Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Jason preparing beds in the hoop house for planting
Last year we confidently took on a new approach to winter squash production. In this case “confidently” is close to “stupidly.” We had seen it work, more or less, on someone else’s farm. It seemed like a great idea. So we went for it. All of it. Never mind that usually when conducting an experiment or trialing a new crop, we do it on a tiny scale first. Just to see. Not this time, nope. We experimented with organic no-till on the entire field. Funny, I’m usually sick of winter squash by this time of year. But not this year. We lost the entire field to that experiment. Oops.
So it’s time to begin planting again. As usual this time of year, “planting” involves a lot of tricky maneuvering around the weather and wet fields. So the other day I was out sticking my hands in the fields expecting that oft-wet field where the no-till experiment so greatly failed us to be too wet to get into with the tractor. I stuck my hand in this year’s brassica field: too wet. I stuck my hand in this year’s beet/chard field: too wet. So only half heartedly did I even meander over to that ill-fated field to stick my hand in, but (you’re way ahead of me now)lo and behold! It was perfectly fine in the moisture department! I did a double take (or a double soil squeeze as is the case). Huh? Yep, turns out the ole’ no-till routine is EXCELLENT for soil quality (tons of organic matter and super drainage). Almost makes me want to try no-till again. Almost.
I am sitting in my office today, gazing out at what suffices in North Carolina as a winter wonderland. I hear the rapid staccato of ice pellets hitting the roof and find myself exhilaratingly thankful that I have a roof that doesn’t leak and is insulated. It wasn’t so many years ago that we would have been huddling together under blankets sporting bulky winter hats and clothes in the camper on a day like today. Instead, there’s a nice fire burning and a dog cuddled up by my feet which makes sitting here gazing out the window at inclement weather a lot more pleasant. We’ve just completed our taxes and yearly budget which, strange as it is, always energizes me for the upcoming season. I just picked up the last of the farm equipment from the repair shop and as soon as the fields dry out from this current system, we’ll be bundled up out there planting! We just hired our first employee of the 2013 season and I’m beginning to form visions of the greatest season yet in my head. For farmers, every season begins with hope. The new year begins with nothing but an inner vision of beauty and bounty. We sow these little specks in the greenhouse with all the faith in the world that they will grow into successful crops that will pay us back in kind for all the love and care we give them. I guess that’s the difference (one of them anyway) between what I like to call our “annual parenthood” and real parenthood: we fully expect a payback from our adult babies. That and the fact that they don't cry or talk back (not in the literal sense anyway).
Shiloh sowing 2013's first seeds in the greenhouse means our vacation is officially over.
This picture is from last year, but you get the idea.
We had a day lily open yesterday. One surprise stalk- the last drips of summer for us to actually stop and enjoy because of the lessened work load. I’m glad autumn is taking its sweet time letting go. I took the dog for a walk on Sunday. She misses Taurus and the workload. I did my best to squander the day in laziness, but then it was such a gorgeous day. And the dog needed me. So we meandered around the dog park until all the dogs left, then ambled (as much as Tully would allow ambling) around the walking path that winds around the park. People were out playing. Football, basketball, playgrounds, and gardening: all with smiles on their faces. I spoke to a gardener who labeled his efforts “fun work” and I understood. I get to do that too.
Jason harvesting ALL of the chard before the last market
Usually this time of year I’m tired, lazy and sort of praying for frost. Then we rest for a few weeks before we begin planning the next season. But a perfect storm (not Sandy) has me already in an excited dither for next year. First of all, after some sort of expansion and capital investment every year since beginning, we had decided last year that this was to be a “no new projects/infrastructure” year. Which was great! It had us a little more relaxed and concentrating on improving current systems. And secondly, I just returned from a sustainable agriculture conference in Greenville, SC that was full of education and inspiration both. So now I’m all excited to talk about and plan our next big thing, especially if it means I can hang out inside by the fire until this whole Sandy thing blows out of town.
Have I mentioned how much I love October in North Carolina? A few wine shoppe Wednesdays ago (is that like dog years?), we found ourselves elatedly enamored with the North Carolina weather and many a toast was made. Well it may be cool at night and the crops growing slowly, could the days be any more divine? And now, the colors! I know there’s a scientific explanation for all of this, but I prefer the majesty. Sometimes it’s just more magnificent shrouded in mystery. It’s as if some playful child cracked open several different cans of warm colored paint and spilled them all at the top of the mountain, and they are oozing their way down to us. 75 degree days edge us outside to feast our eyes. Once again, nature conspires to captivate us. Just in case we were tempted to feel gloomy about the winding down of the growing season (I’m not) and the approaching cold and potential wetness, nature stuns us into submission with its magnificent light show. We’ll all be sure to ease into winter now with a smile pasted on our faces. Okay, I say, bring it on: I can head into winter this way.
I awoke today to heavy darkness, the sound of rain pounding on the tin roof. No way was I getting out of bed for that. So we didn’t. It was worth the wait. The day morphed from misery to this cerulean sky, set against the blushing forest. I’m always awestruck in October. From the day of my birth, I suppose. Every autumn, it’s like this—a kind of rebirth (heck, it was fun the first time!). This is the month we molt our farm tans and mutate into something else. Not farmers, but tourists in our own community. Always a little awkward, we toddle around the world with wide eyes. Strangers in a strange land. Awestruck by all of what’s beyond Tumbling Shoals Farm.
Decontructing the hayrove tomato umbrella is a sure sign of resolution
We have entered into the resolution season. I don’t mean the kind inspired by a New Year, but the “return from a pathological to a normal condition.” I can tell because my wardrobe lies in chaotic transition: the warm winter clothes half regurgitated from the box they lived in all summer but the light summer clothes still hanging on as I check and re-check the weather forecast. Saturday was sleeveless, Sunday was sweater-fest. I can also tell because I did absolutely nothing productive on Sunday. And very little today. There are still “to do” lists, of course, but I glance at them with a wary eye and find it easier and easier to put forth the procrastination effort. There are very few crises these days. With most of the summer crops gone, their fields turned and cover crops sown, we turn our heads toward winter rest and restoration. Toward the return of a slow daily cycle. We await the inevitable frost with a hands-folded, quiet, monk-like acceptance. We embrace it like a long absent lover.
One of my favorite photos of the farm in fall (actually, it's mostly my neighbors farm, but it's still a pretty autumn picture)
October is my favorite month. Well, isn’t it everyone’s? I mean after all, it does contain my birthday, our anniversary, AND Halloween. The leaves start changing, the evening air gets crisp and clear, and the descending angle of the sun leaves the world in a delicious tilt. We’re kicking this October off with a moody day fit only for curling up with the cat, a good book, and a cup of tea. We really tried to be diligent here on the farm today. There we were, out working in the rain, all productive, but then I got cold and the warm, cozy house began to call to me like the house of Usher (well okay, less creepy and more inviting, but nearly sentient all the same). So we did it. We set a perilous October precedent by taking an afternoon off.