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          Turkey, Greece, New England

 

          On Easter Saturday I was in Istanbul.  It was the middle of the tulip festival and all over the city by the streets and squares ran ribbons of  tulips, thousands of them  arising from carpets of brilliant red, yellow  and blue primroses  or velvety gold and purple pansies.  The sun sparkled, the sky was blue, domes of mosques and minarets shone, everyone smiled.  In the Grand Bazaar I bought bracelets and necklaces of moonstone and jasper and the ubiquitous blue evil-eye-averting glass beads;  poured out in gleaming piles on shop counters and, from the Egyptian bazaar, spices with no name, to carry back and scent my homely kitchen with the essence of Ali Babaís cave. 

          Outside the ruins of Ephesus, a vendor of fruit had treasure of a different kind:  baskets of  deep red pomegranates and brilliant oranges, from which he squeezed brimming glasses of juice which it was hard not to think of as ambrosia.

          Turkey seduces me into purple prose. 

          Greece is an equally enchanting story.  White houses climb narrow streets built on old volcanos, blue sea below, the colors of the Greek flag come alive.  Red wine in friendly tavernas, pretty clothes to try on and buy in small shops, a black cat staring from a high wall, small flowers everywhere, spring and new beginnings.  Sunset over the Aegean, the cold walls of the Knights of St. Johnís city on the isle of Rhodes, a liter of Mythos beer in a glass boot, coffee early in the morning in Lindos and the joy of a clean accessible W.C.!  Such are the pleasures of a retired, middle-leaning-toward-old-aged schoolteacher.  My kind beautiful daughter drew smiles wherever we went. 

          Back home to the farm, New England spring.  The smell of young tomato plants on my hands after a morning working in the greenhouse, a carpet of pansies on the benches waiting to be sold, black turned earth after the plow, the birdsong which fills the air in early morning, when the sky is still ink-blue and the spring trees are black silluettes against it.  Watching the weather, hoping for warmth and sunshine after this extraordinarilly wet spring. 

          For thirty-two years the view out my front door has been the field across the street. I have watched the slow crawl of the tractor across the field and the greening of lettuce and beans and cauliflower and cabbage, each in its season.  Heard the peepers screaming into April nights,  bullfrogs croak like off-center clothes driers, seen a great blue heron cross the moon, watched Orien wheel across the late winter sky, ducks paddling in the flooded field.  I was a girl in Illinois and love the sight and sound of tall corn. The rustle of it on hot summer nights.  

          We sold the farm.  Had to.  Still farming it, leasing it back, year by year, for now.  But it makes me sad.  In the time since it ceased to be Indian land, sometime arouund 1640, this farm has belonged to only three families;  the farmerís father and his brothers, fresh from Sicily,  rented it in 1916 and bought it in 1919.  He plowed it with horses until after World War Two when he bought a tractor, which is still in use here.  When he suffered a stroke and couldnít work anymore  he started to teach his son the business and so the college student became a farmer in his turn and in his head and hands are all the knowledge and skill from those long years, plus new knowledge, new skill he has learned along the way, during his forty years of farming. 

          But the farm had to be sold.  There are a million reasons why the small farms are disappearing, and I read with a sick heart articles in the New York Times Sunday magazine about how to save them, and books on experts telling us to eat local, mostly vegetables, and listen to friends rave about the local farmerís market (mostly farmers from out of town) which a farming friend described as a flea market with vegetables....

          I am  a teacher, and my husband is a farmer.  I used to joke that we were a typical frontier couple - the schoolmarm feeding the minds and the farmer feeding the bodies of the nation.  We both get told often how valuable we are.  And yet.

          Change is good.  The farm is sold, and for the first time we will be able to travel a bit together, albeit after November and before February.  We will eat like kings during the summer, feed our friends wonderful corn in August and September, and Iíll have the prettiest garden in town.  In December weíll cruise down the Danube and visit Christmas markets, and Iíll try to speak German again, and for a few cold months he wonít have to get up every night and make sure the plants in the greenhouse havenít frozen.  Change is good.  And yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

 

 

 

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