Playing Catch-Up

I finally started tomatoes today. The varieties this year, in no particular order, are: Cherry Roma, Coyote Cherry, Italian Heirloom, Santorini, Old Pink Plum, Big Rainbow, Speckled Roman, Japanese Black Trifele, Amish Paste, Gold Medal, and Stupice. Although I lost my entire packeted and baggie’d seed inventory in last summer’s house fire, I did have gardens in progress, so there are a few varieties that were “saved” both from the fire and from seed stock loss by being living, fruiting plants in the field.

I also finally got my onions planted (well, the yellow storage variety anyhow) yesterday afternoon–mounding up long raised beds in the clumpy clay soil that is my calling to improve over my time in this place. I started three flats of them in a fit of exuberance and then realized that it was only really feasible to devote space to a little over a flat and a half. As huge as it sounds on paper, 3000 square feet of newly-turned heavy clay garden space is really not that much in the practice of planting a food supply.

The third full flat of onions found good homes in the community amidst the conversation at this morning’s pancake breakfast benefit for the Clinton Care Center. And, I finally got a lead on pie cherries and maybe even some more pears in the area. I’m planning on planting both on my own property this fall, but it’ll be some time before trees I haven’t even ordered yet come to fruition.

The farmers were all in high spirits thanks to the good soaking rains we’ve had over the last couple of days. Now the wind has come up and the temperature is dropping–we may even get a little wet white stuff before morning. But moisture of any kind (well, maybe not four foot hail drifts like they got in Texas) is a blessing for our drought-parched soil.

Besides the foray down to the Memorial Building for breakfast, we’ve been curled up inside with the critters, and I’ve been reading Atina Diffley’s new (really excellent!) book, Turn Here Sweet Corn. I’d seen the book discussed on various websites and in papers, but I hadn’t yet come into contact with an actual copy. And then I came into contact with the actual Atina at Tom Taylor’s Memorial & Benefit in Minneapolis last week, so a signed copy found its way into my collection.

Damn, I miss Tom. I have been trying to think of a way to just write about that, but it is all mixed up in everything I do. Just now, I am eating some potato soup that was left over from our February LSP membership meeting in Alexandria. About a week before that meeting, I got a call from Tom, who asked if I’d be willing to make extra because he realized that making a complementary batch of chili was going to be beyond his strength.

I remember getting off the phone with his bright and sassy-as-ever self, turning to H and choking out, “we’re going to lose Tom.” It was not until the point at which he said he didn’t have it in him to cook that the prognosis became clear to me.

Even though he couldn’t make that meeting, he still worked hard on turnout–going so far as to e-mail an updated weather report that afternoon to a member who was concerned about making the drive with a possible storm brewing. Last week’s benefit-turned-memorial? Tom organized much of that event himself. And it was warm and comfortable and down-home–just like him.

Through a sort of shocked going-through-the-motions for the last few weeks, it is getting a little easier for me, and I hope also for Tom’s family, friends, and his colleagues–almost all of whom worked with him longer than I did. One of the hardest things for me was wanting to call someone to figure out how to work through this thing–and the first person I would think of to call was Tom.

But the rituals exert healing power–both in community and individually.  A gathering of friends and family met to share stories and scatter Tom’s ashes near Upper Sioux Agency late last week, and this weekend I escaped in the woods to walk and breathe (and yeah, see if I could spot some mushrooms) and calm the swirl of griefs in my mind.

I’m not nearly as good as Tom was at this work we do, but I took a number of lessons from him. Tom’s ease at forging relationships is a skill I will work the rest of my life to (hopefully!) master.

So, the work goes on, and it is good. As the fog of loss lifts, the extent of what needs to be done comes back into sharp focus and startling immediacy–but the energy and drive to do it comes back, too.

As Atina wrote in her book inscription, “Together we all can make the change.”





5 responses

  1. Hey! I came across your blog while doing research for our Annual March Food Drive for Big Stone County Emergency Food Shelf back in Feb. I have been working in the office there for a bit now. Just want to say I know where you could get your hands on some pears in my town here. Not sure how much you need or anything but feel free to let me know, if you are interested. Also just saw here you went to a LSP meeting in Alex (I lived there for over half the year last year) and was wondering out of pure curiosity what your role is in that organization? Are you just a “member”, person of interest that follows closely, or a paid employee, if you don’t mind my asking? I don’t mean to cross boundaries or step on toes if you feel as though that was too…personal, or straightforward? I don’t know, I am just asking anyway, speaking my mind and what not… Thanks for your time! (Praying the snow and rain hold off until after the walk against child abuse tomorrow, personally but) I hope you are enjoying this soggy weather, for your plants sake that is.

    • BP–I am a community-based food systems organizer for the Land Stewardship Project. So, yes! I am a paid employee of LSP living and working in Big Stone County. I explain that on my “about” page linked to on the right-hand side of the screen. It’s a little hard to spot in this particular design layout.

      I’m always on the lookout for fruit trees that are bearing and which might go to waste. I don’t want to cut into anyone else’s pear stash!

      Thanks for reading!


      • Rebecca-
        How funny! Seems to me as though this world tends to be smaller than a person thinks at times. I just helped my beau do his fancy resume and e-mail it to ya. I’m sure, understandably you probably think it odd that I never fully looked at your page. As I stated prior I came across your page while doing research at the Food Shelf; an interesting piece about the current quarry debate. That’s what reeled me in. I was just talking while at work how I thought it may be a cool idea to team up with your project. I think it had been attempted years before but nothing came to fruition. I was sad to hear that as I feel as though in some ways that is what your project is about, vs. having food transported from other places. Regardless I dig the projects vision. It is a good start.
        As far as the fruits go, I will ask because I feel the same way, why have them go to waste? And the family I am thinking has probably about a dozen mature fruit bearing trees.
        Thanks for the response! I have been curious as to who it was you were. Though we have not met I now have a better understanding of the person behind the articles. 🙂

      • BP–

        I wondered if the BP I got that e-mail from was the same BP who commented on my blog!

        We should definitely talk about how we can work together. There is much to do, and while there is a huge “bounty” of food (especially in the gardens and orchards) in Big Stone County, there is a lot that goes to waste and/or does not get to people who need it. I’d like to change that!

        You might know that we are working on a community/commercial kitchen project up in Clinton, and we are putting together a series of cooking classes for the summer (both Ortonville & Graceville) to fulfill a desire from the food shelf (and plenty of others) to help teach people how to manage/preserve that bounty.

        Well, I could go on and on. Glad that you’re reading, and I hope to keep in touch!


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