The Case of One Eye, Strong Women, and A Soup Doctor

Mary and Hannah, on one of the many trips to gather farm firewood in Roaring Lion.

Mary and Hannah, on one of the many trips to gather farm firewood in Roaring Lion.

As the receptionist for the Big Sky Eye Clinic unlocked the deadbolt on the entrance and took a look at Mary and I, she remarked, ‘I think you are the dirtiest people to ever come in here.’ 

It wasn’t a funny comment, really, just a fact. I nodded, and looked at her with my one good eye.

Mary gracefully smiled, and then quickly grimaced from her rapidly swelling upper lip.     

We were a sorry pair, coming down from our third day of gathering firewood from a Roaring Lion side canyon, in between harvests and farm tasks.  We were blackened from felling trees in the burn, bruised from lugging and wrestling rounds of fir into into our truck, sometimes with straps hitched to the truck, but mostly by sheer determined might. We were wide eyed from the adrenaline of a 4-wheel-drive and odd angles that reminded us of when the wheel came off our Kubota this spring. We were tired from another long day, one that was supposed to be recreation, but left us rather beat up.  Mary had gotten whacked in the lip when the branch she was using to hoist a big round gave way, while I had injured my eye with a chunk of wood that had someone managed to fly at me, at an odd angle behind my glasses.  

In the chair, after a few gasps by the doctor as he pulled the offending debris out of my eye and prescribed some ointment, I profusely thanked  him for his pronouncement that I’d most likely be back to normal within a day or two — or so.  


I promised to shake his hand the next time it was clean, and we assured the receptionist that we were farmers, not full-time professional firewood gatherers. After we wrote a check for the most expensive cord of firewood we collected this season (last year it was tire chains and half a tank of truck fuel), we reminded our two newest acquaintances that the farmer’s market is, well, this Saturday. Tomorrow.

It's hard to believe it's been six months since the first spring markets, and the load we'll bring tomorrow is far more than that first early market in the park in April. As I write, Mary is washing and packing the last of what we have. It’s more than you might expect, given the prediction of cold October day in Montana.  One entire side of our walk in cooler, a long row, is lined with waxed boxes of food — broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, potatoes, spinach, all our greens, turnips, carrots, celery, peppers, tomatillos, so much food. Crates of winter squash and fresh tomatoes sit at the ready in the farm store, waiting to load tomorrow morning. 

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Even though we had our usual rush of tasks, plus some wild high winds this week that lofted some of our row cover all the way over toward the Pharoplex (really), I still think of the farm as a refuge. You keep coming out to the farm, with so many of you this week buying produce, sharing with us gifts like the box of apples, the hand-me-down insulated overalls in near mint condition (those were in use tonight).  And even though we were deep in our own world of tasks like cutting  firewood this week, (so we don’t run out before the weather turns) the news, of the hashtag #MeToo, didn’t escape us.  Our farm wouldn’t be what it is without my strong Mary, and as I listened to her stories, those of her friends and our community, it was a reminder of how often our world is not quite how we want it to be.  

Although we don’t know everyone as personally as we like, we like to think of the farm as a refuge for everyone in our community.  Often it’s proud families, moms that tote kids and households around the farm.  One of our new members, this week, chasing her boys outside the chicken coop, like a giant mother hen. Toby and Amanda, both farm members, know our place well enough to give a guided tour. And even if our current kitchen is short on hot water, Hannah, our fall crew, knows just where to go if we ever need hot water to clean up and scrub washing and packing tables.  And sometimes, you are the ones that make us cry, telling us about your own sweet victories from deep within this space we call home, the Bitterroot. To me, that is why we farm, it’s a refuge of sorts, it makes us better than we are, it makes us realize what we can be.

So, even though the weather is sure to be terrible tomorrow, come on out. Farmers markets are democratic places, where ideas and voices count. Mary will be doling out soup recipes with a new twist. Let me be clear: this is a prescription. Tell us what looks good, what flavors you like and what you don’t, and we will come up with a soup recipe, on the spot, just for you, based on what we have on hand. Mary says that if you don’t like what the soup doctor prescribes, we’ll buy back your soup, or your produce! After a long day in the fields, she says she has far more inspiration for soups than time to write recipes, but would love to be challenged to come up with the perfect soup for your week.  Mostly ingredients in the booth, under $10, directions easy enough to fit on an index card, and we get a conversation to boot.  If you are up for the soup-scription challenge, stop on by the booth tomorrow morning.