I suggest that a prerequisite for gaining a living relation to the world as human beings is the ability to open ourselves through attentive perception. This living relation begins when we go out, actively and yet in the mode of receptivity, take in, and then engage with what we discover. In the process we become beings of place, even if we are on the move. We are attending to and taking in some of what the world offers up. In contrast, we are placeless when we are caught up with or consumed with ourselves, when we notice only what we have known before. If we want to open ourselves and root ourselves in the world in a living way we need to develop pathways to get out into experience, to become more conscious of immediate experience, and to learn to work with our ideas in such a way that they do not place barriers between ourselves and the richness of the world.
Craig Holdrege Thinking Like a Plant
“We are the nuclei of fertile hope manifest properly searching to accumulate the golden intangibles.”
Lynn Miller A Mulch of Time in Small Farmer’s Journal
The onions germinated. If you have not seen onions germinate yet in this lifetime, I will try to depict this simple image. Onions emerge as thin bright green straight leaves perpendicular to the soil, with a neatly folded-over elbow pointing straight to the sky. Then when the plants grow a little taller, the tip of the onion leaf is freed from the soil, the elbow unfolds, and the tip begins its assent toward the sun. They do not bear cotelydon (first, or false, leaves) like most germinating seeds, but begin as true leaves.
Little steadies and comforts me so much as germinating seeds, reassuring in their commitment to grow new life, even with frozen ground and a 7-day forecast (mostly) predicting the continuation of the cold. But inside the greenhouse, seeds are abandoning their seed-ness and becoming living plant beings—rooting, photosynthesizing, reproducing (or trying to). Observer, Botanist, and Writer Craig Holdrege says of the seed, “It cannot be a plant-which means to be a becoming being-unless it gives up its isolation and draws from the world.”
A lot is happening. As promised by many—those friends who kept up the faith when it was waxing poetic and waning internal—after the long, confusing, labyrinthical journey to get exactly where we are, we got here. Two weeks ago we signed a lease on a beautiful 10-acre property and barn in Zionsville—situated not two miles down the road from our former home at The Seed Farm. It happened so anticlimactically, and was followed by such an urgent need to hasten work, I failed to announce it ceremoniously to my friends and family, and almost forgot what a generous gift this was—The Gift Of Good Land. We breathed a sigh of relief, we went out for ice cream, we got to work.
The same week, we visited the team of horses who will shortly become our working companions for this season and, we hope, a long time after that. Duke and Daisy, a team of Percheron-Morgan crosses with stocky build, small feet, and long hair, most recently have worked giving wagon rides out West in Dauphin County. With a work history which includes logging, farm work, and pulling carts on the road, we’re hoping they get along fine as produce farmers.
And so, as Anton likes to point out in the middle of a hard day’s work, “We’re Farmin’ Now, Lisa!—We Are Farmin’ Now.” And we are. Signing a lease in conjunction with purchasing horses launched us into Barn-Clean-Out-Mode, that special task of donning respirator and work gloves and sorting through the remains which some farmer left behind for mice, raccoons, and time to nest in, poop in, and claim for their own. It is beautiful work—to make what was unusable or unused both useable and good—full of the discoveries of small untreasured treasures—another door in an unlikely place, a hand-stitched pillow-case, a clean-swept wooden floor. To witness the work which went into the construction of such a structure, a vessel, and to notice the small acts which were offered so as to make a room suitable for some forgotten purpose.
In the luxuriousness of emptied space, Anton and I are learning how to build horse stalls. It seems we will finish this job just in time to learn how to build a greenhouse. Thankfully, we both noted today, our experience of greenhouse construction far surpasses our knowledge of stall-building, so, we’re at least limiting our challenges as we take on one more lovely and unlikely feat.
In fertile hope and golden intangibles,
Lisa and Anton
Caramelized Onions over a bed of Purple-Top Turnips in Rosemary-Oregano Cream Sauce
Serves 3-4 as a main dish or 5-6 as a side dish. Something filing and simple for an early spring meal.
You Will Need:
3 large Purple Top Turnips, scrubbed, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1/2" cubes
1-2 T lipids--olive oil, butter, lard, or bacon fat
1 T dried oregano, 1 generous pinch dried rosemary
salt and pepper, coarse grind
1 T plus of balsamic vinegar
1/3-1/3 C heavy cream
1 large onion, sliced as you like, into 1/2 rounds or strips, thin
2 T butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste--a touch
1. Heat heavy, large skillet to medium heat, add fats, then add turnip cubes. Add salt and pepper. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes until slightly browned. Cover and continue to cook, continuing to stir occasionally. Add a teaspoon of water from time to time, when pan gets too dry and vegetables start to stick. Add herbs. When turnips soften to a nice tenderness (not mushy), uncover and add balsamic vinegar.
2. Meanwhile: heat a second skillet to medium heat and add 2 T butter (or oil). Put in onions, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir regularly and keep a close eye on these onions. Let them brown to a deep golden, without burning. Turn down heat if needed. Leave uncovered and continue to stir.
3. When turnips are tender, add cream and let simmer for 3-6 minutes until liquids have reduced and thickened, and turnips are completely tender.
Serve turnips over a bed of rice, with onions setting on top. Garnish with fresh parsley, if available.
Anton M. Shannon