The Alleged Farm News – 10 September, 2015

This week’s share: Cilantro, Garlic, Lettuce, Mustard greens or radicchio, Onions, Peppers, Newmex peppers, Desiree potatoes, Tomatoes, Jester winter squash


I have a running count going in my head a lot of the time. Not just one running count going ever higher, though that would be interesting. And kooky. No, I am counting various different items–ideally one at a time–so I get to reset to zero fairly often. Especially if I am trying to count more than one thing at a time–say, red peppers into one bin and yellow ones into another. To make that work at all you have to keep saying both counts every time you add one to either category, which almost invariably at some point causes me to lose track and have to start over. Though sometimes I just lose track because my mind wanders and I don’t know if the number in my head–the counting somehow manages to keep running in some part of my brain separate from the day dreaming center–is for the object in my hand or the one I just put in the box, or maybe just some random number I have aimlessly arrived at. Or someone says something to me that requires I employ the part of the brain that does that background count, which turns out to a be a part of the brain that can only do one thing at a time, so the count turns off, and if I don’t get back to it quickly the number I stopped at has disappeared. You’d think the counting mechanism would have a better memory function to avoid this problem. But it seems to work more like an alarm clock. It ticks along quietly on its way to the number you set as the end point and only demands your conscious attention then. Much of the time, that end point is 120 because we are counting to the number of shares to make sure we have enough of whatever crop we are picking or bunching or washing for everyone (and most of the time crops get counted into tubs as they are picked and counted again into tubs as they are washed, just to be sure, and because counting becomes a habit). So 120, and off goes the buzzer. But sometimes, such as with the peppers, we are just counting vegetables into a container until it is full so we know how many we have, and thus how many we can put in each share. And for some silly reason, I take pleasure from fitting some nice round number of vegetables into each container. Not enormous grinning chortling look what I have done pleasure, to be clear. It is not that exciting. Just a small private pleasure, but enough to make me spend some time arranging vegetables just so in the hopes of getting to a good number. With a little work, you can get 100 peppers into a bin, which is even more satisfying than getting forty squash into each yellow flat because, obviously, 100 is just a more satisfying number than 40. I don’t know what that means, except that I feel it. Looked at logically, it seems stupid. Numbers don’t have emotional or aesthetic content. Which may have something to do with why math always puzzled me. Even when I knew the formulas and could arrive at something like a correct answer, I could not grasp the numbers’ motivation. Did they enjoy being operated on and turned into a different number? Were they happy to be part of something bigger than themselves, subsumed in the whole like fervent foot soldiers, or bitter to be used that way? Or did they view these changes with total equanimity, understanding that every operation can be undone and that doing and undoing are just matters of perspective? Perfectly reasonable questions to ponder, of course, but they do tend to get in the way of the actual math. When we are counting, though, the numbers take on purpose and, in a sense, tangible form. 120 becomes three big bins of bagged potatoes, 100 a carefully packed crate of peppers. Not that that helps explain the weird satisfaction of having 100 peppers in the crate rather than 98 or 103. The satisfaction relates to the number itself, not the peppers. I don’t think we have a good crop of peppers because I can fit 100 in a crate. Nor does it make those peppers look or taste better. But then I find satisfaction in all sorts of random things on the farm that have no obvious bearing on the peppers: a heron landing in the field near me, the sky on a clear night, an owl calling from the top of the hill, the sound of the bees in a patch of buckwheat. Oh sure, I can place those things in the context of the farm, connect them to what I do, to the food we grow, talk about pollinators and a healthy natural habitat and the weather. But the immediate pleasure they give me has nothing to do with that. When I see that heron falling so gently to earth, huge wings cocked, legs thrust forward, head held high, the pleasure has nothing to do with anything but that. It is not about anything; it just is. And apparently, for whatever reason, finding pleasure in these intangible things (I don’t want to go grab the heron any more than I want to grab the number 100) is built into us. I don’t know why. Maybe just to give us those small moments of satisfaction in the midst of ordinary, crate-packing life. That or it is just what happens to your mind when you force it to keep counting all the time, its desperate attempt to find something more interesting to think about that 26 peppers, 27 peppers, 28 peppers…


Vegetable notes: I am not entirely sure why we are handing out a winter squash right now. Wishful thinking perhaps. Or maybe just because Sean and I hauled the first load of squash into the barn the other day (on what may have been the hottest day of the year) and they did not all quite fit in the bin. We had to put them somewhere, and the share seemed as good a place as any. Plus, you don’t have to eat your squash just yet. You can wait for cooler days when some roasted squash and red onion or squash bisque seems called for.

In the meantime, you can continue to eat tomatoes and peppers, together or separately. With the cilantro and Newmex peppers, which are in the paper bag, and some tomatoes you could make a nice salsa. Or you could onion, pepper and tomato down slowly, maybe finishing it off with lemon juice and capers and a bit of fresh cilantro, into a sort of chunky sauce for grilled fish.

I believe some of you have been wondering where the garlic went. We have been hoarding it. As I mentioned some time ago, we had a disastrous garlic crop. So we have been hanging onto what we got, waiting to hand it out. Maybe it is a farmer instinct to save onto your storage crops. But at some point it has to go in the shares, and this seemed like as good a point as any. It is fully cured now, so it will store if for some odd reason you cannot think of what to do with it right away.