Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Look at those innocent dogs...
I know this may come as a great shock (I’d tell you to sit down but I probably can assume that you already are), but I get grumpy sometimes. It comes straight from this crazy privileged notion that things should just go my way. I mean, it would be a lot easier! Today was one of those days. Before our Monday morning “meeting” was even completed the dogs were chasing each other through the pepper field. Those of you who know me, know how serious I am about my pepper infatuation. It’s some serious adoration folks. And there they were, completely ignoring my wishes, possibly trampling my little baby pepper plants (insert fist raised in indignation!). These are the days when I throw myself into young adult dystopian fiction. It makes me feel better. No really, there’s nothing like the imminent end of the world to dwarf your own problems. It’s all about perspective, I suppose, and tomorrow the dogs are forgiven, just let me get a few more chapters under my belt.
Okay, so I'm no food stylist, and none of the ingredients for this came off from our farm, BUT we did make the english muffins and the bacon and everything came from local farms except the flour and lime juice. This was what we ate in honor of our mothers on Mother's Day.
In books, many things trigger flashbacks that are so strong they momentarily consume the character. There are only a few things that trigger such passionate memories in me that I completely immerse myself in them. Most often, scent is the trigger. The scent of sawdust brings me right back into my grandfather’s garage, which also served as his wood shop. He was a carpenter and a careful wood worker and made some of the most beautiful things, none of which I was able to fully appreciate until my adult life. But I could recognize in some part of my child’s half developed brain the passion and care and love that went into such work.
Just now I caught the scent of bacon wafting from the kitchen and wandered down a scent-laden reverie of Jason in the kitchen. The man loves to cook (praise God!). Like my grandfather’s precise wooden creations, Jason throws all sorts of passion and care into his nightly creations in the kitchen. Said creations made Lacey cry with joy last week (I’m not exaggerating!). He can take our raw product out of the field and weaves it into a grand multi-course, melt-in-your-mouth tapestry as if the house elves of Harry Potter magically made it all appear (come to think of it….). I can appreciate that sort of passion. My taste buds especially.
One of the many things on today's list: planting tomatoes in the field!
The list we made was too long. “Unless you’ve got ‘brush your teeth and pet the dog on that list, it’s too long,” Lacey said. Today’s list was impossibly long. When there are only two things on my list, it’s impossible to get any of them done. “Oh, I’ve still got plenty of time,” I say, and do something else. There’s just not enough in it for me to be motivated. But when my list is impossibly long like today, the glory that comes with crossing everything off that list is poignant. You are suddenly queen of the mountain, standing on top of everything flexing your muscle Rosie the Riveter style. Momentous, paramount, powerful, a thing you’ll tell your grandchildren about one day-all because the list was impossibly long. That’s what it feels like to have conquered a too long list. Was it worth it? Well, I hate to speak for the rest of the farmily, but yeah, it feels good. Now to bed…
One of our many "as soon as it's dry enough" jobs: planting and mulching!
Our lives here on the farm are dictated by the weather. The thing about our lives being dictated by the weather is that when it rains it pours. And then rains again. And when it rains, we slow our paces, seek shelter or greenhouse jobs, and add to the “as soon as it’s dry enough list.” It sort of reminds me of a slinky. Remember those? By the end of a very soggy last week, our slinky lives had just descended the step, and were slowly, easily, leaning toward the next but rain kept our momentum at bay. Then, with that startling sudden slinky acceleration like some kid thought it would be funny to give us a push, we got just enough dry sunny days to attack our “as soon as it’s dry enough list” and found ourselves in quite a frenetic whirlwind today. But I hear thunder again, which means we might find ourselves again in that slow easy lean toward the next acceleration.
Re-erecting the tomato umbrella (for days like today!)
The incessant staccato “tut-tut-tut” of the rain as it falls from the long-cluttered gutter above my office window is, today, comforting. I feel a bit like the desert soil upon a sudden storm, opening my pores to the moisture and releasing a long held breath. Like the plants in that arid soil-somehow alive but dormant- the rain washes away the poverty of parchedness I was unaware of but that had been holding me back from the normal spring renewal and re-growth. We drink deep and reawaken ourselves to purpose. By this time next week, we’ll have grown a foot. I can already taste the fresh greens of spring, and feel their chlorophyll coursing through my rejuvenated veins. It’s finally harvest time and the rain has arrived just in time for that burst of growth that accompanies spring.
Planting tomatoes in the hoop house today (here's to June tomatoes!)
“No one to blame but myself” always seemed like a nice concept to me. It’s one of the reasons I cite for wanting to work for myself. As it turns out though, sometimes it would be nice to have someone else to blame. At least in theory, that is. Take this year’s first planting of carrots, for example. Everyone keeps asking me how this exceptionally warm spring is affecting us. I keep saying “not too much.” Other than things in our passive solar greenhouse growing more quickly than planned, we’re pretty much a “plant according to schedule” farm. So, failing to translate “exceptional warm spring where plants are growing at an exceptionally fast rate” to seed germination in the field, we expected our flame weeding timing was perfect! Except carrots that normally germinate in 21 days in the spring and 4 days in the summer, didn’t get the memo that it is, indeed, still spring! And so we, diligent weed control freaks that we are, busted out the flame weeder at the first flush of weeds and, unwittingly, killed our first planting of carrots. Oops! Here’s where it might be nice to say something along the lines of “mistakes were made” and forgive the offending parties. Luckily, though, it is an exceptionally warm spring and carrots are germinating in much less time than normal so it’s not too late to re-seed them for a slightly later crop. That is the beauty of mistakes being made in the spring—there’s generally lots of room for forgiveness and recovery.
Last year's "farmily"
It’s February. You already knew that, didn’t you—every store reminds you of it: the month of wine and flowers and chocolate. The month of love and romance. For us though, it’s the time of re-birth of the family. A family we get annually. A friend of ours refers to this annual family as the “farmily”. Each year, we “adopt” a new crop of aspiring farmers, work hard together under some pretty intense conditions, sweat, laugh and cry together, get to know each other as well as (or better than) family, only to find ourselves waving and smiling at the end of each season as they drive off into the sunset-into their own lives and endeavors. And then February comes again and we begin finding our new family. It’s all part of the farming cycle. New seeds, new faces.
When visiting various unnamed retired folks, I found myself amazed at how breakfast and exercise could take up an entire morning, dumping us off dumbstruck at noon. Until, that is, we found ourselves sort of retired (albeit not entirely and only temporarily) and lo and behold! Breakfast and exercise does indeed take up an entire morning, dumping us off dumbstruck at noon. But today, mind you, I’m plowing through my “to do” list with unfettered fervor as we plant our first seeds in the greenhouse. Yep, you read that right: today, the season begins. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. While starting seeds does indeed signify the start of the season, it’s not like we jump in that shocking cold stream polar bear style. What it is though, is a slight sigh of resignation that we are now pretty much home bound. At least overnight that is. Someone has to be here to take care of those little baby plants: let them out to play in the morning and tuck them in at night (and they don’t make car seats large enough to accommodate those little chubbers). It’s kind of nice, really, this whole seasonal “parenthood” thing. Where we get to live the retired life (which this year even included travel to Florida) for a month, reflecting on our past year’s life and enjoying the fruits (canned, dried, or frozen) of our labor and then ease back into that whole 24/7 gig.
Soon I will look like this! (the seed catalogues are beginning to roll in already)
I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that November was not yet vacation time. But enough of me wanted to dream of sleeping in, lazing around, reading novels, traveling, etc. that I grew into the idea. So imagine my surprise when November wasn't yet vacation time! Don't get me wrong, we like to ease into the winter "schedule" around here. So while we are still working, that work doesn't generally begin until 10 a.m. and usually ends around 4p.m. or so (all dictated by the sunshine and weather of course!). But still! Working in November. I might have to overcome this habit. However, all the "putting the farm to bed" tasks have been completed save for moving the tomato umbrella which we're halfway done with. And then there are those pesky "winter projects" that we've severely limited this year. So really, I'm looking at some pretty good rest and restore time this winter, which suits me just fine. Don't mind if I do disappear for a while (and bury my nose in some seed catalogues).
EZ-GO down again
A broken irrigation pipe
Restore and Renew. That’s what the winters are for. Like professional athletes, we use the off season to restore worn out bodies and renew our inspiration: to be physically and spiritually ready for the next season. When you have an intense seasonal work schedule, sometimes it takes missing the work to remember how great it is to do something you love for a living. Along with the tired out bodies, we rest and restore the tired out equipment: fix the fixable things, replace the unfixable things. In the winter, we renew friendships we forged sometime along the way to where we are now. We rest and exercise muscles we need for the work of the next year. And we restore our inspiration by learning from other farmers, reading farm articles and perusing seed catalogues. Barbara Kingsolver said it well in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle when she said, “I have seen women looking at seed catalogues with a misty eye and one hand resting on the heart, and I only know what they are feeling because that’s how I read the seed catalogues in January.” I can relate to that. We’ll miss you all, but will also enjoy our annual trip into winter oblivion as well.