AgriCulture: Where There’s Smoke

WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK:Radishes are starting a second wave, just a few bunches, but spinach and dill are quite plentiful Oasis turnips and sorrel continue.The sad news is what we won’t have this year. Turkeys. The fire that destroyed the barn and our turkey poults (see Victoria’s bulletin, below) has rendered us unable to start again. They would not have time to grow, and we have no place to keep them. If anyone wants small frozen turkeys from last season, let us know. We have at least half a dozen. But for those of you seeking fresh heritage turkey, we regret very much that you’ll have to find another source this year, and we hope you’ll come back to our fold next year.On a far happier note, we were pleased to receive the news this morning that Peter Siegenthaler (former Turkana Farm man for all seasons) and his wife Cassie Carello have welcomed Julius Siegenthaler into the world, and we send our love and congratulations.
Friends seek a trace of what once was, Photo by Troy Spindler
Where There’s Smoke
Hey, it’s Victoria, As some of you may have heard, we endured a disaster this week. Our barn, home to our new turkeys, ten years of stored wool, and a green tape deck I’ve had since 2004, burned so entirely it appears to have vanished. Just after dawn on Saturday morning a fire marshall knocked on the door, and Troy and I ran outside. It seemed like every firefighter in the county was there, trucks pouring up the back field to get closer, but it was already gone. Our collective best guess is that one of the turkey’s heat lamps broke, catching the litter below on fire. Still, there’s no way to know for sure. It’s a shock, obviously, but it feels twice as hard because, in a sense, I’ve done this already.In November of 2016, a series of wildfires, accelerated by windstorms that downed power lines and carried burning embers, tore through east Tennessee and western North Carolina. My home town, Gatlinburg, was close to the origin point and took the brunt of the impact, losing more than 2,000 buildings–including my family home, and my grandma’s house and fiber studio. As a deadly natural disaster, it’s significant enough to have its own Wikipedia page. Being human, I still think of it as something that happened to me.Fortunately no one in my human family was lost. They’ve all rebuilt or relocated close by, have replanted flower gardens and established new routes to work. We’re thriving. I transplanted horsetails from the stream behind my grandma’s house, and wrote a newsletter about it. They’re thriving too. After recounting something terrible, the next thing I feel compelled to say is “Fortunately”. This time, we’re lucky that the response was quick and urgent, the spring was rainy, and nothing else on the farm was harmed. While we lost all the turkeys, at least none of the sheep were in the barn that night, and they’re all safe in the far pasture now, seemingly unperturbed. We’re working on plans for rebuilding, talking with the insurance adjuster, and figuring out our next steps. I know how this part of the process goes, too. The only thing to do next is just keep doing the work: make a meal, make a list, make the bed.It feels like I have practiced responding to this exact circumstance, gone through the process, done the stages of grief, and yet I wasn’t–and I’m not–ready. This has still taken me out at the knees. I’m so sad for our baby turkeys, and for the loss of what we thought this summer was going to look like. I’ve hesitated even to talk to my friends and neighbors about the fire, because I’m not ready to tell a story about it yet. I know all the beats, the arc and the denouement, and I know that the retelling, repetition in pursuit of meaning-making, is part of how we deal collectively with sudden catastrophe. I taught a storytelling class for four years in college, meeting each week on the third floor of the student union to walk ourselves through this process in every permutation, and none of that made me ready either.It’s easy to reach for a biblical narrative, or an apocalyptic one. My dad said that after the Gatlinburg fires, it looked to him like something out of Ancient Aliens, a beam of devastation that struck down one house, and left the one next to it untouched. Looking out across our field, watching a pillar of smoke rise with the morning sun punching through it, the overtones were hard to ignore. It’s even harder to resist this interpretation if it happens twice. I’m just kidding. I know that’s not what happened here. It’s not a threat, or a curse, or foreshadowing. It was just an accident. It’s not about me. But if I take myself out of it, who is there to tell what happened?My dad and I talked through his experience together, over the phone and in person, until I feel like I know his side of it personally. I don’t. You have to ask him to tell you, and he might not feel like it, because it makes everyone cry. We even came up with shorthand to get around this problem, code words to use when we don’t want to get into the whole story. If we remembered something we had lost, like my cassette player, we said we had left it “on the dining room table”. We came up with this strategy collectively, in the course of figuring out what had happened and what to do next. As a communal solution, I think there is wisdom in this act of not telling. We’re still only a week out from this fire, and it’s not going to be the last one any of us encounters. When something difficult happens, there is a series of predictable responses that appear to compress our experience: Everything happens for a reason; What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; Every cloud has a silver lining. If one of these has ever been fed to you as the answer to your struggles, I invite you to tell me just how much it helped. I’d also like to propose an alternative.Give this to yourself as a gift: Reject the formal demands of narrative. Find a space for yourself and others in which the current substance of your life is not a lesson, a metaphor, or a stepping stone to greater growth and understanding. Allow your hurt to not mean anything at the moment. Let it not be a sign.
Barn What Was Photo by Mark Scherzer
THIS WEEK’S OFFERINGSHORSERADISH ROOT: $5/LBSPINACH $4/BAGNEW FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES, A FEW BUNCHES, $3/BUNCHBABY OASIS TURNIPS, $3/BUNCHSORREL, $2/BAGMINT: $.75 a bunchDILL: $.75 a bunchEGGS: Production is now in overdrive. We can handle all your orders. $5/dozMEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezerGEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.TURKEYS: A few small ones left over and frozen $11/lb .GUINEA FOWL, We are sold out!ROASTING CHICKENS – We are sold out til FallLAMB: Ground lamb $7/lb, shoulder roasts at $10/lb, riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb, lamb stew $7/lb, shanks, $10/lbPORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs), Jowl (roughly 2 to 3 lbs each), $12/lb, 
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb 
baby back ribs $8/lb 
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb 
picnic or Boston butt roasts (roughly 2 lbs) $12/lb 
smoked bacon, $12/lb 
Kielbasa $8/lbDUCKS: Two years ago we did Pekin ducks. The males are not so different in size from the females, and these are nice meaty birds, most between 5 and 7 lbs. Also $7/lb. We have to retrieve these from the big freezer, so please order a week ahead.COMPOST, $6/Bag, approx. 40 lbs.
FARM 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. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.


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