There have been many changes since coming to the farm over four years ago. One change that I thought I had made was adapting to physical labor. Hadn’t I planted, weeded and harvested each season? Didn’t I have the sore muscles to prove it? Yet I know that when it comes to labor on the farm I was not doing my fair share. Was it because my 57-year-old body was rebelling?
When I took the time to think this through, it occurred to me that deep down I did not really respect physical labor. Perhaps I felt that growing food and working the land was for people who didn’t have other opportunities or education. If you’re going to farm then at the very least make sure you do it in a big way so that you glean the respect of others. How much respect could you get from a 5.5 acre truck farm? I felt that what I could offer the farm was an expertise of some kind. I have management and organizational skills and have applied these to the farm. I have bookkeeping and computer skills and have used these on the farm. I’m creative and enjoy coming up with new ideas. I even wrote a book about my experiences on the farm. What I really didn’t enjoy doing was: weeding.
Yet how was our beautiful no-spray produce going to grow and mature without this basic task being done each day, every day, over and over and over until it was time to harvest the crop? And why wouldn’t I naturally want to do what was necessary to care for what we grow, what we love? Then the epiphany. I have never given myself completely to what I love.
So Val in her infinite wisdom asked that I keep the tomato field weed free, and I love tomatoes. I gulped. 1400 tomato plants stood waiting for me. I took on the challenge! I broke it into rows that would keep it manageable and keep me from freaking out. I knew that within a week I could get the job done. Each day I would finish weeding and felt every single muscle of my arms and back. I started feeling stronger both mentally and physically. There was movement in my body, movement in my thinking, movement in my psyche. I was in flux; I was changing. I felt myself caring, really caring that I was weeding this field. The tomato plants looked healthy; with blossoms on some, fruit setting on others. I took a deep interest not only in the tomatoes, but all our crops; how they were doing, what they might need. I loved them.
This morning Val and I are sipping coffee outside, sitting on our Adirondack chairs, listening to the sprinklers. I told her that I wanted to start eating as much from our farm as possible. I felt renewed and wanted to recommit my energies to our farm’s success. We toasted mugs and walked in the fields to pick Swiss chard for breakfast.
“Sweat cleanses from the inside. It comes from places a shower will never reach.” —George Sheehan
Swiss Chard with Poached Egg
- 2 bunch of Swiss chard
- 1 bulb garlic, cloves sliced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 farm fresh eggs (we love duck eggs)
- Wash chard well in cold water. Chop stems coarsely, set aside. Stack leaves on top of each other. Cut into 1/2 inch ribbons.
- Heat oil in large skillet, with tight-fitting lid, over medium-high heat. Add stems first, sauteing for 2-3 minutes. Add leaves and garlic, coating with the oil in pan.
- Toss until wilted but still bright green. Divide on two plates, top with poached eggs.
- Place approximately 3-4 inches of water in medium skillet with straight sides; add 2 Tbsp of white vinegar to water. Bring to just boiling then reduce to a simmer before adding the eggs (bubbles should not break the surface). The barely simmering water encourages the eggs to sit there quietly, without flapping around and losing their shape.
- Break each egg into a small cup or ramekin. Slip eggs carefully, one at a time, into the simmering water. Let the water come into the cup, then gently slide out.
- Simmer for exactly 3 minutes for medium-firm yolks. Adjust the time up or down for runnier or firmer yolks. Cook to desired doneness. Remove each egg from water with slotted spoon and drain this on a tea towel to absorb the excess water. Place immediately on top of sautéed chard.
“Yes, I am positive that one of the great curatives of our evils, our maladies, social, moral, and intellectual, would be a return to the soil, a rehabilitation of the work of the fields.” –Charles Wagner