Kitchen Garden Reviews

Summer Begins

First Marketmore Cucumber

A letter from our rural medical clinic reached me early this morning. I read every word it had to say.

I said, the letter reached me early this morning, I read every word it had to say.

Rural life ain’t nothing but the blues, how much longer can we live this way?

The physician I saw in April is moving his practice to Williamsburg — too far to drive for routine appointments. His replacement is an ARNP, which stands for advanced registered nurse practitioner. I read the definition but don’t understand what it means except we’re changing from two physicians to one… another nail in the coffin of rural health care.

We’re lucky to live close to the clinic’s hospital, and a large teaching hospital operates in the county seat. We won’t be deprived of care. I don’t look forward to changing physicians for the fourth time since leaving my transportation career.

I’ll try the new arrangement. What else is there to do?

This is the last weekend for soil blocking at the two CSA farms. After that, the farmers will make their own for the remaining fall share starts. I’m taking a break before returning to the orchard in August.

I finished reading The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks before heading to the garden.

The shepherd went to Oxford, so it’s natural he would do something outside the normal range for a sheep herder. He’s been traveling and speaking to groups of farmers about his life in the Lake District of England. Last January in Ames, he spoke to members of Practical Farmers of Iowa at their annual convention. They made a YouTube of his speech. I haven’t viewed it yet.

What struck me about the book is the comparison with Iowa. Not necessarily what one might think.

On the one hand a well-settled place of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Beatrix Potter and the Lake Poets. In front of us a landscape barely settled since the Black Hawk War of 1832. Any sense of ancient Iowa prairie is long gone and replaced with a grid of roads outlining row cropped fields and concentrated animal feeding operations. The long history of sheep herding in the Lake District served as a reminder most Iowa farmers are recent trespassers as agriculture and land use continue to evolve. There won’t always be soy and corn in what was once an ancient lake bed.

Rebanks informed my view of the annual cycle of sheep farmers. Now I know why some of my friends are so stressed during spring lambing. I’m sorry I missed the speech, and when spring farm work is done, I plan to spend the hour to watch it.

For the time being back to working on the garden to chase away these summertime blues.