Monday, August 20, 2012

The Farm Report

Cicero, of the late Roman Republic, who had a lot to say about many things, said "of all the occupations, none is better than agriculture."  Not for making fortune or achieving fame, but for its rewards both intrinsic and palpable.  Most who so esteem it these days make an economic living elsewhere and either retire to a gentleman's farmette or busy themselves with gardens. 
There are 17,000 new products on supermarket shelves every year.  A few may be long-existing items you did not have convenient access to before, but most are processed or fancied-up things overpriced at best and full of scary chemicals at worst.  We are dedicated to using everything that shows up in our "share" of organic local produce from the Spiral Path Farm CSA (community-supported agriculture) which is dropped off once a week about a mile away, and so are little tempted to look for any "new" products at the grocery store.  Recipes are wisely included with the weekly newsletter, since a lot of us would not know what to do with red Swiss chard the first time around.  For some reason, the cats love to chew at the sweet corn husks and I swear they know it's Thursday afternoon, because they're waiting by the garage-to-kitchen door so they can get at them right away.  Not crazy about husks myself, I can say that if they never send anything more wonderful than the little personal-size sweet watermelons, I'd still be perfectly happy.  Nancy can peer into the bag and in a minute come up with an original idea for dinner, recipe or no, so all her boys are thrilled with Thursdays.
With little land to work with, I still like to grow some things each year, usually tomatoes, green beans, onions, basil, and additionally this season, mint.  All grow in pots, the onions this year in a small planter where they did exceptionally well after a disappointing start.  The basil goes on burgers, salads and in anything remotely Italian, and the mint is destined for mojitos (natch!).  There are tomatoes and onions in the box garden at Zach's house, as well as a herd of beans in what looked like an ideal spot under a trellis.  I just don't know what's wrong with the soil there; we did get a second harvest of beans but the plants looked like they needed to go to Intensive Care.  The tomatoes are nice, but small, and the plants are likewise not half the size of the ones on the back deck.  Despite mixing the soil in the box with care from every good ingredient (and it feels and looks good), it's just barely more than worthless.  I put in some carrot seeds for a last-ditch effort at a fall crop (just enough days left), but don't have much hope.  They were on sale for 11 cents so no loss of investment looms.  I'll probably disassemble it in early winter.
Another planting on its final run are the chrysanthemums in three big pots on the deck which had been rescued from being thrown away by a hotel after Thanksgiving about 15 years ago.  They have a lovely mix of blooms, seemingly a result of cross-pollination over the years, but are long, ragged and don't respond well to watering anymore. 
I found a fiberglass cigarette urn thrown down the hill by a local motel last spring, brought it home (scrounging is the cousin of recycling!), painted it terra-cotta and filled it with soil, and put a packet of lettuce seeds in.  All year long, it's been the source of BB Bunny's dinner greens, and after the recent regular rains, is growing faster than it's used.
About a hundred years before Cicero opined on the subject, Cato the Elder wrote (in De Agri Cultura) that the best type of farm is the vineyard.  I had the privelege of snacking on wine grapes in Italy and the Santa Ynez and Napa Valleys, and can attest they produce delightful fruit as well as noble wines, and feed the eye and mind as well.  Food and drink are not just products or commodities, they are life.

1 comment:

  1. A man of the dirt. I thought Zach's was as shady as my yard, but glad it gives you more space. And knowing what to cook with the ingredients is all important. The best medicine for the body and the soul is digging in the dirt.