Tomatoes on the coldest day of the year? I know what you must be thinking. We have gone Frankenstein on you, extracting cold-tolerant genes from the blubbery flanks of our swine and injecting them into tomatoplasm, thereby creating a GMO variety that stands up to sub-zero weather and renders unnecessary the addition of bacon in the classic BLT sandwich.
Or worse: we’ve sold our soul to the devil and scored those love apples at the nearest Wal-Mart. I feel compelled to explain this glaringly unseasonal addition to your CSA shares this week, especially since I had to veto the objections of the younger, more idealistic folks here at the farm to include them. Let’s just say my English Major genes have not been fully bred out of me by nearly twenty years of farming: I need to have my irony fix from time to time.
I think these are better tomatoes than any you will find in a grocery store this time of year. They grew in Ethan Burkholder’s wood fire heated greenhouse just outside of Kutztown. An astonishing achievement, if you ask me, since we are barely able to keep cold loving crops like radishes and broccoli alive out here on the Arctic Tundra.
Anyhow, if you are emotionally committed to the idealistic camp, you can always pelt me with the softest tomato in your share.
But check out those carrots: the freezing temperatures they have been subjected to inside an unheated greenhouse bring out their sugars. Those are not storage carrots. They were picked yesterday during a brief thaw inside the greenhouse.
At any rate, we are going to need some tomatoes to go with the mozzarella that we anticipate making just as soon as Maisey and Delilah deliver their calves and begin to offer up that butterfat rich milk for which Jersey cows are famous.
That’s Maisey on the right. Her utter has swollen up taut as a balloon and we are praying that she will wait for this cold snap to end to have her baby. Maisey herself suffered frost bitten ears as a calf. Delilah is so big around the middle that I fear she is harboring twins. Maisey and Delilah are the life of the farm these days. On one of those frigid mornings a few weeks ago, I came in the house after breaking up the icy crust on their water container and felt inspired to write a poem, reprinted herewith. (If you don’t like my poem, of course, just go ahead and pelt me with tomatoes)
Heifer in Winter
Life on the hill is satisfactory, predictable. Ample supply of
second cutting hay for the belly, first cutting
so plentiful I lay down upon it. I am mild, gargantuan, impregnated,
eminently ruralized among my fellow creatures: pigs bullying and squealing
for a share of grub; the dapper snow white goat poised for another
snap shot; the densely housed over-dramatic hens
pecking and scattering, their vehement leader recklessly
cock-a-doodle-doing, as if the petulant sun had randomly
chosen this moment out of the infinity of potential moments
to invade the dark.
Out of the house, regularly,
a heathen appears for skimming ice
from my water bucket. Frosty, yes, but
there is this benefit to winter:
Not a single horse fly to be kept in orbit by repeated
swishing of my tail.
What needs to keep warm
is inside of me. To me,
everything worth knowing,
is known, you see.