Friday, December 23, 2016

Welcome to Kretsinger Beef ~ 100% grassfed ~ certified organic


Last Annual Kretsinger Holiday Letter
December, 2016

For a few weeks autumn felt like summer.  Then, one day winter came in.  I understand this has happened in other parts of the country.  Sudden Winter.  Sudden Something, depending on where you are.  In the San Luis Valley, it is definitely Winter.  Once December rolled around, the nighttime temperature began dipping below zero and we can feel the depth of winter darkness approach. 
            One warm night after Thanksgiving before the chill set in, Zen Rose and I got out the nativity scene.  The crèche has been in my family since before I was born, and Zen Rose and I carry on this winter ritual of putting it out each year.  The figures are hand painted ceramic, very lifelike and expressive, each unique and so appealing in their manifestations of wonder, reverence, and awe, even the animals.  They are wrapped in a variety of paper – tissue, manila, party napkins – variously replaced when the paper becomes too tattered to provide cushion.  They are kept in a sturdy cardboard box that once held Texas grapefruit, our grandmother’s traditional Christmas gift. 
            Everything about this is old, dusty, wrinkled, and treasured.
            As we unwrap the figures we ooh and ah, even kiss some of them.   The poor old camel always gets a kiss.  The animal who accompanied the Wise Men has sweetly drooping eyes and a crack across his long neck where his head came off and was glued back on some decades ago.   Baby Jesus always gets a kiss, too, the newborn who looks like a miniature teenager in his little hay crib. 
            We laugh and crack jokes while we unpack and arrange the figures in the manger, but we’re quiet about it.  Thoughtful.  Loving.  This frigid, dark time of year imposes a change of pace on the farm.  There’s a little more time to ponder our purpose, our beliefs, our mission, a little time to be still and go deep.  It is this time of year when caressing the cast of characters in our crèche brings to mind the power of belief in a story so full of unlikelihood, yet for two thousand years has shaped the lives of billions of people.
            Our nephew Kurt’s son, Colt Kretsinger, age six, is similarly in a mindset of calculating his beliefs.  He recently announced with great certainty that there was no Tooth Fairy.  It was discomfiting to hear a boy just three teeth into shedding babyhood make such a definitive statement.  I had never felt the need to defend the Tooth Fairy in the arena of existential questioning, yet I found myself making a stand for her with my great nephew. 
            But, who can explain the Tooth Fairy? There are some things that are just too big for us to understand.   Who can explain the powerful mystery of magic?  Beyond the magic of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, there’s the inexplicable magic of generosity, grace, forgiveness, and the intricately delicate design of Mother Nature – all utterly magical and magnificent, none of which any human can fully explain or understand. 
            The Colonel and I have felt this way about agriculture. We were always suspicious of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizer, even when we were producing commodity crops.  It was intuitive sense, since there wasn’t much known about it, and the common wisdom was pretty much that it was un-American to farm without chemicals.  But, in the last decade a lot has been uncovered about soil health and the significant negative impact our farming practices have on the planet, particularly the use of ‘cides, as the Colonel calls them.  There is increasing evidence that chemicals have a deleterious effect on microbial life in the soil, as does tilling.  If we can avoid chemicals, and the plow, and foster a greater diversity of plants in our fields, we can build soil health, rebuild lost topsoil, and bolster the process of taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the soil, where it belongs and where it does good. 
            This is all very simplistically put.  But, I am so amazed by the magic of it I can’t remember the scientific names of things or their processes. 
            As my friend Renee Mackey, who was a biology major and has spent a lot of time with children says, not everyone can accommodate magic.  Not everyone needs it.  That's colt Kretsinger.  When he learns about science, he'll get the names.  He'll never foret the processes.  The example of diversity between Colt and me, as it turns out, is exactly what Nature thrives on.  Diversity in plant life fosters diversity in soil life, which increases nutrition in the plants and the animals that eat them, which in turn provide better nutrition for humans.  We are all healthier when we’re part of a richly diverse community moving forward together in conscillience – soil, plants, animals, people.   
            Perhaps one day we'll have the whole picture explaining the Earth’s existence, like those snowflakes children cut out of paper that they fold and cut.  If they’re done right, when they’re unfurled, it’s still one piece.  The picture has many holes, but it holds together as one piece.          Maybe Colt and I will make paper snowflakes together.  He’ll see missing information in the holes.  I’ll see the Tooth Fairy.
            Besides Colt Kretsinger, we have another nephew whose initials are C.K.  Collin Keebler is my sister Molly’s grandson, whom we call our AGN (Adored Great Nephew).  A city kid, Collin spent his summer working on the farm with us.  He had little preparation for the work, but embraced all of it, except the aerial maneuvers, since he has an aversion to heights.  The Colonel learned this about Collin one day when they went out to replace a drop that had come off a center pivot irrigation system, about twelve feet off the ground. 
            “Go ahead and climb up that tower and I’ll hand you the new drop,” the Colonel said to Collin. 
            Reluctantly, Collin climbed a few steps up the tower, looked around, and said, “Nu-huh.  YOU climb up this tower.”
            “Hell, I’m seventy nine years old.  YOU climb up that tower!”   
            “No, sir!”  Collin came back.  “I’m eighteen.  I have a lot more to lose!”
            The old man climbed. 
            Our Adored Great Nephew survived the ardors of his tenure as a farm worker and is graduating from high school in Arlington, Texas this spring.  He is applying to Adams State University in Alamosa.  I suspect he was thinking about this ever since one of our customers at the Farmers’ Market suggested he consider it.  I asked Collin to help Beverlee McClure take her meat purchases to her car.  When he came back from his errand, Collin’s face was red.  At first I thought it was because Beverlee is a beautiful woman with smiling eyes, a big, bright, shiny belt buckle, and sparklies on the pockets of her jeans.  She may be the Tooth Fairy.  She is certainly magic.
            “Shoot!” he said.  “Why didn’t you tell me she’s president of the university?” 
            “What’d she say?” 
            “She said I should come take a tour.”  Collin did take a tour of the school, and when he came back, he was full of enthusiastic calculations.   “Tuition is a fixed rate the whole time I’m in school there and they’ll give me several thousand dollars of scholarship money because I have a high GNP.  I mean GPA.  Grades.  And…because I’m from Texas.”
            I looked at him blankly. 
            He looked back at me over his glasses.  “I’m not kidding. Go figure.”
            Collin is long past the loss of his primary teeth, however I believe he is too practical to dash the kind of opportunity the Tooth Fairy might bring.    He believes. 

            Have a sweet Solstice.  Enjoy the dark. Be kind to that septic and it will be kind to you.