Waxing Poetic (farm blog)

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Posted 4/6/2017 10:50am by Shiloh Avery.

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.

Posted 3/9/2017 5:46pm by Shiloh Avery.

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. 


Posted 2/20/2017 3:00pm by Shiloh Avery.

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!



Posted 2/8/2017 3:42pm by Shiloh Avery.

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. 



Posted 1/26/2017 9:27am by Shiloh Avery.

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!

Posted 11/16/2016 4:47pm by Shiloh Avery.

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.   

Posted 11/11/2016 5:15pm by Shiloh Avery.

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!



Posted 10/24/2016 6:48pm by Shiloh Avery.

A lot of "lasts" happening now.  Last pepper harvest (is that a pepper in your pocket...?)

I had a backwards kind of day.  One of the last gorgeous October days and I spent it mostly in the office.  When I started seeing double and my body began aching for use I walked away.  I walked out into the waxing sun and cloudless day.  And breathed in the inspiration.  The love of using my body for practical work-the work of coaxing life from the soil.   While bills and email and accounting are necessary tasks, they are not the inspiration for this career choice.  

Why did I tackle these tasks in the wrong order?  Trading the sun for the screen and spending sunset instead working outside on the farm.  Today, logic did not prevail. But the dregs of sunshine and movement were enough to push me back to the present and the enjoyment of this job.

Posted 10/18/2016 5:18pm by Shiloh Avery.

This.  This is what I've been trying to say for the past few weeks. We've been celebrating ourselves as strong women and recognizing the strong women who came before us and the strong women who will come after. Don't get me wrong, we appreciate the strong men who worked by our sides this season, but today we're celebrating ourselves as strong women. 

Farming is an endurance sport.  And we are on the home stretch.  It feels good.  It feels like we've left a mountain of accomplishments in our wake and that we're about to win a medal.  Though tired, we feel ourselves at our peak strength.  We can feel the final push within ourselves. And we realize that we are allowed to be proud of what we do. Proud of our strength and endurance and ability to just get it done.

What she said, that's what I've been attempting to say.




Posted 10/10/2016 6:13pm by Shiloh Avery.

Not exactly what he meant, but still...professional athletes


Jason asked me this morning what I wanted to do today.  The day was beautiful if not a little chilly in the morning.  Light breeze, lazy wisps of clouds meander across the sky, the sun low, casting shadows at noon, is warm across my face.  What I want to do is lay in the grass and pick shapes out of the clouds.  What I want to do is let the sun warm my eyelids and day dream.  Let my thoughts wander, look back at the season and all we accomplished here.  The relationships we built, the people that we fed.  I think it’s the way the light illuminates the world differently this time of year.  Or that our bodies are tired so our minds kick in. 

I call it the “thinking season.”  The time of year that we reflect and use those reflections to plan for the next year: capitalize on our wins and plan to improve our weaknesses.  Worn out and tired, Jason and I were discussing the changes in the body over a farming season.  He used the analogy of professional athletes’ bodies becoming worn out toward the end of their season and then, “I guess we are professional athletes.”  Nearing the end of our season, we drag our worn out bodies through the routine.



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