AgriCulture: A Partial Reflection

Green E-Market Bulletin September 17, 2023
Leader of the Pack 2 Leader of the Flock: Back from the Far Pasture Photo by Mark Scherzer
A Partial ReflectionHi All, Mark here.Saturday morning didn’t start so well. The expensive self-propelled lawnmower I bought last May, just back from repairs two weeks ago because some parts in the engine were missing, making it idle too fast, had to go back again. Now the electric starter, one of its most attractive features, was completely dead.As I loaded the mower into the car, I heard several turkeys uttering distress calls up near the barn. Such calls often happen when a turkey flies over the eight-foot fence and can’t figure out the way back to its mates because it is right up against that fence. But they generally lack urgency; the tone conveys frustration. The calls this morning were louder, more constant and had a desperate quality, demanding immediate attention.Approaching the barn, I saw just four turkeys. They were fine. So why the distress? It took just seconds to figure it out that they weren’t looking through a fence wanting to join the rest of the flock. Rather, all the others had disappeared. Their deep distress was fear that they had become flockless.I feared the same. I saw no turkeys in their yard or the nearby pasture. None were in the barn. Other than these four, there was turkey silence. Had they decamped into the woods or onto the road? What would I do with only four turkeys left when I had customer orders already in hand? “Am I being punished,” I wondered fleetingly, “for working on Rosh Hashanah instead of praying in synagogue?”Just days before I had seen the turkeys cross the fence line to the far northern section of pasture beyond the shale road and graze there, requiring me to trek out, open the gate and, in my role as flock leader, to march them back in (see pic above). I speculated that they might have gone there again, only further, invisible behind the ridge. But when I marched out they weren’t there!Increasingly nervous, I turned back and went southwest toward the former pig pasture. Still silence. But as I descended the hill, finally two white forms appeared running out of the brush, one’s beak locked on the other’s neck, a battle for supremacy in motion. A few seconds later, dozens more materialized, like humans, gathering to watch the brawl. I heaved a sigh of relief. I had not been deserted. Really, it was a little silly for me to worry about divine punishment. Rosh Hashanah is just the start of ten days of repentance in the Jewish calendar. Not until Yom Kippur would the balance of my good and evil deeds get toted up, and my punishment, if any dictated.Nota bene: If the turkeys are to stick around, they need to feel wanted. It’s not too early to start focusing on your Thanksgiving plans. If you have not yet reserved your bird, now would be a good time.From the time of the turkeys’ reappearance, my very idiosyncratic Rosh Hashanah improved. I perhaps should explain that my parents taught me to be an atheist. Yet they sent me to orthodox Hebrew school and I was bar mitzvahed in an orthodox shul, which my parents explained to me as a mark of respect for my grandparents. That education left me with the residual disposition, even as a nonbeliever, to engage in a period of reflection at this time of year, contemplating my good deeds and my bad ones, and resolving how to improve. More than sitting in a crowded room struggling to read Hebrew words I don’t understand, it is in the repetitive, intellectually undemanding farm work of weeding, shoveling, hauling and planting that my mind manages to enter a meditative, reflective state.What came to mind when I entered this zone? To begin with, context. It’s easier to be good when things are good, and I had to recognize the good fortune I’ve enjoyed. The farm sustains me both as a process and with its products. I was struck yesterday, as I cleared vines off the raspberry patch and uncovered a bounty of raspberries, and again as I harvested corn from a stalk that just volunteered to grow next to the garden, how much it gives even when I don’t do the work it really demands.I am joined on that farm by a very loose kind of intermittent family, some inherited but mostly assembled without my having had much intentionality about it. The cast of characters you’ve met in this bulletin is a contemporary approximation of the fantasies of living on a hippie collective I entertained but never had the nerve to pursue in my youth. As my brother-in-law said as he departed his last visit, “It’s always nice to visit the commune.”Beyond that, I’ve had the enormous luck to love a man who loves me back and with whom I am building a life. I’ve enjoyed good health and my age has not yet significantly diminished my function.Have I done enough good acts to merit that good fortune? Honestly, probably not. Pressed to come up with some novel good acts of the preceding year, only one stood out: Belatedly, I’ve started to frankly express my appreciation to those who have made my current life possible. My default expression as a younger man was self-indulgently “woe is me.” Now, it is more often “thank you.”The thanks go not only to my friends and loved ones. In May, I visited my now 91-year-old, still very vital college mentor, an anthropology professor whom I thanked for teaching me the analytic skills I have used to navigate ever since. More recently, I tracked down my high school French teacher, now 78 and living in New Mexico, who in her first teaching job some 56 years ago taught us the pop songs of artists like Gilbert Bécaud. I thanked her for a little piece of stored knowledge that helped me endear myself to Eric by being able to sing along. We’ve struck up a correspondence, and she’s once again improving my French.An afternoon focused on my good acts was necessarily short. It left plenty of opportunity over the next nine days to ruminate on the bad ones, which I may or may not share in a subsequent bulletin.
Corn among the mugwortCorn volunteers among the mugwort Photo by Mark Scherzer
WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEKIn the red meat department, recently back from the processor, frozen lamb:Butterflied legs of lamb $16/lb
Rib or Loin chops (packs of 2) $14/lb
Small racks of lamb $14/lb
Riblets (breast of lamb) $8/lb
Lamb shanks (packs of 2) $12/lbIn the greens department:Swiss chard: $3/baggreen zucchini, $1 each
Petite Green bell peppers $1.00 each
Cucumbers: Suhyo long or regular slicing $1 each
Green bell peppers: $1 each
Frying peppers: 2 for $1
Jalapeno peppers: 3 for $1
Horseradish root: $2/lb.
Sorrel: $3/bag
Spearmint and regular mint $.75 a bunch
Garlic chives $.75 a bunch
Green Shiso leaves 10 for $1 (10 cents each)In the yellow and white palette: Eggs: $6/dozen
AN 1878 SQUARE GRAND PIANO FREEThat’s right folks, I have finally as of July 27 received a Department of Environmental Conservation permit to transfer this antique piano, with its ivory keys. It has a venerable history and I want to find it a good home. You’d just need to come get it. Please email me at or call at 917-544-6464 if you’d like to make it yours.
110 Lasher Ave
Germantown, NY 12526
Please check here if you would like to receive email offerings in season:______________HERITAGE BREED TURKEYS: This year we are raising Holland Whites, Chocolates and Blue Slates, which will range from 7 to 18 lbs. Fed on organic feed, pastured all day once they get big enough to go out, protected on perching bars all night. Slaughtered the Sunday or Monday before Thanksgiving, delivered fresh, not frozen, in Lower Manhattan, at points along the Taconic Parkway, or at the farm. $12 lb plus $5 off premises pick up fee. Note: These sell out early.Number desired: ___________ Approx. weight ________
Pick up place: ___at the farm; ___Lower Manhattan___a point along the Taconic Parkway
Please send a deposit of $40 per bird to hold your reservation to Turkana Farms, 110 Lasher Ave., Germantown, NY, 12526. Make check out to Turkana Farms, LLC.(Yes this luddite farm still uses checks). The balance due will be paid at the time of the pick up.
pineappleFARM PICKUPS:Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.
Robin Hood logoHEAR OUR SHOWIf you’d enjoy hearing these bulletins out loud instead of reading them, we broadcast them on Robin Hood Radio, the nation’s smallest NPR station. You can find it on FM 91.9, AM 1020, WBSL-FM 91.7 “The Voice of Berkshire School” or streaming on the web at, where podcasts of past broadcasts are also available under the title AgriCulture in the “On Demand” section. FM 91.7 “The Voice of Berkshire School”can be heard from just south of Pittsfield to the CT border. You can hear the station on WHDD FM 91.9 from Ashley Falls, MA down through the Cornwalls and in NY from just south of Hillsdale down to Dover Plains. You can hear the station on AM1020 from Stockbridge, MA to Kent and from Poughkeepsie to Pawling to Kent, Goshen, Torrington, Norfolk, and Ashley. Recently added for those in the Route 22 corridor from Ancram down to Pawling is FM frequency 97.5 And of course you can listen in our own neighborhood of Southwestern Columbia and Northwestern Dutchess County, where it is being broadcast from Annandale on Hudson, 88.1 FM.
Imby logoFOLLOW USThe bulletins may also now be found in written form on line as well, at the Germantown, NY, portal of


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