Monday, July 20, 2009

Faith and Food

Farm Journal July 2009

It's that point in the summer when the heat has set in, the long slow bake that'll take us into the harvest season. This is the time for the quickening of the crops around here, the spurt of growth in the corn, the tomatoes going from yellow blossom to fruit in the next two or three weeks. We've had our garlic scrapes and need to get around to pulling up the bulbs and hang them in the wood shed to dry. In this tremendous rush for fulfillment before death in the short Northern growing season, we are in plain battle with weeds and insect pests for the raspberry, apple, blueberry and grape. I put garlic juice in the back pack sprayer to keep off the Asian and Japanese beetles that will strip a young tree of its leaves in a day or two. The healthy apple trees we planted out in the spring have already outgrown the attacks of the leaf rollers and the scab. Some of them have died back, unable to fight back, but not many. The trees we planted out as two year old transplants from Fedco in Maine have struggled in comparison to the grafts, native born as it were on this land, especially the tenderer-leafed varieties such as Honeycrisp and Starkey.
The lambs are also getting infusions of garlic to fight off the mid-summer parasites once every two weeks which seem to be working so far. They browse and play, and one of the rams has begun to behave strangely around the older women and young girls of the herd, which is always unnerving, another sign that the season of spring-like innocence has passed.
One of the attractions of having a small farm is the way the life around you corresponds to the larger cycle of seasons. It makes sense, this correspondence, in a way that much of contemporary life does not. Michael Jackson is dead, Frank McCourt has passed away also. Obama's health care initiative is stalled in the halls of Congress. How much of this matters, how much of it seems to wash away at our sensibilities like some spore-laden rain, curdling the leaves and tendrils of our nervous system until we no longer hear anything or feel anybody? Not everybody can or should have a farm, but the farmer shares more than the food he grows. He shares an insight, a sense that there is meaning, and he shares his insight, this intuition of correspondence, with all of life, struggling upward toward the shortening hours of light in the sun. To make sense implies that there is sense, that we live in an ordered universe, and without the faith imparted by this intuitive grasping at sense, it is doubtful that the generations before us would have soldiered on, farming and growing food, measuring progress by whether one plant lived, one sheep grew fatter, one pig was ready for market. That faith is just as necessary today and as in short supply as good, healthy food.

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