Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
fall is in the air
After Jason’s accident, I was worried how I was going to get it all done around here. For a couple of days, everything seemed daunting and impossible as I tried to keep my cool face on for Jason. But then the rescue happened. Parents came rushing down to take on the household duties and help on the farm. The community reached out with their safety net with offers of food, labor, anything we needed! A neighbor even offered to take time off from work to help out! Suddenly, I found myself getting surprising things done on the farm, and coming home to find the kitchen clean, supper cooked, etc. Wow! Last Saturday, a farmer friend helped work our farmers’ market stand in Boone. This week, two of our former employees are here helping out and another fellow farmer is coming to help us get the harvest in and the shares packed tomorrow. Then a crew organized by another former employee/fellow farmer is coming on Thursday to help us get that hoop house up before the plants arrive the following week. I’ve never even known gratitude like this before. I mean, we’re going to be okay. We really are going to get by with a little help from our friends.
When my grandfather passed away many years back, we discovered things that my grandmother was unable to do simply because she hadn’t done them in 50 years. She didn’t know how to drive or write a check. Little things we take for granted. I remember thinking to myself that I was never going to let that happen to me. I was going to be self sufficient. There would be nothing that I relied upon a partner to do. 10 years down that road, it seems quite the lofty goal. The reality is, we have partners for more reasons than love and companionship. We have partners because there’s really too much work for one person to manage alone. This is true in running a household and running a business, but it’s especially true for the running of both. So after Jason’s now infamous burning accident landed him in Winston-Salem luxury accommodations for the weekend, I find myself in a very similar situation (minus a few years) to my grandmother’s all those years ago. Wait, payroll taxes are due? How does he do that? Wait, we have to build another hoop house before the end of the month? I never touched the very beginning of the process! Each day of his absence I find myself in awe of all the little things my partner does that I barely even notice. I find it daunting to tackle the mountain of tasks that the two of us take on every day. The first to go, for me, is food. Today, it was high time I ate something nourishing. I’ve been sleeping little and driving lots, eating bits here and there, but hardly anything we grew on the farm. But I didn’t even have the energy to “make” a salad. I just shoved a handful of arugula in my mouth and bit into a pepper. There, check “cooking” off my list. Boy, do I miss my partner.
Cleaning up the hoop house for strawberry planting
It’s September! Nobody even told me! Do you know how I found out? I began to lose focus a little bit. With more or less all the fall planting done, management of the farm switches to mostly harvesting, washing and packing and disassembly. We begin to prepare the farm for hibernation. Aside from the harvesting, washing, packing and markets, the schedules and deadlines get a little fuzzier. Well, that trellis needs to be disassembled but it doesn’t absolutely have to happen today. So I find my mind wandering. I start to read more, hang out with friends more, watch football, think about vacation… I’m just not completely focused on the farm like I am the rest of the season. It was these signs that clued me in to the fact that it is September.
My brother and family watching the pepper roaster in action
My brother has a farm too. While it’s not a full time endeavor (yet), it does come with a vast amount of hard work innate in every kind of farm. My parents are fond of saying (especially after they’ve put in more than their fair share of work days on our respective farms), “we don’t understand why BOTH of our kids want to farm!” I think what they really mean to say is, “why is it that both of our children have chosen paths of lesser economic return than their parents?” But I think they are secretly proud of that too. Because if we get down to thinking about it, that was a value they taught us too. That money isn’t everything. That love and passion and vitality are just as valuable (although admittedly it would be hard to pay the mortgage with love). They taught us the value of courage and hard work and perseverance and that the outcome of those things was more than a sore back, but rather a profound satisfaction from a job well done. Difficult though it is, we love our farm work. This love shows when our parents come to visit and we waltz them around the farm, proudly showing them all the innovations and improvements we’ve made in their absence like schoolchildren showing off our school projects. Or when we serve them a meal made from food we coaxed out of the soil with our very own hands. It is this intangible prosperity that fulfils our souls if not our pocketbooks.
Nathan bundled up in August!
August. The eighth month of the year. Akin to augere to increase. Usually that means an increase in temperature. But this year it seems to mean decrease in that department. Gretchen left us last Saturday to move on to higher education. So now we are three. So August, this year to us, means an increase in workload. But August also means for me a shift to auto pilot. By this time in August, we’re nearly finished sowing the fall crops. My computer no longer lists an impossible array of tasks to accomplish, so we adjust to blindly plugging along, following a measure of routine. By this point, we’re in a groove with each other. We move in graceful arcs around each other in a semblance of a dance we could do blindfolded. I have more and more days where my mind just draws a blank. I don’t mean stupidly (though I have those days too), but comfortably: days when you just can’t find anything to fret about. Perhaps it’s some sort of resignation, but it feels more akin to acceptance. Where things are just set in motion and you refuse to worry about them anymore. I’m having one of those days, well, weeks, maybe even months. I am aware, somewhere in my conscience, that there is still some scrambling around left to do, still some large projects looming, but I can’t resist the ease of cool evenings, open windows, and the front porch. It’s an alluring lullaby, the end of August. More and more fields trade in their feverish reproductive fervor for a simple cover with no expectation other than to hold onto the soil over the winter and hold onto hope for the spring. Even the buckwheat with its whirring metropolis of insects scrambling to store enough sugar for the winter season sounds like a sigh.
Things are looking up! We dried out enough to get into the fields to plant fall crops.
I am an escape artist. Just call me Houdini. Well, no, not that kind of escape artist. I am the kind of escape artist whose motto is “when the going gets tough, the tough read fiction.” Lots of fiction. Lots of young adult dystopian fiction. I dive into those dystopian worlds with fervor greater than that with which I dive into peppers. And that’s saying something. But you see, the problems and challenges in those worlds are tangible and far greater than any we might face here on the farm. And the heroes of young adult fiction almost always overcome. Despair and redemption on a grandiose scale that somehow manages to convince me that our challenges here are just really not so bad.
I devour you with an astounding ferocity.
My mind craves you r release from my mundane pain.
An efficient addict, I plan ahead-
Reach for the next fix before I reach the end of this one-
A pile of books beside my head,
I scour the reviews and recommendations-
The New York Times bestsellers-
The NPR interviews.
Your pain is always well deserved.
Wonderfully dramatic yet visible losses
We can believe in.
Big happy fluffy fun clouds
I noticed yesterday that there’s been a dearth of laughter around here. It seems we’ve been taking everything just a bit too serious lately. I noticed yesterday because I spent it hula-hooping and dancing and just engaging in general fun. It was a day in which laughter abounded. In a season with as many challenges as this one has provided, I guess you just put your nose to the grind stone and forget to look up and enjoy living sometimes. I’m making a mental note to do that more often. Because really, when it’s not raining (which isn’t that often I know, but still…), the weather has been catastrophically perfect. Breezy, sunny with big puffy fun clouds meandering along, and not very hot. Perfect for bubbling laughter. I might even make us some hula hoops to hang about as gentle reminders to just stop and have a little fun sometimes.
One of our guest workers, Madeleine
I just answered a questionnaire that asked me, among other things: what’s your favorite thing about being a farmer. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. There’s this little nugget of satisfaction inherent in growing food for people. Food is so many things to us. Food is one way to experience different cultures. Most of our gatherings are based around food. When someone in our community is suffering, we bring them food. Because most importantly, communities are built around food. I’ve never witnessed that more than this year. As the farming community suffered one weather calamity after another, the community built around local food has reached out and offered up the metaphorical casserole. You’ve purchased shares, you’ve come out to weed, you’ve proffered smiles, hugs, humor, and plenty of encouragement. A few of you even slogged out through the incessant downpour on Saturday to support those intrepid farmers who dragged their humid harvest down to sell. I just wanted to say “thanks”. Thanks for being what I love most about being a farmer.
The long form :)
I am not usually a procrastinator. I don’t have time to be. At least for those things I don’t absolutely hate doing, I’m not. And the massive amount of paperwork involved in organic certification is one of those things. Yep, you got me. I have a secret penchant for paperwork. Something about filling in all those little check boxes just gets me giddy. And this year, under a new regime down at our certifier, we had to go back to the long application so there are even more of those little boxes to check! But also, I somehow let the deadline sneak up on me until I found myself madly pushing papers around in my office attempting to pull it all together in a matter of days. Yikes! Thus, I am here by sending the blog on a week’s hiatus while I pile paper in a heap and get them to the certifier by, gulp, Friday.
A plan is like the promise of yesterday's rainbow
The sun is shining! What more can I say really. These past few weeks have reminded me of the Jack Johnson song that goes “sometimes the heart is no place to be singing from at all”. It has all felt a lot like a losing battle against things we cannot control (despite our extreme efforts). For months, nothing has dried, our puddle tadpoles are getting large enough to turn into frogs, and I feel like there’s mold on my soul. And mud on my soles. Plenty of it. Would that we had grown rice this year. Alas, we didn’t. But around here, despair prompts action. And we have a plan. A plan to rescue the farm from the jaws of this season’s would be defeat. There’s so much hope and faith in a plan. It settles the stomach, scratches the itch, and focuses the mind. The concrete steps laid out before us in a plan allows us to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, heads down, eyes on the steps in spite of the fog of despair that might otherwise cloud our vision and get us lost.