August 29, 2006 – A Garlic Testament

This is a wonderful gem of a book about farming and life, exquisitely written. The title is A Garlic Testament (I think that because it is “a” garlic testament and not “the” garlic testament, author Stanley Crawford, New Mexico garlic farmer allows for another version).

Here’s a great passage that is entitled – The Cranky Farmer Talk.

“Is your stuff organic?”┬á There will be a moment of hesitation, I will look you in the eye to assess what kind of response you want. If a rhetorical one, I’ll say merely: “we have never used any chemical herbicides or pesticides and never will.”

Often this suffices. But sometimes I see genuine curiosity. Then I go on to explain that the only organic pesticides I have used are rotenone for bean beetles and sabadilla dust on summer squash, and only occasionally. Yet even these, because they are still poisons, however, organic, I’m still reluctant for a narrowly personal reason, that of my own health.

So what about you? I would conclude. What about your life? Is it organically lived? Here I might pause to summon up the courage to bring up the forbidden subject. And if I might ask, what about the money you would offer to pay me with? Is it organically earned? In short, how have you managed to solve these problems in your life? Have you actually figured out how to live a clean life in a dirty age?

Then I will listen. I may hear rationalizations of a fanatic, fretting over notions of exalted states of bodily purity. And for good reason. Perhaps in the poisonous desert of a city there is little else you can do besides seek out what you hope is “pure” food. Yet I hope I will also hear the deliberations of someone who understands the endless dilemmas of living in these times, someone who understands the term organic as pointing towards an ideal of how a community might better elaborate itself around the use of land and water. How it might regard the rural landscapes that surround it, the cycles of nature and the interactions of the vegetative, the animal, the human and cultural. How it might seek to draw back into its life what the fashion of the moment has exiled to “the country.”

The question is posed. I will ask it or not, you will answer it or not. But whether spoken or not, all this and more comes to bear on that instant of suspicion or of trust in which I hand over at last a small sack of garlic in exchange for a few pieces of paper.

These will be new and crisp or wrinkled and smudged. Either way, as always, they will be engraved with magical images and words, and will reveal nothing about the uses to which they’ve been put.

But enough. Thank you. It’s been good talking to you. Enjoy your garlic.

Now go read it.

Last week I lamented about the world swallowing up Martin. Well, today, my fears of letting the world engulf him were justified. The little guy came home with a battered nose, mouth, and chin from falling off playground equipment. He looked bad, but I don’t think he is any worse for wear. He said the nurse was nice.