My Plan: Try to pay attention

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Love Wins

Sweet Potato Day

Wednesday was “sweet potato day” on the farm.  Over four months after we planted them, it was time to harvest them before the frosts arrive.

Getting up the sweet potatoes is an all-day affair.  First we pull off all the vines and carry them to the compost pile.  Then we plow them up using a middle-buster/potato plow.  It takes several passes to uncover them all.  We carry them out of the garden and lay them in the sun for a couple of hours (while moving on to the next garden).  Then we come back and gather them, carrying them to our basement to cure for a couple of weeks before we move them into a cooler darker place for long-term storage.  Thanks to a friend’s very timely offer of help, Cherie and I didn’t have to do it alone this year.

This year’s yield was surprisingly low.  I had expected another bumper crop like last years.  But even though that didn’t happen, we brought in hundreds of pounds of them, which we’ll be enjoying for a year.

I gave the small ones and the roots to the pigs and they feasted on them.

Those that we cut in the process must be eaten right away and as I type this I’m stuffed with a delicious sweet potato/eggplant dish that Cherie cooked at the end of our long day.

All in all, another fine fall day on the farm.

Love Wins

It Can Be Frustrating

Saturday morning I was up at 5 am to go pick veggies for the farmer’s market, in the dark.  I like our  greens to be as fresh as possible and they’re just not as good if picked a day earlier.  This Saturday I also cut some of the prettiest broccoli we’ve ever grown.

Then we drove to the farmer’s market.  Our regular customers, folks who care deeply about the source of their food, came and bought veggies for the week.  But very few people came.  It was dead.  Much of what I picked that morning, we just loaded up and brought back home.  Nothing goes to waste on our farm, so whatever we don’t eat will end up in compost or will be food for pigs and chickens.  Still, it’s frustrating.

It’s most frustrating because we had to stop at the grocery store on the way home because Cherie needed some red onions (I have a good excuse–a freak spring storm washed out our red onion crop).  Whereas the farmer’s market had been quiet and empty, the grocery store was packed with shoppers.

At the farmer’s market we had plenty of beautiful organic broccoli, freshly cut that morning and still wet with Virginia dew, which we were selling for $2/lb.  But the stuff in the grocery store was ugly and old, shipped in from California, certainly laced with chemicals, and was $2.50/lb.

But as if that wasn’t bad enough, few people were buying produce.  The carts in the long lines were filled with processed food in brightly colored boxes, big bags of chips, soft drinks and cans.  With some of the finest food on the planet, healthy and delicious, being grown right in their back yards, this was how our community was getting what it would eat.

I know the tide has turned in other parts of the country.  In many areas of the country now there is a wait of two or more years just to get a spot at the farmer’s markets, which are crowded with food-loving people every week.  But that day hasn’t arrived here yet.

So we’ll labor on, content to know that what we’re doing is right and good.  And that in the end all will know that.

In the meantime, I can’t help but be a little frustrated sometimes.

Love Wins


Sometimes (often) we have to multi-task here.

Here’s Cherie feeding Miracle and petting Sheena, while a kid climbs on her back to chew on her hair and Joey insists on some attention too.

Love Wins

It Is Not Seemly to Be Famous

“…as autumn mist on early mornings conceals the dreaming countryside.”

It is not seemly to be famous:
Celebrity does not exalt;
There is no need to hoard your writings
And to preserve them in a vault.

To give your all-this is creation,
And not-to deafen and eclipse.
How shameful, when you have no meaning,
To be on everybody’s lips!

Try not to live as a pretender,
But so to manage your affairs
That you are loved by wide expanses,
And hear the call of future years.

Leave blanks in life, not in your papers,
And do not ever hesitate
To pencil out whole chunks, whole chapters
Of your existence, of your fate.

Into obscurity retiring
Try your development to hide,
As autumn mist on early mornings
Conceals the dreaming countryside.

Another, step by step, will follow
The living imprint of your feet;
But you yourself must not distinguish
Your victory from your defeat.

And never for a single moment
Betray your credo or pretend,
But be alive-this only matters-
Alive and burning to the end.

Boris Pasternak

Love Wins

If Only…

Some wise words this election season:

“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.”

Wendell Berry, from “Discipline and Hope” (1971)

Love Wins