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Chelsea Green Blog

Gene Logsdon: Good Agriculture Fosters Good Art, And Vice-Versa

I’ve written before about my attempts to build a haystack that looks like one in a Claude Monet painting (see links at end of this post). This year I came close, as you can see by the two pictures. The distracting blue plastic at the base of my Monet will eventually be put over the haystack although I think the stack will shed water without a cover as well as Monet’s did. I’m not taking the chance of a sudden 6-inch Midwest downpour ruining it— something I don’t think Monet’s farmers had to put up with. They didn’t build their haystacks inside a ring of woven wire fence either, so I’m cheating a little.

Online, you can find haystacks still being erected all over the world. (Reader Ian Graham has sent me photos of his— he does a good Monet, too.) And as for paintings, good heavens! It appears that almost all artists, right up to the present, feel that they must paint a haystack or a haymaking scene just like so many of them feel compelled to paint nudes at some time in their careers. I typed “hay in art” into Google, and up popped hundreds of hay paintings. Not to be undone by the absence of stacks in modern agriculture, today’s artists are filling their canvases with hay bales including those big round ones wrapped in plastic.

I like to think there is more going on here than just an arty thing. The essence of farming comes down to feeding plants and animals so that they can feed us. Grazing pastures is the most sustainable way for animals to eat and plants to keep growing, as the Great Plains buffalo proved. But in northern climates, that means some of the surplus summer pasture needs to be cut for hay for over winter. This was the most practical way to insure a steady food supply back before farmers went crazy and decided to feed the world with corn and soybeans. People in Monet’s day saw much more than just the beauty of a haystack when they looked at one. They saw survival. As long as haystacks dotted the horizon every fall, society knew that it would survive until the next growing season. I wonder if even today, people look at those hay bales dotting a field and instinctively realize the same thing.

 

Read the rest over at The Contrary Farmer to see how Gene’s busted mower led him to a haystack revelation…

And while you’re at it, take a look at Gene’s newest book, the title of which has to be bleeped when he does radio interviews, Holy Shit, Managing Manure to Save Mankind. You can read Chapter 2 – The Nitty-Gritty of the Shitty, here.


Pass the Walnut Syrup?

Everyone knows and loves maple syrup, and in some states (like Chelsea Green’s home state of Vermont), it’s big business. However, it’s a widespread myth that maples are the only trees that can be tapped to produce sap, according to Michael Farrell, sugarmaker and director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest. Sap can also be collected […] Read More

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A Simple Way to Grow Fresh Greens Indoors This Winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until Spring. Author and gardener Peter Burke’s innovative method of growing soil sprouts indoors can help you grow nutrient-dense greens all year long at a fraction of the cost of buying at market. Burke’s book, Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening, is […] Read More

In Remembrance: Toby Hemenway

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Toby Hemenway, a beloved teacher, author, and permaculturalist. In October of 2015, Toby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite treatment that seemed to be working, the cancer returned this fall, and eventually Toby signed up for home hospice on December 16, 2016. He died […] Read More

Chelsea Green: In the Media 2016

Oh, 2016. Where did the time go? Each year, Chelsea Green receives hundreds of mentions (well over 1000 in 2016) in the media both big and small. From interviews, to excerpts, to opinion pieces by authors we’re always working to make sure that the mission and message of each book is spread far and wide. […] Read More
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