Dangerously organic!

Sh’mal Ellenberg

“Grow wheat?
Kenge, what do you mean, grow wheat?”

“We can grow wheat,” he tells me. “I know we can grow wheat.”
Lance and Kenge were confident, convincing,
While I wondered, “What do they know?”

To plant: we ordered 100 pounds of organic wheat from the co-op.

Till it comes,
In the meantime,
We will prepare.

We organized a six person shit shoveling team.
Early one morning, put together some food,
Rolled a few Js,
Pitch forks, shovels, wheelbarrow on the back of the truck.
Mentally prepped, psyched for the ride down the winding, dirt, Brown Mountain Road, to the barns 10, 15 miles from Nogo.
A long way to go for shit.
It’s what we loved to do. A basic to life;
Connecting us with the universal.

Imagine getting excited about cleaning out old cow horse pig chicken barns. No wait, to be honest,
we had our standards; pig shit way down low on the most wanted list. Chicken, potent for the garden was bad karma coming from those oppressive, hormonized, chicken houses.

We’ll make many trips down Brown Mountain,
Filling our really huge ass truck.
“How many loads will it take,” we wonder to each other?
“Till the field is covered.”

It was hard work. We loved it, had a good time, shovel, shovel, shovel. Dubie break, lunch break, shovel some more. Dubie break. Snack time, more shoveling, dubie break.
We loved them dubie breaks as the day gets more tired.

We had our load,
Laughing, tired, still stoned,
Sweaty, dirty.
Sun going down now. Sitting on the load looking up at the early evening colorful Arkansas Ozark Sky, the road dust flying up behind us as we slowly made our way back up the mountain to the Ganja Boogie Farm.

It was being in love with everything and everyone.
Life was fruitful,
We were thankful.

As anticipated, brothers and sisters waiting with a meal,
The shovelers first go down to the spring box to “throw off.” Cold pails of water pumped into buckets; you do me, I’ll do you and we sort of get clean for our gracious meal.

A circle, holding hands, chanting, smiling, looking into eyes forever etched in memory.

Early next morning the truck is driven slowly across the field as those on the back broadcast manure on the field.
Then back down the mountain for another, still another, we’re committed, more to come, till the field is covered.

Scott up on the tractor tilling it in, breaking clods real good, working in the manure to be manna.

Eloise, Garden Crew Earth Mother, gets out the Almanac,
We talk planting, the time is right.

Ten of us, line up across the field, ten feet between us, carrying bags filled with the scooped out seed.
Chanting, yelling, singing, laughing, we move across the field, broadcasting seed.
This is beyond life, but is real, I see us doing it.
We are fucking doing it. Sowing grain.
Joining history, maybe eternity.

The field gets covered,
Someone’s up on the tractor, lightly discing in the seed.

That night, elated, tired, refreshed from being cleansed at the spring box.
Everyone excited, meal done, dishes washed with wood stove heated water,
Kerosene lamps lit,
The drums come out, the beat begins,
Dancing, singing, chanting, praying.
The sound reverberates through the night,
Up and down the hollars.

This night we’re asking rain to come our way for the wheat.
We’re gonna grow wheat. We are serious. Damn we are.
Look what we have done.

The rains come, we give thanks, soon the seeds sprout,
The Winter Ozark Sun Shines, more rains come,
Soon, light snow covers the emerging Winter Wheat Seedlings,
Melts, warm rains return,
Soon the field turns a new color,
Becoming a field of green lushness,
Our eyes take in a new vertical dimension as the stalks get higher,
Upright and stronger. It’s joyous. It’s all looking good.

Walking to my cabin I make a path through the field. It feels cosmic, part of something, again, beyond self.

A few months more and wheat heads are forming on the top of the stalks. Almost hard to believe, I jump and down, in lieu of cartwheels.
Pick off a few Kernels,
I’m dumbfounded,
It looks like a Wheat Kernel.
I bite into it, yeah, it’s Wheat, soft, not ready to harvest, but according to Kenge and Lance they are getting ready as the heads get drier in the late Spring Sun.

I wonder: how do they know these things? I don’t ask. My trust is beyond questions. It all runs deep. So far they’ve been right.
We each know something about something. Actually, they read it in a book.

Soon it is announced at a meal: The Wheat is ready for cutting.
It’s gonna take all 20 of us for the harvest.
We gather cycles, machetes, a scythe, anything that’ll cut.

We stand together looking at the field.
No ones quite sure what to do.
Finally, awkwardly, Lance moves into the field cutting Wheat Stalks.
Others follow.

Others come behind picking up the cut Stalks.

Soon a rhythm develops, like playing the drums at night.

I can’t believe what I’m experiencing. We look like a communist revolution. We are a communist revolution.

The right amount of Stalks are tied together in Sheaths.
Then we’re stacking them up against each other in Shocks for drying, to be cured in the warm to come Summer Sun.

We’re really doing it. Every step is miraculous.
Like an energy beyond the parts is making it happen.

It’s work we never knew about. Like living in a National Geographic Magazine. We’re being native. Native hippie. We’re something new that has never been before. Not in our time or place. A collective distant memory of what has been and is now regained.
Was it always in us, born with us, or retrieved anew?
We don’t know, don’t question, something is happening.

The crew was 20 or so, now days later, still at it, down to the die hard garden regulars, sticking with it to the end,
Finishing up the field.

We stand back now and take a look.
Hold hands,
Give thanks,
Looking at the Stacked Sheaths in Round Shocks on the edge of the cut field.

It’s about as thrilling as life can get.

But wait, there’s more.
The fruits of labor.

How long do we let it dry and cure?
Till it’s ready; a few weeks.

What about rain? Don’t worry, it’ll dry.
The Sheaths laid on top protect the rest.
Kenge knows, he built a thatch wikki up,
Half way down the hollar by the Magical Waterfall.

Okay, someone suggests it’s time. They’re dry. How do they know?
I go out and check the Kernels, yeah, their hard, just like we get from the co-op. Damn, this is working.

Again, like National Geographic.
Take the Sheaths, put them on a tarp, bang them with sticks.
Gotta get the Kernels off the Stalk and then the Hulls off the Kernels.
In my everyday brown towel wrapped around my waist,
I feel like primitive man. Maybe I am.

Is this really how they do it?
Yeah, man, look, it’s happening.
Look again, it is happening.

I feel the thrill of it all,
Throwing the Kernels into the breeze winnowing away the Hulls.
Whew! We have left real live Wheat Kernels. Almost the end product.

I put them in the Corona hand grinding mill,
Turn it hard with powerful arms,
See more of the miracle,
The Grain becomes what was intended: Flour.

Now I go ahead, following through with all this.
I pump up some Spring Water,
Mix it into the Flour,
Add a bit of oil.

Right there in my hands,
Like making love to the whole universe.

I can feel the energy of the collective effort:
Of Brother’s and Sister’s,
Of the Earth,
Of the Elements,
Of the Cosmos.
Of the Divine Creator.

I roll out the Dough, making a Chapatti.
Lay it so gently on the wood stove grill.
Not too hot.
A simple Chapatti.

Now, can you imagine eating that?

At that moment, taking a bite, a whole New Human Being was born.

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