Waxing Poetic (farm blog)

Welcome to Shiloh's world!
Posted 9/28/2010 7:02am by Shiloh Avery.

Okra stand 2010
This year's okra stand-last week stading before the mower gets it!

There is a steady “plink, plink, plink” somewhere nearby.  My mind scrambles around the sound but it’s just water dripping onto metal somewhere. I try not to begrudge us this rain.  We really needed it-all those disassembled fields waiting for rain to germinate their freshly seeded cover crop.  But I’ve grown used to the happy crinkles around my eyes and the daily quick shedding of the early morning layers.  Sunshine is a happy habit for me.  I’d never survive in Seattle.  Like skin wrinkled from wetness, I shrink into myself with the rain.  My mind curls up on the bed with a good book and a hot cup of tea and refuses to budge.  So my body sort of stumbles blindly through the haze of tasks that can’t be put off.  I’m like a tomato plant in this way: I hate to be rained on, but I need the water at my roots.  Such a paradox.

 

Posted 9/21/2010 6:39am by Shiloh Avery.
Jason posing on track hoe Shiloh posing on track hoe

Our farm worker modeling session with the track hoe-but that's another story for another time

It’s 8:00p.m. and we’re stumbling out of the fields in a fit of irony singing “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere!”  Or at least we were for most of the season.  These days, five o’clock comes and my feet stubbornly go on strike.   Sunday afternoons have become disjointed distractions of food preservation that embody that “light at the end of the tunnel” hope, but also conveniently keep us in the house and out of the fields.  The last few weeks of the luxury of an employee upon us, we take steal these little subtle moments-just here and there to tidy the house, or cook a complex meal.  We brand this onset of laziness “cumulative exhaustion.”  Like we’re just making up for those earlier long days.  It’s probably a euphemism, or perhaps a rationalization, but either way, we’ve arrived at the seventh inning stretch before we head into the closer.

 

Posted 9/13/2010 6:45pm by Shiloh Avery.
Jason building hoop house beneath big sky Okra beneath big sky

 

I know it’s only September but the sun is in a dramatic mood.  It’s the preview for things to come, I’m sure, but it’s as if the sun is cutting off its nose to spite its face, moving slightly aside so the sky can solo for a while.  And the sky, well, it puffed out its chest and stepped right up to the challenge.  No longer content to play the backdrop, it put on its makeup and is standing out on its own.  I can’t help but be awestruck as I reach up for the okra that now towers above us.  Even the wispy clouds have gussied up nicely, putting on a freshly laundered shade of white to excellent effect.  I want to applaud, but perhaps the neighbors might think that a bit eccentric?  If this is just the opening act for autumn though, autumn has its work cut out for it.

 

Posted 8/30/2010 7:51pm by Shiloh Avery.
summer's last bright stand
Summer's last bright stand
Jason in tall okra
Fields transitioning to cover (see Jason's head in the okra in foreground)
moth on zinnia
A moth getting the last of summer sugars

Do you ever have days where your 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, 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 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.

 

Posted 8/23/2010 7:04pm by Shiloh Avery.

2010 fall napa cabbage
Return to shades of green (napa cabbage growing in the field)

This weather makes me think.  Just imagine us sitting there with our chins propped up in our hands, thinking about next season.  It’s not entirely logical.  We are smack in the middle of a delicious pepper harvest, and a bumper okra crop, not to mention tending the fledgling fall crops.  There is more time for thinking later, but the cool(er) breezes sweep through the open windows of our open hearts and settle us into some sort of resignation despite the logic.  We’ve still got months to go, but the return of various shades of green in the fields brings us round again to the renewal of our vows.  Not our wedding vows (though that probably isn’t a bad idea), but the vows of why we do what we do (trust me, it’s much better to do this in a cool September breeze than in high July).  It’s not a conscious decision, but just another cog in the wheel of the cycle of the seasons.  Call it the “thinking season.”

 

Posted 8/16/2010 8:04pm by Shiloh Avery.
Tumbling Shoals Farm with zinnias
Tumbling Shoals Farm with zinnias
Jambalaya ingredients
Jambalaya ingredients


oh. Oh. Oh!!!  Like the return of a long gone lover, pepper season has finally arrived.  And like the one left behind, I’ve been pining away for it, watching the pepper patch like the phone, waiting for the first ring of color.  I could almost taste the crispy sweetness on my tongue. And just when I thought I had been jilted, the brilliant shades of the season shine once again.  Ahhh …August.  Most farmers despise August.  And really, who can blame them?  With the weeds that escaped us a mile high,  heat and humidity in dangerous digits, and summer’s bounty on the way out, but not me.  Nope.  August is jambalaya, gazpacho, salsa, chiles rellenos.  August is the candy crunch yielding to my greedy jaws.  August is roasted pepper sauce, soup, and sandwiches.  August is stuffed peppers, sautéed peppers, pepper pizza.  August is a pepper (or two) a day ….well, you get my drift.

 

Posted 8/9/2010 7:45pm by Shiloh Avery.
Tumbling Shoals Farm is certified organic!
Tumbling Shoals Farm is certified organic!!!

Jason roasting peppers in the chile roaster
Jason roasting peppers in our chile roaster (which will make an appearance at the Boone Farmers market this year)

 

Every year, probably in August, I wax poetic about the changing of the seasons.  There is a strange tug on my awareness in August.  For me, aside from the obvious changes of spring and fall, August is the most distinct change of seasons.  Partly a relief (harvesting okra is finally a stand up job), partly a sigh as August spells the demise of cucumbers and most of the tomatoes, and partly a bubble of anticipation as my favorite summer crop begins to ripen.  The jilted sun, angry over the coming cold shoulder shrug of the earth, glares down upon us with preemptive vengeance as we slog through the days, its narrowed eyes ever slightly askew with a hint of an end.   August hints also toward the end of long hard days but also the end of the sweet tongue tingling sensations of summer, the end of counters and refrigerators overflowing with a mind boggling array of fresh delights screaming “eat me!”  This looming end brings on an animal instinct to squirrel away food for the winter.  While friends are staying up late enjoying the last warm summer nights, we stay up too late to bustle around in the kitchen freezing, canning, and drying whatever  overflowing fresh delights we can gather.  Seriously, a rocking Saturday night at Tumbling Shoals Farm is okra pickles and several quarts of canned tomatoes.  Who knew food preservation could be such entertainment!

 

 

Posted 8/3/2010 6:14am by Shiloh Avery.

Evening supper with houseguests
Evening supper with houseguests

It was a dark and cool August morning.  It was a dark and cool August morning?  Well, I’ll be!  The last few days have been a welcome relief to even sunshine worshippers like me. I have never been interested in recognition for extremes. I’m just content to quietly (or loudly as it is sometimes) grow food in my little corner of the world.  But somehow I’ve been scooped up into a region that seems hell bent on setting some kind of weather record each year.  Year one: drought.  Year two: record rainfall.  Year three: record heat.  I can only let my imagination wander so far in its prediction of next year’s record!

Speaking of year three: Tumbling Shoals Farm is certified organic!!!  I don’t have my hands on the actual certificate yet but it was supposed to be mailed to me on Monday.  As you can imagine, we are very excited. 

Farm Tour is this weekend.  Saturday and Sunday from 2p.m. to 6p.m.  Tumbling Shoals Farm is on the tour, but there are many more farms.  For more information, check out the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture website: http://brwia.org/node/479.  We hope to see you out this weekend.

 

Posted 7/27/2010 6:14am by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh weedeating potatoes

The Tumbling Shoals Valley is quite the paragon of peaceful rural beauty.  As a working farm, though, we feel obligated to disturb that peace.  Knee deep in a sea of green, the early sun still reflected in the morning humidity, a pristine picture with the mute button pressed.  But the aggressive whine of weedeater destruction cuts through the peaceful image as we burn through the weeds that hide the potato hills.  Or the ear plug inducing roar of the tractor pulling a tiller through the soil before it gets too hot to sit on that black seat.  All this raucous farming stuff!  All this, so we can eat.

Posted 7/12/2010 8:31pm by Shiloh Avery.

parasitized hornworm

When I was in college, my friend Kevin and I went to the fair where we happened upon this psychic who had offered Kevin a free consultation at some point.  I went along and she gave me one too.  I can’t remember if she read my palm or did those little tarot card things, but I remember she kept talking about my need for balance.  I would try to throw her for a loop with some crazy question like, “will there be lots of bugs in my future diet?” and she would tell me again and again, “the most important thing for you is to have balance.”  I must have told her my birthday and she figured since my horoscope sign was a scale and all…but the funny thing is, all these years later I understand this better than she did.  Well, actually there are two funny things.  The first one, which really is funny, is that Jason’s Appalachian Trail name (I guess you have to be there) was “balance.”  I guess I took here literally because I just up and married balance. 

But what I understand now is how important balance is here on the farm.  It is a key component of the organic system, and takes years to fully develop.  But as we strive to build that balance, we’re seeing nature slowly adjust right before our eyes.  The first year we farmed here I frequently found tomato hornworms munching on our tomato plants.  Last year, fewer hornworms (and fewer tomatoes!), but they were still munching on our tomato plants.  This year, we have yet to find a tomato hornworm not parasitized by the native braconid wasp.  The wasp lays its eggs on the hornworm which pupate and feed on the inside the hornworm then hatch out of those little white tubes.  No more hornworm.  Cool huh?  All we did was to manage the farm as a whole organic system, building a welcoming environment for the good bugs to balance out the bad bugs.  “If you build it, they will come.”

 

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