Seedlings

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We don’t have a greenhouse. That’s not a problem for the fall gardens–in the summer we can start seeds outside for transplanting later. But spring and summer transplants have to be started in the winter, when it’s too cold to start the seeds outside. That’s when a greenhouse would come in mighty handy.

For a lot of what we need I can buy plants locally. But some of the varieties we grow aren’t available from local sources. We have to start those ourselves, greenhouse or not.

So we set up shelves beside a window and hang growlights over our seed trays. It’s important to suspend the growlights as close to the top of the seedlings as possible. But even then the amount of light the plant gets is far less than natural sunlight. As a result, our seedlings almost always get “leggy.”

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So this year, like every other year, when we began transplanting it was easy to tell the seedlings we started from those started in commercial greenhouses. Ours were spindly and leggy, theirs were stout and strong.

But, as is the case every year, once in the ground our skinny leggy plants soon catch up. Thanks to an unusually cool and wet May our spring gardens are thriving, and the plants we started in our makeshift amateur set-up look just as good as the ones we bought from nurseries.

I still have a greenhouse on the farm wishlist, but it’s good to know we can manage without one.

 

 

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

The Ubiquitous Colonel Sanders

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Cleaning some old photos off my computer this morning I came across this one. I took it in in Langkawi, Malaysia in 2006–a smiling Colonel Sanders, looking down on a crowd of Muslim Malays.

All the way back in 2004 we were on a family vacation in Paris, when our kids spotted the magic letters “KFC.” They begged and begged and whined and whined, and we relented. So there we were, in Paris, buying kids’ meals at KFC. I remember finding it amusing that you could get a glass a wine with your fried chicken there.

So what should we make of the global appeal of Colonel Sanders? The triumph of southern fried chicken? The triumph of American fast food? The ever-shrinking world? All of the above?

 

Let Us Cultivate Our Garden

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the working class rebellion against the American political establishment. I don’t pay much attention to political news, so the uprising kind of snuck up on me and I’ve been trying to make some sense of it.

Coincidentally, I’ve read a few books lately that have been real gut punches–reminders of the shame, humiliation and frustrations that come with growing up poor and ignorant. Memories I had put away with no intention to return to them.

I used to spend a lot of time alone in hotel rooms or on airplanes, brooding and plotting. A long time ago, it seems. But a few weeks ago I was there again. In a hotel room reflecting on what it all means, feeling drawn to my roots and culture, but feeling repelled and alienated by it at the same time. That’s when I wrote a list of “what I’m going to do.”

As I pondered my personal optimism, my culture’s pessimism, my peasant roots, and whether the future is as bright as I believe it to be, I was feeling discouraged. Then this came to me: “Let us cultivate our garden.”

I thought of Voltaire’s Candide. At the end of the book, the character Candide comes to a conclusion that seems to me to be good sense for our times too.

During this conversation, the news was spread that two Viziers and the
Mufti had been strangled at Constantinople, and that several of their
friends had been impaled. This catastrophe made a great noise for some
hours. Pangloss, Candide, and Martin, returning to the little farm, saw
a good old man taking the fresh air at his door under an orange bower.
Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was argumentative, asked the old
man what was the name of the strangled Mufti.

“I do not know,” answered the worthy man, “and I have not known the name
of any Mufti, nor of any Vizier. I am entirely ignorant of the event you
mention; I presume in general that they who meddle with the
administration of public affairs die sometimes miserably, and that they
deserve it; but I never trouble my head about what is transacting at
Constantinople; I content myself with sending there for sale the fruits
of the garden which I cultivate.”

Having said these words, he invited the strangers into his house; his
two sons and two daughters presented them with several sorts of sherbet,
which they made themselves, with Kaimak enriched with the candied-peel
of citrons, with oranges, lemons, pine-apples, pistachio-nuts, and Mocha
coffee unadulterated with the bad coffee of Batavia or the American
islands. After which the two daughters of the honest Mussulman perfumed
the strangers’ beards.

“You must have a vast and magnificent estate,” said Candide to the Turk.

“I have only twenty acres,” replied the old man; “I and my children
cultivate them; our labour preserves us from three great
evils–weariness, vice, and want.”

Candide, on his way home, made profound reflections on the old man’s
conversation.

“This honest Turk,” said he to Pangloss and Martin, “seems to be in a
situation far preferable to that of the six kings with whom we had the
honour of supping.”

“Grandeur,” said Pangloss, “is extremely dangerous according to the
testimony of philosophers. For, in short, Eglon, King of Moab, was
assassinated by Ehud; Absalom was hung by his hair, and pierced with
three darts; King Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed by Baasa; King
Ela by Zimri; Ahaziah by Jehu; Athaliah by Jehoiada; the Kings
Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, were led into captivity. You know how
perished Croesus, Astyages, Darius, Dionysius of Syracuse, Pyrrhus,
Perseus, Hannibal, Jugurtha, Ariovistus, Caesar, Pompey, Nero, Otho,
Vitellius, Domitian, Richard II of England, Edward II, Henry VI,
Richard III, Mary Stuart, Charles I, the three Henrys of France, the
Emperor Henry I.! You know—-“

“I know also,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden.”

“You are right,” said Pangloss, “for when man was first placed in the
Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might
cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle.”

“Let us work,” said Martin, “without disputing; it is the only way to
render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to
their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful
crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent
pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after
the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflee, of some service
or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide:

“There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds:
for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of
Miss Cunegonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had
not walked over America: if you had not stabbed the Baron: if you had
not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would
not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts.”

“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our
garden.”

Checking the Trail Cam

I set up our trail cam on one of our farm roads a while ago, wondering what we might capture.

Checked on it a few days ago. It seems there are quite a few critters using the road.

Such as…

Deer

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Notice the strange disembodied eyes in the background

A possum

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Some mysterious unidentified animal–coyote perhaps?

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The most common animal on White Flint Farm.

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A squirrel.

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A bear.

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A raccoon.

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Turkeys–a gobbler and a hen.

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That thing again.

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More of these (lots more).

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And, finally, this strange creature.

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What I’m Going to Do

What I’m going to do:

I’m going to hunt, and fish, and garden.

I’m going to listen to good music, read good books, eat good food and enjoy the company of good people.

When that pair of geese that shuttle back and forth between our pond and our neighbors pond come honking by, I’m going to stop and watch them fly over.

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I’m going to linger when a goat wants her head scratched just a little bit more.

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These important tasks are going to take up most of my time for a while, so my blog posts won’t be as frequent as they once were.

For anyone who wants to follow what’s happening on the farm, we do post daily on Facebook and occasionally on Instagram

Gone Fishing

I didn’t go fishing enough last year. I aim to fix that this year.

We have a pond on the farm, stocked with large mouth bass  and catfish. It provides all the fish I eat. Of course, I do have to go the trouble of catching them first.

I’m good at coming with excuses for not going fishing. During the day there always seems to be some more important tasks that need doing instead. The best time of day for fishing, in my experience, is late afternoon, just before it gets dark. But we like to go for a walk after supper and by the time we’re done it’s usually nearly dark, leaving me no time for fishing. So the fish chill safely in the pond, rather than in our refrigerator.

My plan this year is to carve out a regular fishing time each week. It might mean that one day a week I go fishing instead of going on the walk. We’ll see.

For many years my  work required me to travel a lot, leaving Cherie and the kids at home. This week the tables have finally turned. Cherie is in California for a World Help conference, leaving me here alone.

It seems strange not having her here, but it did mean that without my walking partner I could make other plans this evening.

So while Cherie is away helping save the world, I went fishing.

But after just a couple of casts (and they were biting), it started raining and I ended up getting rained out.

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Oh well. No fish tonight–but we really needed the rain.

Maybe tomorrow.