Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sentinel Column 5-25-12

Our farmers often share their abundance with those in need. Howard Thompson, who comes to the market on Saturdays with his fruit, has a bumper crop of blueberries and asked me what local feeding program would like a portion. I responded what local feeding program wouldn’t? and directed him to Crosslines. But it turns out that he’ll be feeding some very different neighbors. Several large sections of wooded land near his orchard have been cleared for development. That has pushed the deer that had lived there onto his land. He figures the deer population on his farm has tripled and they’re hungry and they love blueberries. They’re leaving enough for him come to the market, but he’s shut down his you-pick operation – at least for humans.

Deer are often a challenge for farmers. They jump high fences and are notorious for cleaning out sweet corn fields. One year I had a farmer put a 10-foot fence around his entire corn field. He also used organic methods to keep the worms out of the ears by putting a few drops of vegetable oil on the tip of each ear. It works pretty well, but the farmer discovered it was like buttering the corn for the deer. The day before harvest he found the deer had taken a bit out of the tip of every single ear of corn and the ground was covered with tale-tell prints. He didn’t get a single ear. He took it with amazingly good humor.

The most interesting response to critter theft I’ve come across was in northern California while visiting a farm with a group of market managers. The farm was actually a Buddhist retreat that also grew a large amount of produce. They sold the produce at area markets, raising funds for their program, and they also used gardening as a meditation tool. Every Thursday all the folks at the retreat spent the morning hoeing in silence. The head gardener, a young woman with dred locks, said silence on her part was very difficult as she watched them step on or hoe up the crop.

One of the visitors in my group asked if they were ever bothered by wildlife. The land lay in a valley surrounded by wooded foothills that had to be full of all sorts of birds and other creatures. The head gardener looked mystified. She didn’t understand the question. So the visitor rephrased it. Do deer and other wild animal invade the gardens? Oh, she said, the birds will fly out into the first couple of rows but, no, the animals don’t take much. The coyotes and bob cats keep the deer and other animals in check and if the birds fly too far out into the garden they risk attack by hawks. No, they don’t take too much. Leave it to a Buddhist gardener to just plant extra so nature can exist in harmony. However, I don’t think Howard’s deer are Buddhist. They are taking way more than their share!

We should have a good supply of blueberries. Our other growers are not running into deer problems. We’re also seeing the very first of the raspberries and blackberries. In another two weeks, we should be buried in them (or should I say “berried” in them?).

We’re got a great supply of zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers are coming in, as are onions. Sadly, this is probably the last week for strawberries.

The Agees, who garden using organic methods, will be at the market for the first time on Saturday. Sunny Lane Farms should be back Friday after a week’s absence.

Music on Friday is by Center Creek Bluegrass. This is a favorite local band led by Donnie Howard. Granny Shaffer’s is serving Spaghetti Red for lunch. They also have a chef salad available and slices of pie.

On Saturday, breakfast benefits Cub Scout Pack 25. The pack, based at First Presbyterian, is one of the oldest in the state and many, many men in our community have been part of it. The pack will also be selling their Boy Scout popcorn. Drew Pommert will play Saturday morning. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Drew is the son of Rob Pommert who plays most Tuesdays for us and Drew plays the same style of music which is usually easy and gentle.
Next Tuesday, Carol Parker of KSN is visiting the market for a live remote. You’ll see the KSN van with that giant antenna. And speaking of Tuesday, for those of you who took me up on the suggestion to try shopping on Tuesday – good idea, right? Easy to park, short lines, good selection. And, my, oh my, could you tell school was out. We must have had over a 100 children come with their families on Tuesday. They especially had a good time drawing at the mural booth. We love our kids! We hope to see lots of them – and YOU – at the (shady) north wall of the Middlewest Building, Broadway and Main, tomorrow and Sunday between 10 am and 4 p.m. when the community starts the Market’s Community Mural. We’ll supply the paint and the brushes, you supply the labor – for 5 minutes or all day, whatever suits you. So come to the market Saturday morning, then head up to the first stop sign on Main Street and join in the community mural.