are balanced by our stream of intention and the hush of order.

Check out the Lawson Products Catalog, 344 pages primarily to fasteners and related hardware and how to organize it all.

In the Week 4 issue of Farm News, The Warp of Words, I described how Monsanto has resolved the differentiation of myriad categories of complaints by condensing them into a single category, creating the unified field of Symptomology. The challenging differentiation of hardware on farms into thousands of categories, sizes, and strengths will likely also be resolved in the future. Each farm shop might someday be equipped with a block of steel and a 3D-printer that can make any piece of hardware needed, relegating the corks, bungs and plugs nestled in their cubbyhole and all the rest of the farm’s hardware assortment superfluous. The block of steel will supply the raw material to the printer for all the farm’s hardware needs. It will be engraved All Is One, and farmers will ponder that and many will suspect that it is true.

Please tell your friends that we are continuing to sell shares. Send them to

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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Let us Know
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More from Shareholders
Visit us often at, where we post exciting farm developments regularly, and shareholders post recipes, tips, and photos.

Farmer John

Angelic Organics Learning Center
Squeeze more summer into your year! Summer doesn’t end in July, so why let back to school season bring your fun to a close? Come to the farm this August and September and get the last of the warm weather while you can! Farm shareholders can take 10% off the last of our summer events when you register by August 5th! Use code TAKEBACKSUMMER at checkout to redeem your discount off these end-of-summer programs:

Adult Farm Camp | August 17-19
Farm Homesteading Retreat | September 7-9
Prairie on the Farm: Pizza and Beer | September 22

Campout for Wilderness Explorers | September 29-30

Register today at and make more summer memories before summer is truly over!

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