Heartland View

Flying out of Columbus today on a clear, cold day, looking at the familiar grid pattern of the farmland below, I was reminded of an enlightening conversation I actually had on a flight some years ago. The well-dressed, older woman sitting next to me, who apparently hailed from one of the coasts, was looking doubtfully at the countryside below and finally asked: “What is going on down there?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Why are those squares and rectangles on the ground?” she asked.

“Those are farms,” I explained.

“Oh,” she replied.

I know they call our neck of the woods “flyover country,” but don’t the folks on the coasts at least know what they are flying over?

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Stalking Time

 

What to do with a field full of dried cornstalks on the eve of winter, after the ears of corn have been harvested?  This Ohio farmer piled the stalks together in the shape of Mercury capsules and left them in the field — where they looked a bit like shambling swamp creatures in slow pursuit of a victim.  You might say they looked like they were stalking someone.

The New Albany Farmers Market

This afternoon Penny and I walked over to the initial New Albany Farmers Market.  The Market will be held between 4 and 7 p.m. every Thursday, from now until early September, in the Market Square area in front of the library.

The Market drew a good crowd and the farmers must have been doing a pretty brisk trade, because by the time we got there at around 6 p.m. some of the items were sold out.  We saw stands from many Ohio farming communities, including Hiram, Frazeyburg, and Fredericktown.  Items for sale included honey (with and without honeycombs), artisanal cheeses and meats, berries, ice cream, freshly baked breads (including gluten-free options), various kinds of vegetables, yogurt, sweet corn, and preserves.  The stands ran up and down both sides of the Market Square roadway, and it looked like organizers could squeeze in a few more if some other local farmers express interest.

I was tempted by some fresh goat cheese, but the varieties I asked for were sold out.  (The woman at the stand promised to have a bigger supply next week.)  Instead, I bought some Muenster cheese made from milk taken from 100% grass fed cows, and it is quite good.  If you live in the Columbus area and support the local sourcing of food, or if you just want to sample some freshly picked or home-cooked fare, the New Albany Farmers Market is well worth a visit.

Ruminations In An Old Barn

We went up to Vermilion this weekend to celebrate Easter with Kish’s family.  On Saturday, Richard and I took Effie for a walk and ended up strolling to one of the barns on the Kishman property.  The Kishmans have been farming in Vermilion Township for generations, but no members of the immediate Kishman family are farming any longer.  As a result, this particular barn is not used for anything except storage of knick-knacks and old equipment.

One of the silos at the old Kishman barn

Barns are interesting buildings.  They are designed simply to enclose space and to keep things within that enclosed space dry and out of the elements.  Once you are inside the barn, it seems cavernous, and there is a luxury of abundant space between the concrete, hay covered floor and the rafters high above.  From the evidence of the eaves, the lingering smells, and the design, it looks like the barn has been home to wasps and yellow jackets, swallows and other birds, and cats and rats and livestock.  Blades, cranks, rotors and other assorted dangerous-looking machinery hang from hooks on the wooden walls.  Some of the design elements of the barn seem obvious, but others are mysterious.  You look up at the walls and wonder why there are latched doorways at odd locations on the walls, including one directly below the apex of the vaulted roof.

The old Kishman barn

Standing in the dusty barn — and I expect that every barn is always dusty — and looking around, you get a strong sense of the challenges of the farming life.  It is easy to envision the farmer appearing in the barn on a cold winter morning, wearing his barn coat with his breath visible in the sharp air, to prepare feed for the livestock, or climbing up the ladder to the hayloft on a hot summer day to hoist and then toss a few bales down to the floor below.

Everywhere there are reminders of the enormous physical demands of farming.  For example, the old Kishman barn has two silos that are about 40 feet high, and each of them has a ladder that goes up to the top.  How often do farmers have to climb to the tops of silos, and what do they have to do when they get up there, perched precariously so far about the ground?  How tough was it to breathe if you had to go into the silo to shovel out the last few inches of grain?

Farming no doubt has its rewards, in working with the soil and with animals and in being your own boss.  But it also has to be one of the toughest jobs around.