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Mixin' in the Village Gravy by Amy MagnusnewShrooms

BLOG-October is the New July

Friday we slept in. A power failure had set most of our clocks back 7 minutes, and we didn’t catch on until the bus rumbled past the house. “They’re early today. I’m sorry,” my husband called out. He was still making beds and hadn’t taken his post to watch for the school bus yet. Not yet wise to the actual time, we took a half hour to practice piano. We were just finishing up when Jeremy came into the living room in a fluster. He hustled us out the door and turned to change the electronic stove clock to 8:10am. “Hurry,” he said. Ack, we were in danger of being tardy and made tracks.

Our youngest stowed away in the car, and the three of us—my son, my daughter, and I—raced to beat the morning announcements at Mills Lawn School. My daughter settled into her classroom nicely, but my son resisted a prolonged stay. He preferred to occupy himself in the hallway experimenting with a sticky water fountain valve that he discovered on our last visit. Standing outside the classroom, I missed most of the Bulldog News, but I distinctly heard Principal Housh remind the school of a morning assembly. Deciding destiny had invited us to participate, I verified the 9:30am start time and went have a cup of tea with my husband at the Spirited Goat, 118 Dayton St. There, we found an abandoned cup of coffee at his regular bench. He’d be back soon, we were told; he just had to release a bat rescued from the ceiling of the coffeehouse. He returned successful and hoped the bat—a predator of mosquitos and other pests—took a liking to our neighborhood.

batbat in a bag

We enjoyed a full half hour lull together while a soft rain pattered outside. Shortly after 9am, I checked my phone and found an email message from Michelle Burns and Flying Mouse Farms. Mushrooms she promised, later that day at the farm market 3-6pm or again on Saturday at the village’s farmers market 7am-noon. Jeremy and I laid plans to meet at the farm after school and parted ways.

When my son and I returned to Mills Lawn, we found the students assembled in the gym for a play. Mad River Theater Works, a 26 year old touring company based out of Zanesfield, OH—had returned to present a one hour musical called The Pasture, A Parable of Just Food. The simple but brilliant production told the story of a young woman and her quest to reestablish the family farm. The production marks a milestone for Mad River Theater Works. The theater company has built an impressive reputation writing and performing historical plays for a diverse audience across the Midwest. The Pasture was their first play set in the future.

thePasture

The future looks dim—a brown, seasonless food desert where everyone’s meals are delivered as tiny cubes made by the Process. Our heroine is ignited to search for “the pasture” by a vivid dream in which she sprouts up from the ground as a deeply rooted tree. Empowered by her family and mysterious forces, she journeys to collect resources needed to restore the farm and grow real food.

apple booksLike the school children, my three year old son was rapt by the music played on trumpet, accordion, standup bass, and guitar by the four member troop. The best tunes were the beekeeper’s song swung out on the accordion and an eccentric mayor’s ditty to the virtues of raised beds plucked out on a makeshift banjo. We learned about the importance of bees and buckets, the germination of seeds, the practice of planting in raised beds, and the cultivation of earthworms to enriching the soil. The pasture may have been disappointedly desolate but—in this imaginative cautionary tale—promise, hope, and direction broke through its tortured ground bringing much to life. The school children were engaged and inspired; the students practically brimmed with questions and peppered the cast with them at the completion of the play.

Having passed an thoroughly entertaining hour, my son and I left the question and answer session to join the 10:30am toddler story time at the Yellow Springs Community Library, 415 Xenia Ave. We found Librarian Ann Cooper and the children pouring over books about apples. I laughed at the continued theme. Here again, we talked about germinating seeds, shaking trees to shed their fruit, and growing the best part of an apple pie. Librarian Ann produced a basket of bright green and red apples, and her young patrons happily accepted the gift making rings of tiny bites in fruit the size of softballs.

big woodpileLater in the day after school and piano lessons, we made our way to Flying Mouse Farms. We parked our cars by the greenhouses and walked up to the sugar shack which doubles as the farm market in its downtime from making maple syrup. Huge logs line the walkway up to the shack. The mammoth trucks appear to be mostly ash—stacked five feet high to age—and are destined to fuel the wood stove that heats the greenhouses in the winter. The warmed greenhouses yield more greens keeping us all in kale and salad greens throughout the winter season.

farm Marketonions

Here we found Michelle Burns swimming in greens, beets, tomatoes, carrots, and lovely, lovely mushrooms. Astonished by the colorful array, I mused “October is the New July.”

beetsBountybeet Greens

As I say those words, I felt a little embarrassed. The fashionista reference was bit obscure in context, but Michelle caught on right way. “Exactly”, Michelle agreed. A kind of fashion week in Yellow Springs, the October harvest unfurled in high style with sumptuous reds, glossy greens, and velvety grays.

mushroom beautiesThe seeds Flying Mouse planted in July got the right amount of sun and rain, and their current production is impressive to the eye, to the touch, in its scent and volume. One girl asks her mother what a mushroom feels like, showing praiseworthy restraint as she takes in a shiitake with astonished eyes. I lean over and describe the lower stem as a hard know, the smooth top as a foam cushion, the gilled underbelly as the softest corduroy. As we make our selections—carrot, bok choy, tomatoes, mustard greens—Michelle is industriously wrapping beets as big as fists together. The pile of bunched roots is already as high as her hip and she has more, much more, to do. It’s a good problem to have after a cool spring and summer. I gather palm sized tomatoes and mushrooms in my hand and dream of Saturday’s stir fried breakfast. Bounty in hand, I exit to find my husband and son outside both grinning ear to ear. Jeremy is ruffling the ears and gray fur of an affectionate barn cat, and our son is chattering away tremendously excited about his surroundings.

companions

I share their enthusiasm. We head home to prepare dinner working together side by side, shoulder to shoulder. We are grateful for our green pasture and the circular journey that brought us from the farmlands of Illinois and Upstate New York to here. Like the heroine from the morning’s play, we know the magical release of real food, and we have gained the gentle confidence that comes from producing it ourselves.

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