TAFN – 16 June, 2022

The Alleged Farm News – 16 June 2022

This week’s share: Bok choi, Cilantro, Dandelion, Escarole, Garlic, Kale, Salad mix  

Sunni’s parents visited the farm this week. Though I suppose it would be more accurate to say they visited Sunni on the farm. They seemed to enjoy the setting, seemed pleased even that their daughter has chosen to be a peon for the season. But I doubt they would have schlepped all the way up here to look around the farm if Sunni were not in residence. But maybe I am underselling the charms of the place.

I suppose I could have asked them, but I was too busy talking with Sunni’s father, a retired rabbi, about Bialistok and Jewish cemeteries and my great aunt Adele, who was in his congregation in Teaneck. I also got to tell him my one rabbi joke (A rabbi walks into a bar with a frog on his head. The bartend says “where did you get that” and the frogs say “Brooklyn”), which seemed to go over well enough. He did not offer a farmer joke in reply, but perhaps next time he is here he’ll have one ready.

Sadly, I did not have time either to ask Sunni’s father my most pressing theological question: why so many deer? Is it because of something displeasing I have done? Some sort of trial? A plague?

I recognize that deer are not specifically a Talmudic issue, and thus a rabbi who spent his career serving urban congregations might not have an answer readily at hand. Indeed, he might not have an answer at all. Perhaps deer are just one of the mysteries of creation, a reminder that it is not for us to understand everything that besets us, which is quite possibly how deer feel about us.

Ideally, of course, Sunni’s father would have provided some teaching of the elders that would show me how to control our deer population, and perhaps lead these wayward animals to eat only weeds and grasses of the fields as surely they are intended to do. But I knew that was probably asking for too much, and in any event, given Talmudic tradition, the recommendations would have been in serious dispute for centuries. When I delved into them in an attempt to ascertain exactly what to do I would only have become confused or been caught up in an argument.

Perhaps, though, he could have taught me some measure of acceptance—as opposed to bitter resignation. Men will transplant beets and deer will come in the night and pull them up and toss them around, destroying them without even eating most of them, as though destruction, not sustenance were the purpose, as though it were a cruel game. And that’s all right. It is as it is.

If acceptance is to come to pass, Sunni’s father has some work to do. I hope he enjoys a challenge. I understand that this is the price of coexistence, and that coexistence in the long run is our best hope. A few beets (well, more than a few) is a small price to pay for all the benefits of living in a functioning multiparty state. But you don’t easily appreciate that when you find the carnage in your beet patch, see all your labor undone, your promising crop torn out of the ground too soon and left to wither just because some deer won’t be satisfied with the acres of lush hay it has roamed across on its way to my crops. Standing by the ruined rows, I find myself in a spiritual condition best described by the words of another wise teacher, Bruce Springsteen:

My Jesus your gracious love and mercy
Tonight I’m sorry could not fill my heart
Like one good rifle
And the name of who I ought to kill


Vegetable notes: We have handed out heads of garlic and garlic scapes, and perhaps even garlic shoots.  Now you get the whole plant. Last fall I took some of the smallest heads of garlic from that year’s crop and as an experiment planted them whole. Normally, we plant the cloves individually, each of which makes a new head. The whole heads, as anticipated, came up as bunches of garlic plants, which would produce  stunted little heads growing like that, but make perfectly fine plants that happen to be edible. I would recommend removing the leaves, which are a little tough (you could use them to flavor a soup or stock). The rest of the plant you can sauté or roast or puree. And if you cut off the incipient head (the white part at the base), you can use it as you would garlic (it will be sweeter and milder than mature garlic). You could crush it and add it to a dressing with parmesan and mustard for kale salad, or one with cream and lemon juice to put on the dandelion. Or you could toss it onto steamed bok choi along with a little sesame oil and soy sauce.