Visit our website-in-progress:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ellen's Cows

Prettier than ours. And, for organic gardeners, manure machines.


We have always had a few cows to keep pasture grass a civilized length, and as an excuse for fences, tractors, cattle gaps, and so on. Lawrence Smith has been our "cow man" since forever, and the arrival of his old blue truck engenders a stampede towards the barn. He knows every quirk of every cow, how much she cost, how many calves she's had and what they sold for.

We usually have a bull and have never had a speck of trouble. Our bulls have all been gentle giants, or at least gentle mediocre boy bovines--I'm not sure why, in the more than 20 years I've lived here with them, we've never had a single one that fits the stereotype of the pawing, charging, fence-destroying behemoths of legend. Maybe because they always live with the girls. At any rate, kids, cows, bulls, and donkeys have always coexisted peacefully around here.

Ellen's cows are both higher-class than ours--hers are Angus, ours are mutts--and more spoiled. They get hand-fed from a bucket, instead of a blue truck. But ours are art-lovers: one of our huge concrete sculptures mysteriously seemed to shift positions from day to day. Turns out our bull was in love, and pushed it around during the night. That's amore'!


Dinner in the Church of Outdoor Dining is usually a casual affair, but sometimes we pull out the ancient damask tablecloths from the highboy we inherited from Tom's reclusive-while-alive-but-now- long-deceased spinster second cousin (I think!). Tom finally actually bought a brand-new white tablecloth for the occasion here--a dinner to thank our good friend Sherbe and his wife Sheila and support crew for the gate they contributed to our fenced garden. And for everything else they do for us.

DiAnne's green-tomato gazpacho--made with Green Germans (an heirloom tomato, neither unripe nor foreign nationals)--is both exquisitely tart and exquisitely green. Food out here can't help but be beautiful!

Sherbe actually lived here on the farm long ago, in the late 70's, during the days of no air-conditioning and the famous outdoor shower. Perhaps these features were inextricably linked.

And no, I don't iron my tablecloths. Ever. Unless Johnny Hunt happens to be visiting. Then HE irons them.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beach, Blight, and Barbecue.

We're back at Sulphur Creek after family beach-time--greeted by a lush fence beaded with gold and green gourds, saffron squash blossoms, and those bizarre yard-long pale green tromboncini squash. The zinnias and sunflowers are brilliant. Lulu and Ollie obviously did not suffer from neglect in our absence--we were met by pretty blase' versions of welcoming drool (Lulu) and frenetic tailwagging (Ollie).

My flower beds are vicious jungles of cardinal vine, castor beans, and mosquitoes, and we, along with every other farmer along the east coast, are suffering from tomato blight.

This apparently is a dramatic epidemic of late blight, a fungal disease, closely related to the organism that caused the Irish potato famine. (We're evaluating passage to Australia, especially if we don't get that public health insurance option.) It spreads rapidly in cool wet weather, and has decimated crops all over the Eastern United States. Reportedly, even Martha Stewart's garden has been attacked!

We still have quite a few tomatoes , but overall our harvest will be much less, and we are picking them a bit earlier.

Dinner was fettucine with a fabulous marinara sauce left in our fridge by Brook, and our own squash and canteloupe.

We're glad to be home, looking at shed-building, the Scottsboro barbecue--put it on your calendar for September 5-- and discussing general plans for fall crops and projects.

EricTheFarmer: Report

News From The Farmer
After about 5 months of spring, the summer is finally here and a lot is going on. After I finish writing this, I will climb onto George West's tractor and plow up enough potatoes to provide the CSA for the rest of the season. Half will be stored in my home-turned-cooler, which I've had to keep at a constant 60 degrees to keep our vegetables fresh until the shed is built. The other half will be stored in a huge cave down the street. The landowners won't let anyone in the cave, but they'll let us put potatoes in it (a basket of organic veggies sweetened the deal for them).
To ensure a steady crop of greens in the fall/winter, we are planting now. Obviously this is challenging, as we're planting cool-weather crops during the hottest part of the summer. Our first two plantings have been wiped out completely--first from too much rain, then from the heat. Regardless, we're still seeding and transplanting every day until we can get a few standing rows. We have also developed a rather worrisome squash bug infestation in the winter squash/pumpkin rows. The fruit just needs to hang in a couple more weeks until they reach maturity and can be stored. The list goes on and on, but I thought it important for our members to understand that the baskets, thankfully, do not reflect the immense stress and challenges of the season. On the bright side, we still have tomatoes when many do not, and we will not have cucumbers and squash for about a month! (don't get too excited--I planted another 1/2 row of each last week)...
Your Farmer, truly,