Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Suddenly lonely farm dog and summer weeds about to die in the first frost
The frost is coming soon. It’s hard to believe it was 100° just two weeks ago, and now we’re saying goodbye to summer crops and turning our heads forward to carrots and cauliflower and winter hats and freezing fingers. We’ve said goodbye to half of our farmily. We’re now comprised of only four of us and one lonely and bored farm dog and three ecstatic cats. Yes friends, it’s the goodbye season.
But we’re prepared for goodbye. We’re tired of the incessant harvesting of peppers and okra and eggplant. We’re ready for carrot digging, and radish pulling. We’re ready to open cans of preserved summer tomatoes for soup season (of course, we’ve still got more tomatoes coming in the greenhouse). And most of all, we’re ready for those summer weeds that we let escape us during the mad season to die of their own volition in the frost. So, as bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to good people and good food, the fall is not without it’s own glory.
It’s just that season. The one where all the impossible task lists shrink to questions of whether or not we have enough work for everyone (we do). The one where naps seem like more of a possibility. The one where the most pressing issue is what to be for Halloween. It’s a slow breath out, October (now that it’s here for real), as we shed the weight of the world for warm clothes and begin to reflect on all that has passed way too quickly this season. We decompress, we deconstruct, we breath, we plan for the next season.
I want to excuse my sentence with an apology for being “master of the obvious”, however, it is not at all obvious that it is October 1st today. I mean, huh? I try really hard not to complain about the heat so that I don’t feel bad complaining about the cold, and know I was sort of hoping for a warm September, but it’s October now and the nature of things is that I’m not supposed to wish I were floating the river in October! But somehow, “feels like 112°” has me eyeing up my tubes with an indecent longing.
I should be waxing poetic about low angles of the sun, and evenings of prosecco on the porch, and lazy Sundays (okay, I admit I had one of those, I just didn’t leave the air conditioning!), but instead I find myself drawn to the subject of sweat. And continuously screen shotting my weather app, because WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO TALK ABOUT?
And so we arrive, floating on the gentle evening breezes of late September, into autumn. The days are layered into neat stacks of seasons with the mornings bundled in the sweatshirts and winter hats of late winter, the mid-days coated in the sweat of summer, and the evenings a slow unfurling of a tepid night. I am drawn to the porch, and the languid rustle of leaves, and the low slant of the sun that transforms the sky into cerulean.
Contrary to common belief, the living is not easy in summertime. Summertime is sweat and dirt, and the incessant rush of life from the soil that demands planted, weeded, de-bugged, and harvested. Autumn is the drifting of leaves on a lake, the slow stretch of the cat in the sunshine, the heavy lidded afternoon nap beneath curtains swaying in the warm breeze. Autumn, and the living is easy.
I hear a lot about living in the moment. And complaints about how cell phones and their evolution into miniature computers has none of us living in the moment. To be fair, I do think my “device” has changed my brain a little bit. I mean, all of my lists are kept there, and my calendar, so I never have to actually remember anything. And it’s true that I find myself thinking in social media bites (oh! I should get a picture of that for social media). Guilty.
But as I was canning tomatoes the other day, it occurred to me that we’ve never just truly lived in the moment. I mean, I wasn’t just sitting on the porch enjoying that moment of tomato season. Nope, I was thinking about the future when there aren’t going to be any tomatoes. And yesterday, when I was smoking jalapenos to preserve them into the winter months when we won’t have that flavor (or heat) again.
This time of year often churns me into a preservation frenzy. When the evening weather is perfect for porch sitting and just enjoying the moment, I find myself rushing around putting things in jars because THIS MOMENT ISN’T GOING TO BE HERE MUCH LONGER! I know, I know, the irony. But maybe I’ll enjoy that winter moment when I’m eating some crazy delicious home grown organic chipotle tomato sauce from food I preserved in late September. Maybe.
The Tumbling Shoals Farm Crew (minus Jason) at Farm Prom hosted by our farmer friends at Bluebird Farm last Saturday
Have you ever taken a “real age” test? Where you answer a bunch of questions about lifestyle and habits and you get back a “real age” (hint, if you want to be younger than you are, you can’t ride a motorcycle😊).
The other day, a friend of mine was talking about being of “retirement age” but her “financial age” was much younger. Ha! I get a kick out of the idea of a “financial age.” And you know, organic farming and all the healthy eating and constant physical activity might keep me young, but it especially keeps me financially young😉. Luckily, we’ll be so young physically that we won’t need to retire!
Isn’t compost amazing? I mean, have you ever just gotten up close to a pile of rotting anything and watched? I mean, Thoreau had something there (especially the being supported by a wealthy aunt so he could watch bugs thing). It’s so amazing! You get a bird’s eye view of an incredibly efficient industry of breaking things down. Everyone filling a roll in the big picture, completely unaware (I assume) of how their little part ties in with the other little parts to form the system that returns waste to nature.
I can’t help but assume we’re the same way. Just plugging along here doing our little farming thing, contributing to a whole that we don’t fully understand. We fill a little tiny niche in our community, which fills a tiny niche in the world, which fills a tiny niche in the universe, and so on. I don’t need to understand the whole picture to feel comfortable filling my little niche in my little community. I’m perfectly content to know I’m a part of your world and you’re a part of mine, and that we somehow fit into a larger picture.
My diesel dad tackles the 100 degree farm: this is the reality
When it’s cold in the winter, and we are tucked safely indoors with the heat and the hot chocolate and the pretty Christmas lights, it’s easy to romanticize working on an organic farm. Isn’t it? I mean, we even do it. When we’re gazing at seed catalogues all misty-eyed, envisioning the perfect season with the perfect weather and everyone working hard in perfect harmony here in this beautiful valley.
Somehow the sweat never enters the romantic vision. Nor the back aches. It’s just human nature. Especially young human nature. Young people envision dirty smiling people posing for a group picture after accomplishing some great but difficult goal and it make our hearts sing. Yet somehow, the abusive sun and dripping sweat day after day after day remain evasive to our romantic montage.
Then we find ourselves deep in a North Carolina August haze with our muscles sore, our skin sunburned, sweat dripping into our eyes, and yet ANOTHER weed to pull and can’t remember how exactly we got here and wondering whether we should question our own sanity.
Or at least I think that’s what happens to some people. Despite the brutal sun and aching back (and feet and hips) and ALL those weeds we thought we would prevent in our romantic winter visions, I still love my job. But I’ve been around this rodeo before. Somewhere in the back of my mind, while sipping hot cider with my feet up in front of the wood stove, envisioning the perfect season blah blah blah, there’s the little cynic laughing and remembering the sometimes harsh reality that is running a farm. Even a lovely little organic farm set in a picturesque valley with a gurgling creek running through it.
Suddenly I feel like a summer annual. It’s as if summer has nearly slipped by and I haven’t done all the summer things yet and so I find myself cramming in Sunday activities like summer annuals suddenly making thousands of seeds. This Sunday was farm Olympics, next Sunday is a visit from my parents, the next Sunday is another float because not everyone got to go the first time around and we’re trying to get floated out before it’s too chilly to sit in the water for 3 hours. And suddenly, it’s going to be September. Just like that.
Maybe it feels like this for everyone, but when your summer consists of only Sunday afternoons (the rest being work time), mid-August brings this scrambling feeling. Like I just didn’t get enough lazy easy living. Not enough baseball, not enough aquatic activities, not enough porch sitting. So don’t hate me if I hope for a warm September, so I can finish all the summer activities.
This Sunday's Float
As you probably already know, one of my favorite activities is to float the river. Just ooze along wherever the lazy current takes you. You’ve made a plan, of sorts, in that you placed a vehicle at the take out and then put in somewhere up river, but you can’t do much about much except float along and enjoy yourself.
In some ways, that describes this season on the farm. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re still bustling about trying to get all the crops planted, tended and harvested and ready for market, but by this point we’re simply putting one foot in front of the other-following the plan we made in December. We are already well down the river of 2019. We can note the flaws in the plan and hope we remember when we get off this boat in December and circle back around to begin again, but there’s not a lot we can do about it at this point.