Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
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.
I heard snippets of an interesting TED talk on Saturday. It was by musician Amanda Palmer, of whom I’d never heard, and whose music was not for me, but I found myself in a teary-eyed inspiration all the same. In a gist: Amanda puts her music out there for “free”, then asks her fans, etc. to support her in her artistic endeavors via kickstarter or other internet mediums. It wasn’t so much that which made my eyes blurry, but what she said about putting her faith in people. About asking people to support her and trusting them to do so. She calls it the “art of asking.” I realized that we too, as farmers, put a lot of faith in you. We ask you to show up on Wednesdays and Saturdays to purchase the fruits of our labor, we ask you to purchase those fruits in advance in the form of the harvest shares, and we ask you to put your faith in us to do our very best to bring you the best cleanest, healthiest fruits and veggies possible. As humans, slogging through this world together, we ask these things of each other.
We’ve had a tough season. We’ve been hit with hail, floods, a late frost, a tomato disease that thwarted all our extreme efforts to keep tomato diseases at bay, and just yesterday, the worst flooding this valley has ever seen (with potential for more rain yet in the forecast). Yet today is a day of hope. The sun is shining for the first time in two weeks, the clouds are white, fluffy and unthreatening, and I’m thinking of you and all your outpouring of care and concern when you heard about our late blight disaster. And so here we are again, putting our faith in you to support us through this difficult season. Here we are, asking you to eat fewer tomatoes this year, to put your faith in us to grow lots of other beautiful and tasty veggies for you to enjoy, and to come back next year when we, once again, have the most beautiful and delicious organic tomatoes for you (as well as all the other delicious veggies!). And we thank you for your loyal support.
Yesterday they were fine, today they're half dead
To think we could grow things out of season. To think we could grow desert plants in the wet, humid southeast. To think we could grow anything! This is the arrogance of man. We thought we were finally set up. With the “little” hoop house, we could plant super early and have tomatoes in early June, and with the big tomato umbrella, we could have them right up until frost, or close at least. We ran from the weather, but we could not hide. For late blight, never before seen on this farm, blows in with the wind, and devastates overnight. Imagine us last week, with our hands about our faces like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, as the horror descended upon us. Our minds filled with the innate injustice of farming: “How could it be?”, “Why us?”, “What did we do wrong?” The answer, my friends, just blew in on the wind: the arrogance of man. We cannot control everything we mean to control. Sometimes, nature happens to be cruel.
The not so super moon (that never actually showed up on Sunday for its party here)
We get a lot of cooking magazines around here. When you live on a vegetable farm, you’re always looking for new recipes. No one ever told me I shouldn’t look at these magazines when I’m hungry though, so I did just that this past weekend. I mean, it’s not like grocery shopping! Seems harmless, but as a result, I planned enough meals using the farm’s veggies for what seems like several weeks (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Luckily, my folks showed up tonight just in time to help us eat all those meals I’d planned! And our insurance agent told me that if we didn’t stop posting pictures of what we eat around here, he was going to come over for supper too. Bon Appetit!
mixed veggie lo mein
Two things happened today that heightened my own appreciation for what we do here. First, I uploaded pictures from my camera to find only pictures of food we had prepared from farm ingredients, and second, I received a call for a wrong number. The woman on the other end of the line was disappointed to not find Marjorie on the other end of the line and then asked if anyone in our household had diabetes. I admit that I giggled a little bit, and replied that we were an organic vegetable farm as if that were enough answer in itself. But afterward, I thought that maybe it is. “I don’t do this for my health” is usually an apt statement when applied to one’s work. But in our case, perhaps it is done for our health. At least partly. I often get asked about the particular nutritional content of one vegetable or another and I have to admit ignorance. It’s a luxury, perhaps, to never really need to worry about those little particulars, which we don’t because we assume we’re doing okay just eating all the stuff that comes from the farm. In the absence of work benefits like health insurance and paid sick leave or vacation time, food from the farm becomes a hugely important benefit.
Nathan harvesting lettuc in the rain
Mitch in the rain
A month or so ago this season started to look a little too reminiscent of the 2009 year of the flood (what was the Chinese zodiac sign that year? The water buffalo?). Tired of wet feet, Nathan decided to go get himself a pair of rubber boots. Always the gambler, Jason promised to buy those boots for Nathan if, after he bought them, the season dried up. Sometimes with superstition, a farmer feels like it just can’t hurt to err on the superstitious side. And for a week or so, it looked like it was going to pay off. But here lately, well….it looks more like the investment in boots is going to pay off for Nathan’s feet. Really, if you’ve been praying for rain, stop it! We are floating around the farm here. The mud is getting so deep that Nathan’s actually likely to lose those new boots in it. Alas, what can a farmer do about the weather except bet on rain boots.