Essex Farm Note Week 46, 2016

I met Mark the summer after September 11^th, 2001. I lived in New York City then and had watched those dark events unfold up close. The feeling I had during that time was the same as the one I have now: that we’d witnessed something of historic importance, and that nothing would be the same for our country now, no matter what came next. I feel the same heavy mix of shock, fear, and sadness this week. I know some readers recognize this feeling, and that some feel exactly the opposite, and that we all still live in the same country together. We’ll have to find compassion for one another, if we are going to make it work. Mark’s farm in Pennsylvania was a soothing place for me to be back then. Standing in his field, surrounded by food, I felt that anything could happen in our uncertain world, but in that moment there was work for us to do, small good things to be accomplished, and, no matter what, we would eat. Yesterday, Mark and I took a long walk out to Newfield, where the field corn is still standing. There was a whole year’s worth of food for people and animals on the heavy ears. The dry music of the husks in the strong November wind was loud enough to drown out everything else. The slope of the field made those acres seem infinite. And there it was again. The ordinary magic of sun, soil, water, and work. How generous the world is. How comforting and unifying and real is the notion of daily work toward something we believe in. Farmers are lucky in times like these. The number of small good things to be accomplished approaches infinity. Later, we walked the northern boundary of the corn in Blockhouse Field. This part of the farm has heavy soil and is not drained; it didn’t yield quite as well as Newfield, but it still made a crop. Walking along the dry town road we came upon a well-worn trail from the neighbor’s field, into ours. The grass had been flattened on each side and the corn stalks pushed down, husks tattered by small paws and sharp teeth. There was a pile of half-chewed corn in the very center of the dirt road, as though the raccoon had stuffed too much in his mouth, and spit it out in his overwhelming delight. In ordinary times, I might calculate how much we were losing to him and his friends, consider how to dissuade them. Yesterday, exhausted by our national conflict, what came to my mind instead was this, direct from Tristram Shandy: This world surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me. In our kitchen, there was a parade of comfort food. Our friend Bernard brought us some venison from his first deer of the season, and I used it to make a classic Iranian bean, meat, and herb stew, Ghorma Sabzi. Members, it is a wonderful way to use the kidney beans, copious green herbs and grass-finished beef in the share this week. (Beef is more traditionally Persian than my North Country variation.) You’d need to track down some dried Persian limes, as they add the essential zing. I made it in a pressure cooker to save time and energy. Tonight is our fall harvest celebration for local members. Next week, we celebrate with our New York City members. Today, we say a warm goodbye to Cameron, and a temporary farewell to Charlotte Morse, who will return in the spring. Thanks, with our whole hearts, for your hard and steadfast work. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this divided 46th week of 2016. –Kristin & Mark