Harvesting the Sun
I recently finished (again) The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball and I have to say, it was even better the 3rd time around. Reading was easily one of my favorite pastimes as a youth and I was cranking out books left and right. I’ve unfortunately noticed that reading has been one of the things to fall off a bit as I’ve aged. Better yet, I won’t blame my age. The true culprit that has stolen my ability to read is none other than….. my children.
Not really. But for real…
In all actuality it just has not been high on a list of priorities for me. It’s a relationship I am in the process of rekindling. I’ve found the best way to do that is to revisit some of my favorite reads from the past and the aforementioned Kimball book was just that. I had mentioned in a previous blog about the disappearance of that book but fortunately one of my three readers was kind enough to purchase a new copy and have it sent to the house.
I’ve found that since I’ve had children, quiet time is a rarity. Rare in the sense that one must purposely seek out its existence in order to find it. Sure, a parent may stumble upon it by pure happenstance but to rely on its place in one’s schedule would be ill advised and borderline asinine.
There are two times in which a high school teacher/ football and baseball coach with three children 7 and under can find such scarce gem such as quiet time and that is in the early morning before the chaos of wake time occurs or in the later twilight of the evening after the chaos of the day is done. Seeing as I’ve become well acquainted with the snooze button on my alarm of late, the twilight time slot has become my go to.
I’ve been fortunate enough to fill those quiet twilight hours with a fairly solid reading schedule barring any late night baseball games and it appears both my reading pace and ability to disappear into a book are back as if they’d never left.
One not so slight difference I noticed was that the tone in which I read the words in the page. I did mention earlier that this was my 3rd time through The Dirty Life yet this time I felt a bit more connected to what the author had to say. When I’d first opened the book over ten years ago, I was more dreamer than practitioner. Farming and raising food was more aspiration than actuality. I hadn’t grown a single thing.
This time around, I read the book through the lens of a guy who had raised and processed chickens and pigs, butchered and cooked a turkey, planted successful and unsuccessful gardens, put a fair share of fruit trees into the ground, as well as been around some great individuals who farmed at much more intensive levels than I have. My understanding, albeit one at a much smaller level, of what Kimball and her family went through was thoroughly different. I could understand to a greater extent some of the toil, effort, hopes, and failures that she touched on throughout the pages. There was no 500 acres on my end but some of the thoughts were the same.
I’d certainly enjoy the freedoms and burdens that a farm the size of Essex Farms brings with it however I think I’ll manage with my own piece of Earth. As a newb on this journey, my small amount of acreage is just what I need, at least until I can convince my wife to take the full plunge and snag 25 acres next! And if you know my wife, you know I have a ways to go with that dream. Better yet, let’s call it a goal.
I promise this writing is not a sales pitch for Kristin Kimball and her books however it is a realization of what it means to produce food. I am currently a few chapters deep into her second book, Good Husbandry, and in that book she mentions something that hit me.
“The idea of a farm is so simple: catch the sunlight, hold it where it fell, and use it to meet human need…The sun is a currency, the world’s first and most basic, endlessly convertible to other forms.”
-Kristin Kimball, Good Husbandry
It’s an interesting thought right? Transforming sunlight into many of the wonderful things we consume on a daily basis: bacon and eggs breakfast, soap from the lard of our pigs to lather up with in the bath, the beer you had at the weekend cookout, okra for the Sunday Bible study gumbo, and more. It’s all converted sunlight! And it is all from the creativity and craftiness of the farmer’s ability to properly utilize it.
The Biology teacher in me already knew this. I teach photosynthesis every year. I teach the ecological and energy pyramid every year. Yet somehow when it came to my own operation, a pig was a pig and a sprout of okra was just okra. In reality, they are forms of sunlight transformed into various carbon based lifeforms that end up on transforming the cells of my very own body.
The real food products that fill your grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and roadside food stands are each altered ultraviolet rays. Your very garden is transforming it as you read these words. For those of you fortunate enough to live within the pollen stricken region of the greater Houston metro area, you are breathing in and sneezing out transfigured sunlight in the form of oak tree sperm. What a wild and slightly unnecessary thought to fill your head with. You’re welcome.
The first law of thermodynamics basically states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. That implies that it’s “simply” (any study of nature shows that this is quite an understatement but for the sake of this writing, it’ll have to work) transformed. Think of this the next time that you take a bite out of that delicious apple you have with lunch.
It’s a mind-blowing thought to think that we are all of the sun. Vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, pescatarians, and omnivores alike. We are all connected by that common thread. That connection weaves into those that creatively harvest its bounty so thank a farmer. That could be with kind words or with the purchase of his/ her interpretation of sunlight.
Better yet, meat one (the pun was too easy). Would love to connect! If you aren’t sure where to start, pick up any of the books I listed above or get on the Google machine.
I’ll keep you posted on what’s next for the book club.
Until next time.