Reflecting

The days are shortening.  Summer is waning.

It’s a little early to be reflecting on the year (there being plenty of it yet to come), but coming in this morning from soggy muddy gardens still too wet to plant, I feel confident saying there hasn’t been a year like this one in my memory.

Just as the seemingly incessant rain delayed our haymaking and our spring and summer planting (in some cases preventing them altogether), now we need to get fall gardens planted and we’re at another standstill.  While we were blessed with some good production this summer, the wet cold weather has been terrible for much of what we grow.  As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, we’ve had unprecedented damage from deer and raccoon.

We haven’t had enough production to go to the farmer’s market for the last few weeks and we haven’t been opening the farm store.  Almost every day we have to turn away folks coming to us for the kind of food that isn’t easy to find around here.  But we’re pleased that we’ve been able to keep the CSA going without interruption and our members have been giving us a lot of good and encouraging feedback.

There is good news in all this sogginess.  The pastures, which were devastated by drought the last few years, are thriving.  I can’t imagine we’ll need to buy any hay this year.  And if we can get the fall crops planted they will do great in this weather.  Most of our spring planting was delayed by a month or more, but once we got the crops in the ground we had the best-looking spring gardens we’ve ever grown.

If I could command the weather I’d make it sunny and hot for about a week, to dry the land some and ripen our tomatoes and melons.  Then I’d be happy to dial it back to this.

But as it is, we’ll just take what nature gives us and do the best we can.

I’m expecting a bountiful fall and (hopefully) a return to something more normal next year.

Advertisements

Revolutions

There is an article in the August edition of Progressive Farmer (a big-ag publication) that begins:  “A revolution is sweeping across U.S. agriculture–the growth in the size of farms and ranches.”

According to the USDA there were 2.2 million farmers in the U.S. in 2007.  Just 50,000 of them produced 59% of the total U.S. farm output.

In other words, 2.3% of American farms produced 59% of the agricultural output.

It is projected that by 2017 over half of the agricultural production in the country will come from a mere 20,000 farms.

The decline in the farm population and the increase in large scale industrial farms has been going on since the end of World War II, seemingly accelerating each year.

It should be obvious that it is unwise to increasingly put our food production into fewer and fewer, larger and larger, hands.  And of course bigger farms doesn’t mean better food. Most of the time it means worse food.

I would argue that alongside this big-ag “revolution” of growth,  consolidation and industrialization, another more promising revolution is occurring.  Even as fewer and fewer large corporations and mega-farms tighten their grip on industrial food production in this country, thousands of small sustainable farms are popping up, producing food naturally and giving their communities an alternative to the industrial product.

It seems that the distinction between the two types of farms is becoming more pronounced every year.

Revolutions often produce counter-revolutions.  In this case industrial ag’s “revolution” of growth and consolidation is being met by a counter-revolutionary return to small diversified natural family farming.

Vive la revolution!   (Ours, that is).

Mars

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact it’s cold as hell.
Elton John, “Rocket Man” (1972)

Unquestionably, Mars was a habitable planet in its ancient past.
John P. Grotzinger, NASA Mars Project Scientist (2013)

Reading an article in the N.Y. Times science section recently about NASA’s Mars rover project, I was struck by Mr. Grotzinger’s quote.  “Unquestionably” Mars was habitable in the distant past?  I had not realized this had been definitively established, or even that it was likely.  Evidently, it is now beyond question.

We earthlings have long been intrigued by the possibility of life on Mars.  I went through a space-geek phase as a kid and was particularly fascinated by Mars.

While driving to the Wild Goose Festival we were listening to podcasts and I heard Krista Tippett’s fascinating interview of geomorphologist David Montgomery.  In it, he mentioned the discovery that Martian topography reveals evidence of enormous floods.  I had Mr. Grotzinger’s comment on my mind when I heard the podcast and was surprised to so soon be confronted with another statement about the Martian past.

So if Mars was once a habitable planet, with so much water that it dramatically altered the topography of the planet, how did it become the barren, dry place that it is now?  Why did it cease to be habitable?  Whatever the cause, is it reversible?

Most significantly, when Mars was habitable, was it inhabited?

Inquiring minds want to know…

Old House Music

When I was a boy there was an old player piano in the parlor of the “old house,” but I never heard it play.  I’m sure that over the last 130 years or so, however, music has sometimes been made in that room.

But I’m pretty sure the Collection brought a lot of firsts to the parlor.  My attempt to make a video of them playing was a fail.  But here a few photos I snapped.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

And here is a much better one, taken by David and posted on their facebook page.

1185841_10151923799074050_1551819547_n

It was fun having them here and a thrill to hear the old place filled with music.  We’re looking forward to hearing the new record.

Truth

Having already argued that emergents think objectivity is as real as a unicorn, they will also concur with this statement: God is truth. Though never directly quoted in scripture, I think we can safely assume that this statement is a consensus opinion among Christians.

Most persons who follow God would without reluctance affirm the assertion that “all truth is God’s truth.” That is, whatever is true necessarily proceeded from God; truth doesn’t come from anywhere else. So if it’s true, it’s definitely from God. Truth and God are somewho aligned, maybe even one and the same. You might say, God equals truth and truth equals God. To those who affirm that statement, we might next ask, Can you describe God in words? Most emphatically and in all humility, most Christians would respond in chorus, “No!” — for human language is limited, finite, and altogether incapable of fully describing God. Few human beings would be so arrogant as to presume to have the ability to definitively sum up God. God’s too big. We can’t get our arms around God, so to speak. Indeed, to claim that we can fully sum up God is idolatry, if not outright blasphemy.

And yet, surprisingly, many people claim an ability to fully articulate truth,and when someone questions their ability to do so, they get rather feisty. But there’s a disconnect here. The same one who claims that God is truth and that God cannot be fully described cannot go on to claim that truth can be fully described. What emergents claim is that talk of truth demands that same humility as talk of God.

But alas, we rarely hear Christians talk about truth with humility. Instead, we hear well-meaning Christians who would never say the same about God proclaiming that truth can be circumscribed, domesticated, and subsequently proclaimed to the unsuspecting masses.

Tony Jones, from The New Christians

Leaving the Nest

SAMSUNG

Mama hen has left the brooder coop, taking her chicks with her.  They scramble around so quickly that I wasn’t able to get better pictures of them.

I love watching a mother hen and her chicks.  Whereas chickens are normally timid and easily frightened, a mother hen stands her ground and puffs up at perceived danger, to defend her chicks.  Whereas chickens normally quickly grab and gobble up any food they find, a mother hen stands over it clucking, to get the chicks’ attention.  Then she’ll pick it up and drop it a few times, to let the chicks understand what it is and what they’re to do with it.

SAMSUNG

At night, and frequently during the day, she’ll gather the chicks under her wings, to warm them with the heat from her bare belly (brooding hens lose the feathers on their underside to enable them to warm the eggs and chicks).

SAMSUNG

Very few chicks are raised naturally anymore.  Even on small, sustainable farms it is normal to use an incubator or to get chicks from hatcheries.

This mother hen was hatched on this farm and now she’s brooding chicks of her own.

That makes us happy.