Fall Potluck, Personal Awakenings, and Parsnips
Last Sunday was our Fall Harvest Celebration. The garlic planting was postponed due to the heavy rains earlier in the week which left our soil a little too wet for walking through and planting into, but we had the perfect number of folks join us to trim and clean the rest of the garlic for members to eat this season, and break up all the heads of seed garlic into individual cloves for Anton and I to plant this weekend which is upon us, once the drier soil welcomes our hands and feet.
I'd been feeling a little numb, or tired, for some weeks now, sitting myself at a safe distance from the rest of the world and letting things pass over me, meanwhile lounging in my own private web of Farm Future Anxiety and Self Doubt. Its not really a good place to be, and I'd been sort of waiting for whatever was going to yank me out of There and pull me into Here, while also trying to hold myself accountable for these feelings and thoughts, and knowing that I was going to have to be the one doing the yanking.
So after all of our friends and CSA members and family and fellow farmers left on Sunday night, and it was just Anton and I sitting on a picnic table in the warm greenhouse lit by strands of white lights with full bellies and loud clean-up music, we finally remembered that we are not alone. And it was great. The reminder, coming from the company of friends old and new, felt welcome and clear; we were reminded
that each has faced their own particular version of struggle and obstacle, and moved through it with grace, mistakes, and accountability.
Sometimes I wonder how to write about farming, and all the rest of life, in a genuine way; I mean: in a way which both captures the realities of things being hard and full of anxiety, without being sort of depressing and pathetic, and also a way where I can invoke the beauty of the idyllic farming moments full of poetry, sunrises, and heart-shaped celeriacs, without sounding (or being) too cheesy or hyperbolic in language and approach.
We started harvesting Parsnips on the Monday morning following our Fall Potluck. Parsnips: those long, sweet, white roots which will store all winter and make a surprisingly harmonious addition to mashed potatoes or carrot cake. The ground is soft from the rain, but we still need a fork to get them out of the ground. The stubborn and especially long ones stick in the soil even after a healthy dose of forking, and so I am on my knees digging with hands, and the sandy earth is rich to handle. I enjoy this work.
It is usually while I am working, alone or in quiet, that fierce and revelatory moments of clarity strike me: really obvious notions that I somehow need to reiterate to myself—retrieving these ideas anew and refreshing the spirit that these sentiments bring into my work and relationships. All of a sudden I
remembered: it isn't all about me. The personal satisfaction is so secondary to the possibility of the multitude of other perhaps-delusional, lofty in their realness, ideas we have for what Good Work Farm could become, will be. The needs Good Work Farm could meet within the community, and within the lives
of individuals. The people who could become a part of Good Work Farm and extend our capacity to serve, to lead, to speak, to follow. This is the fierce revelation which will continue to fuel me, continue to inform my work, during moments of confusion and perhaps struggle. This is the Good Work which we hope for, plan for, wait for, act for, budget for, seek farmland for, grow food for.
We are getting there.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion
Mashed Caramelized Onion Parsnips N Taters
4-5 small-medium potatoes
the equivalent of 3 medium-sized parsnips
2 medium onions, sliced thin in
strips or semi-circles
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
butter/ olive oil/ ghee
sea salt and pepper
heavy cream, half-n-half, or milk
herbs to garnish (parsley, thyme), minced
(1) Bring water to boil in a large pot. Meanwhile scrub parsnips and potatoes. Cut parsnips into 1-2 inch chunks, trimming off tops and any woody bottoms. Leave potatoes whole.
(2) Heat 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil in pan on medium-heat, add onions, a pinch of sea salt, and a nice layer of freshly ground black pepper. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are a light
translucent brown. Add garlic and minced herbs for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Off heat.
(3) When water boils, add a pinch of salt, parsnips and potatoes. Let simmer, uncovered, until potatoes and
parsnips can be easily stuck with a fork. Make sure parsnips are cooked thoroughly! The best way to ruin the taste of parsnips is to undercook them. If necessary, remove potatoes and let parsnips cook a little
(4) Drain and return to pan with 2+ tablespoons of butter. Set heat to low. Add onion and herb mixture, salt and pepper to taste, and heavy cream (or milk) and begin to mash with potato masher. Add enough cream to reach desired consistency. Serve hot.
Anton M. Shannon