Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Eat your colors! Blueberries are in season!
The other day, I received a call for a wrong number. The woman on the other end of the line was disappointed to not find Marjorie on the other end of the line and then asked if anyone in our household had diabetes. I admit that I giggled a little bit (well, it is quite a non-sequitur), and replied that we were an organic vegetable farm as if that were enough answer in itself. But afterward, I thought that maybe it is.
“I don’t do this for my health” is usually an apt statement when applied to one’s work. But in our case, perhaps it is done for our health. At least partly. I often get asked about the particular nutritional content of one vegetable or another and I have to admit ignorance. It’s a luxury, perhaps, to never really need to worry about those little particulars, which we don’t because we seem to be doing okay just eating all the stuff that comes from the farm. In the absence of work benefits like health care or paid sick leave or vacation time, good fresh organic food from the farm becomes an important benefit.
So let’s raise our blueberry kale smoothie and toast to good food and good health. Cheers!
I really enjoy cucumber cocktails. And fresh salad every night. And herbed pasta. And radish sandwiches. And tomato sandwiches. And raw sweet pepper snacks. And blueberry crème tart. And flash fried shishitos. And blackberry cabernet sorbet. And…well, you get the picture. I like to eat! We call it the “fringe benefit of farming”, but really it’s half the reason we chose this career.
I love the fields as a muse. I spend hours each day tending to the many different crops, conjuring up different concoctions with all the ingredients on the farm in all kinds of crazy combinations. I spend each Tuesday evening in a dreamy state, immersed in recipes.
Wednesday is Jaclyn’s birthday and despite peanut butter chocolate being her favorite flavors, she instead requested desserts from the farm, and we neither grow peanuts nor cacao. Don’t tell her, but Jason made her strawberry rhubarb pie and I made her cucumber-lime-mint sorbet (which inspired the cucumber cocktail).
These are relatively small things, but things that keep us loving our job and our place in this world. The days that end, even if they end late and we’re dead tired, with ridiculously gourmet tasting treats from ingredients that we coaxed from the earth with our own hands. Things that we can share with you, who, by purchasing our produce, keep us rooted to this place and to this work. Thank you for that.
"We got the beets, we got the beets, we got the beets..."
Do you ever get songs in your head when you pass certain places? Like one of those automated audio tour guides where you have a little device and headphones and when you pass certain “triggers”, a voice comes telling you about that point in the tour. It’s like that here on the farm. There are “triggers” everywhere that trip the wire for the farm soundtrack.
Like the romaine lettuce field: “She gets high, she gets high, she gets high…romaine.” Or the lacinato kale: “Lacinato, why don’t you come to your senses, you’ve been out riding fences for so long.” Or the “box bottoms” that we use in all our produce boxes: “Whoa box bottoms (bam-ba-lam), Whoa box bottoms (bam-ba-lam).” Or, of course, “We got the beets!” It’s just like the automated audio tour guide, but one I follow 75 times a day.
Amazing colors in the rainbow chard (which is doing great!)
I’ve been singing Bonnie Tyler for weeks. Come on, you know the song. It’s the strawberries’ fault. When you grow 50 different things in a season, it’s inevitable that a crop or two will end up in the “loss” column. Well, that’s what we keep telling ourselves anyway. This year, much to our dismay, it was strawberries.
Also when you grow 50 different things in a season, you can always “turn around” (now you can sing Bonnie Tyler too!) and immediately see a crop that’s doing great! So that’s what we’ve had to do: just turn around and look elsewhere. The lettuce crop is great, the blueberries pulled through any potential late freezes despite blooming early, the carrot crop, albeit a bit late, is the best stand of carrots we’ve had in years, etc.
So turn around bright eyes, we’ll be alright. So we’ll have a few less strawberry desserts. Not the end of the world right? No, indeed, we will survive (in case Bonnie Tyler was stuck in your head).
Sometimes farmers do rain dances. Mostly, we’ve been doing sun dances. Today, we’re doing our happy dance because the sun is shining!! Probably by the end of the week, we’ll be doing cloud dances, but the most important thing is that we’re always dancing.
To you, it might look like fretting and complaining, but on the inside, we’re dancing. Today though, we’re dancing on the outside too. Just like sunshine improves berry flavor, it also improves our “flavor”. Suddenly, the world, quite literally, doesn’t seem so dark and dreary.
That sky and strawberry ice cream are good for our souls
Today, my need for dessert superseded my need for a clean house. Can you blame me? I got tired of pitching damaged but still somewhat edible strawberries into the compost because I had no time “to deal with them.” So today, I switched teams. I am usually on the “crossing things off the list” team, but not today. Today I played for the “culinary pleasures team.” Today, I made strawberry gelato with a vanilla-balsamic swirl.
Because sometimes the farm can overwhelm us. Especially in the spring. Sundays morph into division-of-labor-let’s-get-as-much-done-as-possible days and there’s no reprieve until November. It becomes more important than ever to stop and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Because if not, what’s the point? Well, aside from feeding y’all, that is. And surely you would join me in saying, “let them eat ice cream”.
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.