Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
The resilience of Merlefest fans
This morning I did a guided meditation on resilience. I ain’t gonna lie: it’s been a tough spring. But it’s not the first time we’ve faced challenges and setbacks. Farming is a difficult career. I mean, there’s all the normal stuff, and then there’s the weather! But I digress. I listed to this guided meditation on resilience. It ended with a poem :
Where could I find enough leather
to cover the entire surface of the earth?
But with leather soles beneath my feet,
It’s as if the whole world has been covered
It felt pertinent. We, all of us, deal with challenges and setbacks all of the time. But we keep going. We are a resilient species. Just this past Saturday, I heard a moving TED talk by Monica Lewinski. Remember her? Of course you do! I do too. I’m probably guilty of cracking a Monica joke or two back in the day. It never occurred to me to think about it from her perspective. But here she was, talking about resilience. She said that if someone had told her such a story about such public shaming before it happened to her, she would have said she wouldn’t survive. But here she was, talking about it in the past tense. It also felt pertinent.
We too will be talking about this spring in the past tense. Just as we have every other challenging moment we’ve left in the past. We tie the leather to our feet and move on. We are a resilient species.
Negative and positive effects of all this rain (soggy tomato roots (don't worry, they'll make it) and blueberries who love all this rain)
There’s a very soulful version of the song, “Can’t stand the rain”, by the Commitments, I think, that has been running through my head for the last two days (any wild guesses as to why?). It’s a bit of a paradox, that song. She sings of heartbreak and pain, with a hauntingly beautiful voice that keeps me coming back for more. Despite the subject matter, the song feels good.
This spring has been a bit like that. We’ve suffered some setbacks (the deep freeze losses, the wind damaged high tunnel, etc.), and one might think that this week’s flooding would just pile on. But I don’t feel piled on. I feel the community rallying around us, wanting us to succeed, and desiring our little farm as part of their community. And it feels good.
It’s the community that keeps us going when the going gets tough. It’s your faith in us that lifts us up and helps us begin each day with a ray of sunshine, even when the forecast is just for more rain. Thanks for your support.
Jaclyn bunching radishes on our first harvest day of the season.
Just some of the spring blooms that make me nervous: blueberries
You’ve probably, by now, heard Paul Harvey’s 1978 “So God Made a Farmer” speech-if not the original, you’ve probably heard the excerpts played in a super bowl truck commercial (that’s where I heard of it). After reflecting upon this spring’s weather, I’d like to add a sentence to that speech:
“God said, ‘I need somebody to worry and fret over, complain about, and generally just not enjoy the weather’
--So God made a farmer”
Honestly, I used to enjoy a good thunderstorm. Now I worry about too much rain, too hard of a rain, hail and wind. I used to enjoy an occasional snow to sled upon. Now I only worry that I’ll not have the strength to push it off from my high tunnels. I used to enjoy spring-the blooming trees, the push of green from the earth, the sense of renewal. Now, well… you get the picture. All this fretting though, makes every success seem like a miracle. This, perhaps, is why God “needed someone to worry and fret over…” Because when we finally put that vegetable to our tongue, it is with a formidable sense of gratitude.
Did you know farmers can get the flu? I didn’t either. I’ve always had a more than solid confidence in my immune system. I chalked it up to healthy eating and farm lifestyle (read: we eat a lot of dirt). But the flu came and knocked me right off that high horse onto my humble backside last week. I was down. I would crawl out of bed long enough to make it to the greenhouse before I’d have to go back and take a nap. I hardly noticed the unseasonably warm weather for the chills and the haze that enveloped me.
I’m not quite sure what to do with this new information. What, then, is a farmer’s claim to fame if not a superior immune system? I’ve always counted that among the “fringe benefits” of farming. Alas, I reckon I’ll not be so quick to eschew the flu shot next year.
Anyway, I’m back in the saddle (of my much lower horse) and we’re busy planting for the upcoming season. Yep, it’s that time of year again.
Do you remember that Richard Pryor movie from the 80s: Brewster’s Millions? About the guy who had to spend a million dollars within a year and actually found it challenging. Each January and February, as we spend our spend our days purchasing our seeds and supplies for the season, I am reminded of that movie. Brewster should have farmed. Seriously. I feel like a one woman economic stimulus package this time of year. Forget champagne and caviar though; it’s seeds and potting mix and fertilizer for us.
I have to admit that it’s kind of fun. Rampant purchasing seems to add to the annual optimism we farmers suffer from. We roll through town in our ancient beat-up trucks and baggy overalls throwing down dollars like a hip-hop song, with a sanguine certainty that this season is going to be great.
It is with this optimism that we enter into our harvest share membership drive. This is an important time of year for us to get new members signed up because of our “Brewster-esque” activities. We’re investing in the upcoming season, and we hope you’ll join in that investment by purchasing a harvest share (most people call this a CSA).
Why this week? Well, aside from the rampant purchasing of seeds and supplies, we’re joining with other “CSA” farmers from across the country to celebrate CSA day this Friday, February 24th. According to Small Farm Central, this is the most popular day of the year to sign up for a CSA share and now is when we need your support! We’ve set a goal of 25 membership sign ups this week.
You can help us reach our goal! Thinking about signing up? Now is the perfect time. Already signed up for the 2017 season or just want to help us reach our goal? Please share this link with a friend, or post about #CSAday on social media. Thanks!
Three randomly chosen "farmily" pictures
We have the luxury and burden here of choosing our “farmily” each season. Sometimes, the “kids” stick around for another season, but we’re always interviewing and choosing new members. In some ways, it’s a luxury. I mean, we get to choose our family, so to speak. Our “regular” families….well, like it or not, we’re stuck with them. Before you get all up in arms let me say that I adore both my “regular” family and my in-law family. But I’m lucky that way. Not everyone is.
On the other hand, it’s a burden because we get to choose our family, so to speak. It’s the other side of the same coin. How do you decide that they’re going to be both good employees and all get along? It’s a lot of pressure! And ultimately, it affects all the “farmily” members experience as well as the production of the farm. So we want to choose well. For our sake and for theirs.
It’s an interesting place we find ourselves in each winter—this choosing dance. We put ourselves in the spotlight to get the attention of potential farmily members, then we retreat and the potentials dance into the spotlight to get us to choose them, then we dance back into the spotlight to get them to also choose us. It’s a bit dizzying but a part of starting a big happy farmily, and the first step to a great season.
Eat your colors!
I got back from the “Body Pump” workout the other day feeling SO good. I mean my legs barely carried the rest of me out of there and I collapsed in the chair when I got home, but later, after rest, and even the next morning, I felt really good! This is something I know. Not just from reading about how exercise and healthy diet can improve overall feeling of well-being, but from my own personal experience.
Why, then, is it still so incredibly difficult to drag myself out to the gym to do something that makes me feel so good? Am I just that shortsighted that I can’t project out even a single day? When I’m feeling good, I can easily connect the dots in reverse to understand that “Body Pump” made me feel this way, but tomorrow, it’s like I’ve already forgotten. I hem and haw and drag my feet and reach deep for that will power I know I left somewhere.
I know a sticking to a healthy diet can feel the same way. That’s a bit easier for organic vegetable farmers, because organic vegetables are what we have on hand all the time. Plus we’re isolated out here on the farm and don’t have a lot processed food “temptations” poking their cute little heads out at us saying “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” But I can sympathize how hard it can be to eat healthy even though it makes us feel so good!
This is a common semi-retirement activity
I write a lot about the seasonality of things. It’s an important part of our lives as farmers, especially this most recent seasonal change that has descended on us. This is our annual semi-retirement. It’s the season where we pretend to be retired: we re-join the gym, start playing regular pickleball, watch a lot of movies (we don’t have television, but watching movies is a lot like television), go hiking, eat meals at somewhat normal people times, etc.
Just as the bitter cold of winter weighs down upon us like wet wool, annual retirement humbles us. We like to think of ourselves as strong people, carrying the burden of farm work on our backs like mules and persevering. Translated to retirement, we might think we would kick some proverbial butt. Alas, imagination is a delightful deceiver.
The YMCA class, “body pump” (say THAT with a straight face!) was sufficiently humiliating and nullified any image of myself as strong resilient stock. I returned to that class two days ago and I still can’t ascend the stairs without grunting! And so, it is with a heavy dose of humility that we enter again into these cold winter months and our season of semi-retirement.
Jason washing radishes in cold water on a chilly November day
The warm November weather tricks us into thinking we could possibly grow all winter long. Until the cold water in the open-sided packing shed hits those cold fingers and we are reminded of why we give this activity up for the winter. But we came back from the beach raring to go and jumped right back into the ole harvest, wash, and pack routine like we had never left.
Honestly, it wasn't all that bad. The warmer weather helped, and the fact that our get-away wasn't strictly vacation. We spent a day working on our friend's farm that was flooded in Hurricane Matthew, and a couple of days in intense farm business meetings. So we never quit working entirely, and, I guess, this makes it easier to get back to work!