Cantaloupes

Our cantaloupes are in now–coming in faster than we can get rid of them.

We grow the old Hale’s Best variety, a sweet heirloom.  We let the melons fully ripen on the vine and we pick them full slip, when the stems just fall off when the melon is lifted.  It’s sad how few people have had the pleasure of eating a full slip heirloom melon.  Notice how little rind is on this melon.

Of course we and our CSA members are enjoying the melons.  We’ve also been privileged to give lots of them away.  Our pigs and chickens love it when we have some that are going soft.

Here’s a little trivia.  What we call “cantaloupes” in this country (including the melons we grow) are actually muskmelons.  True cantaloupes aren’t grown in the U.S.  I don’t know how the word “cantaloupe” came to replace muskmelon.  My Grandpa always called them muskmelons (though it sounded like he was saying “mushmelons”).  I suspect someone decided “cantaloupe” was more appetizing that “muskmelon,” just as “canola” replaced “rape.”

In any event, our cantaloupes/muskmelons are delicious this year.  I encourage everyone to get out to your local farmer’s market and try to find some.  Ask specifically for the Hale’s Best variety.

I’m looking out the window at 5 young wild turkeys walking around in the pasture and realizing it’s time for me to get off the computer and go pick cantaloupes. 

Love Wins

The Only Possible Solution

For though we may be the Earth’s gardeners, we are also its weeds.  And we won’t get anywhere until we come to terms with this crucial ambiguity about our role – that we are at once the problem and the only possible solution to the problem. 
Michael Pollan

Our interns are now gone.  They were with us two weeks and we loved having them.  I think they learned a lot, and we learned much from them.  Aside from the practical good sense they brought to the farm, we loved that they share our passion for sustainable farming.  We were impressed, encouraged and inspired by them.

In addition to helping on the farm, they cooked a couple of great meals for us, joined us at our Grace and Main suppers, and went with us as we shared the goodness of the farm with those in need in the downtown slums of Danville.

On their last night here they gave us a beautiful card and a thoughtful gift as a reminder of their time here.  Inside the card was the Michael Pollan quote above.  We are optimistic about the young generation and therefore about the world.   May a generation arise, aware that we are indeed both the world’s gardeners and its weeds.  We are indeed the only possible solution to the problem.

Love Wins

Peace

Back when I posted frequently about politics and economics I had a lot more regular readers of this blog.  But a trip to Haiti, and a lot of personal reflection and life-change, convinced me to turn my back on that stuff.  For the past few years I try (not always successfully) to avoid political subjects on this blog.  I don’t regret that at all.

This year Virginia has been declared a “battleground state” by whoever decides such things.  So we’re being flooded with political ads, almost all of them negative.  The powermongers are desperately trying to convince the voters that there is a material difference between the blue option and the red option.  So they exaggerate the petty differences between the two of them and hurl lies and half-truths at one another.  But most of all they incite anger and fear with wedge issues, typically at the expense of marginalized people.  That little trick always works and this year is no exception.  Millions of folks will go to the polls in November, anxious to prevent “extremists” on the left or right (depending on their preferences) from taking the country down the drain.  Never mind that that there is nothing “extremist” about either of the mainstream parties.  Tens of billions of dollars are being spent to convince folks that there is, and the manipulators of public opinion are very good at what they do.

We got rid of our TV a long time ago, so we’re mercifully being spared the TV political ad blitz.  But now all the ugliness is spilling over onto facebook and the internet generally.  In this orgy of mudslinging and misinformation it seems that there is just no safe place to be. 

I can’t help but wonder how much good could be done in the world if all that passion and energy was spent doing good and building people up instead of inciting anger and tearing people down.

When I feel myself getting sucked into the fray, I like to think of this sentence from St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians:  “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Still good advice. 

Wendell Berry has some too:

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

Love Wins

Tomatoes

We’ve been blessed with a bumper crop of tomatoes so far this year.  Of course we’re always at the mercy of nature and with drought and blight to deal with, it’s possible that our abundance will be short-lived.

But for now, we are feasting on delicious chemical free heirloom tomatoes.

So are our CSA members and so are our pigs and chickens.

And we are especially blessed by the ability to give away lots of tomatoes to our very poor and needy friends in downtown Danville.  After our CSA drop off on the past two Mondays our interns and I delivered tomatoes to many of our neediest friends.  Even after that, two Mondays ago we had so many left over that we were able to take the large box pictured above to God’s Storehouse, the local food bank.  Last Monday, after delivering lots of them to our extremely poor friends, we left the rest with one of our formerly homeless friends, who handed out the rest to folks in his downtown neighborhood.   And best of all, each of the past two Thursdays we gave away bags of tomatoes to folks who came for our Grace and Main supper downtown.  We picked 196 pounds of tomatoes Thursday morning, used about 30 pounds for our CSA, and gave the rest away.  We were also fortunate enough to have lots of cantaloupes to give away after supper and they were a big hit, especially with the kids.

It was great to be bring so much happiness, and so much delicious healthy goodness, to so many folks.

May it always be so.

Love Wins

Just Doing It

I recently met a man who pastors a small church out here in the country.  They have 20-30 folks who regularly attend, and most are elderly.  There’s nothing exceptional about that.  That describes a fairly typical rural church these days.

But there is something exceptional about this congregation.  A few years ago they felt a call to help the hungry and correctly recognized that they are blessed with a God-given resource that they should be using.   So they plant an acre of potatoes every year, on the land of whoever in the church can spare an acre that year.  The folks in the church get together a few days each year to plant and harvest the potatoes.  When the potatoes are ready, the folks in the congregation get together and get them up.  As a result, every year they donate thousands of pounds of potatoes to God’s Storehouse, our local foodbank.

What a pity this doesn’t happen more.  God and nature offer us the opportunity to feed our hungry neighbors and almost all of us decline it. 

We are blessed with some of the best land in the world for growing food.  Yet the vast majority of it is never used.  That is a real shame.

But for those folks who take a little time out of their lives to grow potatoes for the poor, I’m sure they have “Well done my good and faithful servants” in store for themselves someday.

Love Wins

Pretty Things

There are so many pretty things around here that it becomes easy to take them for granted.

Like this moth.

Or these eggs.

Or the squash garden.

Or my view when I’m strolling home, after feeding the pigs.

Too many things to mention, but that’s a decent start.

Love Wins

Another Buckling

Donna kidded last Monday.  It was her first kidding and it went very well–a smooth delivery to a quick nurser.

She had a single male.  Incredibly, 18 of our last 20 kids have been males.  This little guy is big and healthy.  The only problem so far is that Donna has misplaced him several times, sending her into a panic and us out into the pasture to find him.  Before now only our goat Rhiannon had this annoying trait.  As the little fellow, who Cherie calls Kirby, gets bigger the problem should resolve itself.

It was a treat for our interns to hold a newly born kid on the first day of their internships.

Kirby likes hanging out with Rowan.  

We’re glad to have him around.

Love Wins

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

Thursday evening I hung out for a while with a large group of friends. We had a meal together, laughed and told stories. Cherie and I do this almost every Thursday and we really enjoy it.

Most of the friends we shared the evening with are extremely poor.  Some are homeless, some bounce in and out of homelessness, many are drug addicts or severe alcoholics, many are mentally ill, many are ex-cons, and many are folks whose life circumstances have just placed them in the company of such people.

Those of us in our group who have been blessed with lives not characterized by addiction and extreme poverty bring most of the food (some of our less fortunate friends sometimes bring some too).  After a prayer and voluntary communion for anyone who wants to take it, we sit down to a friendly meal. 

There is no agenda.  We’re not out to convert anyone or sign them up for rehab or enroll them in a church.  We’re not trying to impress them or anyone else with our piety.  We’re not coming to gawk at poor people so we can return to our comfortable homes grateful that God didn’t make us like them.

But what we are doing, we hope, is reflecting to those on the margins of society the love that God has for all of us.  We hope we’re breaking down some walls and barriers society imposes to separate us from one another.  At a bare minimum folks get a meal they wouldn’t otherwise have.  Most also get fellowship and a chance to eat a meal they couldn’t afford to buy, without having to surrender their dignity to get it.

The best thing about all this is that it isn’t just a Thursday night thing.  These people, who no one else wants, have become part of our community.  We know each other by name.  We know each other’s stories.  We visit during the week.  Many of us have each others’ phone numbers.  We lend a hand when its needed.  We have true relationships and we continue to try to build them more all the time.  In a world characterized by judgment, division and manipulation, we try to leave all that ugliness behind.

It’s hard for me to get away from the farm during the Summer, so I’m not part of our “roving feasts” then.  But during the Winter I had the great privilege of spending lots of time on the streets meeting the people who live in the shadows of our own community, and I’ve been privileged to become friends with lots of them, along with the amazing love-filled people who are out on the streets with them year round.  There are places where I would have been afraid to stop at a stop sign, where I now am comfortable entering and spending time.  It is a blessing one probably has to experience to fully appreciate.

Last Thursday evening we had over 100 friends from the streets and slums join us for a meal.  We had everything from young families with children to elderly disabled people.  Many if not most of these folks would have otherwise had no supper that evening.  Some of the leaders at Grace and Main made a big pot of pasta and some of us brought sauce and side dishes.  We were all a little concerned at first about whether we had enough food for everyone, but, as it always has before, it turned out to be enough to feed everyone.

Some of the folks we’ve met have turned their lives completely around.  I have a friend who was a homeless alcoholic last year, who now is sober, living in a home, working a job and one of our leaders.  He is dedicated to helping those who are on the path he walked for 40 years.  I have another friend who broke his crack cocaine addiction and now has stability and peace in his life.  I also have friends who seem to desperately want to break their addictions, but keep sliding back into them.  And I have some who seem resigned to remaining in addiction.  And I have some friends whose mental illness seems to have them trapped forever in the mire.

I could go on and on about this, and never come close to doing it justice.

I’ll close by encouraging everyone to check out Grace and Main Fellowship (the website is HERE).  If you do the facebook thing, please consider “liking” the Grace and Main page.  Grace and Main is a non-traditional Christian community.  There is no church building or overhead.  When we gather we do it in homes or donated spaces.  No one gets any salary.  100% of all the money we receive goes to help the needy in the meanest parts of downtown Danville, Virginia.

And for any of y’all in the Danville area, consider joining us one Thursday evening for a meal.  It’s a great place to make some friends you would probably otherwise never meet.

Love Wins

Shopping for Spiritual Growth

I recently read that a Gallup poll says 82% of Americans desire to grow spiritually and 66% don’t think the church is effective at doing that.

Not surprising.  Likely both numbers should be higher.  It seems likely to me that close to 100% of people desire spiritual growth.  Those who say they don’t probably just aren’t thinking seriously about it.

And it is completely unsurprising me to me that a signficant majority of folks don’t find churches effective at giving them the spiritual growth they want.  Those who say they are getting their spiritual growth at church probably have very modest “growth” expectations.

The problem, as I see it, is the implied linkage between spiritual growth and church attendance.  In our consumer culture folks want to be able to go to a big store and buy whatever they desire.  To get “spiritual growth” they go to a church building on Sunday mornings.  It’s as if they file in, sit down and say “Good morning.  I’d like some spiritual growth please.”

Of course the consumption-model church tries to meet their expectations.   Just as the consumers are there to get “spiritual growth,” churches sell them entertainment.   No longer is the nice old lady down the road banging out old hymns on the ancient piano while the small congregation whose families have gathered there for years belts them out.  Now the megachurchs have professional caliber rock bands, light shows, coffee shops, book stores and hip pastors on stages with power point presentations.  By and large the folks in the large crowds who assemble there on Sunday mornings don’t know each other, and don’t really want to.  To be “relevant” to suburban consumers, these churches have ditched liturgy, the church calendar and the lectionary.  But, as the poll shows, this model doesn’t seem to be any more effective at providing “spiritual growth” than traditional worship services.

Jason Fowler at Sustainable Traditions wrote a good blog post on this subject recently, which I recommend.  Read it HERE.  He quotes Alan Hirsch on the consumeristic model of church, as I have before on this blog (HERE for example).  Hirsch argues that when churches behave as if they are selling a consumer product, they shouldn’t be surprised when folks treat them that way.  He argues that when folks “tithe” or give money to churches, most to the time they are buying religious entertainment.  To prove his point, he challenges churches to dispense with sermons for three weeks and see what happens to the amount of money they collect.

So back to the Gallup poll.  Almost everyone wants spiritual growth but most say they don’t get it from church.  Maybe that’s because churches, no matter how hard they try, aren’t able to deliver “spiritual growth.”  Bill Hybels pioneered the megachurch model with Willow Creek Church and did a great job of drawing folks (particularly upper middle class suburbanites) into his church.  His success in greatly increasing the size of his congregation (and the church’s revenue) led to the proliferation of the megachurch model around the country.  But an internal study at Willow Creek confirmed that while the model is great at getting folks who might not otherwise attend to come to church, it was failing to produce discipleship–spiritual growth.  Hybels candidly admitted that for all the outward appearance of success, Willow Creek was a failure in what really mattered.

But the bottom line, it seems to me, is that we ought not judge or measure churches by whether they are able to deliver a product (spiritual growth) to the consumer seeking it.  Spiritual growth is not something that can be picked up at church, like a loaf of bread at the grocery store.  There may be ways churches can facilitate spiritual growth, just as there are plenty of ways they can impede it.  But I suspect genuine spiritual growth is a lifelong journey which is more dependent upon self-reflection and community engagement, than upon attending church services.

Love Wins