Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Basil downy mildew takes down the entire basil crop; despite multiple fences, the deer have been hammering the sweet potatoes
I remember when we sailed this boat 10 years ago. Oh the things we didn’t know, the mistakes we made that should have been fatal. But it sailed. We just kept tacking and jibing like I didn’t just look those terms up on the internet and somehow we stayed afloat. Call it beginner’s luck.
It was a sort of farming where you basically throw some seeds in the ground and they grow. You don’t keep up with the care of those seeds but somehow manage to coax a crop out the sea of weeds anyway. You let the weeds go to seed, you let the fungal spores regenerate, you let the pests mate and go about their happy reproduction business. Oblivious to your future farmer self, you call your farm sustainable.
But someday the luck runs out. You shake fists of indignation at your early sanguine self. You’ve built up weed banks that will loan you seeds for a thousand years, you have the best fed venison this side of a whitetail farm, you now intimately understand the expression “reproduce like rabbits”, you might as well start a fungus factory, and you just can’t throw a seed in the ground and watch it grow anymore.
Suddenly, you have problems. You reminisce about when other farmers would talk about problems and you could just shrug your shoulders with lack of understanding. Ten years later, it’s sympathy and a bit of commiseration.
There are times that I feel like I’m being watched. Not the kind of watched that gives me goose bumps, but more of a warm and fuzzy kind of watched. Like my stumbling through the world is most amusing, and my delight is worth entertaining. I know it’s the farm. It’s like my secret Santa. It lets me know it loves me by leaving me little gifts. Little charming aberrations. Little faces in things.
I appreciate these small diversions. Farm work can be difficult and hot and humorless in July in the south (I was once advised never to evaluate my career choice in July and August). I know it’s shocking, but it’s true. Sometimes, in July and August, under the cruel gaze of the sun, salty sweat burning our eyes and every little skin abrasion we can’t imagine how we got- it becomes difficult to keep the heavy work light. We’re afraid to expend any unnecessary energy with jokes or lightheartedness. But difficult jobs are made lighter when everyone is distracted by humor or fun or downright silliness.
Enter nature again, bearing gifts of funny shaped veggies. A tomato with a nose. An eggplant with a mouth. A potato with a nose mouth and hair to boot. We stop thinking about the hard work and how hot we are and play show and tell with each other for a brief minute. And those minutes add up to hours, and suddenly, the work is done! It’s time for popsicles!
Is it wrong that I love destruction so much? I mean, we expend so much time and energy building and maintaining the ephemeral world of a season that one would think I’d wish to hold onto it. Instead though, I cherish the demolition. I’m like a vindictive child smashing in my own sand castle before the sea can consume it. I get to destroy, not the deer or rabbits or insects or weeds. Me! Me! Me!
I love lists. I do. My nightstand is littered with old lists. There are lists that fall out of the laundry. My pockets are lined with lists. There are at least two lists on the table at all times, not to mention the ubiquitous lists on the dry erase boards in the packing shed. I even take pictures of lists. But today, the list took on a tyrannical tone that I didn’t much appreciate. It all seemed reasonable this morning. But I swear the list was adding to itself while we weren’t looking.
Or maybe it was messing with the time. Because my lunch alarm went off before my hunger alarm while we were still in the middle of a morning task. Then we found ourselves headed to our afternoon task, already well into the afternoon. Today’s list left us a bit bewildered, but I’ve got my eye on it now. Tsk tsk tsk list, if you ever try to pull one over on us again.
I used to like animals. No, I mean, I still like animals. I adore my dog and cats. There’s nothing cuter than other people’s baby goats. I love cat videos, and baby elephant gifs. It’s the wildlife I no longer like. I don’t ever remember being particularly anti-hunter, although I’m sure I saw “Bambi” at some point as a child and disliked the idea of killing animals. But I was never a hunter myself. But attempting to coax even a meager living off the land has turned me into a shotgun-wielding nightly produce patrol woman. Don’t fret for the wildlife too much though; this change in me has not improved my shot.
I sat for a while yesterday just watching the bees work the flowers. Such diligence! Efficiently, they move from flower to flower, gathering food while unwittingly completing nature’s work of pollination too. I wish I were that productive when I ate. The more flowers, the more bees needed. You are that productive when you eat. I mean, the more produce you eat, the more we grow, and the more we grow, the more help we need to get all that work done. You can see all seven of us down there from the road—flitting from task to task with the due diligence of bees, an integral cog in the transmission of food from farm to fork.
Some people might call it being prepared, but I call it using reverse psychology on Mother Nature. I’m sure that if it’s predicted to rain on a market day and I bring my full rain gear, that it won’t rain. Today, since it was predicted to rain, I had rain plans. We had some greenhouse work to catch up on and I really need to change the oil in our farm fleet. So today, I wore my sunglasses on my head , ready for action. And wouldn’t you know it? It rained! Works like a charm. And if you believe that, I’ve got some charms to sell you;)
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.