AgriCulture: Two Steps Forward…

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There are a lot of paragraphs being written this week that start “A year ago today I was….(fill in the blank).” We are pretty much at the one year mark from when the pandemic hit us head on and closed down life as we knew it. Fortuitously, we have recently seen enough glimmers of an end to the nightmare to permit combining retrospection with contemplation of what comes next.

For one third of Americans, the focus of retrospection is bound to be those close to them that they lost — whether the fresh raw pain of recent death or the beginnings of affectionate appreciation for someone who died a year ago. Many of the rest of us, though, are contemplating the parts of our former lives we miss and figuring out how and when to recover those, while maybe questioning whether there are other parts we don’t need or want to return to.

A year ago today I took my friend Eric to see Jane Birkin at the Beacon Theatre in New York for his birthday (Happy Birthday, Eric). It was an evening that was moving for her loyal fans like Eric, impressive to those like me who did not know her talents so well, and electrifying for the charged uncertainty in the air, the sense that we were all on the edge of a zone of danger. It felt like what I imagined an underground nightclub in a city at war would feel like, where just the challenge of going out itself intensifies the energy exchange between performer and audience.

That eve of shutdown concert for me is emblematic of what life once was and could be, if lived to the fullest. An experience that envelopes you sensorily enough to transport you out of your normal consciousness (like sex, or skiing) is only intensified by the energy of hundreds of others around you similarly transported. Yet as I in my newly immunized state take the first tentative steps toward post-pandemic life, attending such a concert is not my most urgent need or desire. For now, small steps toward normalcy are even more meaningful.

Last night I had my friend George, also newly immunized, to dinner. We hugged, as we once routinely did, for the first time in over a year. Even though we kind of “podded” throughout the last year, last night we ate together closely at the table without feeling that we needed to be conscious of our distance. The distancing and discomfort the pandemic introduced into our most basic human interactions was stripped away. That in itself was a joyous event. And sufficient, for right now.

I understand why people like Governor Abbott of Texas would like a restoration of all our former activities, immediately and overnight. But I don’t understand why these folks, who govern states that are normally thought to be more in touch with the natural world, don’t seem to realize that natural processes are unlikely to conform to human proclamations. A pandemic is not like a war, where one day one side surrenders, soldiers can immediately drop their guns and start kissing random girls on the street, and factories convert the following day from making tanks to making convertibles. Even as we can see an end on the horizon, people are still getting sick and dying in high numbers, and the downward trajectory in cases and deaths will reverse if everyone, vaccinated or not, is encouraged to resume their former activities right now. Such decisions will affect us all. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson noted (I thank my friend John in California for forwarding this), “To abolish mask-wearing laws in some states while the rest of the Nation keeps theirs is like designating a peeing section of the swimming pool.”

I can’t help but wonder if some greater familiarity with the processes of nature might better inform decisions by the likes of Governor Abbott. We in the Northeast live with the agonizing annual push and pull of Spring’s awakening, and it exemplifies how natural processes work. Always two steps forward, one step back.

After a nice long stretch of real winter, we’ve had enticing hints of spring the last couple of weeks. A series of days in the forties melted the snow cover off about 60% of the pastures. But a couple of inches remains on the rest, and today’s high was back in the twenties. I am always ready to declare spring here, and was thrilled to have the sheep back out nibbling on the field stubble once the snow receded. That reduced their hay consumption considerably. But that didn’t mean I could expect them to survive by grazing from here on out. Today I received yet another truckload of hay to sustain them from the emergence of signs of Spring to the actual event.

All winter I’ve been marveling at the tree buds that form in the fall. The magnolias and peaches (pictured above) seem the most remarkable to me. They are soft and fuzzy and seem quite delicate, yet they are tough and resilient enough to withstand subzero temperatures without damage most of the winter.

Come late Spring, however, there is always the possibility that prematurely warm weather will prompt these tight buds to begin opening, making them vulnerable if we get a regressive blast of winter. An entire crop can be lost if the timing works that way. It seems that Gov. Abbott has assumed that just because he can see the bud the flower will open. His miscalculation may cause far more damage than the benefits he thinks will be gained.

I have no doubt that eventually the pandemic will be over, just like eventually Spring will be in full bloom. But meanwhile, small and cautious steps, sensitive to the rhythms of nature, are what are called for. It’s too early to declare that Spring is here.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Cheese pumpkins, $1/lb

EGGS: production has doubled, feel free to order, $5/doz

MEATS:

CHICKENS: They were quite uniform in size, all just around 6 lbs, a few under. Deeply flavorful. They are now frozen. $6/lb. Separately, bags of chicken livers, also $6/lb.

FARM PICKUPS:

Email us your order at farm@turkanafarms.com, 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.



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