Farm CSA Newsletter: March 15, 2005
Welcome to the 2005 harvest season with the Two Small
Farms CSA program. I’d like to start the year
by telling you a bedtime story. Or maybe it’s
more correct to say I want to tell you about
a bedtime story.
We never get too old for bedtime stories, or, at least,
I never have. But, until quite recently, I’ve
been in the habit of reading them to my children instead
of hearing them myself. Now my daughter, Magdalena (aged
eight) has taken it upon herself to read a story every
evening to me, partly to show off how well she is reading
and partly because she truly believes in absolute fairness
and she recognizes bedtime stories have been a one way
street for the last eight years. The other night as
we scrunched into the sofa at eight pm for a short story
before sleep overtook both of us, she broke out her
entire set of Beatrix Potter stories.
When I was a kid I loved Beatrix Potter’s stories.
I grew up and started reading an eclectic assortment
of big people books but I never lost my affection for
the Victorian fantasy world of England’s Lake
Country where cats wear dresses and geese have bonnets
and errant bunny boys are reprimanded by stern bunny
mothers when they lose their mittens.
I made it clear to Magdalena that we only had time
to finish ONE of the tales before I passed out. She
chose The Tale Of Johnny Town Mouse. Lena pointed
out upon finishing the tale that it wasn’t so
much a story about a town mouse as it was a recounting
of the trials and travails of Timmy Willy, the country
mouse. Seeing the illustrations again reminded me what
a country mouse Miss Potter was. If you take off their
dresses and pants, the animals Beatrix drew are rendered
lifelike in a way that only deep and constant observation
Beatrix Potter’s powers of observation don’t
fail her when it came to drawing plants, either. Unlike
modern illustrators of children’s books whose
computer-assisted pictures only give a vague iconic
representation of botanically impossible plants, when
you look at Beatrix Potter's pictures of a garden you
can distinguish the cabbages from the peas and the snap
dragons from the sweet peas. I get the feeling I could
even identify the plants she drew down to the varietal
level if the pictures were only a little bit larger.
But The Tale Of Johnny Town Mouse caught my
attention not so much for the pictures as for the story.
The story is a retelling of the town mouse/country mouse
theme. For me the fun was seeing how the country mouse
made it to town. The story goes: Timmy Willy lived on
a farm. One day he went to sleep, after eating a lunch
of fresh peas, in a wicker hamper of vegetables he was
raiding. The little farm that “shared” its
harvest with Timmy Willy had a regular delivery schedule
with a house in town and would drop off a hamper of
freshly picked vegetables once a week, just like we
do with you.
Now, obviously, we would all be horrified if a country
mouse crawled into your box for a ride to the bright
lights of your home town. Let me assure you, our program
is more modern than any employed in Victorian England.
We use waxed cardboard boxes to convey your share of
the harvest to you and they are only folded open at
the very moment they're filled at which point they're
immediately whisked onto the truck. It’s a shame
we can’t use wicker for recycling purposes, but
baskets are just too expensive in the 21st century.
That does remind me: Please, please, please, please,
please be careful opening and folding the veggie boxes
so we can use the cartons again. We spend over $20,000
per year on cardboard boxes and it’s over a dollar
lost every time someone trashes a box.
Okay, back to the story. . . Johnny, the city rodent,
hitches a ride out to Timmy Willy’s nest in the
country by hopping into the empty wicker basket that’s
being returned to the farm. Obviously, you are all going
to fold your cardboard boxes up when you’ve removed
the bag of veggies so that the pick-up site hosts who
are so generous with their homes are not inconvenienced.
This should also prevent any dapper city rodents from
taking a free ride out to the country. If The Tale
Of Johnny Town Mouse teaches us anything it’s
that a lot of what we consider normal is just circumstantial.
It’s not that the countryside wouldn’t welcome
a city rodent—quite the opposite. The hawks, owls,
foxes, coyotes, badgers, skunks, weasels, and snakes
that live off of luckless country mice would be only
too happy to snack on a disoriented urban contemporary
In Beatrix Potter’s tale, the reason the glamorous
city mouse, Johnny, decides to visit humble Timmy Willy
in the boondocks is simple; hunger. The family that
has been receiving a weekly wicker hamper of vegetables
has left for a short vacation to the seashore. Beatrix
Potter doesn't tell us about any policy the farm has
regarding the vegetables ripening back on the farm.
We only know that, with the family absent on vacation,
Johnny Town Mouse has no jam pots to pilfer in the kitchen
so he goes to the country where food is plentiful. Our
policy is to donate your share to the women's shelter
or the food bank if you don't have a friend who can
pick up your harvest box while you're gone. So, please
tell us when you plan to be absent so we can make arrangements.
With all this talk of mice and rats I’ve almost
forgotten to introduce this first box to you. The weird
black root in your bag of roots is a black Spanish radish,
one of the most antique vegetables still being grown
today. If you think of the black Spanish radish as just
another type of turnip you’ll do fine with it.
Andy's column on the unusual but tasty root.) The
red turnips are heirloom Italian turnips and the white
ones are a modern Japanese variety. I like to roast
The big lettucy thing that isn’t lettuce is escarole,
also called Batavian lettuce. I’ve been enjoying
these just washed, sprinkled with a little salt, then
dressed in olive oil with a squeeze of Meyer lemons.
Yes, those are Meyer lemons in your box, too.
The spiky leaved green is dandelion, not the sidewalk
dandy but a civilized cousin. I like dandys sauteed
with garlic and tumbled in pasta. The rest of the box
is pretty self explanatory, but never forget our
online photo library of veggie pix and recipes if
you’re puzzled. We want to be known as the CSA
program that provides lots of support to our subscribers.
We’re grateful for all the support you all have
given us. Thank you and welcome to harvest 2005.