Farm lessons

Meet this week’s Mac veggies:

(Should I even bother to mention a photo this week? Ridiculousness continues on my part. Meanwhile, Casey is still diligently taking photos every week …)

  • Concept lettuce — No, this isn’t just the “concept” of lettuce — it is the real tangible thing. But this variety is a new type for this summer — a “French crisp” type that is suited for hot weather and has a delicious sweet flavor and crunchy texture. It’s the closest thing we grow to iceberg, but so so so much better!
  • Basil — For making sandwiches, pesto, tomato salads, pasta, etc.!
  • Tomatoes — Keeping up with the tomatoes? If not, you can very easily freeze them for cooking with later — just pop in a freezer bag whole (no blanching necessary)!
  • Eggplant & sweet peppers — Your choice between these summer fruits. Our favorite way to eat eggplant is to long cook it so that the texture breaks down — either chopping and roasting with other summer veggies (tomatoes and onions make a good combo) or chopping and adding to summer stews (ratatouille, curry dishes, etc.).
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini & summer squash
  • Sweet onions

Rusty is working hard on language and categories of things these days. Our time is spent naming objects, one-by-one, and then again and again.

Every evening, Casey, Rusty and I go to care for our chickens and ducks. The fun for Rusty used to be in scooping the feed into the containers and then collecting the eggs, but lately he doesn’t even get into the fenced area because he is so fascinated by the pumpkin patch next door. He walks around and around, looking through the foliage for the large green fruit and pointing to them with an “eh?” sound. My job is to say: “that’s a pumpkin.” Over and over again. When he is satisfied that it is indeed a pumpkin, he says “oh” and moves on to the next one.

We do this with other things on the farm too — today it was peppers and squash. Rusty and I walked up and down the rows saying “eh?” and “that’s a squash/pepper.” I imagine that for such a little new mind, it is fascinating that two things can be different but also alike enough to warrant the same label: “doggie,” “pumpkin,” “pepper,” “sprinkler,” etc. Every slightly different sweet pepper that I name “pepper” is probably just building the category of “pepper-ness” in his mind.

Rusty is clearly learning a ton and understands many farming words and concepts already. Casey and I are continually amazed at how such a relatively small and young being is so engaged with our world and actively participating in the things we do around here.

Most of the time, bringing him into the fields during the workdays is still challenging just because of the pace of our work or dangerous equipment, but we do a lot of little projects on the weekends and evenings that fully engage Rusty.

This weekend, Casey and I picked all the makings for our own batch of homemade salsa, and Rusty came along. Without our prompting, while we picked tomatoes, Rusty reached in and started picking too. He even put them in the bins. Of course, after a few minutes, he wandered off to explore the irrigation sprinklers and pick and eat a few pole beans.

And, we still take regular field walks together to check out the crops and learn new words and concepts. The very slow, start-and-stop meanders are full of toddler fascination — dandelion seed heads to blow, blackberries to pick and eat, dirt clods to throw, sprinkler heads to turn, carrots to pull … and, now, all along Rusty points and asks “eh?”

Our farm world is slowly being named and labeled in his head in a process that I can only imagine at my adult distance. Is it like watching a new flower blossom unfold, revealing its structure as each petal moves incrementally more into its final position? Or, is like taking a box full of jigsaw pieces and seeing a picture unfold as it gets put together piece-by-piece? Or, more likely, perhaps it is similar to the continuing experience I have of learning about something new and gaining a deeper understanding as I go …

Either way, it is exciting to think that Rusty will grow up intimately familiar with all the categories of vegetables — vegetable families, individual names, textures, colors, flavors … I open up toddler books and see the groupings and categories on each page, intended exactly for learners at this stage of development, and I realize how powerful our real living environment is for his brain and its constant compulsion to absorb information, sort, fiddle, understand. Already, he knows the parts we eat of each plant — for example, that the yummy orange bit of carrots can be found under ground (he knows this, even when the carrots are still in the ground!).

And, another lesson the farm teaches us all: patience and the deep joy of delayed gratification. Many times this summer, Rusty has been tempted by unripe fruits (especially the apples on our trees that look red and ready but are not!). I’m not sure that he’s old enough quite yet to understand when I say that we have to wait longer (time is still so abstract at this age), but he understands when I let him pick an unripe apple and it just doesn’t taste good yet!

As Rusty grows, the simple facts of waiting and then savoring foods in their season will be an inherent part of his life — not something we parents have to artificially impose but something we all just live with as we walk through the year.

Of course, I think the farm holds lessons for all of — young and old. This lesson about waiting is something Casey and I have learned again and again, especially in seasons such as this one, which started so slowly. But, oh the satisfaction these waits can bring! As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter this year, now I even can enjoy the process of watching trees grow, something I wouldn’t have even seen or noticed years ago.

Here on the farm, there are two time scales that matter — the waiting and patience that go into preparing for the next crops, the next season, the next year; and also the moment of now. What are we eating now? What are we harvesting now? What work are we doing now? Simultaneously being in each of these timescales is a constant dance, but at its base it feels like a human activity — we fulfill our needs to plan and dream, and we also fulfill our needs to be present by focusing on those aspects of the season that are so fleeting (the crickets in the evening, the fall planting work, the onion harvest).

Yesterday (Sunday), the recent heat wave seemed to finally break as a cool wind blew over the farm in the evening. Today was cooler, and we’re looking to the next season — September arrives this week, bringing with it some of those important fall harvests. The crew will be pulling the onions to cure this week, which will be followed closely by seed harvests, potato digging, and eventually the winter squash and other winter storage crops.

I’m sure that we adults will continue learning about the farm as we go into this work, and Rusty will likewise be amazed as those pumpkins turn orange and remain nonetheless “pumpkins” (the peppers will also turn color, along with other crops!) — and eventually even the “trees” will change dramatically as they lose their leaves and yet remain “trees”!

The magic of the farm teaches us all so much, as I’m sure you have learned new things about this season and its flavors on your table.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Thanks to the folks who came out for our CSA potluck last Saturday! It was lots of fun! Our final open house of the year is on October 23. Make sure the date is on your calendar, because we have lots of fun stuff planned (live music, pumpkin patch, and potato tasting!).

~ ~ ~

Tomatoes!!!!! Get some more!

As I’m sure you’ve seen in the last few week’s shares, we have plenty of tomatoes right now. If you’d like even more for “putting up,” you can buy extras for $2/lb, or you can come out to pick for yourself for FREE! Just email us ahead of time to arrange a time. To place an order for farmer-picked tomatoes, email us by Monday evening with the amount and specify whether you want “slicers” (good for freezing) or some of our plum-roma type (better for cooking with now but also good for freezing). We’ll bring them with us to Tuesday pick-up. For either option, our email is: farm (at) oakhillorganics (dot) org.

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