Newsletter – September 20, 2012

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The Alleged Farm News
Issue Number 14 | September 20, 2012

This Week’s Share
Endive or escarole, Garlic, Lettuce
Onions, Peppers, Hot peppers, Potatoes
Radishes,  Tomatoes, Carnival winter squash


 2012 Fall Harvest Festival and Pie Contest
Sunday, October 5th
Our annual Harvest Festival and Pie Contest will take place on Sunday, October 5th. Starting at 3:00 pm, we will have farm tours, games and our traditional potato harvest, followed at 5:30 by a potluck dinner (a chance to share your favorite vegetable dish), and then the Pie Contest. Please join us for all or part of this. Neither digging potatoes nor entering a pie in the contest is mandatory, though we hope you will do both (especially entering a pie in the contest, which is judged by the farm crew).  More information, and directions coming soon

There’s a basic law of the universe I first became fully aware of in the greenhouse as I dragged the hose up and down the aisles in order to water all of the benches of seedlings. But like so many basic truths, once having been revealed to me, now I find evidence of it in much of what I do. I won’t say that it explains everything. It is not that kind of truth–and I am not the sort of person to whom that kind of truth is likely to be revealed. It has a rather more modest role in the order of things–modest enough that many people may never fully have recognized it, let alone articulated it. Surely, though, few have ever gone long without encountering it’s effect.

Anything that can get caught on something else will get caught on something else. I know that may just sound like a cry of frustration from a tired farmed trying to disentangle a length of garden hose from a folding chair so he can water the lettuce at the far end of the greenhouse and finish his chores for the day. And I don’t deny the frustration. But this is not just something that happens from time to time and stands out in my memory because of the irritation, thus coming to seem like a law of nature. It is a law of nature, and it does not just happen from time to time.

It happens when I move a hose around a greenhouse containing few obstructions. It happens when I run an extension cord from the outlet in the barn to the air compressor by the tractor. It happens when I pull the air compressor hose around the tractor to get to the tires on the other side. It happens when I try to pull the rope that engages and disengages the planter mechanism on my grain drill. It happens when I roll up the sides on the field houses. It happens when I pull a length of row cover down a row. It happens to the power cord of the shop vac, the power cord of the circular saw (which I have sawed in half twice, apparently not an uncommon experience given the

Vegetable notes 
It is not clear why the peppers decided to wait until now to ripen, but I am glad they got around to it before a frost. Perhaps they did not want to be overshadowed by the tomatoes, and waited for them to slow down. The tomatoes certainly have done that. The hot dry weather and regular applications of fungicide (we use copper, Milstop and Actinovate in rotation) did nothing to slow the various diseases that always afflict tomatoes late in the season. In fact, they look far worse than they did last year. But it is the middle of September and their flavor starts to fade now as the days grow shorter and the nights colder so it is not such a great disaster. And you have these peppers to take your mind off it.

You also have hot peppers to distract you. We put them in the potato bag so that you would not confuse the Newmex with any similiar shaped sweet peppers you might have. Actually, some of the Newmex peppers might be mistaken for sweet peppers when you eat them. I tried two when we were picking them. The first tasted good, but barely had any heat, which caused me to take an incautiously large bite of the second pepper. It was quite hot. I have no idea why this happens or how to tell how hot your pepper is, other than by tasting it–cautiously. 

array of replacement power cords at the hardware store), the power cord of the barrel washer. And then there are all the things attracted to the rotating blades of the tiller and flail mower: ground cover, row cover, baler twine, drip tape, row cover hoops, metal fence posts, irrigation line. And things that snag your clothing. Before Tom Skiff made us new greenhouse benches this spring everyone who worked on the farm had small L-shaped tears on the front of their pants from getting hooked by a piece of bench top mesh. And things that snag your feet, And things that catch on…well, I could go on and on, but I won’t.

The point is not to list every instance in which this law operates, but to recognize its existence based on massive experimental evidence (we were tearing our trousers for science). Not that recognizing its existence really helps. There is, I suppose, something to be said for simply understanding the laws that govern the universe–for knowledge for its own sake. But it would be nice if understanding this law led to some way to get around it and avoid hours spent untangling things.

It does not seem to work that way. Because I know the law I do often take measures to avoid having things get caught on one another. I move things out of the way before I water the seedlings. I neatly coil the extension cord when I am done with it. I make sure to give row covers a wide birth while mowing. And yet I have spent several hours this year under the mower with a knife, a plumber’s torch, a pry bar and a chisel, hacking off the various things that have become almost inextricably wrapped around the shaft (the chisel, you may be interested to know just for the sake of knowledge, turns out to be the most useful tool in this situation).

I could just be clumsy, lazy, hasty, forgetful. Indeed, I undoubtedly am from time to time. But not often enough to explain away every time something gets caught on something else on the farm. Getting caught on things is just part being a thing. It does not matter how careful or hasty you are. Eventually something will get caught. It is as inevitable the points on my cultivator getting worn down. Hardened steel slows the process, but in the end friction gets the better of it. There’s always some hitch lurking behind every task, waiting to spring out and trip up our plans.   
The odd things about that is how often it takes us by surprise. You might think that we would have learned to account for the hitches and set aside beforehand some portion of our lives to deal with them. You might think that on those rare days everything ran smoothly we would finish early and celebrate our luck. Instead, each hitch is an unexpected source of frustration and annoyance and delay–a disruption in the illusive orderly flow of life. Being a farmer, and thus a fatalist (or perhaps those go the other way around), I know perfectly well on some level that despite all my efforts things will get caught on other things and I will have to stop what I am doing and untangle them. But I am still waiting for the wisdom to accept that no matter what task I am involved in, dealing with the things that have become caught on other things is simply part of what I am doing.