thick moon rough goat

reflections from the southeast PA rural underground

Monday, April 14, 2014

The razzled, frazzled, scattered, fuzzy brain of a Farmer

 Um. . . .did you put the water on? Yeah, I know. . .but. . .er. . .did you water the carrot bed again? Cuz, cuz, you know if the carrots don't stay COM-PLETE-LY damp from day one they will not, WILL NOT germinate. Is it dry, it seems dry. . .the wind and sun for two days with this light ass soill. . .is it dry? Did you run water ON THE CARROTS!!!???

Full disclaimer, dear reader, your humble servant is neither farmer nor writer. Merely a hack, at both endeavors. An English degree does not a Writer make and a market gardener with dozens of varieties of vegetables to be seeded, watered, weeded, picked, packed, washed and hauled to market does not a Farmer make. Sometimes I write words, most of the time I grow veg (that's Euro-speak for vegetables).

Since we all need to be labeled-- and  for crying out loud let's not forget to exploit our very own de facto labels for as much as they're worth, thank you very much indeed-- I will call myself a grower. You my dear readers may decide if I have any mastery at all over the written word. And so it begins yet again, the awakening time, Spring in all its glorious madness. Time to lessen intake of caffeine. For now it's all cool night and sun drenched day. Nature's energy buzzing here and there making it harder to sleep. Yet easier to sleep less and do more. Gadzoooooooks it's here again!

And with the vernal resurrection upon us, you may look around to see your friendly neighborhood grower looking right back at you. Or if you're lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a real live honest to goodness farmer as well in the coming months. Do bid them your support in all manner of decency that you see fit. The farmer will be the one, who you may already know?, who's got land. That's right baby, LAND. She's got land like her thighs have power. Her arms are engines, whether sleek or stout. She knows that open space where the chickens dance, the berries ooze, and her tractor crawls and hauls, like she knows her fickle heart. He's got a sawmill, an engine shop, a welding shop, a wood crafting shop, 100 acres of commodity crops next to 300 foot of plastic-covered ground for red tomatoes, cucumbers, or strawberries. This is not a back yard, yours or mine! This is not a metaphor, not a symbol but a true kingdom of here and now.

These people are zippy or glum, in your face or removed, scowling or smiling as wide as the horizon like the rest of us. Cheers to them. They do real things all day. Well, most days. What's a real thing you ask? A real thing is at least partly physical, requiring grace, balance, or at least a modicum of stout heartiness. If you haven't ever seen an old order Mennonite kid (or and adult for that matter) on a unicycle, well that's just too bad for you. A real thing involves a human using hands in more than one way vs. to eat or type or socially mediatize. A real thing is that product that the producer produces, no more or less real than these words yet some how so. There will be materials involved that can be viscerally experienced in this 'line' of work. Like soil, water, wood, metal, textile, cardboard, seed and such. These materials have a relationship to the person.  Line? Did I say line? Lines across the earth, scratched and raked, buried and furrowed, lost and remembered. The hasty Sun beckoning, 'do you not see the path I have set before you?'

And most of all, the Spring mind of the grower and farmer alike will drift. Rashly sifting thoughts that become actions or just frantic thoughts again. And finally, the moments collide, utterly focused as if the center of the center of the universal truth(s) had just seeped, or crashed, into the ocean of their brain. Seeds become trees, roots, and flowers after all. At once the mustard seed, drifting chaotically in the wind, and so then later grounded, to the ground of all being, to root itself and be known.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The 19th Century

It's harvest time. Or so they say. Depending on what vegetables you grow and attempt to sell, harvest time could have been a month ago--tomatoes. Or back in Spring--greens. Or maybe just beginning, it's true, if you're cash crop is apples in this here Northeast where we live. The Autumn days are here to be sure. Crystal clear days, plenty of sun still fairly high in the sky, good cool nights for sound sleep, and all the Pumpkin Ales you can cram in your tummy until they take 'em away for another year. And to top it all off here I sit without hunger, without cold, not wanting and indeed, steadily enjoying a Long Trail Harvest Ale shipped down from the good folks of the Green Mountain state. As the song goes, "Good times are comin', comin', hmm. Good times are comin', comin' hmm." It all seems so idyllic. If I could pen as well as any of the greats, well, it'd just about be down right sublime, romantic to be sure, and even dare I say, beatific? Again, if I had the talent and couldwould stretch it Just. . .That. . .Far. And on and on with the wonderful descriptions of the first world amenities and social networking and laptops and everything so damn connected. But alas, to be a vegetable grower (nay, not really a true farmer, any more than the rest of the fakers and throwers around of labels from times gone by) means to be undeniably bowed and bound to the ground. The last three days have been especially taxing. Weekend? What is that to a vegetable grower. There are only seasons. And they are long. The rest of society may clock in and clock out but the rain will fall when it pleases and the wind will howl and blow your plants dry and your covers off and take branches down. You are not protected from the elements. You are in and one of them. Having to sell the wares so dutifully and timely (as fast as you can man) means hours of driving. Deliveries. Market days. Ask the farmer if his/her sciatica is acting up. Then there is the daily field work and its oh so romantic, bucolic, and what was the last one. . .oh yes beatific charm. Is it charming to be alone for hours on end to the point where you begin mumbling to yourself about any manner of topics including politics and film? This is bending over most of the time so that your lower back, arms and neck are stretched in ways that most indoor workers of the world could only wonder about. This is not like the gym after work. A seasoned field hand will economize their movements without thinking about it so that more and more efficient motion can be attained. This is not Zen. This is economy. Surviving the day's movement. After all it is organic farming. Isn't that just, like, gardening? Wow. That must be so peaceful. So meditative. So. After the driving and the bending comes the pounding. I recently purchased a greenhouse and now have the joy of putting 6 1/2 foot by 2in. wide metal stakes into the soil roughly 30 inches deep. This involves standing/balancing on a plastic 5 gal. bucket with a 25lb metal 'pole setter' and driving the stake (or hoping to do so!) through the ROCKland Township ground as far as it will go. It will inevitably be short of the 30 required inches by 6-8 inches. Then its time to finish the job with the sledge hammer. The sound of metal setter against metal pipe is louder than most gun shots and much higher pitched. Yes, it hurts your ears. By the 10th stake or so (out of 50) my left shoulder had begun to ache enough that I wished for a 20 year old to finish the job and wondered cynically if I had it in me to do it all myself. Then there is the crouching down to the damp, cold soil at 7 am (where's the morning commute and coffee?)and reaching over a bed of wet greens to hobble along, cutting the tender salad for an hour an 1/2. This will remind you that yes, you've done this so many times before that you know you will do it again this time (asking yourself if its that Protestant work ethic, or just stupidity, or lack of professional ambition, or just "being used to it by now" that carries you through) because of course, you damn well can. And you will. You think of the Mennonites you know. Some of them almost twice your age. They wouldn't flinch at this work. Hell no! Move your ass college boy. So what if your friends are actually living this century's lifestyle and making the kind of money only a college degree in the first world can provide. So what! Teachers with pensions and every governmental benefit known to man. Nurses. Graphic designers. Whatever. But hey, you're outside and don't have to put up with the hierarchy and the corporate bull. Hm. For $30-50,000 more a year. . . . So you resign yourself to knowing that know one else knows what it's like to be a grower, or a farmer, or a vegetable producer, or a market gardener, or a plain old worker. And that's just fine. Because somehow it just fits you. And the few others who attempt to grow food AND sell it for a living. *When did food become the lowest of the low commodity items on the list of household priorities? Making it the last thing anyone would want to pay a fair price for.* How could they? They think it's like any other business only better! Oh the romance and the beauty. And the pounding. And the back aching. And the hustle. And the wondering if you can sell it all or any of it. How could anyone who's never lived in the 19th century during their waking hours know what its like?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fast lines for crazy times

Nothing says Holy War like big fat judo-to-fakie airs in an 11 ft. deep pool by 38 yr. old (yes, 38!) bowl riding veteran, Omar Hassan. Happy Birthday to SoCal and America at large. Never let em' tell you to stop!

(the end of the vid is sick and fast)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Oh Where, Oh Where Can Jah Love Be Found?

My dear, it's here in the Underground.

Inside the hearts of your own children.”

--from the song, House of Suffering

--Paul D. Hudson aka. H.R. (Human Rights), Bad Brains

Punk has taken many forms over the years. Starting mostly in England as out-and-out physical and mental rebellion against all forms of the status quo cultural norms, authority figures and economic inequality. A muscular, often filthy, angry, F!@# YOU! kind of punk with roots in the working class struggles as much as angsty teen boredom with all manner of mainstreamness. Read: WHITE RIOT.

Like any movement though, meanings and attitudes change. Punk has been no different. Having taken on religious themes during the late 1980's and transformed into very sellable 'pop punk' in the 90s (some would say punk had died a commercial death) the evolution over those first 25 years was just as varied as any other art form. Always and forever at the heart of America's punk rock scene or more specifically, the American born version known as hardcore punk, were the Bad Brains. A truly original blend of reggae and blistering, 10-times-faster-than-anything-else punk music. Add to that a big old helping of professionally trained jazz fusion musicianship and you get the idea.

From 1977 till now and beyond to whatever future they create, almost no band compares in scope, authenticity, and sheer powerful energy that encapsulates all that punk ever was and will be. With themes of charity, DIY, Rasta, and the ideal of a hardcore/punk community thriving against the heavy weight of an always profiteering mainstream art and music world, the Brains have kept on their rocky-at-times pilgrimage to Jah's Mt. Zion. Long live hardcore. Long live the youth nation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

That Good Ole Space Twang

Evan Dando sat by himself across the stage from me smoking cigarettes and clearly enjoying that he and his band had stumbled upon some fine country music happening at John and Peter's in New Hope, PA. I never saw the Lemonheads in person so I wouldn't have known it was him except that the lead singer of the Wallace Bros., who were by this time well into their 2 1/2 hr. set, exclaimed to me, his wild eyes popping with joy, "Holy shit! The Lemonheads are here!" Huh. I could see that early 90's grunge look was still with their (heads) singer along with the stringy blonde hair. That much I could tell hadn't changed a bit. It was a truly great evening of music at John and Peter's and the slow ballad by Dando just put the icing on the cake. I kept thinking to myself, there just can't be many real live music venues like this one left in Southeast PA. Let alone the whole country. Cheers to you New Hope, PA. Thanks for all the great music over the years. After all, it's not just the home of Dean and Gene.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn Meditation

All hail the mighty Red Oak! Thank him for his long lasting units of heat. All HAIL!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Soil Amending

The first rule for producing healthy vegetable plants is to feed the soil. Read any organic or naturally grown manual on raising veg and this golden rule will be right there at the beginning. The soil needs to be amended just as the body needs replenishing of organic matter. For all the micro nutrients, organisms, and structure of the soil to remain strong, some inputs by the grower is unavoidable. In the fall most growers, at some point or another, add limestone to raise pH and calcium levels. This need be done only every 3 years in most circumstances. Having never added anything but organic matter to my soil, the pH is significantly lower than I would like. Horse manure will grow the soil's body and nitrogen content but to raise the pH it'll need calcitic lime or something similar. I chose aragonite which I have been told is roughly 3 times stronger than the lime and helps to add even more calcium. Like anything in growing it's to a certain degree an experiment. The reaction time of lime or aragonite is supposed to be around 6 months. I'll see in the spring if my veg grows better and my soil structure seems improved.