Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
The land that I love is the land that I'm working
In an interview today, I was asked about my connection to the land and whether it has changed over the years. Immediately, the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Take ‘em Away” popped into my head: “…land that I love is the land that I’m workin’, but it’s hard to love it all the time when your back is a-hurtin’. 😊
While that statement is true, that’s not my answer! We live and work in a stunningly beautiful valley. Early on in our careers, we took lots of pictures, gaped in awe, etc. We were tourists in our own home, so to speak. But sometimes when you’re working hard and have your head down, you can forget to look up and notice how amazing everything is.
I am reminded of this on my delivery route on Wednesday which takes me through the country to Lenoir. As I crest a hill on highway 18, the sunrise is in my rearview mirror and the purple mountains are in front of me. It never fails to take my breath away. I’m a captive audience.
So yeah, I guess my relationship with the land that I love, the land that feeds me, has changed a bit. It has deepened in its intensity, but I can sometimes tend to take that for granted. But not today. Today I’m noticing.
One of the reasons we've been harvesting so much produce on the farm is that Emily has single handedly turned the Charlotte market into a big leaue market! Here we are celebrating her "graduation" into the big leagues:)
Sheesh. What an emotional rollercoaster this year has been! We were on top of the world, ahead of the game, spring was being extra kind to us and them WHAMO-the wind storm damage set us back. We scrambled and everyone pushed extra hard to catch us back up, and then we got lucky and convinced Liz to come on board.
Back on top of the world. 7 is the magic number to keep Tumbling Shoals Farm ahead of the game of weeds and other disasters and we were cranking it out. Then WHAMO-we got dumped. One of our farmily broke up with us! I mean, witty charming us! I’m not going to lie, this hit us pretty hard and weighed our spirits down for an entire week. I mean, breaking up is hard to do! 😊
But we just got lucky again with a late applicant, available immediately, and looking specifically for farm work in western North Carolina! He called a week before the break up and I serendipitously had not gotten around to returning his call yet to tell him all of the positions had been filled. And now we’re back on top of the world today as he fit right in and everyone crushed it today.
While I much prefer to be walking on top of the world than to be carrying the weight of the world, I also understand that sometimes you need the dark to appreciate the light. Perhaps we just needed a reminder to pause for a moment and appreciate just how incredible our farmily really is and how much they accomplish. Thanks for your help with that.
We’ve been pushing hard to catch up this spring after the wind damage set us back. It’s a physical job on the laziest of days, but when you’re behind, it’s at least doubly so. Everyone dug deep and worked crazy hard to get us here. We owe the success of the crops to them. I don’t always know how best to express this to them, so I’m putting it to you. Please reply and tell the Tumbling Shoals farmily what this farm and the food they produce on it means to you! And thanks for being the reason we do this!
Here's what we're harvesting for you this week:
Zephyr squash: $2.25/pound
Green curly kale: $3/bunch
Collard Greens: $3/bunch
Rainbow Chard: $3/bunch
Baby lettuce salad mix: $3.50/compostable 5oz container
Japanese Scallions: $2/bunch
If ever you need your faith in humanity restored, have a crisis. There have been so many times when I experienced or witnessed communities coming together to help each other that I harbor a heady fondness for humanity. A month or so ago, I witnessed the community around a friend and his family come together in tiny little increments (less than $100 each) to save them from foreclosure. It was inspiring.
Today, we were the benefactor’s a farmer neighbor’s helping hand. Our walk-in cooler broke down on Saturday, during what just might be a record setting heat wave for May. Our back up cooler is WAY too small to handle our Tuesday harvest, and today was a holiday for most businesses (not farmers!), which complicated repair possibilities as well as rentals. But our neighbor farmers at Apple Brandy Beef responded and came to our rescue by lending us their spare refrigerated truck!
Once again, I am filled with gratitude and fondness for the folks that make up these small communities that add up to be humanity.
My doctor asked me today if I was stressed out. I thought about it, and replied honestly, “no.” You see, my blood pressure was a bit elevated today for the first time in all my history of annual physicals at this doctor. But I don’t feel “stressed out”. We dug deep last week and pushed ourselves as hard as we could to catch up, but we got a lot accomplished in that push, and that feels really good.
Sure, the deer just ate nearly an entire field of lettuce, but that’s just part of this whole farming gig. There’s nothing I can do about it after the fact, so we just turn around and move on to the next thing: double fencing the most beautiful carrot crop we’ve seen on this farm.
Maybe that’s why the Bonnie Tyler song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” has been running through my head all weekend. When you grow 50 different crops, sometimes you just have to “turn around” (bright eyes) and face a crop success instead of looking too long at a failure. So, we won’t have head lettuce. Big deal. But would you look at those carrots! (Okay, I realize that me “saying” this out loud means we need to go fence those carrots immediately). Oh, and you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head😊
Harrison Ford's new friend Lenny
Have you ever bought anything from someone? It’s an interesting dynamic—or at least it seems to be to me. You meet someone, make small talk, find things you have in common, discuss the item being sold/purchased, perhaps even get into the facts of life that are causing them to sell the item. Then you find yourselves making small chit chat while you wait for a notary to be available to certify the title transfer. Money changes hands, hands are shook, and you part ways.
It always feels wrong to say goodbye without any real chance at furthering the friendship you just spent a day or so creating. I always wish we’d have left a door for communication open somehow. Like exchanged emails or something, but we don’t because that’s just not normal. And we are normal.
The last time this happened to me, I purchased a motorcycle from a guy in Nebo, who I then ran into at Merlefest! We exchanged a hugs, and chatted for a bit, I even met his family, and again, left with no real chance at furthering the friendship. It just felt strange. Like I know them, but don’t.
So last week, we welcomed “Lenny” to our fleet, whom I purchased from a guy in Terrell, NC (now I know that town exists). Same thing, we both used to ride motorcycles (“used to” is why he was selling Lenny). We chatted about the strangeness of tricycles and not understanding the point of riding them. We spent a bit of time waiting on the notary, chatting away pleasantly, and then we shook hands and I left with Lenny. Again, that strange hollow feeling of closing the door on a potential friend. Single day friendships. Strange.
Only a couple of weeks ago, I said this:
I literally shrink down like an abused dog expecting the next blow when I say this, but “this spring has been pretty good to us so far”
Oops. Insert sheepish grin and shoulder shrug here. Because this abused dog got what she was expecting: mother nature’s revenge for feeling good about spring. Seriously, I think she hates spring. All that green and re-birth and renewal nonsense. It just makes her grumpy. And anybody liking spring is going to get a swift kick in the pants!
And so she kicked us swiftly in the pants with powerful gusts of wind that took down a couple of bays in our brand new (to us) “umbrellas” that we put there to deal with her excessive amounts of rain over the last few years. Sigh. Sometimes farming is frustrating.
But farmers are also resilient. Or crazy. Or stupid. So we spent the weekend lamenting and licking our wounds, and today, we were back at it: replacing parts and putting our little plastic castles back up because…..well because we’re either resilient, crazy, or stupid. But also because you’ve put your faith in us to feed you and feeding you feels better than any alternative we could think of.
Hosing off the frost on the lettuce at 28 degrees at 4am Sunday morning
Did today really just happen? I had to scramble this morning to dig out my box of summer clothes, unsure of weather (get it?) or not I should actually put away the long johns. The conversation revolved around sunscreen, swimming holes, and shandy. And the tomatoes grew.
It has arrived, my friends. The shifty season. We call it spring, but it’s moodier than that. And more secretive. It moves through the weeks all shifty-eyed, hiding its intentions beneath its trench coat. We, the farmers, just follow it around like police, trying to predict its next move so we can catch it in the act.
Should we cover? Uncover? Plant? Pull our hair out? So many possibilities.
I spent the last week hobnobbing with and learning from the movers and the shakers in the sustainable agriculture community. Nothing can make you feel as insignificant and ordinary as milling about in this crowd, I tell you. At the same time though, my brain is overflowing with new information and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the willingness of these giants to share that information with the likes of me!
And now, in the days of coming down from such collective effervescence of a thousand like-minded (ish) agriculturists coming to learn together, I find myself in a tangled jungle of thoughts and ideas. It becomes difficult to sort them all out in a practical way so that we can implement them on our farm in this season or an upcoming season. See, the very seasonal nature of our work makes it difficult to implement any new techniques if they come about after the plan is made. A plan has us already taking step after step along an already forged path and deviation means looking up from the path, risking our footing, while things are coming at us left and right.
But I’m trying to sort it all out and relay it to Jason in small conversations organized around a single topic rather than one giant idea salad.
Because we need the space for spring crops, we have torn out the winter crops and will no longer be attending the winter market. We are planning for the best season ever in 2019, which requires big space. We will miss all your smiling hungry faces, but we'll see you in April!
Meanwhile, we are as busy as ever purchasing seeds and supplies and hiring our "farmily" and you could be a part of this by purchasing a harvest share! It works like a subscription where you pay for the season up front (or in increments) so we get the cash flow when we're spending the most money and you get the produce when we're producing the most produce! All the details can be found here, you can sign up here, and you can always contact us with any questions or concerns or to set up a payment plan!