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My Chicana landlady during grad school shared this simple, uniquely flavorful dish, with ingredients that were hard to find in 1970, but today come from my own garden. For the recipe, the knowledge and the table laden with comida casera – ¡Muchas Gracias, Tia Yvonne!

12 Anaheim chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled, etc.
6 oz jack or colby cheese, sliced into 12 pieces, 3” by ½” by ¼”
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, ¼ tsp salt until very fluffy
oil or cooking spray
2 large very ripe red tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, slivered, or large bunch chopped chives
1 or 3 serrano chiles, diced very fine – optional
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 oz grated cheese

Slip the slices of cheese inside the chiles carefully. Heat a tbsp of oil in a saute’ pan, or coat heavily with cooking spray. Roll a stuffed chile in the beaten egg and place in skillet: repeat with two more. Now turn the first (the underside should be lightly browned and a bit crisp), repeat with second and third. Now remove the first to an ovenproof dish when both sides are browned and crisp, and follow with the others. Repeat with remaining chiles, three at a time.
When all the chiles are fried, combine the tomato, onion, serranos and cilantro, and pour over the stuffed fried chiles in the baking dish. Place in 325 oven for about 15 minutes – it doesn’t take long, you just want the flavors to blend. Top with grated cheese, return to oven just long enough to melt cheese. Serve with flour tortillas.

My absolute favorite recipe, food, flavor – of all traditions, all regions, all styles, all categories, all time.

If people came with warning labels, that would be one of mine. Among the books I loan most often, and care the least to have returned, are the novels of Wendell Berry. While his renowned essays tell us of the strengths and perils of farm economy, the novels show us. Please, nobody idealize or romanticize country life! It’s work, risk, often dreary, often dirty, and by no means as noble as movies want you to think.

That being said, many besides me have called The Memory of Old Jack either “the best book I have ever read in my whole life” – Adam, Amish farmer, age 22 – or the Great American novel, setting out from the view of an elderly farmer, on the last day of his life, the sweeping change in American work and culture from a land-based to a commerce-based economy. It doesn’t sugar-coat it, either – one reason we love it so.

That book shows you – along with Berry’s much later (and more reflective) Jayber Crow. The one that tells you – and this is not beach reading, rather a slog, and not for anyone lacking patience for non-fiction – but not without humor, pathos or beauty, either – is The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. If you have opinions about farming, about GMO’s, about our food system, or even about the part government has to play in all that, this is required reading. Few have said it, no one has said it as well.

(Few have read it either: in fact, no one I know of for sure but me.)

Jane Austen has been “hot” (she would cringe) for about 30 years now, but I wonder if much of that isn’t either sentimental images of a simpler time (for women, at least, life was not simple!) or just the taste for costume drama. I read all her novels over, once every couple of years. And yes, they are escape: but I never read one without seeing fresh insight into human nature (but a lot more fun than self-help books).

The one I recommend most often for young people is Sense and Sensibility. The title contrasts with the modern meaning of  “sensible.” In Jane’s culture, “sensible” was the equivalent of today’s “sensitive,” or even, “self-indulgent.” The book counteracts the last 50 years of popular romance in music, movies, books and out there in bars, which I sum up as “I can’t help how I feel.” Jane says, “Yes you can… and you need to.”

S & S also has my favorite JA line of all, the counterintuitive “Nothing can be more natural than to resent someone whom we have used ill.”

Kamongo: the Lungfish and the Padre, by Homer W. Smith,  is obscure. Not even sure where my copy came from: it’s certainly gotten around a lot since I acquired it.  It reads as a debate between missionary and paleontologist, but not about creationism or the age of the earth: the rather refreshing missionary accepts the evidence of science. What it’s about is a fish that drowns in water: originally an adaptation allowing it to survive drought, the lungfish’s apparent “evolutionary advance” has become a dead end. The (I hope) logical question is whether the opposable thumb has become a similar dead end, as we rely on technology to supply needs and controls once provided by our communities.

India – happily for me, as I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about it since The Jungle Books at age 10 – has become a major world player, and a fascinating one. Have to add, turning out much of its own world-class literature, and has been for decades in fact. To know more, start with a book that will draw you in, keep you entertained for multiple readings, and give you a broad and colorful picture to fill in: Rudyard Kipling’s beloved (by lots of Indians, too!) Kim.

Of course Kipling was a jingoistic imperialist! That’s a reason to read the book, not to avoid it. This was the era of “British [ahem!] Exceptionalism.” We need to know about that, so we can recognize it wherever it occurs.

People who encouraged me to Blog because “you have something to say,” went on to tell me to get on Facebook, to “reach” more people.  Reach, maybe. But Facebook isn’t for readers. If the title sounds agreeable, you Like it and Share it, all your 534 Friends decide whether to Like or Share it, and nobody actually reads the article. Convinced of this.

Lately this Blog has been going heavy on images and light on text, just assuming that Shares better.  Readers, this one’s for you.

No pictures? OK, one.

Sharing my world view.

Thought you might enjoy an image of damp ground, after so many dry days. In many ways a very frustrating early season…

– incessant rain April-May, delayed tilling
– merciless heat June, scorched snap peas
– “exponential” squash bugs, devastated squash
– July drought, halted clover (nectar)
– compacted ground, reduced garlic crop
– late setting of tomato and chile plants
– etc etc, oh you know

…has become a promising late one.
– cool nights
– more rain than a lot of folks have gotten
– Fall seeds sown, soaked and growing
– rebirth of clover, lespedeza and Goldenrod nectar flow

Last point from these images: thorough pollination and fruit set for tomatoes, tomatillos and chiles, for which the credit goes to Shady Grove’s new hundred thousands of winged workers.

I don’t recall this woman’s face. Her e-mail reads, “Hi Nancy! I went to Findlay last Saturday to get squash blossoms from you and no one knew where you were!”

That tells me 1. she doesn’t read her newsletter very thoroughly – or she’d know I’ve been at Bellevue FM since April ’11. 2. She doesn’t go to Findlay very often, either, or she’d know I haven’t been there. 3. She couldn’t be bothered to e-mail back (as anyone is welcome to) to ask me to hold her a few blossoms. Or she would have found out where I’d be.

Actually it’s just as well.  I can’t make a living on squash blossoms. Buying a dozen once in two seasons is not much business, and I’d much rather they go to customers who show up consistently and buy what I have….  or what my neighbors have: we’re building a community out there.

Next week, I’ll get an e-mail from a second woman, wanting  to know when I’ll have pawpaws, so she can ship 5 pounds to her friend in Oregon, where they don’t grow. Last year it was easy: the pawpaw crop was non-existent. This year, they’re looking pretty good. So I may have to come out and say, “I am sorry: any pawpaws I have will be reserved for customers who shop here all season.” I can’t make a living just on pawpaws, either.

You might have seen “Crash,” a movie about West Coast social fabric, wherein everyone said whatever they were thinking. Politically waay incorrect, hilarious and thought-provoking. If it happened at Market, here’s how “Crash” would sound.

Customer: (well, actually not, as it turns out) We don’t need anything today, but it all looks lovely!
Farmer: That’s OK Lady, I just brought it for decoration.
(Note to readers: “destination shopper”)

C: $3 a pound is way too much to pay for tomatoes! I don’t need them that bad!
F: Really? You pay that much for potato chips, and nobody needs a pound of potato chips!

C: Look at those big white carrots!
F: Sir those are daikon, Japanese radishes.
C: They look like big white carrots!
F: (Patiently explains again that No, they’re radishes)
C: Never heard of ’em! (suspiciously)Where do you all find this stuff?
F: (cheerfully) Made’em up!

C: (has just been told how to fix Baby Squash) Oh, we don’t cook.
F: (surprised, worried frown) You don’t? You eat everything raw?

C: (picks up jelly jar) $ 6 a pint! That’s ridiculous! I useta pick berries, and know what they paid me? A dime a quart!
F: (eyes all big) You did? Wow, I’m short of help – want to come out and pick berries for me? I’ll pay you a dime a quart.
C: (indignant) I ain’t gonna pick berries for a dime  a quart!
F: (takes jar and sets it down gently) Well, sir, neither am I.

C: (has just done the math on how long it takes to shell beans, vs the price) You know, you aren’t making any money!
F: No? How much do you get paid to sit on a shady porch on a hot day?

C: (reads sign) “Basil picked while you slept?” Oh no, young lady (F</cringes>), you’d have to be up awwwful early to pick it while I was sleeping!
F: (eyes all big) Really, sir? What time do you get up?
C: (impressively) Six o’clock!
F: (Pllttt) Six o’clock, I’m in the truck, Pops!

All customer quotes are real. Readers, don’t worry: that kind of comment is SO not you.  The answers are wishful thinking, so thanks for listening. In return, here – a few very low-key (not to say flat boring) images form a realistic picture of a gardener’s life.

Bear with me, there’s some history here.

Last Winter my does had four sets of triplets, one of quadruplets and three of twins. A fine crop, but not without losses.

Last and weakest of Aggie’s quads, dead within days of birth.

The saddest was Edie #27, who lost all three:  one, a huge buck, was born dead and the other two were compromised by delayed labor. Thin and subdued, she’s still been a devoted aunt to Aggie’s three. On Genia’s advice, this year I am feeding less grain, which should (has, so far) reduce both multiples and birth size.

In March, a cheering visit from my newest apprentice goatherd, Alaina.

Up for anything, afraid of nothing, enthused about everything

Including some practice in rounding up young Spock, who had successfully challenged his pen and, out among the flock, was showing interest in poor bereaved Edie. Who was, surprisingly, showing interest in him.

Stout locust corner posts… what works!

He hasn’t been out again since Steve’s last job of reinforcement. And “poor Edie” regained appetite, weight and spirits. Well, yeah…

Then around August 1, she started filling her udder. And the timing (150 +/- days) was just about right.

Last evening, Jess put in a wearying hour helping get her into a kidding stall, with an alarmingly distended udder. At 6 AM, there were 2012’s newest lives, two lively, but quiet girls, like their sweet mother.

Welcome the newest girls!

After my last post, I hope the point(s) are clear: rewards, sometimes unplanned for, if not totally unexpected: and support, help and friendship.

It’s usually not till Time Change in October, that I start going on about day length and its effect on our spirits. But August is none too soon.

Even the quality of the early barn light has changed.

The Earth is not a perfect sphere, being slightly flattened in the Northern Hemisphere. This gives us two lovely months from June to August when the days dwindle only a second or two at a time. But that also means a sudden shift in early August, as our view of the Sun’s path reaches the southern limit of that flattened segment. Tomorrow will drop by 2 minutes and ten seconds. We will miss them.

Bread better be baked early, or not at all.

It’s not just the amount of light to get things done, it’s mood and judgment. Assume, safely, that it’s not a time to start risky projects or make big plans. But (Public Service Announcement from Friendly Know-It All), neither is it the time to give way to doubt, misgivings and discouragement.

Just as when we wake in the middle of the night, everything seems gloomier than in the day, the same way in late Summer, our lower serotonin levels can trigger apathy, futility or even resentment of our daily burdens.

Garden disappointments accumulate: it’s easy to say “Let the weeds take it.

Devastated by heat and insects, pulled to burn, early Squash leaves a last small harvest

But the new rows are ready…

… and the new seedlings are  in!

Oddly enough, or maybe not, this strenuous but spare way of life provides several trusty antidotes. Physical work itself is said to combat depression: or is depression a malady of idleness? If we remain obligated to the land and lives under our care, the issue is moot.

The chiles were blooming, but under siege from weeds…

… now they’re free to grow!

Not focussed on acquisition of stuff, we look forward  to an unfailing reward in the constant renewal of living things. As Trillium’s and Jonquil’s milk yield decreases, breeding season is on us, and next year’s  babies are in mind.

Ride it out and have faith. The Earth keeps turning and life is constantly revived. Time to milk!

Jonquil replaced her late sister Hyacinth as second milk goat: tractable and productive.

Planning for a good supply of Cajeta, till next milking season

Time to live!

After a few inches of rain and a break in the heat, there’s progress. A wonderful visit with my nieces, a ton of barn work with Jess, and the ever-stimulating company of about 30,000 small workers.

…I’ve set up a Facebook page. (…waits for hooting & jeering to subside...) Not much to see, but it’s under Shady Grove Farm.

After hearing how easy it is, how much promoting I can do, how connected it makes you, and the rest of the list… I’ve been involved with it for fewer than 24 hours, and it’s already managed to annoy me completely. It seems a business page doesn’t have a Search window to find all these people it’s supposed to connect me to. Why ever NOT? (Sent Feedback. Got Autoreply.) Also, their business categories don’t include “Farm.”

A long-time friend, Margaret, says, “I have nieces and nephews, and FB is the only way I ever hear from them.” Okay “It’s free… it’s easy… everybody is doing it” to the point where no one else has a choice.

(NB: Neither Zing! should be taken personally by my own charming nieces and nephews, who visit and help me on the farm, and write delightful, literate Thank-You notes.)

Free. That’s not a reason to do something. If it cost, that might be a reason not to. Drug dealers get people hooked with handouts. Come to speak of it, so do pharmaceutical companies. Seems FB has done the same.

Easy. Thank you, you have just insulted me. I am neither senile nor computerphobic.

Everyone. First, I’m not everyone. In fact I am hardly anyone. Second, if everyone does only what is free, and easy, for good or ill, fewer and fewer people will do things that are difficult and carry a cost, whatever their value. God knows I would not do what I do. “Hardly anyone” does now.

Greenery is timeless. Fence repair is never-ending.

Skywire lets me reach anyone with email, and lets them reach me without having to join Skywire themselves. It’s worth it, for the handful of people who answer emails.

My digital subscription to the New York Times costs a hard-worked-for 37.10 a month, for an enormous amount of valuable information. I don’t have to “join” their website, I can post as many comments as I like, read everyone else’s and feel very connected. Liberal rag? Sure it is. I don’t agree with them on everything and often say so. That alone is worth the money.

My WordPress blog costs nothing, lets everyone know what is going on here at the farm, and YOU don’t have to join  or pay to read every word ,view every image, and comment, as much as you like, for free.

Three or four friends (NB I neither have nor want 328 friends – the number a young women had who once invited me to be her FB friend. Nor, people, do I want to be one of anyone else’s 328 friends) have blogs or online photo sharing which I can read or view at no cost. I love that. I don’t have to join their chosen sites. I love that too: thanks.

So why Facebook? Here’s why. I give up. I just damn well give up. Listen:

I had the same phone number from 1988 till 2011, when I gave up the land line. How many people will now find me on Facebook, who couldn’t dial that number in 23 years?

I have had the same street address since 1988. When I dropped the land line, I forgot to notify a couple of friends whose emails I didn’t have. One wrote me a note and sent it snail mail, to ask if I was OK and to please get in touch with her. Classy. One.

I had one e-mail address fifteen years, and when I switched ISP’s, it was simple to send the change to all my contacts. It will be a good thing when portability applies to email as well.

But I would like to find people and should let them find me. My way of life imposes distance and isolation, and I don’t expect sympathy since much of it is the consequence of my own choices. Others’ choice of Facebook has the same effect.  One of us has to give.

There’s a lot of (what I would call maundering) self-disclosure on some pages. Here’s my revelation: I don’t get tired working, or even working alone. But I do get tired of a sense that no one knows what I’m doing. That’s as much of a complaint as you will hear from me, on Facebook or elsewhere.

For example, no pathetic drought pictures, but here’s the post-rainstorm recovery.

All right then.  Shady Grove Farm, Corinth, Kentucky. Here I am. (No, not the picture! I meant there I am, on Facebook, finally).

It is, and will continue to be, about work, and providing for those who matter to us.