Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
View of South Charlotte from our hotel room on the 23rd floor (sorry, I never took any pictures of the Value Village outfit)
Jason and I went to Charlotte this weekend. With medical bills arriving, we figured this was our chance at any sort of “vacation” getaway. We did one of those Priceline things and got a good deal on a swank hotel room, spent a half an hour picking out our “city slicker costumes”, picked out a restaurant and a show to attend, then got up at 4:30 as usual and headed off to farmers’ market. By the time we got back, unloaded the market stuff and loaded our city stuff, I was in a bit of a feverish haze. It wasn’t until we checked into the hotel and collapsed on the cushy bed for our nap that I realized that I had forgotten all of my city slicker clothes. There I was in my crocs and smelly market clothes. Places to go, but not all dressed up. Value Village to the rescue! Instead of indulging in a fancy dinner, we found ourselves wading through miles of used clothing and shoes, but we managed to successfully disguise me as a city girl and made our comedy show in style.
Happy belated National Kale Day!
Already October was my favorite month. It contains my birthday, my anniversary, Halloween, and, of course, the awe-inspiring color display that slithers down the mountain. But now, I find out that October 2nd is National Kale Day! Talk about gilding the lily! It reinvigorated my adoration of kale chips, and made me smile to boot. Who knew even more greatness could be bestowed upon this glorious month?
October also encompasses a shift in workload. Just when our biological clocks (not that kind!) are indicating it’s time for daylight savings time to end, when we need a few more minutes of sleep, and a few more days off. When our attention spans can no longer focus entirely on the farm. Finally, we get to less time sensitive duties. The deconstruction of things. Slowly putting the farm into hibernation mode. I know, I know, we still have nearly two months left of production! But still, most of the planting is done; it’s now just maintenance and destruction. Which, I might mention, is a lovely combination of things:)
The days ooze by like oil. Viscosity alone moves me through the day. After two weeks of solo farm management, my mind scattered across zillions of tiny details, I’ve eased into a bit of tunnel vision. My long term and big picture visors have gone up and all I can see is the immediate task list. I just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. I just float along on the liquid days.
Tomorrow though, my farm partner returns to us. Although relief is palpable, there’s also a bit of proprietary pride that has evolved over the last few weeks without him. We rallied. We managed. We did it all and made it through just fine, thank you. So now, we’re not totally jumping at the bit to let Jason take back over all his previous jobs. I mean, I’m pretty happy with Nathan managing the packing shed. And don’t even think about changing out harvest schedule! There just might be a bit of grinding of gears as we ease him back into the farm workload, but we’re glad to have him back and we’ll be back to oozing before too long.
fall is in the air
After Jason’s accident, I was worried how I was going to get it all done around here. For a couple of days, everything seemed daunting and impossible as I tried to keep my cool face on for Jason. But then the rescue happened. Parents came rushing down to take on the household duties and help on the farm. The community reached out with their safety net with offers of food, labor, anything we needed! A neighbor even offered to take time off from work to help out! Suddenly, I found myself getting surprising things done on the farm, and coming home to find the kitchen clean, supper cooked, etc. Wow! Last Saturday, a farmer friend helped work our farmers’ market stand in Boone. This week, two of our former employees are here helping out and another fellow farmer is coming to help us get the harvest in and the shares packed tomorrow. Then a crew organized by another former employee/fellow farmer is coming on Thursday to help us get that hoop house up before the plants arrive the following week. I’ve never even known gratitude like this before. I mean, we’re going to be okay. We really are going to get by with a little help from our friends.
When my grandfather passed away many years back, we discovered things that my grandmother was unable to do simply because she hadn’t done them in 50 years. She didn’t know how to drive or write a check. Little things we take for granted. I remember thinking to myself that I was never going to let that happen to me. I was going to be self sufficient. There would be nothing that I relied upon a partner to do. 10 years down that road, it seems quite the lofty goal. The reality is, we have partners for more reasons than love and companionship. We have partners because there’s really too much work for one person to manage alone. This is true in running a household and running a business, but it’s especially true for the running of both. So after Jason’s now infamous burning accident landed him in Winston-Salem luxury accommodations for the weekend, I find myself in a very similar situation (minus a few years) to my grandmother’s all those years ago. Wait, payroll taxes are due? How does he do that? Wait, we have to build another hoop house before the end of the month? I never touched the very beginning of the process! Each day of his absence I find myself in awe of all the little things my partner does that I barely even notice. I find it daunting to tackle the mountain of tasks that the two of us take on every day. The first to go, for me, is food. Today, it was high time I ate something nourishing. I’ve been sleeping little and driving lots, eating bits here and there, but hardly anything we grew on the farm. But I didn’t even have the energy to “make” a salad. I just shoved a handful of arugula in my mouth and bit into a pepper. There, check “cooking” off my list. Boy, do I miss my partner.
Cleaning up the hoop house for strawberry planting
It’s September! Nobody even told me! Do you know how I found out? I began to lose focus a little bit. With more or less all the fall planting done, management of the farm switches to mostly harvesting, washing and packing and disassembly. We begin to prepare the farm for hibernation. Aside from the harvesting, washing, packing and markets, the schedules and deadlines get a little fuzzier. Well, that trellis needs to be disassembled but it doesn’t absolutely have to happen today. So I find my mind wandering. I start to read more, hang out with friends more, watch football, think about vacation… I’m just not completely focused on the farm like I am the rest of the season. It was these signs that clued me in to the fact that it is September.
My brother and family watching the pepper roaster in action
My brother has a farm too. While it’s not a full time endeavor (yet), it does come with a vast amount of hard work innate in every kind of farm. My parents are fond of saying (especially after they’ve put in more than their fair share of work days on our respective farms), “we don’t understand why BOTH of our kids want to farm!” I think what they really mean to say is, “why is it that both of our children have chosen paths of lesser economic return than their parents?” But I think they are secretly proud of that too. Because if we get down to thinking about it, that was a value they taught us too. That money isn’t everything. That love and passion and vitality are just as valuable (although admittedly it would be hard to pay the mortgage with love). They taught us the value of courage and hard work and perseverance and that the outcome of those things was more than a sore back, but rather a profound satisfaction from a job well done. Difficult though it is, we love our farm work. This love shows when our parents come to visit and we waltz them around the farm, proudly showing them all the innovations and improvements we’ve made in their absence like schoolchildren showing off our school projects. Or when we serve them a meal made from food we coaxed out of the soil with our very own hands. It is this intangible prosperity that fulfils our souls if not our pocketbooks.
Nathan bundled up in August!
August. The eighth month of the year. Akin to augere to increase. Usually that means an increase in temperature. But this year it seems to mean decrease in that department. Gretchen left us last Saturday to move on to higher education. So now we are three. So August, this year to us, means an increase in workload. But August also means for me a shift to auto pilot. By this time in August, we’re nearly finished sowing the fall crops. My computer no longer lists an impossible array of tasks to accomplish, so we adjust to blindly plugging along, following a measure of routine. By this point, we’re in a groove with each other. We move in graceful arcs around each other in a semblance of a dance we could do blindfolded. I have more and more days where my mind just draws a blank. I don’t mean stupidly (though I have those days too), but comfortably: days when you just can’t find anything to fret about. Perhaps it’s some sort of resignation, but it feels more akin to acceptance. Where things are just set in motion and you refuse to worry about them anymore. I’m having one of those days, well, weeks, maybe even months. I am aware, somewhere in my conscience, that there is still some scrambling around left to do, still some large projects looming, but I can’t resist the ease of cool evenings, open windows, and the front porch. It’s an alluring lullaby, the end of August. More and more fields trade in their feverish reproductive fervor for a simple cover with no expectation other than to hold onto the soil over the winter and hold onto hope for the spring. Even the buckwheat with its whirring metropolis of insects scrambling to store enough sugar for the winter season sounds like a sigh.
Things are looking up! We dried out enough to get into the fields to plant fall crops.
I am an escape artist. Just call me Houdini. Well, no, not that kind of escape artist. I am the kind of escape artist whose motto is “when the going gets tough, the tough read fiction.” Lots of fiction. Lots of young adult dystopian fiction. I dive into those dystopian worlds with fervor greater than that with which I dive into peppers. And that’s saying something. But you see, the problems and challenges in those worlds are tangible and far greater than any we might face here on the farm. And the heroes of young adult fiction almost always overcome. Despair and redemption on a grandiose scale that somehow manages to convince me that our challenges here are just really not so bad.
I devour you with an astounding ferocity.
My mind craves you r release from my mundane pain.
An efficient addict, I plan ahead-
Reach for the next fix before I reach the end of this one-
A pile of books beside my head,
I scour the reviews and recommendations-
The New York Times bestsellers-
The NPR interviews.
Your pain is always well deserved.
Wonderfully dramatic yet visible losses
We can believe in.