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|2021 CSA bouquets ready for delivery|
GOAT CHEESE SHARES!
Support our wee herd of Nubians with your $25 investment, and get a dividend of 4 weeks of cheese!
|Hello Gorgeous! LuLu, ready for her close up|
In Winter the “littles” play at garden with the bath mat.
While the morning shower washes the residue of sleepy dreams from my stretching, yawning frame, they are busy with combs and brushes “cultivating” the shaggy strands that stand in for the soil of imaginary fields awaiting precipitation.
“You’re the rain Mama! Come rain on our garden!” they cry as I step out and reach for a towel.
Later, in February, the light begins to strengthen and the children gaze out the window suddenly disdainful of the recent pleasures of ice skating and sledding, positively nostalgic for summer.
“Remember the green grass we had last year Mama! We had all the green we wanted in all the world!”
Like bears coming out of hibernation we put in our seed orders in January, send out our farm-share ads in February, and now, as March approaches, I find my mind tracking the goats at the back of all the day to day thoughts of Algebra, Laundry, Dinner, and the dusting I plan to do sometime in the near future.
Next week we’ll begin regular barn checks to see if any of the does are kidding. This time of year can be difficult for young kids, especially smaller siblings born after a stronger kid has already managed to get up on its feet nursing. The cold and the competition can prove too steep a challenge for some of them without some timely assistance. (Or so we tell ourselves, eager to lend a hand and get back into the intimate game of husbandry, tired of our woodstoves, and quite evenings, ready to begin again.)
Farm-Share checks are beginning to come in. It feels like the assembling of old friends.
|Swiss Chard and Summer Cover Crop 2021|
A few years ago we had a booth at a CSA fair in Minneapolis. Almost every farmer we met there was anxious about the future of Community Supported Agriculture. Most of them were taking every opportunity to chat with each other and ask the dreaded question of how many members they were retaining each year, and how they had evolved to meet the ever -changing desires of their members. With very few exceptions most of them had begun to offer “Pick and Choose” options at their farmer’s market stands each week, for members to come and fill a box with the veggies they preferred and leave the ones they didn’t. Many had online marketplaces, and were harvesting individual weekly orders. Many had diversified their share sizes, offering various sizes to meet the different needs of families, couples, and individuals. All of them were larger programs than ours, and I grew dizzy at the logistical nightmares they were describing: trying to fulfill such a vast array of desires, and chasing down multiple orders, marketing them multiple ways, and the man-power such daily efforts required.
|Grazing Goats in the Kale Bed after CSA season|
“Maybe so,” he replied, “but you’ll lose some folks. These days we can’t afford to lose anybody. We’re trying to retain as many as we can, even as they seem to grow bored of the CSA model.”
As if to prove his point a woman interrupted us with a barrage of questions and demands.
She had a long list of things she wanted, things she didn’t, and wanted a pro-rated share for the weeks she’d be out of town.
Our answers were simple, but not satisfying to her. She left in a huff, shaking her head.
“See what I mean?” my fellow farmer finished. But I was more glad that she left, than I was worried that we didn’t have enough to offer.
“You can’t build a farm with members like that” I said.
Big words, I thought, but you can’t eat ideals!
That’s when the man in the Carhart vest to the right of our booth stepped over to introduce himself. He didn’t need to. I already knew who he was. I’d read several articles featuring his farm, a venture he and his brothers had begun in the Driftless region of Southwest WI on a shoestring. They were now a 400 member CSA farm and were making organic oils out of their sunflower crops, developing quite a name for themselves as one of the very few local producers.
“I miss the days out in the field.” He told me. “We got so big, I don’t even do the farming anymore. I think you’re right to stay small. It will keep you remembering why you’re doing it in the first place.”
He was wistful, and I was heartened.
Since then, we’ve found that there is an ever- growing group of people out there who are willing to sign themselves up to the adventure of supporting and eating from a farm. These people understand the “choice” the grocery store touts is largely mythological. Fewer varieties are available to the shopper in the store, due to the limited varieties that are conducive to shipping, and growing on a massive scale.
One choice you will never be given in a large grocery store is the choice of “fresh”. Our farm harvests the bulk of the vegetables in our shares hours before delivery, or at the most, a day in advance. There is no transit time across state lines in a semi-truck, waiting on pallets in the back of a distribution warehouse cooler.
Though the CSA model, is in my opinion, not as ideal as the European markets, which are open every day, largely unregulated, and are part of the daily habit of people in those walkable, live-able, closer-knit regions, it remains a vivifying way to connect to the land, eat well, and promote local stewardship of precious resources.
The ideal CSA member is one who is willing to give up the tired habit of getting what they want when they want it (at any cost), and is open to the surprise and responsibility of gift.
In this way, they are very like the farmers who grow their food.
J.S. Marcus’ Jan.21st article on Beatrix Potter in the Wall Street journal states that “at the height of her fame, she began to wind down her career to devote herself to sheep farming in England’s Lake District.”
In reality, she chose to devote herself to her husband and become Mrs. Heelis. Mrs. Heelis, as Mrs. Heelis, would of course be “a country woman” and involved in animal husbandry and care of the farm and gardens. Why should this fact be less accessible to the current readers of newspapers than the fact that she became a “woman farmer”?
The article continues and finishes in similar fashion:
|The curmudgeonly Mrs. Heelis with muddy clogs|
“…but according to a BBC radio documentary about the writer, she developed a curmudgeonly streak and, eventually a reputation for not liking children all that much. By the 1920s, Potter, now known as Mrs. Heelis, was shouting down misbehaving Lake District children…. this final incarnation of Beatrix Potter is evoked in the (new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum) by a pair of her crude farmer’s clogs.”
Oh dear. Married, miffed by miscreants ruining her shrubberies, AND possessed of muddy farmer’s clogs. How far she managed to fall from the accolades and fame she earned for pictures of bunnies in waistcoats and hedgehogs in ruffled aprons!
When will the world realize that the measure of a person is in how small and insignificant, they’ve managed to become in some forgotten part of the world, and whether they have found someone to love, and love well?
1: A pleated or gathered piece of material: ruffle; specif: a flounce on woman’s clothing. 2: something that suggests a furbelow esp. in being showy or superfluous
|Important Historical illustration of a Furbelow|
On our farm we embrace technological poverty.
It’s part of our commitment to invest in each other and to be content to be attentive stewards on our scrap of land.
I still find it an endless source of amusement to hear how
portions of the rest of the world fare
in the whole- hearted embrace of tech as the new messiah of our lives, which
will make all things new, and make our yokes easy and burdens light.
|The new L.F.F. Nubian herd sampling Fall kale beds|
According to Fortune.com, last year a bored teenager named Jaiden Stipp made a piece of digital artwork.
He listed it online. It sold for 20 Ethereum. At first his father was incredulous. Then the $30,000 hit his son’s bank account.
Today he employs a few artists. His mother has quit her job to work as his manager. His art sales are now valued at over 1 million dollars. His dad no longer scoffs.
I listened to this story on the radio, trying to grasp what exactly a NFT was. To no real avail.
A google search at the library revealed crummy electronic images of dogs with sun glasses, pictures of grinning excited millennials, and a Ven diagram of the properties of NFTs (indivisible, unique, and provably scarce.) Sounds like the traditional family, I thought cheekily, as I scrolled down to find the other things that people who searched for NFTS were also interested in. One of them caught my eye:
|2021 Hogs on Harvest Day|
Ah. The ever-present attraction of the almighty machine which does work for us while we avoid getting our cuffed sweatpants dirty.
NFT stands for Non-Fungible Tokens. Non exchangeable. Tokens. That make millions.
The word Fungible takes up its space in the dictionary just after “funeral” and is closely followed by fungicide and fun house. As I tried to wrap my mind around what fungibility is and how non fungibility could possibly result in something agreed upon to have value, and be bought and paid for with an electronic currency which is then converted into the very fungible heap-big-pile-o-cash, I found my eyes and mind wandering to the next page of the dictionary where the equally interesting word “furbelow” resides…and the story I remember loving as a child: “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”
In her book “On Pilgrimage” Dorothy Day tells of a Jewish law she had heard of, in which, if a Father does not teach his son a trade, the son’s obligation to take care of his father in old age is waived.
It is chilling to realize that even as we sit our children down in front of television sets as baby sitters, and give them the hand held screens of our smartphones to occupy them during any kind of wait in the Doctor’s office, or dining out during a family dinner, instead of teaching them the superpowers of patience, industry, and human connection and conversation, we are building for our generation the future we will inhabit in the nursing homes of the next generation: completely machine managed, in which medications are dispensed by robots, families say goodbye to dying loved ones via zoom, and the tasks which bring people in direct contact with bodies and their bodily fluids are managed by low-paid over worked vulnerable immigrants and teenagers. Oh wait. The future is now.
“Yes, we will have more time with modern conveniences, but we will not have more love”
|Dorothy Day with her grandchildren (cjd.org)|
A fellow I know who works in H.R. and
“knows a lot about farming because of all his connections with farmers through
his work” told me that I wouldn’t believe how high-tech dairy farming has
gotten. He said to me: “It’s amazing! Gone are the old days of the dumb hick
farmer figuring out a ration for his cows. Now they’ve got these computers
hooked up to the feed troughs. They can ascertain all the right vitamins and
minerals for each individual cow, and send the feed needed without the farmer.
Hundreds and Hundreds of cows kept track of like that!”
I tried to scale the lofty heights of his splendorous awe, but kept getting hung up on the image of hundreds and hundreds of grain-fed dairy cows in stanchions on cement-looking out over lagoons of manure pit slurry.
Would it have been any use to mention that the “dumb hick farmers of the old days” knew that the cow is a ruminant, and as such, thrives on grass and not on grain? Funny how “dumb” is really dog whistling for “content with a financial situation which is now deemed socially unfashionable, foolish, and unacceptable.”
“Cold and hunger and hard lodging, humble offices and mean appearance are considered serious evils. All things harsh and austere are carefully put aside. We shrink from the rude lap of earth and embrace of the elements, and we build ourselves houses in which the flesh may enjoy its lust and the eye its pride”
John Cardinal Henry Newman’s Lenten sermons
But his bank account will likely not suddenly swell with the
likes of 30K.
His constant and quixotic investments in invisible realties like soil health and family unity and the souls of his children will be scoffed at.
Perhaps worst of all, and the most unpardonable: he will have dirt on his furbelows.
|Resident Goatherd #1|
“Don’t worry Papa. I know what to do.”