Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
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.
A couple of weeks ago I was headed on an errand trip into town. I had my list all neatly divvied up between all my stops, and I headed out the door. But I got to the first stop and lo and behold! I couldn’t find that list anywhere. I called Jason (thank goodness for cell phones!), and together, we attempted to re-create the list from memory (ha!). But when I got to the second stop, lo and behold! I couldn’t find the re-created list anywhere. Needless to say, I came home without all the things I was supposed to get, but I did come with another sign of aging: a golf cart. The real kicker is that not only did I come home with a golf cart, I left my motorcycle there. Yep, I traded in my purple and chrome cruiser for green plastic and lots of seat room (I might need that extra room in a few years, you never know). What can I say? Any cool points I might have once earned, have left the building indefinitely. Sigh. I did, however, keep my helmet and cool studded saddle bags…you just never know when you might need those things on a golf cart.
The happy farm couple, counting in dog years
I recently met a woman who, because they work opposite schedules, only sees her husband on Friday evenings and Saturdays. She told me it was the secret to a long and happy marriage. While my parents have never been on quite such opposite schedules, they were employed in separate places doing different things. They just celebrated their 47th anniversary (I know, “wow” is right!). So I’ve been wondering, since “normal” people have at least some parts of their lives that they spend more than 30 feet from each other and they count in “normal” years, are those of us who choose to spend most of our days and nights at least within sight of each other on some sort of fast track? Like, do we get to count in dog years or something? I mean, the way I figure it, we spend at least 40 hours a week more together than “normal” people. That’s 2080 hours more per year which works out to 86 more days per year. If you follow this logic, even though Jason and I were married in 2003, we’re about to celebrate our 10th anniversary!
Here we go again: the summer solstice rolls around and I wax poetic about the seasonality of all things. I get that old Byrds (or Pete Seeger, depending on how you look at it really) song in my head and mourn the passing of all my early spring appetite addictions (like arugula and strawberries). And then I turn (Turn! Turn! Turn!) to the excitement of all the coming summer color and the sweeter side of vegetables. But today was the strangest of final days of spring. We awoke to a radar that all but doomed us for more intense sogginess (I mean, 70% chance!), but instead received a beautiful cloudy, breezy day that threatened rain nearly all day but never manifested. Quite pleasant for the humans all around. Maybe it’s a sign of the more substantial changes to the farm that this solstice brings. I know, what’s more substantial than tomatoes right? Well, first of all, we added some new employees today (courtesy of Cory), just as the sourwoods burst into bloom. They’re sole job is to make more of all that coming summer goodness like squash, tomatoes and peppers! And then, come Thursday, we will have the newest addition to the farm: a farm dog (courtesy of McRitchie Winery). I admit, I’m a little more than skeptical of the timing of this whole dog thing, but never having “owned” a dog, I’m a little skeptical of any critter that doesn’t bury their own feces. But what can I say, I’m a sucker, and Sean McRtichie sent me this picture:
How could I resist?
Brooke and David harvesting onions
Our job depends a lot on efficiency. There’s notoriously too much work to do with too few people in too little time. Some days, though, I’d just like the routine to take over. I’d like to ponder life while I plod through the natural list of things to do instead of having to be “on my game” and thinking. There could even be a little soundtrack. Or better yet, a montage! A little number of building momentum where we are seen working at a normal pace (ho hum). Then we cross one thing off the list, and the song speeds up and the scene changes to little snippets of work punctuated by the crossing of things off the list until the crescendo where we are shown pumping our fists in the air in apparent victory over said list. No wonder they do that a lot in movies: it feels quite satisfying just thinking about it.
Hats, hydration and humanity (a good swimming hole, a cold brew and a seat in the shade)
Hats, hydration and humanity
Last week in all my “woe is me, whoa it’s hot!” drama, I had people ask me how in the world we survive working outside under the blazing sun when it’s nearly 100 degrees. It’s a fair question. It’s been my experience that even if you survive the heat, you still have the minefield of interpersonal relationships to negotiate. Because let’s face it, when the temperature rises, tempers flare. So how did we manage to stay a happy little Tumbling Shoals family last week? Hats, hydration and humanity. Hats, well, that’s a no-brainer. Hats, preferably of the big brimmed type, are a necessity. It’s like a little white lie to yourself: “see, it’s shady and cool under here.” Hydration, well, it’s weeks like last week when I suspect my body of having a direct route from swallow to sweat. So we don our little camelbaks and sombreros and march right on out there under that cruel sun despite the circling vultures (I swear there really were vultures circling!). We really should be on the camelbak payroll since we look like permanent camelbak advertisement (especially if sweat really is sexy!). Still though, despite hats and hydration, the heat can really just take it out of you. When your vision burns through the sweat in your eyes to notice everyone staggering around in exhaustion, sometimes it’s just time to pull the plug on that whole work thing and go swimming. I mean really, I think it’s written in the Geneva conventions. A good swimming hole, a cold beer and a seat in the shade. Now that’s surviving.
I remember a commercial from my teenager years that said sweat is sexy. Is that still true? If so, boy were we some of the sexiest things around today. In fact, it’s days like today that I worry about skinny farmers; it seems like they might just wilt down to nothing. At least those of us who put a few pounds on this winter have got something to melt! It’s also days like these that make us question our sanity. I mean, if we’re really honest with ourselves, when we sat down and planned for this farmy dreamy thing, it did not include days like today. I mean, it’s still May for crying out loud! And let’s face it, we thought farming was kind of sexy: a bit romantic, if you will. But unless sweat, coupled with dirt, grime, sunburn and exhaustion, really is sexy (surely there’s an argument for that!), today didn’t rise beyond just plain hot, humid, and downright miserable. Tomorrow, there will be shade.