Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
When you were a kid on road trips, did you see who could cross a state line first by leaning out of your seatbelts and extending those fingers as far as they could go? No? Me neither, but Jason still does that. There’s a bizarre sort of glory in first. Really, you’d think we’d learn something about the last fruit being the sweetest, but I’ve never heard any aphorism declaring that. It’s always, “the early bird” who gets the good stuff. But honestly, what about the worm that slept in? Lazy as he is, he’s a might bit fatter than that early worm: tasty little morsel for a late bird. But no, we still press ourselves forward out of our seatbelts, unhinging our shoulders to reach those little fingers just a bit further to grasp that first tomato. Oh! Did I mention that? Don’t get too excited. It’s just one. It will still be a couple of weeks before there are enough to blink an eye at. But that didn’t make us any less excited here on the farm. All four of us are sharing it tomorrow. A big red beautiful tomato in June. Suddenly I don’t care if the later fruit is sweetest.
I shouldn’t say this. If I were a superstitious person, I’d think I was jinxing myself, but I’m not a superstitious person. But still, here it is written down. If tomorrow, the skies deliver a nasty message from beyond, I’ll be to blame. The meteorologist keeps threatening, and warning, and threatening. I find myself glued to the computer staring at the radar. I love the radar. What a great agglomeration of good information in such a small thing. I don’t know how many of you remember 1973, but I am reminded of the Golden Earring song, “Radar Love.” I always thought that’s what that song said, but I’ve been corrected numerous times over the years in that it was “red eye love.” However, as I sat down this evening, I decided to look up who wrote the song and discovered (much to my delighted, if not delayed, gloat), that it is “Radar Love”! Exulted in my new discovery, I think I finally understand the true meaning of that song. Hey, Golden Earring didn’t double as farmers did they?
I failed to take a picture of
us transplanting but I thought
this picture of the chard harvest
The clouds were mostly innocent today: huge towering snow white thunderheads against the bright blue sky. I felt like I was in an idyllic painting, or one of those inspirational greeting cards. We were planting our 5,850th transplant, our bodies folded over themselves in some farm tweaked version of a yoga pose, discussing our work as identity. You know, the lighter stuff. I recall taking some psychological “test” where the only question was to complete the sentence “I am…” any number of times as they came to your mind. Ostensibly, it is interesting to see what order you put the things that make up your identity; the first thing being the most important factor of your identity to you, etc. If I took that test today, well, I’d probably cheat since I know how it works, but I imagine that even if I didn’t, the word “farmer” would appear somewhere very near the top. When you’re passionate about something, it sort of takes over your whole identity. Thinking along those lines, I wonder if my second answer would “eater.” Because you just can’t work so closely and extensively with veggies without dreaming of dinner. I spend hours doing it. And then I spend more time scouring our cookbook stash or the internet for new recipes using those veggies. Eating is one of the major reasons we got into farming. Eating…the gateway drug. And now, here we are, planting our 5,850th transplant, our bodies folded over themselves in some farm tweaked version of a yoga pose, admitting our addiction to farming as if it were the first step. Hi, my name is Shiloh, and I love to grow food.
Hope: Jason in the growing potatoes and tomatoes in the mist
The morning air presses in on us with the sticky sweet of multiflora rose on its breath. Not bad as far as morning breath goes. I’ve had that Prairie Home Companion Ketchup Advisory Council song in my head for three days. You know the one. It begins with “these are the good days….” This is really the crazy crunch time for us while we harvest all those gorgeous spring goodies for you while planting all the summer crops at the same time, but something about purging the burgeoning greenhouse of all its plant babies is deeply satisfying. It’s the great hope for the future. Transplanting just reeks of overt optimism. I mean really, first, we’ve taken it on faith that if we stick this little tiny seed in some dirt and add water it will turn into a little plant a bunch of times larger than that seed. What could be more hopeful than that? And then we stick that little baby plant in the ground in the field and just assume it’s going to produce something healthful and delicious. So despite the fact that I feel like I’m flopping around like a fresh caught fish this time of year, the sanguine scent of summer’s bounty hints at my nose like the multiflora rose.
A couple of years ago I got a phone call from someone interested in organic produce. Originally from India, they had moved to Wilkes County from the San Francisco area. You can imagine the expectations. They came out to the farm and purchased their week’s worth of vegetables. On the way back to their car, he asked where the rest of the farm was. Rest of the farm? Nope, this is it. That was our first year of production here and it was just me full time. I guess it did look tiny, but it sure felt big to me. Then we expanded a little bit and hired an employee last year but even then the farm looked a bit tiny despite our scrambling effort to stay on top of everything. But now we’ve hit the big time. We’ve gone legit. We are a whole four acres now! True, in this age of giant industrial agriculture, we are so tiny of a speck that we don’t even register on the radar, but from the top of the hill looking down, our little speck looks big to me. Big enough to keep the four of us pretty darn busy! Again, I find myself looking down at our little growing farm and it’s seas of different shades of green like a proud parent and thinking, “Aw shucks, we’re all grown up now.”
Not so baby beets and chard
Many couples without children tend to collect pets. And then we talk about said pets as if they were our children. Really! I heard Mary Chapin Carpenter choke up on NPR the other day when talking about all her pets and I thought, “well, that just might be me someday.” But as it turns out, we collect plants.
I remember as a child scrunching my nose up at people who looked at me and got all sentimental, saying “I remember when you were just a tiny baby!” And parents who look all teary eyed at their children of whatever age and say, “Oh! They just grow so fast!” I wonder if the chard was scrunching its nose up at me because I found myself all filled with sentimental wonder thinking,” Oh! I remember when it was just a miniscule transplant-so small I couldn’t see to hoe around it and now look it at it in all its splendor!” And then, yes, you guessed it, “Oh! They just grow so fast!” And now I make excuses just to walk by the spring fields and gawk at how all our hard work has raised up some beautiful plants. I swear if plants had cheeks, I’d be pinching them. I bet they’re embarrassed.
Very happy strawberry plants under their big umbrella in the hoop house
Jason trying to scare the master gardener tour with his monster impression (in the hoophouse with tomatoes!)
Remember last year? Good, me neither. I can barely even remember the winter where I sat next to the woodstove pouring over seed catalogues. And here we are, greenhouse overflowing, the very beginning of the fruits of that thought growing in the fields. It is sort of like that, the farming process. It all begins with a thought which slowly, through time and tending, manifests into the delightful flavors we all know and love. Of course, the whole thing beginning with my thoughts can be a bit problematic sometimes. I, for one, love to think in the winter. I adore it. Sitting around in my slippers by the fire, dreaming up grandiose things for the gardens. Thinking is all I have to do then. But thinking now? Forget about it! The spring scramble allows for only so much thought and usually, it’s “what’s for dinner?” So in all this manifesting madness, I failed to remember that I had adjusted my planting dates according to the assumption that our third hoop house would be bursting at the seams with the early crops about now and that I wouldn’t want the outside field crops to be ready at the same time. I just forgot to remember this eentsy little fact when the last snow came and we realized that we weren’t going to be able to erect the third hoop house in time for the planting of said early crops. I may be dating myself, but I’m calling this my Chris Farley moment. Remember him from Saturday Night Live, um, a while back? He played that character that always slapped his forehead saying, “Stupid!” Well, this was that moment for me.
Sooooo…even though mother nature has been extremely kind to us this year, speeding things up quite a bit, I’m about a week later than I meant to be during all my thinking and dreaming. Expect abundance from us, but just a week or two late. (insert sheepish grin here)
Shiloh with the organic certification application!
I have only this to ask: how did it get to be April 9th? Whew. This transition of ours into full production capacity just whisked March away like Cinderella to the ball. But this time when the clock struck April, I’m suddenly part of a four person team and have crossed so many things off my list that I find myself sitting here at the computer on a pleasantly rainy day emerging from my shell of incommunicado. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my propensity for lists. Oh boy. I love to make lists. Lists litter my office, my pockets, my kitchen table, my vehicles. But more than making lists, I love to cross things off from the lists I make. There is an inevitable joy, a disparate power associated with the crossing off from the list. So powerful is this feeling that if I perchance do something that wasn’t on my list, I actually write it on there after the fact just so I don’t miss out on the crossing off.
With the arrival of our two new employees and with the transition to Jason full time on the farm, I’ve had an absolute ecstatic week in the “crossing off” department. Enough that I spent the afternoon digging through the mountain of paperwork in my office and catching up with the instantaneous communication from weeks ago. In that mountain, I found several old and current lists that provided incalculable joy as I crossed off item and item. Whoopee!
In the whisking away of March, and the quickly approaching harvest season, I have failed to let you know that the April 2nd deadline for Harvest Share sign up is arbitrary and thus, completely ignorable. I still have about 10 shares available if you or anyone you know is still interested in being a part of our growing harvest share community. We are especially hopeful that folks in the Elkin/Thurmond/Roaring Gap area are interested because we need a few more shares to make it possible to carry out the McRitchie Winery/Elkin drop off on Thursdays. Or a drop at Lifeskills Martial Arts in North Wilkesboro on Thursdays is still a possibility if we have enough interested folks. It’s looking to be a fabulous production season this year and we are very excited about the prospects of some fabulous flavored nutritiously rich organic food coming out of the fields. I, for one, am ready for my spring green tonic. I’m tired of canned, frozen, and otherwise stored veggies! For more information including a description of a sample full share in July, check out http://www.tumblingshoalsfarm.com/content/1887.
For those of you who requested pictures of the inside of our little house, I've (finally) posted those! You can check them out at http://www.tumblingshoalsfarm.com/slideshow/505
Shiloh with seed catalgoues in winter
My vacation is officially over. I took that frist heavy step toward the inevitable onslaught of spring. A heavy step it is indeed. While it's one thing to sit in front of the fire getting excited over seed catalogues, actually trudging through heavy white stuff to sow those seeds is an entirely different thing. One my entire nature railed against. Like attempting to wipe sleep from your eyes in a dream of waking. But once that first step is taken, it's a very slippery slope to the mad rush of the season. As it turns out, slippery slopes are sort of fun, and quite easy to slide down. So I say again, my vacation is officially over, but I say it with a hint of enthusiam, optimism for the upcoming season, and excitement.
We are in the final year of our expansion this year, which means we're applying for organic certification, Jason comes full time on the farm, and we add two seasonal employees, and an additional 20 shares to our subscription program! In addition to those 20 new shares, I'm excited to announce a partnership with McRitchie Winery in eastern Wilkes County this year. The plan is to have a subscription pick-up there on Thursdays. You can pick up your week's worth of veggies, and a few bottles of wine for the week too!! If you haven't tried their wine yet, it's an absolute must. They do a fabulous job, check out their website ttp://www.mcritchiewine.comfor their location and hours. We'll still be offering pick up at the Hickory Farmers Market, here at the farm, and at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Wilkesboro. We've changed a few things this year as well. We are offering half shares for the first time. The cost for a half share is $300. Also, if you'll be away and can't pick up your share and you let us know in advance, we will issue you a $25 credit for Tumbling Shoals Farm produce. You can use that to augment a share one week (say, when you're having guests), or to purchase flowers, or to pick up a few extra ingredients at farmers' market or here on the farm, or to purchase vegetables after the harvest share season is over. No more scrambling to find a friend or neighbor to pick up your share! Of course, we've adjusted the content of your shares according to the feedback we got in our surveys too. For more information on the harvest share program, check out our website at /http://www.tumblingshoalsfarm.com/content/1542. We're looking forward to an awesome season this year!
An old friend of mine, in asking how to feed his family better food, told me that some days it would be 5:00 before he and his wife would look at each other out of the haggard chaos of family life blankly and ask, “dinner?” My aunt spoke of the same thing. “It’s not the cooking that’s the problem,” she laments, “it’s the figuring out what to cook!” This winter I realized that I understand this problem. Being bad at food preservation (or not bad at it, per se, but bad at accomplishing it at all), we, too, struggle to decide what to eat in the winter. After the hard freeze that finished off even the hardiest kale in the garden, we suddenly had to think about what to eat “from scratch.” What I mean is this: during the growing season, our menus are dictated by what’s coming in from the fields. So the thinking about “what’s for dinner” begins there: with the ingredients. Then it’s only a matter of looking for a recipe containing those ingredients. Easy. Sometimes the sight of the veggies themselves will spark a memory of a tasty recipe. Or there are lots of websites, including ours, that allow you to search for recipes by ingredients. Or sometimes the ingredients do just fine by themselves (sungolds anyone?) And if you become a Tumbling Shoals Farm CSA member, we also provide all our favorite seasonal recipes.
So this is one of the many benefits of a CSA (which is what I recommended to my friend as a way to feed his family better). They are the building blocks of your meal planning. Another is this: you have all the freshest vegetables in season already there in your refrigerator each week so you’ll automatically be eating more fresh fruits and veggies than you probably would have otherwise. The other day I read in a fitness magazine a recommendation to "purchase in advance" because if you've already spent the money, you're more likely to do it! It was referring to gym memberships, but I think the same thing applies to eating more veggies. According to all the research, this is precisely what all of us need right? So paying in advance for your veggies makes you more likely to eat more of them! For more details on our CSA, click here.