We’re quite familiar with grit. It’s everywhere-in our shoes, in our clothes, in our technology. There’s a layer of it in the tub after we shower. This is the nature of farming, I reckon. And so is (I’ve come to find out lately) the personality trait of grit. As we found ourselves short-handed in the middle of what we’ve come to call the “Julyvalanche” and the weeds got taller and more plentiful, and the treadmill of “just keep putting one foot in front of the other” sped up considerably and began trying to throw us off the other end, there were times each of us wanted to call it quits.
Fortunately, those times did not coincide with each other. And so we doubled down, ran headlong into full 7-day weeks, asked even more of the farmily. And we were met with true grit. The dedication to each other and to coaxing even more sustenance out of this land, and even more work from our tired gritty bodies.
I am buoyed by this. And beyond grateful. I know I can persevere because my farmily is there with me, giving even more, supporting each other and supporting us. I’m putting on my rally cap and pushing through into what I know will be our most productive August yet.
The barely organized chaos of this weekend's farm olympics (not sure why it's now sideways)
When you get behind and begin the triage, (which always seems to happen in June/July on the farm) you start to ignore the periphery. But the periphery, like a child building a sand castle, grows over time until eventually it’s so impressed with itself that it starts to stomp around and scream “look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” And you can no longer blind yourself to it.
The recycling begins to overflow. The collapsed shelf begins to hinder the obtainment of supplies. The trailer of trash is towering. The piles of piles taunt you to near insanity. It is then that you re-prioritize the periphery to the forefront. You clean up your space a bit; take care of those little things that have been quietly nagging at you even though none of them appear to help you earn your living. Because sometimes, sanity becomes the priority. And when it does, it turns out that sanity does help you make your living.
At least it throws some semblance of organization to the chaos. Which can be exactly how farm life feels in July. Like you keep waking up to yet another Friday harvest day before that “stupid o’clock alarm” for Saturday markets. Like it’s groundhog day but every Friday is a little bit different, you just don’t remember how you got to yet another Friday so quickly. No matter how many times you just put one foot in front of the other with your head down, the weeds always move faster. Everything always moves faster. And the periphery is building again and you know it but you just can’t look at it yet. Not until you get a little bit closer to insanity. Then you’ll re-prioritize again.
I’ve had this long standing philosophical belief that as the universe’s mode of reflecting upon itself, it’s our duty to show it a good time. 😊 It’s my weapon against taking myself too seriously. Because we can tend to do that, you know. As humans, we can become ultra-focused on our own life and challenges. Stay there too long, and you can lose your perspective. You might find yourself with fists of indignation screaming “why me”??? As it turns out though, it’s not really about me at all is it. I’m just not that important.
Enter the importance of levity. Just as laughter is contagious (if you doubt that just google contagious laughter videos and you’ll soon be laughing), levity can spread into different aspects of your life. I learned from my family over the years that a great path to levity is to embrace the silly. I learned that it was quite difficult to take yourself too seriously while you were wearing a costume or a silly hat. And that this levity would spread outward and infect others until, at least for a moment, the world around you would feel a little less heavy.
The little book of stoicism is becoming quite the theme in my life lately. Stoic philosophy teaches embracing the impermanence of things. That we should think of everything as “borrowed from the world” and that the world can take anything back at any time. Or something like that. Basically that we shouldn’t feel entitled to anything.
And so I am practicing a stoic approach to blueberries. We tried to cover them to protect them from freezing temperatures while blooming several years ago. It was a disaster. With spring freezing temperatures inevitably comes wind and the covers just beat up the bushes, perhaps knocking as many blossoms off as would have otherwise frozen. So we decided, without knowing it, to be stoic about them. If we get them, we get them, if not…oh well. We’ve been lucky ever since.
Until this year. So I’m trying to draw wisdom from the stoics as I look upon a lost crop of blueberries. Sigh, we are guaranteed nothing. Sigh, we were lucky to have them in past years and in future years, but we are not blessed with blueberries this year. Sigh. Life will go on. We’ll just have fewer desserts this year.
Since I obviously deleted the photo of the offending car, I thought you might enjoy this picture of veggies in shoes. Farm Life. What do you harvest your veggies into?
I spend roughly 7 hours alone in my van each week during the main season. This leads to a couple of things. One, I see some crazy driving. And two, I listen to a lot of audio books.
So today, on my way back home from Lenoir on Highway 268, which is a rural curvy 2-lane “highway”, the car following very closely behind me pulls out into the oncoming traffic lane to pass me. No big deal, right? Except there IS on-coming traffic (and it’s a no-passing zone, but even that isn’t super alarming when you drive as much as I do). I expected the car to slide back in behind me when they saw the oncoming car but they did not!!! I braked hard and the oncoming car braked hard and actually pulled off the side of the road and there was much shock and a fair amount of cursing and head shaking. Then, shockingly, they did it AGAIN!
Of course, the audio book I happen to be listening to is a book about the Greek philosophy of Stoicism. I’m only half way through, but it seems to be all about living the best expression of yourself in each and every moment. It happily rambled on about not letting external circumstances out of our control allow an emotional response over a reasoned response.
Because it’s 268 and of course said crazy car got caught behind other reasonable drivers, I ended up behind it and even (not proud of this) took a picture of the license plate (what, exactly, I thought I was going to do with that pictures remains unknown but somehow it made me feel better for a second) before the audiobook caught up with me.
Was I having an emotional response? Well yes. Yes I was. Was whatever I thought I was going to do with the picture of the license plate a reasoned thing to do? Did I stop to consider that, while that sort of driving puts many more people at risk than the driver of that car, nothing terrible actually happened (the rest of us took responsibility to allow that car to return safely to their proper lane and speed on ahead) and that maybe there was a perfectly good reason for their haste. Like rushing to an injured child, or umpteen other scenarios. Well, no. No I did not. At least not until I heard that audiobook droning on. Sigh. I’ve got a long way to go.
Do you ever experience days where it feels like an angel has cleared the way in front of you so that everything just goes perfectly right? Saturday was one of those days. The Saturday before my trailer lights were…let’s say “ornery” at 4:30 in the morning. We wiggled the plugs around and duct taped them into a position where they worked just to get me safely to Hickory.
Of course, we waited until Friday afternoon of this past week to do anything about it. First, we replaced the van plug to no avail. We tested continuity and voltage and everything seemed to be in order so we replaced the trailer plug. Still no lights. We tested the ground-it was good, we tested voltage and continuity after the new plug connections and again, everything was working properly except that we still had no trailer lights.
At our wits end, I just resigned myself to head out the next morning without trailer lights and hope for the best until I could get it to our mechanic for repair on Monday. It just made no sense that they weren’t working!
So Saturday morning, we actually attached a head lamp with a flashing red light mode to the back of the trailer so at least people would be able to see me and got ready to head on my treacherous journey (what else could I do? We don’t have another vehicle that could hold all the produce, and we make our living in such a limited time, skipping was not an option). So I get into the van and turn on the lights a lo and behold: the trailer lights were working perfectly!
I giggled the whole way to market. Then, for the first time this year, I backed that trailer absolutely perfectly into a parking space on the first try without any adjustments. I recognize that this does not exactly sound exciting, but it definitely was exciting to me—that’s a tight space there where I have to maneuver that trailer. So by the time other vendors came to market and were talking about the imminent rain, I assured them that it wouldn’t rain until after market was over because I was having a “golden day”. I don’t know if that’s a thing, but if not, I’m coining it.
And so it was a “golden day”. It did not, in fact, rain during market hours and then again it did not rain on our lovely farmily dinner that evening. Such a perfect ending to a perfect day. Insert pleasurable sigh here.
Did you know there’s no such thing as talent? Well, at least according to one school of thought, that is. A school of thought that includes authors like Daniel Pink, Malcom Gladwell, Geoffrey Colvin, and Carol Dweck. What, then, separates the world-class from the rest of us? Blood, sweat, and tears basically. And a mindset that turns mistakes and failures into learning opportunities instead of finding excuses and throwing blame.
Some days I want to be world class. I work well into the evenings thinking that if I just work a little longer and harder, I’ll achieve success. Other days I’m just tired. I think I’ve been delving a bit too deep into these schools of thought, trying to fit in with those fish, that I forget that I’m a mammal and I have to surface to breathe.
I forget that I owe it too my employees to get enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition. I forget that pursuit of other interests often helps me be better at my regular job. I forget to surface.
But not this Sunday. Nope. I read somewhere that you should pay attention to what makes you happy and do more of that. Hanging out with my pets makes me happy, so this weekend I embraced another school of thought. One that believes that rest, recovery, and reflection are essential parts of the progress toward a successful and ultimately happy life. One that believes I should “hang out with my pets”.
But I’m also an incessant list maker (if it’s more than three things-I need a list), and also find joy in crossing things off from lists. So I literally put “hang out with pets” on my list. And, I’m happy to say, I was able to cross all the things off from said list.
Last Sunday Funday with farmer friends Will and Marie of Bluebird Farm
My market neighbor Jennifer called me the “Queen of Sunday Funday”. I’ve decided I’m going to do my best to live up to that moniker. All farmers know you don’t get to take days off because “the plants don’t know it’s Sunday.” While this is true, a thing you learn after 10 years or so, is that you can shuffle the work around so you get a “mostly day off”. To be fair, we don’t have livestock, but it’s the same principle. There will always be a small thing or two to do: water the greenhouse, or irrigate the crops in the ground if it’s dry, open/close the high tunnels, etc. but if you get your weekly choreography right, you can still leave much of the day for play.
Every third or fourth Sunday or so, though, I’ve found I need the day to catch up. With many late evenings and early mornings throughout the week, and markets occupying Saturdays, I’ve found I need a Sunday now and again to catch up on cleaning, mowing, and rest. This past cool Sunday was the perfect day for that. We mowed the yard, and caught up with a bunch of delayed house cleaning, and just plum rested. No pressure to go anywhere or do anything. Even the Queen of Sunday Funday needs a day off to play the pauper of Sunday Funday.
We'll be at the downtown Hickory Farmers Market on Wedneday 10-2 and Saturday 8-1, and the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market 8-1, and the Watauga County Farmers Market 8-noon. Not a harvest share member and couldn't get a cucumber or tomato? You can order from our farm stand here: https://www.harvie.farm/farm/tumbling-shoals-farm/shop
Here's what we'll have:
Baby Lettuce Salad mix: $4/5-oz compostable container (or 2/$7)
Red Leaf Lettuce (summercrisp): $3/head
Green leaf lettuce (summercrisp): $3/head
Collard greens: $3/bunch
Rainbow Chard: $3/bunch
Garlic Scapes: $3/bunch