Gene Logsdon Blog – The Contrary Farmer

To Survive In Farming, Try Taoism 

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

I thought I had made a tremendous discovery a few years ago.  It came to me one day when I was hoeing (hoes are great think machines). I decided, all of a sudden, that the world was eternal. It had no beginning and won’t end. That was a frightening idea because it went against all that I had been taught in science or religion. Every effect was to supposed to have a cause. But the idea of a world without beginning or end resolved the major philosophical contradictions and mystifications clambering around in my mind so I decided to go with it. The funny part is that I believed my hoe and I were the first to come up with this idea. I had no notion, until a year or so later, that this was the basis of a philosophical system that dated back thousands of years— Taoism. My hoe and I were way behind the times. We didn’t even know how to the pronounce the word correctly.

As with any new discovery, I then began to see Taoism popping up everywhere. There’s even a new gardening book out by Carol Deppe, titled The Tao of Vegetable Gardening. But it was not until last week when I read a post by William Edelen who writes “The Contrary Minister” on the Ukiah Blog that is the companion to this one, that I realized just how appropriate Taoism is for farmers. We are either gnashing teeth for lack of rain or going out of our minds because it won’t quit raining.  No matter how hard we work or how clever we are, we do not have as much influence over farming as my hoe has.

In a recent post, the Contrary Minister says he is a Taoist. No wonder I have enjoyed what he writes. But up to now, I had not known much about what a modern Taoist thinks beyond contemplating the awesome notion that the material universe just might be forever. According to him, a happy life is all about accepting the world as it is. He wasn’t addressing farmers particularly, but what he says is especially appropriate for us. He compares life to a flowing river. When the river meets an irresistible object, it simply flows around it. Humans should do the same. Don’t curse the boulder blocking your path. Don’t shatter yourself to mental anguish trying to shatter it. Just quietly flow around it. In other words don’t be a control freak. Says  Edelen: “No matter how  much structure we create in our lives, there will ALWAYS be things we can’t control and if we let them, these things can be a huge sense of anger, stress and frustration.”

GENE LOGSDON: Foodroom Gardening — No Rows, No Woes

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

As I battle mud and mosquitoes in this wet year, in the wallow that used to be our garden, I think faraway, crazy thoughts. I keep trying to imagine a future time when all human beings would be responsible for their basic food necessities just as they are responsible for their own bodily cleanliness and cooking meals. Could every home have a sort of foodroom adjoining the bathroom, where the basic yearly food could be produced? Ideally there would be a composting bin or two,  plus a cistern or rain barrel to catch water, all geared to take no more time than a daily shower, shave, teeth brushing, and hair combing.

The first thing that would have to disappear to save space would be garden rows. Have you ever thought about how stupid rows are? Rows came into existence to accommodate machine and human traffic. Without them, a garden can  produce twice the amount of plants or more. My imaginary foodroom would be elevated even more than raised beds, walled up so I could sit or stand next to it on either side and accomplish all planting and weeding comfortably by hand. Weeding would be done with a trowel from a standing or sitting position. Gone would be all the primitive backbreaking bending over that makes gardening by hand so tiresome. Once a plant produces its food, it could be pulled out and another started in its place. Elderly people could go on gardening until they were a hundred years old and never once have to get down and crawl along like I do now. Kids would be more easily cajoled into the work because you could describe it to them as merely playing in the dirt, like a sandbox. Adults who like office work would see the garden bed was just another desk.

GENE LOGSDON: Backyard Hay Too 

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Demand for new and used machinery for grain farming is down alarmingly because of the uncertainty in the corn and bean market, but haying equipment is on the upswing. The experts say this demand is because beef prices are climbing but that means to me that livestock farming needs hay more than it does corn . The more modern farming has tried to eschew hay rather than chew it, the more hay has proven its value.

Hay is our number three crop (after corn and soybeans), nothing to sneeze at unless you have hay fever. If common sense ever returns to grain farming, many of the acres planted to corn and beans in recent years will go back to pasture and hay because steep hills and dry plains are too erosive for annual cultivation. All hay needs to become our number one crop is more ways to get it in the barn quicker without rain. The latest goal is to  make “hay in a day.” After mowing, conditioning, and windrowing, the hay is wrapped in plastic in big round bales still quite wet— around 50% moisture. It will then keep satisfactorily. I’ve not made hay myself this way and am a little leery. But it does sort of get rid of the problem of heavy lifting in haymaking because it’s all done by machines not muscles and dairy farmers, or rather their cows, love it.

GENE LOGSDON: Wild About Wild Black Raspberry Pie 

 

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

If I believed there was such a thing as an aphrodisiac, I’d put my money on Carol’s wild black raspberry pie. Something about the look and taste of those shiny little beady-eyed berries really turns me on and once baked into a pie, their seediness is not so noticeable. Being encased in a lard crust doesn’t hurt the taste either. Nor does drowning it in cream.

A couple of readers recently mentioned that wild black raspberries were especially plentiful in their areas this year. That’s true here in north central Ohio too. That adds a bit of mystery to them. How can a wild berry in different states and different environments have an exceptionally good yield the same year? If ours in the garden had yielded heavily and the ones in the woods had not, I could brag about how smart I was to go to the trouble of transplanting some and babying them. But such is obviously not the case. My real purpose in transplanting to the garden was a bow to old age. Thrashing through the thorny underbrush in the woods on a hot and steamy day, with mosquitoes and deer flies singing lustily in my ears, is something I don’t want to endure anymore.

GENE LOGSDON: I Live In A FarmUNtopia

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

A great article in the May, 2015 Smithsonian magazine, “Welcome To Farmtopia” by Franz Lidz, gives yet another example of the legitimacy of the local food, backyard farm movement. I should be overjoyed since this sort of thing is what I’ve preached and predicted for 50 years. Farmtopia in this article features Serenbe, Georgia, one of the new homesite developments in the U.S. clustered around a farm instead of a golf course. The people who live in the houses volunteer to help with the farm work in return for sharing the food produced. So far, so good and I wish the project and others like it well. But I am not overwhelmed with optimism by this kind of farmtopia because I have lived too long and seen too many similar attempts fail. They mostly do not endure because they start with what I call “farming from on high.” Someone, usually rich and with great good intentions, sort of imposes or provides his or her idea of farming on a group of people. Projects like this tend to confuse someone’s idealism about farming with its realism. Developers of farmtopias first of all want to make money selling real estate. If they can do it by appealing to the latest trends, why not? But how often in my life have I watched publicly-inspired gardens laid out and planted with great fanfare in the spring turn into a jungle of weeds by fall.

If the new notion of local farming and food production is to endure, it must start with determined individuals willing to go through the hellfire of unpleasant physical work and low financial returns. The successful farmers and market gardeners I know would not believe they could afford to live in Serenbe, let alone want to farm there. Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, who calls himself an entremanure, was the first farm manager at Serenbe but has gone on to other things, as they say. He says in the article what I think: “A farmer wants to have equity and something to call his own.” Garden farming at best is not too profitable. You hang in there for other reasons. You are out there enduring low income and heat and bugs and bad weather because you want to have your own place in this crazy world and not have to be forced to listen to someone’s else’s music.

GENE LOGSDON: Farming Starts In Cities

 

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Farm commentators are remarking somewhat in surprise that the new move towards local food production and backyard farming are much more in evidence in and around cities than out where the big tractors lumber over the landscape. But, as most historians and economists have attested, this has always been true. Odd as it seems, agricultural innovation usually begins in cities. My favorite mind-stretcher book, The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs (1969) reviews the historical evidence in favor of this conclusion and it is almost impossible to dispute her, though at first I tried. I didn’t like the idea of those city slickers being agricultural pioneers. But it was all too painfully the truth. “New kinds of farming come out of cities,” Jacobs writes. “The growing of hybrid corn… was not developed on corn farms by farmers but by scientists in plant laboratories, promoted and publicized by plant scientists and editors of agricultural papers, and they had a hard time persuading farmers to try the unprepossessing-looking hybrid seeds.”  In another instance she points out that when the wheat farmers of New York realized they could no longer compete with western wheat growers, or thought they couldn’t, and switched to fruit farming, “the change was primarily… by the proprietors of a nursery that first supplied the city people with fruit trees, grape vines and berry bushes and then showed farmers of the Genesee Valley… that orchards and vineyards were economical alternatives.”  Likewise, “the fruit and vegetable industries of California did not ‘evolve’ from that state’s older wheat fields and animal pastures. Rather it was organized in San Francisco for supplying fruits to preserving plants and later to vegetable canneries.”

GENE LOGSDON: Financial Discretion Equals Happy Farming

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

A most provocative article in the latest Draft Horse Journal  (full disclosure: I write for this magazine regularly) argues that an Amish farm with gross sales of $50,000 has more money to spend after necessary living expenses are paid out than a conventional farm with gross sales of $300,000 (Farming From the Heart, by Chet Kendall, p. 107ff).  Kendall  bases his argument on discretionary income, which is the money you have left to spend as you like after all debt payments and necessary overhead are satisfied. The Amish farm had $23,000 to spend or not spend this way. The conventional farm had none.

The average conventional farm, using official 2010 figures, had gross income of $334,042 and expenses of $275,729 or 83% of the gross income, plus government payments minus taxes, leaving a disposable net income of $48,098. Of that income, $13,545 came from government subsidies. The Amish farm had no direct government payments because that’s against their religion. Kendall argues that the conventional farm’s total disposable income had to be used to pay off debt and for clothing, education, utilities, food, transportation and recreation that the farmer deemed necessary for his lifestyle, leaving zero dollars for savings, investments, or experimentation in new farming ideas. The Amish farm, after paying overhead and living expenses, had an estimated $23,000 left. (There are no official government figures for Amish farms.)

Kendall argues that discretionary income is the key to happiness and true success. “Discretionary income is that income of which real wealth is made… Many farmers never see discretionary income and when they do, it is not on a regular basis. From it comes savings, investment, innovation, capital and entrepreneurship… It is also the source of genuine recreation.”

GENE LOGSDON: First Strawberries

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

I was bent over a book in the office when Carol waltzed in and stuck a berry basket under my nose. I almost jumped out of my chair. I was staring at some of the nicest strawberries I’ve ever laid eyes on—  the ones in the photo. No sight is more glorious to me than the first strawberries of the year. All the long cold winter and all the worries of the world vanish and I once more am assured that “all’s right in the world” or would be if we could get rid of the overpopulation of deer which love strawberry leaves.

Since we have not had much to brag about from our berry patch in recent years, and since these berries came from the same plants that so struggled to grow all last summer, I have no idea why they are so nice. I was tempted to tear the patch up. That is what makes gardening interesting. It keeps exuding mystery that no amount of experience can completely anticipate or explain. After growing strawberries all my life, I still hesitate when someone asks me questions about how to do it. My standard answer to all things agricultural is “it depends.”

I am especially mystified by the many rules on how to handle runners, those vines that grow out from the mother plant and make new plants. I don’t think there is any one correct way. “It depends.” It is fun to read older books about growing strawberries because in the sweet by and by, people didn’t just order plants to set it but often grew their own. This meant rooting or layering the runners which required knowing the habits of runners or rather, as I have learned,  knowing the habits of humans. Most of the instruction is really more about making easier ways to pick the fruit or control weeds rather than any particular knowledge about the botany of the plants.

GENE LOGSDON: Farming — A Not-For-Profit Enterprise? 

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

I am just musing now, as in a-muse, not advocating and criticizing. What if the economics of money profit and loss, under capitalism, or socialism, or a monarchy or any other system, doesn’t really work for farming. Maybe growing food is supposed to be a not-for-profit enterprise, a part of our personal duty, like bathing and brushing our teeth. Or a sport like amateur golf done for fun not for money.

The usual reaction among farmers when I bring up this notion is a chorus of snickers and joking agreement that the best to be said for farming is that you die rich so the kids have something to fight over. And there’s more than a little truth in that. So why am I considered supremely naive to just come right out and say that maybe owning land is a good investment and is the only way farming is profitable financially. Even when farms are huge and seemingly sure-fire moneymakers at least some years, they continue to rely heavily on subsidies to make ends meet.

Not-for-profit farming would be based on a different economic model for farmland. “Profit” would come from the satisfaction and enjoyment and recreational value of possessing or owning land, not squeezing it to death for money profit. Then the land and the farmer’s life on it would not be subject to money manipulation and would not need the highest yields or the biggest machinery to survive.  It would just need more not-for-profit food producers.

GENE LOGSDON: Dead-End Work

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

In a news story from a third world country recently, the reporter referred to farm chores, butchering and street cleaning as “dead end” work. The inference was that progress involved convincing young people to go to school and avoid low-paying manual labor. Never once did the report mention that a good way to turn dead end work into high end work is to raise the pay. 

Why is it that so often society puts down essential work like farming and food production as merely menial tasks that any dumb ass can do. If you teach young people that farming is dead end work, you are guaranteeing food shortages in the future. Or at least that would be the case except that enough people still know how to think for themselves and see opportunities in making successful careers out of seemingly menial work like farming, butchering and street cleaning.

There’s a guy in our town who shunned college, started out as a lowly paid street maintenance worker, and today runs a million dollar business in landscaping and related work. Among the people I know are farmers and butcher shop operators who make almost as much money as doctors do. If you want to talk more accurately about dead end work, how about spending fifty years in an office cubicle doing nothing more than channeling information streaming across your desk from one vice president to another.

GENE LOGSDON: Soil Science Spelled It Out A Whole Century Ago

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

An organic farm marketer brought me a strange book to read and I can’t get it out of my mind. It was written by Cyril Hopkins, an agronomist at the University of Illinois in 1911. Already a century ago, science had committed the wisdom of the ages about maintaining soil fertility (Hopkins quotes Cato, Varro and Virgil from ancient Rome) to the finely wrought analysis and statistics of science. Soil scientists knew very well how to practice sustainable farming a century ago but then as now many people, including some fellow scientists, paid little attention. The strangeness of the book comes from the author’s efforts to write “The Story of The Soil” in the form of a novel, embedding his treatise on soil science in a more or less fictional love story.  He had already written a factual book on how to restore and maintain fertility in America’s declining soils but, surprise, surprise, hardly anyone read it. I suppose he figured that maybe people would pay attention if a little sexual intrigue were woven into his pages of dry facts and figures about manure, lime, rock phosphate and clover rotations and what happens when you don’t do it correctly. I doubt his ploy worked except with those of us who think sustainable farming is a pretty sexy subject all by itself.

GENE LOGSDON: Speed Farming

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

The farm news (DTN/Progressive Farmer) reports that Finland is boasting a farm tractor that can go 80 mph on snow. How’s that for technological progress? As far as I can tell, the speed is not meant for farming— crops won’t grow on snow. However, farm machinery companies in both Europe and the United States are touting their latest models that can hit 50 mph on the open road. This is not mere technological fantasy trying to find an outlet: many farmers today spend about as much time moving their rigs from one farm to another as they do in the fields, so having a souped-up road gear makes cents if not sense. Field speeds are increasing too, and that makes even more cents. Farm machinery engineers say that increasing field speed from 10 mph to 12 mph increases productivity by 20%. How about that? With my kind of arithmetic that means that when you bury a monster tractor in the mud and need three more monsters plus three snapped cables plus ten hours to get it unburied, as happened in my neck of the woods one spring, your productivity decreases (four tractors times zero) to a minus 80%.

GENE LOGSDON: “Stop Mowing and Start Growing”

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

That’s the motto and battle cry of a fairly new (2011) organization called Urban Shepherds. Its purpose is to encourage grazing sheep on  urban and suburban vacant lots, larger lawns, and other grassy areas like school campuses and the acreages surrounding historic sites and factories. You can find out all about this new idea at urbanshepherds.org. The people involved are having a day of training on May 16  at Spicy Lamb Farm near Peninsula, Ohio. Their website tells you how to get there. Spicy Lamb already uses a power line right of way close by to graze its sheep, benefitting the power company and itself, controlling weeds without mowing or nearly so much herbicidal spraying. Cleveland, Detroit and Akron all have Urban Shepherd projects underway and I suspect other parts of the country are getting into this idea. One of the selling points is that if you have a business open to the public, grazing sheep have proven to be a big attraction.

All right. Why should chickens have all the rights to the backyard barnyards of America? I like to think I had something to do with this laudable project at least indirectly. When our daughter and her family moved to the Cleveland area years ago, for the first time I had a chance to observe suburban lawns closely. I was amazed how they stayed green most of the winter. Many times, trying to be funny, I wrote that suburbanites were the best pasture farmers in America and didn’t know it.

GENE LOGSDON: The News Is Blind To Farming

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From GENE LOGSDON

Staying with relatives recently, I spied a big coffee table book on a shelf titled Britain On Country Roads published in 1991. I love pictures of farming landscapes, especially in the British Isles, so I paged through the book. There were gobs of photos of seashores, village streets, old castles, quiet roads, crossroads taverns, flowery hillsides, quiet forests and glistening rivers, but not in a hundred pictures or so was there a hint of farming activity. Whoever chose these pictures turned a blind eye to what makes the countryside along those country roads so lovely and alive, economically as well as socially. It was assumed, evidently, that tourists would not be interested in farmers working in the fields, livestock out on pasture, or barns burgeoning with hay.

I keep thinking that with the rise of interest in local food, this blind eye in journalism for farming will soon end. But try to recall if in all the news flowing out of the turbulent Middle East in the last few years, if you have seen any scenes of farm activity.  Just recently there was a one sentence reference to the food situation in Yemen, pointing out as a quick aside that 90% of the food is imported— not one word of how significantly this fact impacts what is going on there. Anthropology and cultural history, if not economics, teaches that a big part of the problem when war and genocide are rampant is population outrunning food, or more accurately, population outrunning farm land upon which to grow food. So why doesn’t the daily news address this?

GENE LOGSDON: What Truly Is Progress In Farming


 From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Now that glyphosate (Roundup) doesn’t work so well, the chemical industry is using the old Agent Orange in various new herbicide admixtures. When the general public learns about this, there is going to be an uproar. But what if the only other alternative is for farms to “go back” to mechanical cultivation to control weeds. Big farms probably couldn’t do that because cultivating weeds is so slow compared to chemical weed control. But if big farms become obsolete, the world would end according to current economic theory. Is that true?

It is amazing what happens to your mental calculations if you start thinking about a future based on the assumption that smaller farms are inevitable. Without the striving to get bigger in order to get profitable, agriculture suddenly becomes a very promising way for more people to live and work, akin to gardening. Instead of glorying in how many acres big machines can prepare and plant in a day, we could take pride in figuring out how many people can be employed profitably in farming smaller units. Instead of counting how many jobs that factories create while make those machines, we could concentrate on how many jobs farming could provide at less energy and carbon cost. It is practical to control weeds with cultivation and hand labor on small farms and so the lack of herbicides would be only good news. Hoeing and plowing out weeds may not be the nicest work in the world but there have surely been more cases of clinical depression since we quit doing it.

GENE LOGSDON: Watching The Basketballs Float By

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

There’s always something new headed your way, especially if you live beside a river. I visited Wendell Berry recently and we had the most marvelous time just sitting on his porch watching the Kentucky River flow by. The whole state had been experiencing serious flooding at that time and the river was way out of banks, licking up against his garden. Not as high as the “Thirty Seven Flood,” as it is referred to in Kentucky, which covered what would become his garden. (Everyone along the river knows exactly how high that famous flood rose, either in memory and with in-land markers.) We were discussing the awful erosion this part of Kentucky has suffered because of last few years’ corn and soybean craze that suckered landowners to once again cultivate land that their ancestors had learned the hard way should be kept in pasture. We had seen lots of gullies newly gouged out the rolling landscape on our way to Wendell’s farm. I was wondering how much mud would be deposited in the Gulf of Mexico just from this flood. Then Wendell said, in that tone of voice he assumes when he is about to say something droll: “But I haven’t seen any basketballs float by for an hour or so.”

“Please?” We were at the height of March Madness at the time, but basketball was not a part of the kind of madness we were discussing.

“When the water comes up this high this fast, hundreds of basketballs and soccer balls come floating past,” Wendell said.

Gene Logsdon: Bravo The Bloody Local Butcher Shop

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Our butcher retired recently and in the process of finding another, it seems clear that there’s a great opportunity opening up in local meat marketing if you can stand the work. Nobody wants to do it but most people want to enjoy its fruits. I have done my share of butchering hogs, chickens, even a few steers and lambs and I don’t much like to do it either. Carving up a dead carcass is not so bad once you learn how to sharpen a knife properly, but slaughtering is a nasty job, even when done “humanely.” On the other hand, so is hanging high up on an electric pole in a blizzard repairing a power line, emptying bedpans in an infirmary, or repairing a ruptured water main in below zero weather.

Meat is a part of the local farm, local food, local restaurant business that needs more participation. It can be lucrative and begs for more skilled and even artisanal entrepreneurial types. On a small scale, even the killing is not as distasteful as it sounds. Our method, the one most used in home butchering, is to shoot the animal in the head with a twenty-two rifle, which stuns it motionless momentarily during which time the jugular vein is cut. Professionals can do this swiftly and calmly and the animal never knows what happened to it. Small animals and chickens are generally hung upside down or held by some contrivance in a vertical position and the jugular vein cut with one swift pass. If reading this overwhelms you with revulsion, you should be a vegetarian. I have a hard time listening to people who pretend that killing animals is terribly barbaric even while they are chomping away on a hamburger.

Gene Logsdon: The Happiest Farmers

oFrom GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Carol and I attended the first annual Organic Farming Conference in Mt. Hope, Ohio, recently, and were struck by how happy the attending farmers appeared to be. Unlike typical agricultural meetings this spring, I heard no handwringing discussions over which kind of government insurance to apply for to keep from going broke this year, nor any obsessions over whether one’s farm was subject to the new Bt corn rules and practices coming along. Instead, a whole group of farmers were talking to each other about how good things look right now. What made that particularly remarkable is that most of them operate dairy farms with no more than 40-50 cows which the economists say is too few to make a living.

The group was composed mostly of Amish and Mennonite farmers with a sprinkling of us “English” types. The organizers had figured they might get 200 people to attend. Instead the count was closer to 500. All of them were excited about farming organically. I was a bit taken aback since in the circles I usually move if I move at all, this type of farming is hardly new. One of my big mistakes in life is to think that new ideas that I favor will take over much quicker than they actually do. It was certainly obvious at this conference, as it had been at the Acres conference last December, that really practical and profitable organic farming was now, 50 years after I first got excited about it, stepping into the trenches of real agriculture.

Gene Logsdon: Corn Lover Delights

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

I get carried away sometimes with my misgivings about corn farming, so I have to balance that out occasionally with praise for one of my favorite foods. A reader, I think it was Ken, recently asked me to write about our experiences with cornbread and so I will, although I know many of you could do it better.

Daughter Jenny provided the photo of me and the corn.  The ear is 14 inches long with 22 rows of kernels if I remember correctly. I don’t see any practical reason to try to grow big ears of corn except for the fun of it, although with ears like this it would not take an impossible number of stalks per acre to make a record breaking yield. The corn is open pollinated Reid’s Yellow Dent, which I grew for about 35 years and quit only last year when the deer started eating every bit of it. I hope to be able to grow a bit of it in the garden now. Friends and family who have used it for cornbread always come back for more. I have a hunch that if our corn does taste better it is because it is fresher than store-bought meal.  As any food ages, it loses taste. We use new corn every year. The trick is to store it on the cob in a dry cool place, shelling only as needed. Leave the corn out in the field in the fall as long you can. When I bring it in, I tie the ears we want to save for cornmeal by the husks to wires in our airy garage with metal disks at both ends of the wire so mice can’t get to the corn. Looks sort of like clothes on the line. Carol also stores ears of corn in the freezer after they are dry. This is a good thing to do if you are having problems with weevils.

Gene Logsdon: Village Farming


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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

A lot of attention is being given to urban farming and that is certainly good. But there is a somewhat broader view emerging under the impetus of garden farming. I call it the ascendancy of  village farming. As far as I can find in history and archeology, as the hunting and gathering age gradually evolved into settled communities, farming was very much a village affair, not an individual family undertaking.  People congregated into groups for mutual protection and for sharing the work load. Their garden farms were clustered around the outskirts of their villages. Among the many advantages, there were plenty of children and dogs running around, scaring wild animals away from the crops. Traditionally in Europe and especially Asia where even today the average size of farms is under five acres in some areas, farmers lived in villages and went out to their acres during the day.  Immigrants who lived this integrated village farming life in Austria have told me how much more comfortable and enjoyable life was compared to what they found in America. In their homeland, farmers often worked in groups in the fields and then returned to town in the evenings, to community, and on porches, street corners,  and in taverns, they talked to each other, shared ideas and events, tended to see both farm field and urban shop as one community united in work and play. In America they felt lonely on American farms.

But even here, there were close connections between farmers and villagers as I grew up. On Sunday morning, we country people went to church in our villages and after services, everyone stood around outside and talked sometimes for over an hour. We children played hide and seek among the legs of the grownups. And on Saturday night, everyone went to town and stood on street corners visiting with townspeople and each other until after midnight.

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