Newsletter – 18 July, 2013


The Alleged Farm News – 18 July, 2013

This weeks share: Basil, Bok Choi, Cucumber, Escarole, Garlic, Garlic Scapes, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Onion, Squash

We often picture the life of the mind as a sedentary life. Deep thinkers are supposed to settle down comfortably (or, depending on the tradition, deliberately uncomfortably on their knees on a cold stone floor, atop a tall column or perhaps in an open pit) in order to undertake serious contemplation. Newton reposed beneath an apple tree in order to discover gravity. Galileo stared out at the night sky in order to divine the structure of the solar system. Sartre sat at his cafe table. It is not that thinkers cannot get up and stroll through the groves of academe, but in order to do some really hard thinking they are not supposed to do be doing something else. We don’t imagine Einstein grappling with the space-time continuum while hanging wallpaper.

Our black currants are ripe. If you are interested in coming out the the farm to pick your own, please let me know so we can set up a time. There is no cost if you pick them yourself.

If you would like to purchase some picked black currants, please let me know how many (in pounds or fractions thereof). We will deliver them with your share next week. The price for picked black currants is $5.00/lb.

In fact, we don’t imagine Einstein hanging wallpaper at all. Or if we do, it is probably not going very well for him. Those eggheads, they may understand the underlying principles of the universe, but they are hopeless at household tasks or fighting off zombies. Around here, what they possess is generally referred to as book learning –as opposed, I guess, to illiterate learning–and it is not highly thought of. It is not all the same as knowing how to do anything useful like welding or plowing or tending to sick calves or skinning a deer or pouring concrete or replacing a clutch or laying drain tile or stacking bales or canning tomatoes or, well, all the stuff any competent local can do. Book learning must have its uses too, down in the city where people screw around with numbers and argue over commas and hire people to walk their dogs. But here in the real world it just gets in the way of getting on with what you have to do.

Vegetable notes: At least it has stopped raining all the time. That is about all I can say in favor of this weather. But it is something. We have been able to weed the peppers and cultivate the potatoes and spread compost for fall crops and weed the onions and make beds for kale and weed the carrots and sow a Sudan Grass cover crop and weed the beets and spread fertilizer for the next planting of squash and flex tine the shell beans and weed the leeks and generally start to catch up on tasks such as weeding. And yesterday we pulled the first three beds of garlic and hung the bulbs to dry in the hay mow. God knows how much more we would have accomplished if we were not pretty well fried by the middle of the afternoon. I have suggested that we switch to night farming, and the crew is giving it serious consideration.

Some of the crops have started to try to make up for lost time too. The surviving cucumbers, for instance, have at last begun to produce a few fruits. It is hardly a bumper crop (what is a bumper crop?), but more of a crop (of whatever sort) than I expected to get 10 days ago. 

The onion patch is looking quite good, especially now that it is all weeded. But the onion in your share actually comes from the greenhouse. I planted some sets in the greenhouse this spring as an experiment. I am not wowed by the size (partly my fault for planting them close together), but they have come in early. 

While we are still getting lots of the crops from the greenhouses (in part because of what the weather did to the field crops, but also because we always grow a lot of stuff in the greenhouses, which have great soil and irrigation), the vegetables outside are starting to come on. We should be able to harvest potatoes next week (and do so with the digger our neighbor just kindly lent us), the carrots are sizing up, the outside onions are nearly ready and the tomatoes have set a lot of fruit.

And then there is always the squash. In case you are wondering why we give you this much, just know that we could hand out a lot more. Last week Fred from Community Action filled the back of his pickup truck with extra produce from the farm, and a lot of it was squash. Think of it as summer pasta. It has a pleasant texture and takes on the flavor or whatever you put on it. And you don’t even have to cook it, which is useful in this weather. You could julienne it and salt it, let it drain for a few hours, gently press out the moisture, and toss it with oiive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, perhaps some capers and crushed garlic, a few hot pepper flakes, and have a lovely “pasta” salad.

But this is nonsense. I have no idea if Einstein did any home decorating. But if he ever did put up wallpaper I would guess that once he got the hang of it he found it an excellent opportunity to pursue questions of theoretical physics. Yes, you can ponder profound questions while sitting perfectly still, but there’s nothing like basic manual labor to set the brain in motion.

In part, it is just physiology. Like all the rest of your organs, your brain performs best when it gets a healthy flow of blood, and your blood flows a lot more healthily when you are active–both during a specific activity and as a result of being generally active. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that people using a treadmill desk not only improved their fitness but also, surprisingly, typed faster and more accurately. Sitting still has its benefits, but enhanced brain activity is not one of them.

But I don’t think it is just the increased blood flow that leads to better thinking during simple tasks. Occupying your body and the less contemplative portions of your brain that control such activity seems to clear out space for really productive pondering. It somehow quiets all the distracting little quibbles and anxieties that usually fill your head, creating an almost meditative state–a meditative state in which you are actually getting something useful done. So if you don’t achieve any significant scientific or philosophical breakthroughs, at least you have managed to hang some wallpaper or weed the carrots.

That is why I think all meetings should include some simple manual task for the participants. Most meetings don’t lead to breakthroughs of any sort. Certainly not the ones I have been to. A group of people get together to talk about all the things they should be doing if they weren’t sitting around at meetings, and then finish up by agreeing to meet again. You could do all that while picking beans, and at least you would come away with beans. And maybe because you were being active you would also have sharper insights to add the the discussion, such as the fact that there should be a lot fewer meetings.