Waxing Poetic (farm blog)

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Posted 11/17/2009 9:32am by Shiloh Avery.

Ornamental cabbage

I wonder what the difference between “thanking” and “giving thanks” is.  It’s a fair question this time of year.  Is it the balance between giving and receiving?  “Thank you for the gift” versus “here is my gift of thanks”.  This reminds me of a Billy Collins (former poet laureate) poem called “The Lanyard” in which the speaker is remembering his gift to his mother of a lanyard (look it up, I had to) made at camp:

“She gave me life, and milk from her breast,

And I gave her a lanyard…..”

 

“’Here are the thousands of meals,’ she said,

And here is clothing and good education,’

‘and here is your lanyard,’ I replied”

 

I’d like to give thanks to Billy Collins for that poem (“Here are my words, my life’s labor in poetry” he says, “and here is my thanks” I say).

So in this final week of the Tumbling Shoals Farm 2009 production season, I’d like to take this moment to give you my thanks.  No really, thank you for your smiling faces at farmers market that carry me through the crazy early mornings till noon, and thanks for your purchases which allow Tumbling Shoals Farm to continue in its existence and allows us to keep growing food, thanks for your encouraging words as we crept out of the camper into our new house, thanks for coming out to the farm on farm tour, for the tomato tasting, and to purchase produce.  Thank you for your support.

This Saturday we will be at BOTH Hickory downtown farmers’ market (7-ish to 1 pm) and Boone from 10am-2pm.  This marks the official end to our 2009 season since we skip town soon after.  I promise to pine away for you this winter and it will be your faces in my mind as I kick it back into gear in January.

 

Posted 11/9/2009 5:13pm by Shiloh Avery.

Moving the box springs in


Okay, so some engineering is
involved in moving into a tiny
house.

Shiloh relaxing in new chair

Now this is more like vacation

Finished house

Really finished
house!

(Our "vacation")

 

It was my first day back on the farm since our "vacation.”  Well, unless you count last Friday’s harvest/wash day and Saturday at market.  And with this return to work comes the season of deconstruction.  We like to call it “putting the farm to bed,” but it involves a lot of something akin to destruction.  I almost wished I was mad about something today as I forced energy into my yanking on landscape fabric held fast by weeds.  But after moving out of the camper, it’s hard to muster up anger about anything.  That’s partially why I have so little to say today, but also the computer is still located in the camper which means the longer I ramble, the longer I have to be in the camper and not in the house!

Ornamental cabbage

Ornamental cabbage for your Thanksgiving centerpieces.

 

 

Posted 11/3/2009 7:31am by Shiloh Avery.

house

Instead of the beach, we're taking a moving into house "vacation" this week!

I'll let you know when the party is:)

 

 

Jason was gone for three days and nights last week and I found myself feeling a little depressed and grumpy by the end of that time.  Now, some might conclude that it was his absence alone that makes me this way.  Isn’t that sweet?  But Jason knows better.   He said, “well, I haven’t been home to feed you,” and it dawned on me how terrible I’d been eating while he was away.  Eating junk, skipping meals, etc.  Right after that conversation, I made myself a big ole salad and ate an apple.  Nearly immediately I began to feel a little better.  It’s amazing how intimately connected the mind is to the body.  And how nutrition drastically affects this connection.  And how crazy it is that I can manage to eat poorly when I live on an organic vegetable farm and I still have produce!!!  Incidentally, we just watched the film “Milk” (which was great, by the way), and the defense for the man who shot the mayor and Harvey Milk was that his diet of junk food made him crazy.  I’m not saying that the defense and the resulting sentence was justified, but I am saying that if his diet was junky, it probably didn’t help his crazy problem.  They called it “The Twinkie Defense.”

 

Posted 10/26/2009 6:53pm by Shiloh Avery.

We took advantage of "migrant labor" and a sunny day to put the plastic on the first hoophouse:

Held together with duct tape

Held together with duct
tape

All paws on deck!

All paws on deck!

Just about to put the plastic up

About to put the main plastic on

use #101 for tennis balls (who knew?!)

Use #101 for tennis
balls (who knew?)

a game of twister?

A game of twister?

And the plastic is on!

And it's up!

 

This is the time for big slow change.  The pace of life slows to a “lazy” crawl as the sun sets earlier and earlier, leaving us with a gradual increase in evening and night and sleep.  We find ourselves with “leisure” time and piles of books left unread throughout the season.  We bake more bread, watch more movies, and just plain get less done.  Call it the unproductive season. I still have lists, of course, but it seems like few things on them are crisis anymore so it becomes easier and easier to put them off.  Perhaps the biggest slow change of all to happen this season is the finishing of our house!  We are moving in!  We had planned to escape to the beach next week, but instead have decided that moving into our newly finished house (well, almost finished) is a higher priority.  Jason promised me that we would do no work except move into the house (we’ll see), but I was easily swayed.  We sat around the other day planning all the things we would cook in our real kitchen with our real oven.  Oh, the small pleasures in life (and big ones).  We’ve been joking for a week that we’re going to quit doing dishes and instead just pile them into the wheelbarrow and haul them up to the house to be cleaned by our new automatic dishwasher!  I can’t wait to have a soak in the tub.  Oh! I could go on and on about how excited we are to move out of the camper and into our real house. See pictures of the house here!

 

Posted 10/19/2009 6:19pm by Shiloh Avery.

Fall field 2009

Half of this year's fall field in the beautiful Tumbling Shoals Valley

 

I have a thing for french fries.  I consider myself a connoisseur.  And no, McDonalds fries are not really up to snuff, but they’ll do in a pinch.  And this was a pinch, let me tell you.  We were all sitting around at the library discussing Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and local food (and why everyone should love Tumbling Shoals Farm) and there was all this guilt.  It seemed that reading that book elicited a lot of guilt from folks around here.  There was a funny story about being in the grocery store suffering a mild panic attack thinking, “there’s nothing in here I can buy!” 

But all this discussion about eating close to the source did not elicit guilt in me, my friends, oh no!  It ignited an incalculable desire for french fries.  I had already consumed my daily dose of local healthy veggies, yes sir, I was headed for McDonalds.  This was a pinch, after all.  I should have gone through the drive through.  Despite all my scoffing at the mere principle of a drive through, I should have driven through.  I even considered it, but my bladder and the usual excessive cleanliness of any McDonalds restroom dictated otherwise.  But then came the guilt.  I guess you could call it that.  But really it was more a fear of embarrassment, of getting caught.  I parked, thanking the inertia that has us still driving an anonymous van rather than one painted with the Tumbling Shoals Farm logo.  I walked into the rear entrance, ostensibly to use the restroom first, but probably just in case I got caught on the way in, I still had the ready excuse of the restroom.  But then my desire for salt and fat had me up front in front of all those people.  My eyes darted furtively around me, “why is that man looking at me that way, does he know me?”  “What if someone here saw the article in the Welcome to Wilkes magazine?”  I wished for a disguise while I silently tapped my foot waiting for the contraband, cringing every time the door opened with fear of a familiar face.  I nearly ran to the van with my booty and relief washed over me as I pulled away.  I got away with it!  And then, to my desperately awaiting mouth went a french fry and woosh, all of that anticipated joy was lost.  Ugh.  Not even worth it.  Old stale McDonalds french fries.  Should have stuck with local stuff.

 

Posted 10/12/2009 6:08pm by Shiloh Avery.
purple cabbage
Purple cabbage
October asters
October Asters
Grackels
A large flock of grackels
taking off

When most people think of the seasons, they think of winter, spring, summer and fall.  You and I might think something more like greens, summer squash, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.  In many parts of Africa, there are but two seasons commonly acknowledged: rainy and dry. But around here, there are a lot more signs of the seasonality of things.  There is the Turkey visitation season (last year I counted more than 40 in our local flock!) There is the season of the blue jays.  There is the spring fireworks season with the spectacular dogwood, cherry and redbud explosion of colorful blooms.  There is the passing through of the Northern Flickers and the hatching of the Swallows and Indigo Buntings.  There is the explosion of the tick population and their subsequent disappearance (a much celebrated season around here).  There is the buzzing of the Tupelo Gum when the bees find it blooming and the blue season of the Tupelo berries.  There is hunting season when those pesky deer seem to disappear.  And now: now it is the purple season.  Wild native purple asters are awakening the green forests before the forests can awe us with their own color explosion.  And the iridescent purple grackles have returned en force.  Open the door and a thunderous explosion of purple tinted wings temporarily clouds the sky. 

 

Posted 10/5/2009 9:35pm by Shiloh Avery.

Savoy cabbage plant

A recycled picture of a savoy cabbage (the camera with new pictures is on a road trip)

 

A year or so ago I read an article in the High Country Magazine about a few local Ashe County farmers that I knew.  Most of them had come into farming as a second career.  You know: left a corporate career to play in fields of barley thing.  They spoke of the career switch as a search for a slower, simpler life.  I’m sure now, that the interviews must have taken place in October.  I laughed at the time.  “the slower, simpler life.”  While I never found myself climbing the corporate ladder, I have had a couple nine to five jobs in my time on my way to this land here, and I recall the nine to five life with free weekends a much simpler and slower life.  Not satisfying, mind you, but definitely slower and simpler.  But now October has arrived and my tired body is slowing down, the cool weather is slowing the crops down, and the shorter days have me inside at a reasonable hour (kind of like nine to five).  So yeah, I can see their point now. 

 

Posted 9/28/2009 7:17pm by Shiloh Avery.

flood up against a bridge


Our little creek becomes a pond!

a new river forms


a new river forms to feed the
creek
 

water rushing over new flower beds

Water flowing over the newly planted bed

flooded creek

Little Tumbling Shoals Creek
over the irrigation line
 

Like bookends to a most challenging season, floods arrived this weekend bigger and badder than even the spring floods.  This time, it’s too late to panic or really even worry.  All the crops that suffer from rain are on their way out anyway and as long as the water doesn’t sit too long, the fall crops will be okay.  All the same, I can’t help but remark on the coincidence of this most recent flood.  As if to say, “we survived.”  We move on.

The seed catalogues have begun to arrive in the mail, which pushes me into a Pavlovian planning session.  Jason says there should be a support group for people like me: SCA (seed catalogues anonymous).  Seed catalogues are inherently exciting with their bright pictures of beautiful veggies; I want to grow everything in them!  Last year, I’m afraid, Jason gave me a little bit too much free reign with the seed order and we ended up growing seven different kinds of eggplant.  And I won’t even get into the chilies.  But this is an exciting time of year.  This year especially as we venture into many new things, including a move out of the camper into a new house!  We expand to full capacity in annual crops, we’re planting blueberries and blackberries and asparagus, and we’re constructing three “hoop houses” to extend the season and keep rain off.  It all begins with the arrival of the seed catalogues.  Feel free to make requests!

 

Posted 9/21/2009 5:31pm by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh drilling the top purlin

Jason going with his gut intinct

Celebrating the assembly of our puzzle

The assembly of our "puzzle"

 

Jason had us do this little exercise once where instead of saying “the government,” we say, “the people” since “the government” is supposed to be an extension of “the people.”  The idea was to put a face on that entity. “The People” have recently launched an initiative called “Know your farmer, know your food.”  Wow.  Are the feds catching on?  You can watch a brief video of secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack stiff in his suit and tie talking about local food: www.youtube.com/usda, and comment.

I’d like to propose a similar initiative called “Know who you’re feeding.”  See, this whole concept is a circle really.  You are on a first name basis with the person who grows your food and thus, know how your food was grown. But it works that way for me too.  Knowing that John’s daughter is in South America, and that Susan’s cat is sick, and that Mikelle and Mike just found a little dog that her dad adopted and that Becky’s twins love green beans and the color orange makes people real to me. And real people with real faces and lives make me the farmer care about what I’m feeding them!  I love when you bring your kids (or parents) to farmers market and introduce them to me.  I love knowing about your lives.  It’s a community:  A living organism.  My role in that community is to grow food.  Others have different roles, and together, we make a thriving community.  Oops, I guess I should have turned on the sap alertJ

A lot of us complain that the heart of the problem with our food system is that it’s centralized.  Well, this may be true but I think the real problem is that it’s anonymous.  There are no faces on either side of that system, so no real reason to care.  In a centralized anonymous food system, you don’t know how your food was grown and the farmer doesn’t have to tell anyone (the exception being certified organic). Don’t get me wrong, I realize that we small scale growers cannot entirely meet the food demand.  We don’t often grow grain, for example, but we serve a very important role in connecting people with the land their food is grown on and with the folks who do that work.  Of course I think that’s a very important role in the local community and food system.  I’m glad “the people” appears to think so too!

 

 

Posted 9/14/2009 8:27pm by Shiloh Avery.

Fall field 2009

I think it’s always like this:  the feeling that I’m trying to hold onto the last particles of sand as they slip through my fingers.  What was once a mountain of sand in the spring that I thought we might never see the end of is now just a few grains.  Slippery little suckers.  We watch the summer crops ease into retirement and the summer heat relax to the song of the cicada.  We’re in the penultimate week of the harvest shares and we’re talking end game with Maggie and all of it makes me just a bit sad.  Like a little family is breaking apart. Just grains of sand in the wind ("we are star dust...").  With a promise of renewal in the green of the fall garden.  It’s just a promise, but it’s enough for me to slide into all of this farm disassembly that begins to happen this time of year. We call it “putting the farm to bed.”  It’s a slow process, but the signs of its approach are here.

Savoy cabbage plant

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