Wednesday at the Barn.......Chef's Best Dish (ever) ......On the Farm in Philo ...


Introducing Rylee Ann Fancher (!)

The best dish Chef is ever likely to cook up arrived on the plate of life last Monday afternoon just after 2. Taking the fact it was 'officially' Labor Day in stride, Chef’s wife Bekah delivered her first baby in just over three hours. Rylee Ann Fancher was 8 lb 13 oz and 22 inches of perfect at birth. Not all babies are cute, nor should we expect them to be, but this one is gorgeous. Mellow to boot.

Now that she’s here, the world has shifted in its rotation for the new parents ~ if you’ve had kids you know what that feels like ~ but instead of being thrown for a loop, Chef hasn’t missed a service and he’s cooking like a man inspired. We all are ~ there’s nothing like a new baby to give life a sense of purpose, hope and outright joy.

Sept. 3, 2012, On the Ridge in Philo

A week ago Monday, at just about the moment Rylee was coming into this world, I was wandering around the farm pondering the efficacy of timing in life which seems to hold us all in constant thrall, whether it’s a baby we are waitin’ on or a crop of heirloom Damsons.

The farm is astounding this time of year, especially when you take the time to stop, smell and listen. It’s a living, breathing machine for energy production, only a fraction of which we actually see. While I am struck dumb by the beauty of the gardens and the trees, laden with known and mysterious varieties of nuts and fruit, more fascinating by far is what's happening beneath the ground, where all this relentless life begins and ends.

Patience has never been my long suit. It took me a decade to understand what the first great gardener friend I ever had, Stephanie Tebbutt, meant when she said, "It's going to take a while to settle in." She wasn't just referring to the new flower gardens. I needed time, before I had a prayer of grasping the fluctuating intangibles that control everything ~ the health of the soil, the rain that may or may not come this year, the predators both small and large that have their own proprietary interests in what we grow and hope to harvest.

Late at night, when it’s so quiet you can hear the gardens breathing, Geoff and I sit in two old blue metal lawn chairs from the 60’s drinking wine from somewhere in the valley. When we stop talking about other things the conversation always rolls around to what to pick the next morning. We know we are not the only animals up here who will dream of ripening fruit. If we miss the cherries by a few days the jays will have at them. They are even ruder when it comes to the figs, which they poke holes in and leave to rot as they ripen. The bears make off with the apples and pears, smashing the vegetable gardens as they go; the squirrels can strip the filberts and our old chestnut trees bare inside of a night. The animals have the clear advantage ~ Chef sets the bar at ripe, not just edible ~ but while their marauding used to make me run for the shotgun or the poison, it's been a long time since I've reached for either. I've learned to accommodate, to a point just north of contentment, that I’m not the only living thing up here playing the waiting game.

And I see a synergy here between Ryan and Bekah waiting for their baby to be born, playing for keeps, and the patience and perspective required to farm and garden every year knowing however much we want them, there are no constants. Patience and perspective are qualities you need in abundance in life. And that holds true whether it’s a child or a garden you hope will thrive under your care.

Enjoy the last weeks of summer…Eat the View!

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted.)

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