Farmer John Writes: The Anvil, The Tulip Tree and Grandma Moses
Harvest Week 5, July 26th – 31st, 2021
This past May, I installed an anvil—an ancient train car coupling—in concrete near our farm shop. This was part of the project of creating an outdoor blacksmithery, which I wrote about in Farm News, Roundup and the Snap of the Shank. I had purchased the coupling in the 70’s, with the plan then to embed it in concrete. The coupling had been laying in the weeds since then, dormant.
The Tulip Tree
I live with my wife, Haidy, in a 180-year-old converted limestone schoolhouse across from the driveway to the farm. In 1972 I bought the one-time schoolhouse to save it from the likely fate of demolition, as it had fallen into disrepair since it had been closed as a school in the late 1940’s.
In the front of the property when I purchased it, very close to Rockton Road, was a tulip tree. It bloomed in springtime throughout the 1970’s.
Then it stopped blooming.
Decade after decade, it did not bloom. I began to wonder if it had ever bloomed, or if I had just imagined that it had bloomed. I began to wonder if it actually was a tulip tree.
This spring, it bloomed, after at least 40 years of blooming dormancy.
Life Magazine, which was a major source of our news years ago, profiled Grandma Moses in their September 19th, 1960, issue. I remember comments by my mother at our supper table back then. (Supper took place at 5 pm, between feeding the livestock and milking the cows.)
My mother said, “Grandma Moses is what they call a folk artist or a folk painter. She didn’t start painting until she was in her 70’s. Imagine that, all those years and then suddenly, she started painting and got famous. Well, good for her!”
From Wikipedia: “What appeared to be an interest in painting at a late age was actually a manifestation of a childhood dream. With no time in her difficult farm-life to pursue painting, she was obliged to set aside her passion to paint.”
After decades of dormancy–an embedded anvil, a blooming tulip tree, a painting career. What other surprises might be in store?
Our General Harvest Forecast for Mid-Summer
Thankfully, our crops have not been dormant. Coming up are sweet corn, melons, peppers, eggplant, zucchini/summer squash, onions, carrots, cilantro, dill, sage, thyme, kale, parsley…also, probably another week of beets, fennel and cucumbers. (The cucumber yield surged wildly last week and is now subsiding quickly.) We will also offer a sampling of okra—just a test this year. There probably won’t be enough okra for everyone. And we’ll probably have another harvest or so of beloved basil.
Our Weekly Harvest Forecast
It’s a little tough to figure out just how much of what to offer to our shareholders every week. It’s hard to know what the weather will facilitate or impede. It’s sometimes a stretch to trust the numbers of what we think we have in the coolers; they are usually close to accurate, but sometimes close is not good enough. Sometimes, if we run out of an item, the crew can harvest more of it right away; occasionally, there is nothing left of that item to harvest. At times we have another item that is close enough to the missing item for us to substitute, such as sweet onions for scallions, or lettuce mix for head lettuce. On occasion, we are surprised by a burst of yield (such as the cucumbers last week), and we put extras in the boxes of those who chose cucumbers, because we don’t want to stockpile a lot of cucumbers in storage.
There are many aspects of this kind of farming that are interesting, but one of the most interesting (and most challenging) is making forecasts for our shareholders of what is available for the next week’s box. We do our best to deliver what we schedule, but we are not impeccable, even though there are shareholders who occasionally insist on impeccability. Please remember that we are a farm first–not a store, not a retailer, not a warehouse full of goods. Thanks to the many of you who are mindful that we are primarily a farm and give us a bit of slack, when needed.
Unless there is a major shortfall of an item scheduled for your box, we probably won’t be letting you know with an email followup. If we make an item substitution so as to keep your box value in the proper range, we probably won’t notify you of the details. It’s too much for us busy farmers to track and communicate.
Please Supply Photos Right Away, If You Receive an Unacceptable Item in Your Box
If you have an item in your box that you think is unacceptable due to spoilage or other damage, email us with a description of the item, a photo, and the day it was delivered. Please send us any such complaints within two days of your delivery. Sometimes we get requests for a credit for an item that was delivered a week or more prior. Did this item spoil due to a grading or packing oversight here at the farm, or due to improper storage in the shareholder’s home?
Years ago, I often included an Overheard section in Farm News, in which I shared snippets of the conversations of others I overheard and sometimes the conversations I was part of. I will again occasionally share overheards in upcoming issues of Farm News.
Farmer: What do you do?
Guest: I help startups to succeed.
Farmer: What did you want to do when you were growing up?
Guest: I wanted to be a spy in the Middle East.
Farmer: How did you plan to go about that?
Guest: Study Arabic in high school, go to the Middle East and learn about the culture so I could eventually be a great spy.
Farmer: Did you do that?
Guest: Yes, I learned Arabic in high school and then went to Jordan as an exchange student for several months when I was in college.
Guest: I loved the Jordanian people. They are the best people ever. I could never spy on them. I read too many Tom Clancy novels, I suppose.