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Week 8, 2010

August 6, 2010

  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Collards
  • Cucumbers
  • Sweet corn
  • Potatoes, German Butterball
  • Sweet onion
  • Sweet pepper
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomato
  • Thunderstorm

For the first few weeks of this spring, we had lots of toads on the farm. Nina and I would point them out, watch them hop around, pick them up to make them pee, and watch Henry (the dog) play with them with surprising grace and care. Visitors would name some of the toads and point them out to us as if they had discovered a new continent. With all of the rain we had in June and July, the toads did as most animals do in spring and spread forth upon all corners of our farm.

Then it became hard to run the tractor without flattening a toad. Mowing the yard took incredible patience, as I waited for the toads to hurry up and move out of the path. When I go out at night, it’s hard to walk without stepping on toads in the field. And now, on top of the toads, the frogs have moved in. So in addition to the small, slow toads ambling across the yard, we have flying projectiles of frogs leaping through the air and across our paths.

In the hot days we have had lately, the toads have taken to burrowing themselves under ground to escape the sun and soak up any moisture in the soil. Something that still makes me laugh, even after all of the toads I’ve seen, is watching a toad wriggle up from a hole in the field, blink his eyes open, squirm all of the way out of the hole, and hop into nearby shade.

Sometimes, though, the toads don’t know when to emerge from the soil. Thus, when I go out to dig potatoes, as I do seemingly every waking hour now, it becomes a sort of game of chicken with the toads. To dig potatoes, I shove a seven-pronged fork with sharp, pointy ends a foot deep into the soil. I then jump on the fork, shoving those points deep into the soil. For those of you city folk that have never been to a farm, soil is not transparent. And so I thrust seven jagged ends blindly into the soil with the faith and trust that no toad rests under the projectile of those points. To my knowledge (and sometimes I know not to look too closely) I have never speared a toad. Sometimes they will call out to me, either warning me of their presence, taunting my terrible aim, or calling for a mate that will never come. I had never heard a toad call before, but it sounds much like air being let out of a bicycle tire. That said, it doesn’t give much help in locating and avoiding the toads.

This is certainly not a call for kids to come and play blind man’s bluff on the farm with toads. My intention is only to point out that farming—even vegetable farming—is an interaction with the earth that does not always end well for all sides. In order for us to live and eat—or for toads to survive, for that matter—there is an exchange that is not the ideal of Old MacDonald’s Farm or pies cooling on grandma’s windowsill. In order to supply your produce for the week, we kill toads (accidentally), kill insect pests (with delight), deplete the soil of its resources, and operate machinery and tools that pollute the air and compact the soil. This isn’t the image people want of community agriculture: we don’t have pictures of speared toads or dead cabbage worms on our website. Our aim is simply to limit what impact we have, replenish whatever we take away, and create an environment that fosters toads and the creatures they eat.

Just a few new items in the box this week. As we had hoped, we indeed have tomatoes. We have many more on the vine, of course, but we have at least one or two per box to start their season. We have 15 different varieties growing this season, so be ready for some pink, yellow, orange, purple, and zebra-striped tomatoes. We pick them all ripe, so don’t sit around waiting for a yellow tomato to change color.

Most of our members from last season responded that we gave too much Eggplant, so we have cut back on our planting this season. We will send them out as they ripen each week and keep track of which boxes have received them, but don’t expect one every week. If you feel especially strongly for or against eggplant, please e-mail us and we will either shower you with them or withhold them as they ripen.

Our Basil this week is a Cinnamon-flavored variety that is immune to the basil mold going around this season ( we have not had any at our farm yet). It tastes more like anise or fennel than cinnamon to me, but it can be used in anything calling for the typical green basil (we plan to give the green Sweet Genovese variety next week).

We have included Beets again as we take a week off of carrots. We have three varieties this season: Touchstone Gold (yellow/orange), Chioggia (pink with a bulls-eye pattern inside), and Merlin (red).

 Finally, we are pleased to introduce Collards this week. These are a close relative of Kale, and used in any recipe calling for cooking greens. Try it steamed over butter or oil with garlic slices.

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