The Pond Road

There are three ways to our house from the road (meaning the paved public road).  We call them the lane, the garden road and the pond road.

Using the lane or the garden road it’s about .3 miles from the road to our house.

The pond road is a longer, more meandering journey.  It’s .7 miles from the road that way.

Over the dam

Over the dam

And through the woods

And through the woods

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The pond road is our road least traveled.

But I do take it sometimes.

Eating Alone

Back when I was in the workaholic world I ate a lot of meals alone.  By the time I came home from the office the rest of the family would have eaten already.  So I’d have my supper alone.  During the years of my long commutes I ate alone 6 nights per week.  And when I was traveling on business, as I often was, I almost always ate alone.  Eating alone became the norm.

There are times when it makes sense to eat alone.  But eating alone should not be the norm. Whenever possible, meals should be communal and family affairs, as they always have been for us humans.  I have great memories of the big table at my Granny’s house, for example, where the whole family ate together three times a day.  No wolfing down a sandwich while watching TV.  No room service in a hotel room.  No reheated supper at the kitchen table long after the rest of the family has eaten.

If asked to recall some of our fondest memories of food, it’s likely that we’ll recall meals with family and friends, not meals eaten alone. If as a culture we went back to eating meals together, enjoying our food along with conversation and good company, it seems to me that would be a big step toward repairing our broken relationship with food.   It seems to me that we’ll take the quality of our food more seriously when we take the quality of mealtimes more seriously.

Virtue

All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue.
John Adams, 1776

I came across this quote a couple of days ago (h/t Gloria Deo) and it put me to thinking about virtue.  Virtue was a word used often by the founders.  By comparison, the word is rarely used these days and when it is, it is usually treated as synonymous with morality. But in the founders’ day, virtue meant much more than just personal morality.  Virtue, according to Thomas Jefferson, was the very foundation of happiness.  According to John Adams, happiness and dignity have their source in virtue.

When using the word these men were drawing upon the classical Greek philosophical understanding of virtue.

Greek philosophy recognized four “cardinal virtues,” defined as follows:

Prudence:  the ability to judge the appropriate action needed for any situation.
Justice: the ability to moderate between your own rights and the rights of others.
Temperance: the ability to practice self-control.
Courage: the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, or intimidation

When the founders, and others of their era, wrote of “virtue,” these were the characteristics they had in mind.  A virtuous society (and of course a virtuous government) would be attentive to these values, thus securing the happiness of individuals. The “pursuit of happiness,” which Mr. Jefferson identified as an inalienable right, presupposes a virtuous society.

A life of virtue, as the word was understood at that time, was characterized by moderation, industry, thrift, self-control, independence and devotion to duty.  Temperance, or what we might call “moderation” or “self-control” is essential to virtue.  Of course, a society characterized by overconsumption, debt, gluttony, dependency and aversion to work would not be, and cannot be, a virtuous society. However “moral” a person may seem to be, absent prudence and temperance the person cannot be said to be virtuous.  

Ultimately, a society that does not practice these values is unsustainable.  Whatever temporary comfort people may derive from imprudence, intemperance, injustice and cowardice, that comfort is not the same as the “happiness” that philosophers and political theorists identified as deriving from a virtuous life.  And a society characterized by a mere pursuit of comfort, or of convenience, or of safety, is not a society in pursuit of happiness.  Such a society is unsustainable, because it is not virtuous.

It is easy to recognize an absence of virtue in our government, and in other people, but do we as easily recognize it in ourselves?   I wonder how many of those who criticize the government for being wasteful and financially irresponsible (correctly so) are themselves deep in debt due to overconsumption and fiscal irresponsibility.  I wonder how many of those who criticize the government for failing to properly administer justice (correctly so), are themselves guilty of helping perpetuate social injustices.

I wonder if the best way to remedy a deficit of virtue in the government is to first remedy it in ourselves.

Any government in a society composed entirely of virtuous citizens, would necessarily be virtuous.

Better yet, in a society composed entirely of virtuous citizens, maybe no government would be necessary.  As Wendell Berry has written, “If we all behaved as honorably and honestly and industriously as we expect our representatives to behave, we would soon put the government out of work.”

That sounds good to me.  Let’s get to work. 

 

Schrooming

The rainy weather we’ve been having has delayed our fall plantings, but it’s been great for mushrooms.

We took some of the mushrooms we found lately that we hoped were edible to the market yesterday to show to a couple of our friends who are wild mushroom experts–master chef Chris King of King-Cropp Farm and Vernon Pearce of Greenberry Hollow Farm.

Chicken-of-the-woods

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When they saw our chicken-of-the-woods and chanterelles they both lit up with excitement.

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They confirmed what we (read Cherie) thought.  They were both edible delicacies, selling for $16-20/lb.  Of course we weren’t planning to sell them.  We did trade some of the chicken-of-the-woods for a couple of oyster mushroom logs and some kombucha, but we kept most for ourselves.  As soon as we got home Cherie sauteed the chanterelles. Delicious.

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We had some of the chicken-of-the-woods for supper. Super delicious.

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Then we headed out to forage more.

We discovered several blue milkcaps.

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And best of all, lots of chanterelles.

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We’re having a mushroom omelette made with the chanterelles for breakfast this morning.  We’ll be enjoying plenty of delicious mushrooms for a while.

Nature’s bounty never ceases to amaze.

Sunflowers

Our sunflower garden came in beautifully this year.

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There are so many bees feasting on the flowers that the garden hums.

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We’ve been selling freshly cut sunflowers at the market and we have heads and flowers drying in the basement.  One or two of the heads provide enough seeds for an entire large garden.

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We’ve been enjoying the company of the goldfinches who come for the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder.

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In a few months the seeds we’re harvesting now will be treats for the birds who spend their winter here.

Reducing Waste

We aim to have very little waste on this farm.  Anything that we harvest and don’t sell or eat ourselves goes to the pigs or chickens.  Anything organic that they won’t eat goes to the compost pile.  Our tea leaves and coffee grounds and filters go to the worm bin.

Nothing says "sustainable" better than a big steaming pile of compost

Nothing says “sustainable” better than a big steaming pile of compost

Sweet corn culls and watermelon rinds make great chicken feed

Sweet corn culls and watermelon rinds make great chicken feed

Chemical-free heirloom tomatoes for lunch

Chemical-free heirloom tomatoes for lunch

We recycle all paper, plastic, glass, metal and oil and we’re careful to avoid buying things with excessive packaging.

Back when we were living the suburban life I’d roll a couple of large trash cans out to the curb twice a week.  Now I probably carry off a trashcan of trash about once a month.

I’m sure we can do better, but it’s good to know that we’ve reduced our share of the mountains of trash that our culture sends to landfills every day.

 

Welcome Back

One of the joys of seasonal eating is the pleasure that comes from that first bite of asparagus, that first ripe tomato, that first cucumber slice, that first piece of watermelon, and from knowing that anything worth having is worth waiting for. So as we’re saying goodbye till next year to some of our favorite veggies, we’re welcoming the first delicious cantaloupes of the year.

Welcome back cantaloupes.