One of the tastes of summer around here are purple hull/blackeyed peas.
They are heat and drought tolerant and are one of very few things that we plant in the hot, dry dog days of summer. They’re actually beans, not peas, and originated in Africa, like much great Southern food.We follow our english peas with them, greatly enriching a garden with back-to-back large legume crops to fix nitrogen in the soil.
I never liked them when I was growing up, but my Mama would force me to eat at least one on New Year’s Day. Southern folks traditionally eat a meal of blackeyed peas, greens and ham hocks or hog jowls on the first day of the year, for good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
No one has to force me to eat them now though. I love them. Cherie’s father’s family is from the low country of South Carolina and she grew up eating them as “Hoppin’ John,” although they used a different kind of pea. I’ve come to love Hoppin John, but I also love them by themselves.
The plants have pretty yellow and white blooms this time of year.
Even as the first of the long purple pods are starting to appear.
It’s a good time of year.
Yesterday I found one of the hidden nests. This one was hidden in plain sight, behind the cattle panel in the shed where the onions are hanging.
I had previously searched the shed a couple of times, trying to be thorough. Either this nest is only a couple of days old, or I wasn’t as thorough as I meant to be.
Now if I can only figure out how to persuade them to lay in the nesting boxes. For a couple of days I didn’t let them out of the henhouse in the morning. I wanted them to have no choice but to lay in there, hoping they’d break their habit of hiding. But it’s been too hot to leave them in there long. I kept the gate shut on the chickenyard, but the young hens just fly over the fence (we don’t clip wings on this farm), and go lay in their hidden nests.
Once the weather cools enough to keep them inside all day for a couple of days that may be my only option. I figure once they lay a couple of times in the henhouse they’ll get used to it.
In the meantime, I’ll keep checking the equipment shed…
Finishing up my thoughts on what we are, and why…
We are local.
That is to say, when folks get their food from our farm, they’re getting food from a farm and a family in the local community.
There was a time when most of the products folks bought were produced locally by other people in the community–people known to them. When your products are going to be bought and used by your neighbors, there is much more concern about quality and craftsmanship than if they going to be shipped to strangers living in another culture thousands of miles away. And when folks give their business to local companies and local families they keep their money in the community, where it will circulate for the benefit of the community, rather than end up in the coffers of some multinational corporation or oppressive foreign government.
Buying locally also is better for the environment, as it reduces the distance goods travel thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels used to deliver them.
What is true generally about local goods is especially true about local food. Obtaining food from local sources encourages, supports and enables local family-based agriculture, which is in danger of dying out. Eating locally means eating seasonally, a natural and healthy practice. Eating locally also connects the eater to the local food culture, connecting a person more to the place where they are. And, of course, local food, unlike industrial food, can be allowed to fully ripen before picking. Local farms can grow the best-tasting varieties, without having to worry about their shelf life or how they’ll look on a grocery store display stand. Local food simply tastes better than industrial food.
As I have often said before on this blog, we are blessed to live in an area with some of the best farmland in the world. Yet most folks around here, including farmers and rural folks, get their food from large grocery store chains which import it in from thousands of miles away. In a typical American meal the food on the plate has travelled an average of 1500 miles to get there. That is just crazy when superior food is available from one’s own community.
We believe the current global economy will someday largely be replaced with local economies.
We encourage and participate in local economies.
May it ever be so.
Lately some of our hens have been hiding their nests. Instead of laying in the nesting boxes, they’re making nests in unlikely places, making it difficult for us to find them.
A few days ago I sat down on my tractor seat and four eggs rolled out from beneath it, cracking all four of course. Why they would choose to lay eggs underneath my tractor seat is a mystery to me.
All the recent egg-hiding has made it difficult for us sometimes to meet our members’ requests for extra eggs. I was explaining the problem to one of our members, an eye surgeon, and he responded that it must be difficult to deal with all the problems that come with raising chickens. I had to laugh as I reflected on what he said. Yes chickens (and farm animals generally) can be exasperating creatures. But, as a told him, having once been in a high-stress profession like his, I could say without reservation that any stress caused by our free-ranging chickens doesn’t compare to the stress that comes with those jobs. I can handle it just fine.
Now if only I could figure out where those darn hens are hiding their nests.
This time of year it’s just not possible to do everything that needs doing here. The gardens and animals have to take top priority and keeping up with the summer harvesting while preparing the fall gardens and tending the animals is usually just about all there is time for. The days are getting shorter, which is a harbinger of rest. But as nature shaves off a little more daylight with each passing day, keeping up becomes just a little harder every day.
We have lots of grass to mow on this farm and lots of pastures to clip. I used to really fret when everything wasn’t neatly cut and pretty. Now I go about the important work knowing the grass will get cut eventually and in the meantime it doesn’t hurt anything to let it grow.
A couple of years ago I realized that clipping and mowing our unused fields was eliminating lots of wildflowers which were sources of honey for our bees just as the weeds were trap crops for things like Japanese bettles. When all the fields were mowed the bugs naturally flocked to the tallest, best-looking plants, which happened to be our gardens.
But I’ve also realized that I’ve fallen for the idea that a mowed lawn or field is prettier than a lawn or field left unmowed. Lawnmowers and power-driven bushhogs have only been around for a generation or two. So this idea that we have to constantly cut our grass is a very recent one.
My mother commented recently that there aren’t nearly as many dogwoods and redbuds in the Spring as when she was growing up. They like to grow on the edges of woods along fields and roadsides. These days, thanks to bushhogs and power mowers, those areas are usually kept cut. So goodbye dogwoods and redbuds.
A few days ago I was doing chores and I noticed that the grass at our old farmhouse needed cutting. It’s by the road and I’m sure some of the neighbors are starting to wonder why I haven’t cut it lately. For a moment or two I felt a little tense, wondering where to squeeze that job into my list of things to do.
Then these flowers caught my attention.
I don’t know what they are, but they’re growing in the yard at the old house. They are beautiful and the only reason they were there for me to see is because I haven’t cut the grass lately.
That made me smile.
Our okra this year is the best we’ve ever grown. The plants are nearly as tall as the corn and still growing. They’re cranking out lots of delicious pods every single day, with no end in sight.
Okra is a fascinating plant. It thrives in heat and drought and there are minimal problems with pests. As long as you keep the weeds out when it’s young and keep it picked every day, it’s very easy to maintain. There are many health benefits from eating okra. We shared some recently on our facebook page (if any of you facebookers haven’t “liked” our farm page yet, I recommend you do. )
Okra originated in Africa, where it is called “gumbo.” American slaves kept that name alive and most of us now recognize it as the name of a delicious deep South/Gulf Coast stew. When we were in Haiti I was excited to discover that in Haitian Creole “okra” is still called “gumbo.”
We were surprised to learn from Jude that okra is a regular part of Middle Eastern recipes. In Arabic it is called “bamya.” She prepared an okra dish for us using lemon, honey and garlic and it was extraordinary. Last night she prepared another okra dish, this one served over rice. It too was delicious and reminded me of gumbo. Learning that okra is so popular in Saudi Arabia led me to do a little research and I discoved that okra is featured in the food of many cultures: Asian, African, Vietnamese, Japanese and more. I had assumed it was just a Southern regional thing.
So now I’m thinking of significantly increasing our okra production next year and sourcing it to ethnic restaurants and grocery stores in the area–and of course to Southerners who, like me, enjoy our okra battered and fried.
In the meantime we’ll keep enjoying lots of fresh okra from the garden, sharing it with our friends and CSA members.
Okra grows very fast and once it’s more than a few inches long it becomes too tough and woody. So it must be picked every day.
So that’s enough about okra. Time to go pick it.
Nothing has ever been said about God that hasn’t already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.
I wrote a long post laying out my thoughts on whole Chick-fil-A thing. It was a humdinger.
I wrote it last week and have rewritten it several times, making sure I covered all the bases with persuasive well-reasoned arguments.
I just deleted it. I’ve come to the conclusion that the world really doesn’t need another post about Chick-fil-A.
Instead, I offer this photo of Johnny, scratching his chin on the bumper of our RTV. Johnny has no opinion on Chick-fil-A.
Having established, I hope, that this is a good place to be a chicken or a pig, I wonder if I should add that this seems to me to be an exceptionally good place to be a person.
I am surrounded by so much beauty here that it sometimes almost numbs me. Nothing I could write on this blog–no photo I could share–could even begin to do it justice. But I’ll keep sharing little glimpses of it in the hope that they may bring a little happiness to whoever sees them.
On the farm I feel grounded in things both ancient and newborn. I feel embedded in things vast and profound, and things disarmingly simple and small. As I try to let myself become part of the rhythms of the seasons I become aware that this farm is not a mere commodity, or even just a place. It is an organism and I am part of it.
But this farm, like any bit of creation properly appreciated and tended, has gifts awaiting those who would claim them. It offers up life-sustaining food. That food enriches our bodies and lives, just as growing it enriches our appreciation of nature and God. Accepting the gifts of this good earth, and sharing them with others, honors the gift and the giver. Here it is impossible not to feel that I am in some humble way partnering with the Creator in the ongoing process of creation.
I do not mean for anything I write on this blog to appear immodest. I am a passive recipient of most of the blessings here. But neither should I be insincere–this is indeed a good place to be a person.
On her wonderful blog, Teresa Evangeline recently shared this beautiful quote from Thornton Wilder: “Man is not an end, but a beginning. We are at the beginning of the second week. We are children of the eighth day.”
I believe that with all my heart. Creation is not a static thing, which happened once and is done. Creation is ongoing and we are all privileged to be a part of it.
There are countless good places to be on the eighth day. I am glad to be on this one.