This week felt a little like the real beginning of summer, for a few reasons: zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. The tomatoes have been a bit of a selfish secret so far, enough for a little taste at lunch, but not enough to bring to market, much less put in the boxes. People have been asking for tomatoes for weeks, understandably impatient, but seemingly ignorant of the climate of Wisconsin. Memory can be funny that way - it’s hot, where’s my sweet corn and tomatoes? But while we think of these as “summer crops,” they’re not really ready outdoors until almost mid-August, depending on the season, and the unheated hoop house only gives a few weeks head start. Tomatoes are such a milestone crop that I had to look back to my blog posts from last year to see whether we’d had our hoop house tomatoes already by this time. What I found really brought me back to the crazy season we had last year. In Connecticut last year, it rained almost non-stop from the end of May through late June, and in fact the weather spurred a latent poetic urge in me, the results of which I’ve attached below. This year in central Wisconsin, we did have a few wet weeks in June, in which the lower ends of the field were underwater, but since then it has dried out, and while there is some stunted growth in the lowest points of the field, what we see these days is mostly lush growth, happy plants, and happy farmers. This week last year, we took an unplanned week off of our CSA boxes to attack the weeds full time. This week, decided to keep going to the third weekly farmers market. For me, this look back was a great reminder of just how dependent we are on the vagaries of the weather, which are only getting more unpredictable with every passing year. In the meantime, I sure savored that first tomato, thanking my lucky stars that the beginning of this season did not mirror last season.
Thinking about: machinery, neighbors, La Copa Mundial
Eating: the first red tomatoes, summer squash, carrots, beets, scallions, and more
Reading: Roberto Bolano’s 2666, Michael Phillips’ The Holistic Orchard, Dave Jacke & Eric Toensmeier’s Edible Forest Gardens, Ron L Engeland’s Growing Great Garlic
From July 2013:
It started with the rhythmic patter,
on wood, on canvas, on plastic and fiberglass.
Faint, then constant, then pounding.
It started then it stayed,
at last coming up to a roar
eventually receding in the mind
like so much white noise.
Hours became days became weeks,
the roar ceasing for few precious hours,
supplanted by the resulting rumble of the brook,
near breaching its brown banks,
with bated breath you awaited the flood.
And in and around the rain
you worked, layers of cotton
mouldering under layers of rubber,
hair curling under the humid hood,
toes, soles, souls soggy in your socks.
Staggering through kale,
mud covered the tops of your feet,
passive, feigning innocence,
then violently grasping your boot,
relenting with an obscene SHLOOP!
Bent scythe-like, you filled your bins,
willing the clouds to part.
And then one day, at last, the heat came.
Your bodies from soggy to sweating and burnt,
your fields from grey to green.
But the relief was fleeting, for bending closer
to the earth, you saw the green not of
nightshades or cucurbits, but of
noxious weeds, galinsoga and sedge,
waging a battle you hadn't time to fight.
You peeled off socks, and sank
to your shins in soaked soil,
clawing to save your precious plants,
each day closer, yet farther from victory.
And on you worked, falling into rhythms:
harvest, hoe, sow, muster for battle.
Hundreds of row-feet planted,
thousands of plants saved. And yet,
another menace emerged, at first invisible.
From the tire-tracks of tractors,
from the lowest fields and pastures,
the winged militia took flight, evoking in you
a arhythmic dance, a slap, a flick,
an equine swing of the mane,
the perfumed attempt at evasion,
And finally, the itch, the scratch, the rub.
And as battle raged in you and around you,
you came upon treasures, buried and not.
The faint pip! of a root pulled from the ground,
the sweet smell when you pop off the carrot-top,
the small snap of the pea as you bite,
the mint and parsley and dill and cilantro,
that force the deep breathing of calm.
And finally, when the memory has all but gone,
you spy that glint of deep red in the greenhouse.
You pluck it, you smell it, your mouth waters.
Bacon sizzling, you reach for the toothy knife,
and at last you remember why you farm.