Friday, July 30, 2010

Sustain the Muse

The deer have discovered the compost piles where I am growing vegetables. Bits of squash and tomato plants have been munched off. Not a lot, but enough. The multitude of wire tomato cages I placed around the perimeters proved to be of little deterrence. So today, I built an enclosure.

I won’t call it a fence, even though it is constructed of 7-foot t-bars and 6.5-foot no-climb fencing. Oblong, so as to enclose both piles, and large enough to allow expansion of plants and room for the mower, it is adequate.

Beuys Mound, one of the two enclosed piles, is coming along nicely. The plants have sized up and there is an abundance of baby Beuys Squash.
It looks like the cross-pollination has produced a suitable new variety — new only in that I am claiming so, for I cannot imagine that this particular cross has not happened on other farms. In fact, after a quick google search, I see it is called a Stripetti. (TM lets out a howl.)

This is an unplanned complication to the project, for even though I was intending to sell the seeds, I have been thinking of them as a new variety as well as art. Now I have to re-think this a bit. Granted, the fact that plants are growing on such a pile is most likely original, and as DW has suggested, that may be enough to make my squash Beuysian.

Still, I am given pause.

The theme of the proposal I sent out a couple days ago was how I navigate two worlds, farming and art making, how they collide and parallel each other, and what I make from those relationships. Not surprisingly, I told my story in such a way that artists and art administrators can relate to the process. I wonder if I could do the opposite, that is, make it so farmers can see the value of the art.

By no means am I implying that farmers could not understand. I merely wonder if I can put on my wide-brimmed farmer’s hat in the same way that I so readily don that French beret. (No, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one.) How would I explain a compost pile that contains art magazines and a dead coyote, and make it relevant to farming practices?

I shouldn’t be surprised that the deeper I go into this project, the more complicated it becomes. Nor should I expect something different than what has transpired. After all, was it ever enough that I came from rural roots, that my grandfather farmed and my brother and I helped, or that I grew gardens most of my adult life? Did any of these things make me a farmer?

Yes, I farmed and I worked every bit as hard as any other farmer. Yet, I am not like other farmers who have known no other avocation. I did not have the same level of commitment, distracted, as it were, by matters and thoughts less pragmatic. (Not that this difference necessarily led to today, when nothing I do on our property can be remotely considered farming.) I allowed the indulgence of re-interpreting my practices — even those that were improvements on mistakes or less-effective farming practices from previous seasons. I would not let go of metaphor, and therein may lay the difference, the madness.

Yet this melancholy is ripe with potential, a book perhaps. This is certainly something that DW and I have discussed on several occasions, warning the romantically-inclined against such a venture as we have taken these past seven years (after we sell the place to one of them). And I can think of worse ways this endeavor of ours could end. I have known failed farmers who, finding no other recourse, retire to their barns to find a beam or muffle the retort.


KenP said...


Somehow your scarecrow reminded me of Guernica. I think it is the head but it isn't typical Picasso so I am not sure why. Maybe it is the all black.

Hope you aren't planning to bomb the deer. DW's sanity should prevail over making it performance piece. :)

bastinptc said...

Ha! bona fide Farm's sculpture park. Tour the carnage of art history.

Memphis MOJO said...

I've been away for a few days, and it's nice to return and see some photos!