News From the Farm | Week of October 28, 2013

A stroll around the farm this last week of October provides striking colors, seasonal shifts and summer’s slow adieu. I took a Sunday stroll with my 14-month-old grandson, Rowan, tasting our way around the fields, spying on beavers working in the creek and exploring the elements of a changing season. Walks around the farm are usually accompanied by farm dogs that tag along for security purposes – chasing off a killdeer, squirrel or gopher that may have violated territorial understandings.

We stop, 5 dogs and a curious new-to-walking child, and pick some of the last cherry tomatoes, a lingering watermelon, a crimson Jimmy Nardello pepper, an unpicked Valencia orange, a dried fig, hanging apple, pomegranate, persimmon, plum or grape and we savor these waning treats. All around trees are dropping their summer’s green for the rich hues of fall-golds, straw browns and deep reds. Tomato plants are engaged in the last flurry of flowering to see if they can set a few more seeds before frost. It is all, at the same time, beautiful, redolent, quiet and tasty… quite a treat for the senses.

We have always sought to be making a place that would seduce our youth with the delights of a familiar and largely edible landscape that provides treats in any season.  It is not insidious seduction or a calculation that makes this small world the only world they know. It is rather the chance to appreciate the riches that surround us in this natural world, and the delightful gifts of sweetness that move us eventually to do natures bidding and in turn learn to love a place.

For an exploring infant, much of the world is experienced by putting things hand to mouth. Their awareness emerges with the breathing in of space and the interaction of their elders within that place. Abundance and delight seem to travel together. We celebrate the abundance of well-tended places as the experienced flavors of those places. 

As we walk, we are discovering and making deep home place, with our roots beginning their tenuous and curious anchoring deep. In either a small spirit discovering or an older soul remembering, a walk allows time and pace for appreciation. As our creation stories see us being cast from paradise, there is a homecoming to the awareness of abundance that re-connects us with a generous land. Wendell Berry writes in Leavings about this re-connecting:

plants, animals, humans,

stories, songs—all belonging 

to such small, once known

and forgotten, officially unknown 

and exploited, beautiful places 

such as this, where despite

all we have done wrong

the golden light of October

falls through turning leaves.

The leaves die and fall, 

Making wealth in the ground

making in the ground the only

real material wealth.

Ignoring our paltry dream

of omniscience merely human,

the knowing old land

has lighted the woodland’s edges

with the last flowers of the year

tiny asters once known

here as farewell-summer.

Our edges are lit with the vestiges of a summer’s labor. Young child and aging farmer savor their remarkable sweetness, a relationship to be renewed next year and in summers yet to be lived.

–Paul Muller