Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Shiloh and Brooke harvesting bok choy
I remember this time last year when Elisabeth left us and our pattern shifted to beginning work at 10 a.m. Coffee or tea on the porch in the mornings, and accomplishing only what was necessary. Jason asked me this morning what I wanted to do today. The day was beautiful if not a little chilly. 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.
Shiloh and David discussing strategy to end the EZ-GO strike
There are several things I’ve accomplished in my life by simply pretending to know what I am doing. I just jump right in as if I belong and flounder around until I figure it out. I learned how to play the somewhat complicated card game of Euchre that way. I learned to speak French that way, and a whole bunch of Puerto Rican Spanish too. I guess it’s somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy: pretend you can so you can. Around here I am thought to be the resident mechanic, for much the same reason. I just dive right into the muck, fumble around and pretend to know what I’m doing. So when the golf cart went on strike, all eyes fell to me to get it up and running again. David and I spent like four hours removing, disassembling, and cleaning the carburetor to no avail. The cart was unmoved by our dedication. I’m not sure David has ever felt such disappointment. I know it comes close to the top for me. So much faith they put in me! Only to be disappointed (we really miss our cart!). But thank goodness for google! Did you know you can just google “my EZ-GO GXT-804D refuses to start even after I cleaned the carburetor” and someone somewhere has already asked and answered your question? No? Well, you can and I did and I found out what to do next. Success!! With just a few turns of a wrench, our little cart is up and running again. I was so proud I had to drive it all around the farm just to make sure everyone could see that I fixed it--that I still deserve, somehow, the consideration of resident mechanic.
Jason hauling in shade cloth for the winter
I hate to give you the idea that we’re winding down since we still have two months left of production, but that’s the mood around here lately. The inevitable deconstruction has started. The early tomato trellises have come down, landscape fabric pulled up and stored for the winter, crop debris is disked in and cover crops sown. The air around us is a big sigh-both in relief and sadness-as we head into this season’s swan song and our little Tumbling Shoals Farm family slowly departs one by one. Ahhh, the cycle of farm life I think to myself rather dramatically, but it’s true. Each year, young people will march through our lives like ants at a picnic and then depart, carrying little pieces of our hearts with them as they go. When I was younger, I always preferred to be the one leaving rather than the one left behind. Then, at least, there was the downy distraction of adventure and newness. But as I age, I find that I prefer the perennial comfort of deep roots as I watch others move on wide-eyed to the next adventure in life.
Mmmm, wouldn't some french fries be nice with that!
Nate and Sarah busted me in the McDonald’s drive through. As I scrambled to explain that I was after a smoothie (which was somehow in my mind less bad, though I fully admit I’m not above a French fry), I was reminded of this incident a year or so ago:
I have a thing for french fries. I consider myself a connoisseur. And no, McDonalds fries are not really up to snuff, but they’ll do in a pinch. And this was a pinch, let me tell you. We were all sitting around at the library discussing Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and local food (and why everyone should love Tumbling Shoals Farm) and there was all this guilt. It seemed that reading that book elicited a lot of guilt from folks around here. There was a funny story about being in the grocery store suffering a mild panic attack thinking, “there’s nothing in here I can buy!”
But all this discussion about eating close to the source did not elicit guilt in me, my friends, oh no! It ignited an incalculable desire for french fries. I had already consumed my daily dose of local healthy veggies, yes sir, I was headed for McDonalds. This was a pinch, after all. I should have gone through the drive through. Despite all my scoffing at the mere principle of a drive through, I should have driven through. I even considered it, but my bladder and the usual excessive cleanliness of any McDonalds restroom dictated otherwise. But then came the guilt. I guess you could call it that. But really it was more a fear of embarrassment, of getting caught. I parked, thanking the inertia that has us still driving an anonymous van rather than one painted with the Tumbling Shoals Farm logo. I walked into the rear entrance, ostensibly to use the restroom first, but probably just in case I got caught on the way in, I still had the ready excuse of the restroom. But then my desire for salt and fat had me up front in front of all those people. My eyes darted furtively around me, “why is that man looking at me that way, does he know me?” “What if someone here saw the article in the Welcome to Wilkes magazine?” I wished for a disguise while I silently tapped my foot waiting for the contraband, cringing every time the door opened with fear of a familiar face. I nearly ran to the van with my booty and relief washed over me as I pulled away. I got away with it! And then, to my desperately awaiting mouth went a french fry and woosh, all of that anticipated joy was lost. Ugh. Not even worth it. Old stale McDonalds french fries. Should have stuck with local stuff.
The scent of roasted peppers in the air...
When I dream about laying in the grass gazing up at the fluffy cloud figures dancing across the sky, I dream about today. Sunshine angled just enough to set off the shallow sea of a sky. Angled just enough to glint gently off our skin and paint us orange in the mornings and evenings. A light zephyr tickles our hair and rustles the leaves of the crops. It used to be that okra in [the month that must not be named] was the thing you picked as fast as you could in order to get out of there (and the long sleeve shirt and gloves it requires to pick it), but today, my belly full of sweet pepper delight, I moved lightly through, as if to savor every step, as if in a daydream. The day was very dreamlike indeed. Usually, I think of pepper season as something I have to pay for with my sweat and exhaustion, but this pepper season is a gift like a gentle morning lover’s kiss. I can envision the open windows and white curtains, I awake to delicate kisses on my eyelids and a velvet breeze. My eyes open to the subtle morning light and a tray of fresh red pepper slices for breakfast. A dream like day indeed. If I could purr, that’s what I’d be doing right now.
How could that cloud not make you happy?
I was trying to explain the phenomenon of my tear ducts being linked directly to my anger when I realized that I was using an example of anger from 15 years ago and couldn’t think of a more recent example of when I was really angry. I guess I’ve mellowed out in my old age. But then Molly wondered if it wasn’t because I was so content now. Ever since she mentioned that I’ve been noticing just how content I am. I drive down the road returning from a delivery smiling at the tall luminescent thunderclouds, even though they might mean rain which would foil our work plan for the day. I listen to the cheesiest Dian Rehm show and find myself imagining Jason and I at 75, our eyes still full of love for each other and the work we do. So maybe it is just that I’m so much more content than ever before. The angst and wanderlust of younger days slipped away unnoticed, my roots, nourished with the joyful work of our days on the farm, have extended deep into the soil here where water is not scarce and life becomes comfortable. And I suppose this absolutely gorgeous weather doesn't hurt too much either:)
The brilliant colors and flavors of the month that must not be named
We knew it was coming. The month that must not be named. With its angry sun and smothering humidity, its giant weeds reaching for the sky and multitudes of voracious insects. A wise farmer once sagely advised, “Never evaluate your career choice in [the month that must not be named].” This is the true existentialist month. The one where you’re standing in a still puddle of sweat which is evidence that you exist, but why? Well, I try not to harp on the heat too much since another wise farmer once said, “Hey, you volunteered for this.” But the arrival of the month that must not be named warrants at least a mention. So consider it mentioned. Just as light and dark highlight each other, and evil emphasizes good, there are good things that come with the month that must not be named as well. The brilliance of color is at its peak this month. And the plenitude of produce, bursting with color and flavor. I mean, after all, this is the month that brings two of my favorite farm products: green zebra tomatoes and ripe peppers. So sometimes when a whine threatens to wriggle out of my lips, you just have to put a pepper in said lips instead and soon I’ll be smiling.
Happy girl with her certification paperwork
I have a private passion for paperwork. It appeals to some deep seated desire for structure and organization. Funny I never felt cut out for office work. I think it’s the lights in those places. But something about spreadsheets gets me giddy. All day I’ve been snuggled up to my computer in this here corner office (oh yes, the corner!), watching the rain come down outside the window (oh yes, the corner office has a window), putting numbers and words into little boxes, making lists with headers and footers, checking off items from a list, trying to fit what it is we do here into neat little boxes. The whir of the ceiling fan sets the rhythm. The sun filters in through the clouds and all I’m missing is the tap-tap of an old fashioned typewriter and hazy cigarette smoke and I could be in a novel. Just a background character working diligently at whatever background characters work so diligently, keeping the scene company. And in the end, I pack up forty pages of neat little numbers and legions of lists, mail it off and hope it’s a decent enough explanation to continue to call what we do here organic farming. Check that off the list!
Shiloh making mixed bouquets
It’s my fault. I faced today with an air of resentment quite foreign to me, as if today was something that happened to me; as if it was unexpected-an inconvenient accident of a day. Well, it’s hard even for Monday to rise above such expectations, and this one didn’t. It’s not like it was a particularly bad day either. I mean, poor Monday! It tried its best! It didn’t really even get that hot (especially after last Monday’s triple digits!), the sun was sleepy and slow to come out but eventually did. The dog was especially cheerful and obedient, the cat more tolerant of the dog than many days. We crossed a bunch of things off the “to-do” list. The house was even clean for a change. I mean, what in the world could poor Monday do aside from going back to bed and pretending it was Sunday. Now there, I feel better already.
Truly vine ripened tomatoes
In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver put it something like this (I lent the book out so I can’t look up exactly how she said it: we eat it like mad, sometimes three times a day while it’s here until we think we can’t eat it anymore, but then we miss it for a whole year until it’s in season again. That’s what eating seasonally meant to her family. What does it mean for ours? No, it doesn't mean eating only during the growing season though sometimes it feels like that with the lack of fresh veggies.It does mean “what’s for supper” involves eyeing up the fields to see what’s ready. It means sometimes planning outrageously decadent meals when we harvest while hungry. It means some sort of green (kale, chard, etc.) from May until now when I am finally casting a wary eye at them. It means purple…well you know…during beet season (if you’ve never eaten enough beets to experience that, you definitely should! It’s a sight to behold.) It means a month of zephyr squash and goat cheese omelettes (wait, I’m not tired of those yet!). It means lettuce salads that morph into cucumber salads with the rise in temperatures. And now, announcing the arrival of summer, are tomatoes at last. We rely on these tomatoes to let us know when summer has arrived since we can no longer rely on the weatherman (I mean, 95 degrees in April is enough to mess with anyone’s senses!). And they are hear, with the appropriate amount of heat associated with summer in North Carolina, but at least I’ve got my tomato cucumber sandwich at lunch to cool me down.