| Main |

August 20th, 2013

Wabi-sabi

Judging by our lobed and fissured tomatoes and mottled fruit, we grow beautifully imperfect food at Stonegate Farm.

Imperfect in the idealized, Apollonian sense, that is, but oh-so-perfect in the fabulous flavor, nutrient density department.

SGF AUGUST-8724Heirloom tomatoes: Cracked, fissured, bruised and swollen to perfection.

Organic is really a euphemism for misshapen beauty, or the Eastern aesthetic philosophy of wabi-sabi, where imperfections, transience, and asymmetry have more value, and are “more perfect” than perfection.

In Japan, for example, where the modern CSA movement, called TeiKei, began, wabi-sabi is central to their aesthetic philosophy. The more crazed and cracked the teapot, the wonkier the pear, the greater its integrity, beauty and value.

SGF AUGUST-8785Sweet, multi-colred cherry tomatoes are more vain than their larger cousins

There is something beautiful in transience, in the faltering impermanence of living things, be it an over-ripe Shiro plum or even us.

Our closest approximation is Virgil’s  Lacrimae rerum, or “tears of things,” but try and use that (or worse, quote Virgil) when selling anything in the new and improved West. So much of Eastern philosophy is simply lost in a land where the newer, shinier and more Botoxed the better.

Organic beauty has always been more than skin deep; in fact, its skin is often deeply flawed. With no toxic, petroleum armor to protect it, organic produce must fend for itself, relying on the skilled coddling of its growers.

SGF AUGUST-8866Our first tomato harvest of the season.  Set back by oppressive heat and rain, they’ve finally come through.

Much of what we grow wouldn’t pass visual muster at the local Price Chopper, where isles of pesticide-infused sameness prevail. But our wabi-sabi veggies, greens and orchard-grown fruit–even the weathered siding of our century-old barn–have a deep and resonant beauty that you can’t get from mass production.

It’s no wonder the Japanese, with their non-western paradigms, created a partnering system between consumers and organic farmers, where they not only cooperated with each other, but also with the lovely imperfection of the natural world.

They say that when you learn a new language, you acquire a new soul, and the language of organics is about working symbiotically with nature’s quirks and variations, not against them.

Maybe growing local and organic creates not only better food, but better philosophy.  –Mb

Prayers of peppers

Broken tomatoes

Grown in perfect summer

(flawed vegetable haiku)

Visit Stonegate Farm

Tags: , , ,

August 22nd, 2011

Tomato-Palooza


It’s been quite a star turn for tomatoes on the farm this season.  No blight, no gummy end rot, just loose, far-reaching tangles of sweet fruit splattered across the fencerow in the orchard.  Their indeterminate sprawl has been almost unseemly, shaming the rest of the farm with an insatiable appetite for sun and sweetness.
Seasonal intern Maren Rothkegel, from Munich, Germany, harvests cherry tomatoes before the Saturday a.m. CSA pick-up.
Tomatoes can make or break a farm season. When you’re left without, like we were two years ago when late blight was early and pernicious, you almost want to strike the set and start a tree farm.  Your CSA members, faced with a bleak, tomato-less Summer, solemnly collect their kale and cole crops, like martyrs.
How many ways can you prepare kale?  Let me count the ways.
But this season, the weather and varietal choices have conspired to deliver a bumper crop of both tomatoes and eggplant, which are in the solanaceae family.  After last season’s exasperating battle with flea beetles, we shrouded the eggplant with Agribon this year, a light, spun fabric made of recycled materials. It foils the beasties by physically blocking their voracious appetites.  It seems to have worked.  Just when I thought things on FussPot Farm couldn’t get tidier, I resorted to actually tucking in my beds, minus the hospital corners.

Sweet cherries in gumball orange, yellow and red.

Of course, all the Tuscan kale has been nibbled down to ungainly stumps by a wily and determined woodchuck, powdery mildew did away with my French cucumbers with one mouldering puff, and a flock of ravenous starlings ate an entire hedgerow of aronia melanocarpa berries that were just about to be harvested.  Sisyphus, you had it easy!
If I were half the farmer I’d like to be, I would be keeping an eye on the heirlooms that are thriving and putting out and would be saving their seeds to be planted next year. In theory, Darwinian adaptation can be accelerated a few generations by my meddlesome intervention. If I were to put theory into practice, the plants that do well on my parcel would be unnaturally selected, pandered to, and replanted.  Next year.
So small farming continues its metronomic give and take, it’s shock and awe. There’s never a dull moment, or a bland vegetable.  It’s both exasperating and exhilarating and, in the end, entirely worth doing.  And given one season of magical tomatoes, like this one, and the memory of all the blighted, forsaken fruit that came and went before disappears.  - Mb

Tags:

August 10th, 2009

Animal Farm

ires to equilibrium – a balance between taking and giving, hard woIf a sustainable farm asprk and bountiful harvest– then a few critters prowling or clucking the grounds can do wonders for your sanity when you’re off kilter. They’re also great comic relief. I’ve never known a vegetable to make me laugh. (Although there was this very silly carrot…)


Whisker deep in the big ruddy

Last week, I sternly accused my cats of raiding the tomato patch while we were away, They took the fifth (clever boys), hired one of those freaky hairless Sphinx cat attorneys, and took refuge. The next morning, our tabby was caught with his whiskers deep in the warm, submissive flesh of a Brandywine. Maybe our soft, tomato-hued cat had found his vine-tethered likeness, and liked it.


Furrowitz, Wiskerstein & Purr, LLP. Cat calls welcome.

In a year of such tomato scarcity, this feline misbehavior is salt in the wound. But maybe they figure they’ve paid their dues.

We were once sacked and plundered by a band of snarky roof rats. They came in from the dark woods like drunken Huns, getting into all and everything edible (sheetrock: a bit dry, but not bad). The cats rose to the occasion with gusto, however, and treated these marauders to an endless gladiatorial round of “toss and swat” (very much like tennis, only with paws, and rats), and we stood around them in a circle, our thumbs in the air like so many Caesars, celebrating each critters quick and squeaky demise.

We had another orange tabby a few years back that had decided to come in from the feral cold and adoptus. We named him “Agent Orange.” He never came too close or asked for too much, but was just a stealthy presence in the long grass. He was an old cat, with all the markings of a life spent in the brush or the dustbin. And the day Agent Orange died, we wrapped him in a linen pillow case and buried him beneath a patiently trained espaliered apple tree in the kitchen garden. The next Spring, the apple was dead. The other painstaking espaliers soon followed. What’s in a name? Intractable fate, apparently, even beyond the grave.

With so many lives in the balance, animal and vegetable, the critters somehow keep you, and your conceits, in check.  -Mb

Tags: , , , ,

July 27th, 2009

The Love Apple

Our tangled galaxy of heirloom tomatoes has started to glow with color this week, and – barring a love apple apocalypse – we’ll be in fruit until frost. Caught below in flagrante delecto, they seem oblivious to blight, sun-colored and heat-swollen. Yes, there is something remarkable about a warm, unruly ravel of tomatoes, the kind of sensual squalor you don’t get from neatmarshalled rows tied up with string.

Love apple comes from the French (who else?), who thought the pomme d’amour was an aphrodisiac. The Germans had their Liebesapfel, the Italians theirpomi d’amore. It seems this little fruit gets around.

But these are tough times for the pommed’amour, and the plight of tomato farmers across the Northeast has hit prime time: Both the New York Times and NPR ran pieces on the fungusamungus, and Orange County’s black dirt region was singled out at particularly hard hit.

And the big box stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes – where the buyin‘ is cheap – seem to be complicit (surpirsed?).

So we can add a medieval black death of tomatoes to the minus column this year. Here’s a link to the Times article: Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop.

My advice: Savor every sweet, local liebesapfel that crosses your lips this season.

We Go Both Ways


Neat, marshalled rows. Efficient, very German.


The sprawl method: sensual squalor.

Tags: , , , ,






OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image