Soldiers

We don’t use any pesticides or other toxins on our farm.  If we have a problem with pests, we have to depend upon other solutions.

Last year harlequin bugs did a lot of damage to our gardens. I don’t recall ever having seen one here before, yet last year they were seemingly everywhere.  I braced myself for another onslaught this year, but so far I haven’t seen a single one.  Nature, it seems, solved the harlequin bug overpopulation problem, with no help needed from me.  In most of our gardens we’re seeing far less damage from flea beetles and other leaf chewers as well this year.

Part of the reason is probably this year’s abundance of soldier beetles, a beneficial insect that eats the bad guys.  In the past we might occasionally see one, this year they seem to be the most common insect in the garden.

Tokyo Bekana

Tokyo Bekana

Collards

Collards

Swiss chard

Swiss chard

English peas.

English peas.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Nature will not allow unhealthy imbalances to long survive.  What we’re seeing this year with our thriving population of soldier beetles is what we’ve seen over and over again here–by avoiding monocultures and giving nature a chance to function without chemical intervention, a natural healthy and sustainable balance of life occurs.

Insect Castle

Our granddaughter visited us over the weekend.  It’s nice to be reminded of the wonders of a child’s imagination.

On one of our walks she stopped at a sandy spot and spent at least 15 minutes building a castle for bugs.

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She also picked this bouquet for her Mimi.

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Adding and Subtracting

The hay is in the barn, so I can check that big job off the list for this year.   Maybe.  Production is way down this year so to be safe I am wondering if I should cut some more.  I really dislike the thought of going through that process again, but we might have to.

We’re getting our pigs this week.  It will be nice to have them on the farm again.

We also should have Dominique chicks in a couple of days.  I’m excited about helping bring more of that breed into the world.  I’m not so excited about having to remove one of that breed from the world but one of the roosters attacked me again yesterday leaving me with a bruised shin, and I’ve decided that is the final straw for him. He refuses to learn and I can’t take the risk of him hurting someone.

On a more pleasant note, I got a few shots of one of our mother hens foraging in the woods with her chicks.  Needless to say, this doesn’t happen on a factory farm.

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Asian Greens

We love Asian veggies.  They grow well here and we enjoy them in salads, soups and stir-fries. We’ve come to appreciate them as wonderful tastes of spring.

We’ve been encouraging our customers to try them and more have been doing so every week. Everyone who tried our Tokyo Bekana two weeks ago came back the next week and bought more, raving about how good it was.  Orders have spiked up this week.  It’s encouraging to know that those who try them enjoy our Asian greens as much as we do.

Last night Cherie made us a stir fry featuring baby bok choy, Yukina Savoy, komatsuna, and tatsoi.  It was really delicious.

Asian veggies are nutrient dense and many people claim there are significant health benefits to eating them.  I suspect that’s true, which is just icing on the cake.

I encourage anyone who has access to fresh seasonal Asian veggies to give them a try.  If you do, chances are they’ll become a regular part of your spring diet.

Big Data

In a culture that celebrates and rewards “bigness,” we now have a new Big.  Big Data.

Last week Evgeny Morozov wrote a review of two new books celebrating where Big Data is taking us.  Patrick Tucker’s The Naked Future and Alex Pentland’s Social Physics both predict and applaud the coming day when our smartphones and personal devices will have so much data about our lives that they will be able to accurately predict our future, model our behavior and provide employers with information enabling them to maximize worker efficiency.  Read the review HERE.

If that sounds weird or scary, just reflect on how much things have changed over the last ten years due to the collection and dissemination of data at the personal level.  Now project that kind of thing forward and it’s not hard to imagine a day in the near future when our smartphones will tell us when we’re going to have a flat tire, the precise health consequences of skipping going to the gym today, and the optimum amount of sleep for our own personal productivity.  Mine might tell me which garden should be watered and in what quantity, what crops to plant based on analysis of market sales data, and the point at which my back will give out if I don’t start doing yoga.

Morozov writes:

Both books reveal — mostly through their flaws — that the Big Data debate needs grounding in philosophy. When Big Data allows us to automate decision-­making, or at least contextualize every decision with a trove of data about its likely consequences, we need to grapple with the question of just how much we want to leave to chance and to those simple, low-tech, unautomated options of democratic contestation and deliberation.

As we gain the capacity to predict and even pre-empt crises, we risk eliminating the very kinds of experimental behaviors that have been conducive to social innovation. Occasionally, someone needs to break the law, engage in an act of civil disobedience or simply refuse to do something the rest of us find useful. The temptation of Big Data lies precisely in allowing us to identify and make such loopholes unavailable to deviants, who might actually be dissidents in disguise.

It may be that the first kind of power identified by Agamben is actually less pernicious, for, in barring us from doing certain things, it at least preserves, even nurtures, our capacity to resist. But as we lose our ability not to do — here Agamben is absolutely right — our capacity to resist goes away with it. Perhaps it’s easier to resist the power that bars us from using our smartphones than the one that bars us from not using them. Big Data does not a free society make, at least not without basic political judgment.

It’s important to stay mindful of these things, I think.  But as they do not happen in one fell swoop, I expect that by and large we won’t even notice as Big Data creeps deeper into our lives.  Then one day, there we will be, for better or worse.

Will’s Tree

One summer day several years ago, when our son Will was still living at home, I asked him to go bushhog around the pond. For some reason he spared a little sycamore sapling.  Had I been doing that job I would have mowed it down. Had he asked me I would have told him to mow it down. But in the years that have followed, that little tree has remained.  If Will did the bushhogging, he cut around it.  If I did it, I was careful not to harm Will’s tree.  Even the beavers have left it alone. I took this picture of it last week.

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May it someday be a grand old shadetree, shading Will’s descendants on hot summer days.  May those people of the future know it still as Will’s tree.

Holiday Hay

My routine, such as it is, gets seriously disrupted every year about this time.  We’re trying to get our hay in and that has to take priority over everything else.   I cut it on Thursday and Friday until into the night.  We also had to pick and prep everything for the market yesterday, which made for a very early start in the morning.  Today I’ll probably start raking the hay, which I’m sure will be looked upon with disfavor by some of my neighbors.  But there’s rain forecast for Tuesday afternoon, meaning we have to get it baled and into the barn by then.  With a labor force consisting only of me and Cherie, there’s just no time to wait.  Hopefully we’ll get it done before the rain and I can return to my normal busy summer schedule.

Yesterday I graduated from seminary.  While my classmates were walking in the ceremony, I was selling produce at the farmers’ market.  That was just fine by me.

After the market we went and got our granddaughter, who will spend the weekend with us.  If she could drive the truck it would help a lot with getting up the hay.  But she’s only eight years old and I think that kind of thing is frowned upon these days.

So today is Memorial Day, a day to lament human folly and mourn our dead.  Instead most folks will remain oblivious to it (a few might even do something like rake hay) and plenty more will use it as an excuse for triumphalism and the glorification of war.

May we instead remember the prophet’s words–the beautiful vision of the world that is possible:

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

Hoping you all enjoy the holiday weekend.