Newsletter – 27 June, 2013


 The Alleged Farm News – 27 June, 2013

This weeks share: Arugula, Basil, Dill, Garlic Scapes, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Radishes, Scallions, Turnips

Please note that because of the holiday next Thursday, we will deliver next week’s share on Wednesday, July 3rd  

I regard most claims about the character building benefits of participating in sports with some skepticism. It is not that playing a game cannot make you a better person. I just don’t see why it would necessarily improve your character any more so, say, than bread baking or knitting or just sitting around day dreaming. Actually, sitting around day dreaming is probably more productive. Research suggests that such inactivity plays a vital role in promoting creativity.

The proof of sports’ positive influence seems rather scanter, and anecdotal evidence often suggests something more like a negative effect, certainly at the higher levels. The prevailing moral code seems to be that the better you play the more you can get away with. Sports come to serve an excuse, with predictable results. If we really are getting more profound and valuable than recreation, spectacle and distraction from sports, it ought to be a lot clearer by now just what that is.

We grouse about paying our taxes, but they provide us with schools, highways, clean water, a judicial system, fire protection, drug research, poetry, open space, pollution control, sea rescue, air traffic control, a trustworthy currency, and of course–for reasons I never really understand–a certain number of sports arenas. Yet we eagerly spend tens of billions annually on sports in part based on the unsubstantiated hope that people in matching outfits playing with a ball will come away from the experience having gained discipline, self worth, a work ethic, a sense of fair play and an appreciation for teamwork. Yeah, fun and fitness and friendship have something to do with it. But we choose to believe sports must provide life lessons too, turning players into productive people–and presumably provide those lessons more readily than all the other activities we could expend as much on and do not.

Vegetable Notes: You can cook the mustard greens (the mix of leaves in the bag), but I prefer them as a salad green. I like to make a slightly sweet dressing (I use honey) with some ginger and a little soy sauce. If you do cook the mustard greens, you could add the turnip greens to them. 

You do not have to cook the turnips. The standard purple top turnips are usually so sharp you have to cook them, but the Japanese white turnips (the variety is called Hakurei, and it is one one of the most reliable varieties of vegetables I grow) tend to be much sweeter. You could try slicing them very thin and adding them to that mustard salad or just dressing them with a little soy sauce and rice vinegar and some finely chopped scallion (you could also add some finely sliced radish). Of course, you can also cook them. I like to cut them into wedges and saute them over medium low heat until they are tender and starting to brown. If you need some time to decide what to do with the turnips, take the tops off and refrigerate them. 

If you also want more time to decide what to do with the scape, they will store in the refrigerator for weeks. Or you can puree them with oil and salt and freeze the pureee in ice cube trays. They will keep for months, and you you can just take as many scape cubes out of the freezer as you need when you are ready to use them. 

You can also puree the scapes with the basil to make a pesto-like sauce. Or you can puree them with the arugula, which adds a nice peppery flavor. Either one would make a good dip for thin slices of kohlrabi.

It does seem clear that focussing a great deal of energy on playing a sport will, at least, make you better at that sport. And I do think there is something to be said for working to do whatever you enjoy as well as you can, wether it is cricket bowling or bee keeping. Figuring out that you have to apply yourself in order to improve is useful, and having the chance to engage in something you care enough about to work at is at least as valuable. 

Given that, the sports that seem most likely to teach useful lessons are the ones that demand and test your commitment. The ones, in other words, that are less like a game and more like work. The ones that only grudgingly offer their rewards, and compel the individual participants to come up against their perceived limits.

I admit I am somewhat biased. I rowed crew, an activity so painful and tedious that it is far more like  punishment than sport. I know it has something of a reputation for grace and beauty, but only amongst those who have seen it from a distance. In the boat it is a brutal nonstop struggle with your mental and physical limits, a struggle that leaves no space for the moments of joy that games provide. It is not entirely clear why anyone does it, except that it is strangely addictive.

Well, and teaches such vital life lessons. For instance, if you throw up during a race do it over the side of the boat. Or if your seat breaks, jump out of the boat. Or try not to pass out until you cross the finish line. And you get really proficient at taping up blisters on hands. All of which makes you not just a better person, but also a shoo-in for business success.

Actually, crew’s lessons, such as they are, do seem to apply to a few other endeavors, endeavors like crew that are often boring, physically demanding, short on obvious rewards, require that you give a lot to get anything back, and rip up your hands. Such as farming. I don’t often think of my rowing days while out in the fields. But I do think that crew helped foster a level of pigheadedness, a willingness to keep going when one’s rational self says to quit–in part just to spite one’s rational self, that comes in handy from time to time on the farm.

Not that I would suggest crew as a perfect way to prepare for farming–or for anything except galley slave or possibly crew. I did not take up farming because I rowed or row in order to take up farming, and to the extent that the twisting-pulling motion of sweep rowing torqued my spine it was probably counterproductive. And it is quite possible to excel at crew and not at farming. My older son, Sam, is a far better rower than I ever was: bigger, stronger, far more intense. But set him to weed an onion patch and he is ready to quit after a few minutes. It is hard and boring and you never seem to be making much headway. As opposed to crew. But then he has no interest in being a farmer, to the intense relief of his grandfather. Suffering to achieve something you care about is not at all the same as suffering because your father makes you.

So perhaps the most useful lesson is to do something you care about, even if it involves pain and boredom. After all, you will encounter plenty of pain and boredom no matter what. It might as well be in the service of something that you think matters, whether than is serving as the steward of a piece of farmland or growing real food for people who care or sitting backwards in a boat pulling as hard as you can on oar.


If in any given week of the season you are unable to pick up your share and cannot find anyone else to take it, please let us know. With the help of the folks at Capital District Community Gardens, that box of vegetables will be donated to Capital City Rescue Mission