We have been having some pretty hot days out at the farm. It makes me thankful for my forays into the root cellar. What a lovely reprieve: to be out of the sun and having one’s arms submerged in the dunk tank. I have to remind myself -the tank is for the vegetables not for the humans. They need it more than I do.
Some days after work, I go for a dip in the lake. The queen of dunk tanks. It is nice to go during a weekday evening when there aren’t so many people around. People tend to keep a respectful Duluth-y sort of distance from one another, which I appreciate. Plus, everyone on the beach looks pretty good from a city block or more away. Not exactly like Bay Watch, but somewhere in the ballpark. Of course, get closer and bodies are just bodies. Cuts and bruises, hard times, bearing children and bearing years – it’s all there to see if you get up close.
My first couple of years farming, a few people would say things like “It’s just, like, so cool how you are all out here doing this, ya know? It’s, like, so peaceful. I’d love to do what you do”. And I would say something positive and polite and half true in response. But in my head I’d think – you wanna come out and do this? That’s great, because I’m tired and I’ve been in the sun for 10 hours and I’d love to go into town and get a burger and see a brainless movie.
Of course, these people were well meaning and I did like what I was doing. It would just hit me how there were gaps in what people from outside the farm thought versus what it was actually like doing it day in day out.
That is how it goes –sometimes from a distance things look just great. Like farming is frolicking through fields with baskets of kale and flowers being followed by lambs and dragonflies. That sounds lovely. Janaki, I want lambs. The following me kind.
When you get closer though, you see the real deal. The cellulite, the endless close-weeding, the age spots, the character flaws, the washing of the same bins again and again. Life is less like a storybook when you get up close to it all.
It is the being up close that really matters though. People are a different kind of beautiful when you are close to them. And farming is tiring, and full of things that don’t involve frolicking. Like walking behind a planter getting coated in dust and trying to finish a greenhouse and wandering around looking for something you just had a minute ago. Even tasks like picking up your CSA share and putting it away week after week, freezing extra garlic scapes and looking for ways to eat more greens looks snazzy when in a photograph in someone else’s (perfect) kitchen. Up close, it is work, and it is worth it.
Thank you for being a part of it all with us –from the more romantic aspects of farming (that do happen in real life, alongside all the other parts) to the dirt in your sink. It remains beautiful to me up close, and I hope it does to you too.
For the farm crew,
P.S. Dave says that the greens mix would be good if they were braised. It’s not quite as tender as ours usually is, but still good.
Sweet and Sour Roasted Napa Wedges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head napa (Chinese) cabbage, cut lengthwise into quarters
- Extra oil for brushing
Place a large roasting pan in oven. Preheat oven and pan to 450°.
Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl.
Brush cut sides of cabbage with oil. Place cabbage, cut sides down, on preheated pan; bake 6 minutes. Turn cabbage onto other cut side; bake an additional 6 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Heat broiler to high. Brush cabbage evenly with oil mixture; broil 3 minutes or until browned and caramelized.
Broccoli Farro Salad
- 1 cup semi-pearled farro
- 1 pound broccoli (dice stems)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (or scapes!)
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Finely grated zest, then juice, of 1 lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces grated pecorino romano or Parmesan
Bring a medium/large pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling, add broccoli and boil for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, until slightly softened but still crisp overall. Scoop out with slotted spoon or tongs, then drain.Add farro back to same pot (I’m totally okay with some errant leftover broccoli flecks and vitamins here, if you’re not, use another pot of salted water) and cook, simmering, for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender. (Since there are so many varieties of farro, however, if your package suggests otherwise, it’s best to defer to its cooking suggestion.) Drain and tip into a large mixing bowl; cool to lukewarm.
Pat drained broccoli dry on towels, trying to remove as much excess moisture as possible. Chop into small (roughly 1/2-inch) bits. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add garlic and pepper flakes, to taste, and cook for 1 minute, until garlic is faintly golden. Add chopped broccoli, lemon zest, and salt (I use a full teaspoon kosher salt here, but adjust the amount to your taste) and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 more minutes, until broccoli is well-seasoned and slightly more tender.
Add broccoli and every bit of garlic and oil from the pan to the bowl of farro and stir to combine. Add lemon juice, black pepper and more salt to taste (but 1/2 teaspoon of each is what we used) and stir to combine. Stir in cheese.
Serve warm or at room temperature as-in, with an egg on top, burrata, and/or bread crumbs.