Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
My doctor asked me today if I was stressed out. I thought about it, and replied honestly, “no.” You see, my blood pressure was a bit elevated today for the first time in all my history of annual physicals at this doctor. But I don’t feel “stressed out”. We dug deep last week and pushed ourselves as hard as we could to catch up, but we got a lot accomplished in that push, and that feels really good.
Sure, the deer just ate nearly an entire field of lettuce, but that’s just part of this whole farming gig. There’s nothing I can do about it after the fact, so we just turn around and move on to the next thing: double fencing the most beautiful carrot crop we’ve seen on this farm.
Maybe that’s why the Bonnie Tyler song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” has been running through my head all weekend. When you grow 50 different crops, sometimes you just have to “turn around” (bright eyes) and face a crop success instead of looking too long at a failure. So, we won’t have head lettuce. Big deal. But would you look at those carrots! (Okay, I realize that me “saying” this out loud means we need to go fence those carrots immediately). Oh, and you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head😊
Harrison Ford's new friend Lenny
Have you ever bought anything from someone? It’s an interesting dynamic—or at least it seems to be to me. You meet someone, make small talk, find things you have in common, discuss the item being sold/purchased, perhaps even get into the facts of life that are causing them to sell the item. Then you find yourselves making small chit chat while you wait for a notary to be available to certify the title transfer. Money changes hands, hands are shook, and you part ways.
It always feels wrong to say goodbye without any real chance at furthering the friendship you just spent a day or so creating. I always wish we’d have left a door for communication open somehow. Like exchanged emails or something, but we don’t because that’s just not normal. And we are normal.
The last time this happened to me, I purchased a motorcycle from a guy in Nebo, who I then ran into at Merlefest! We exchanged a hugs, and chatted for a bit, I even met his family, and again, left with no real chance at furthering the friendship. It just felt strange. Like I know them, but don’t.
So last week, we welcomed “Lenny” to our fleet, whom I purchased from a guy in Terrell, NC (now I know that town exists). Same thing, we both used to ride motorcycles (“used to” is why he was selling Lenny). We chatted about the strangeness of tricycles and not understanding the point of riding them. We spent a bit of time waiting on the notary, chatting away pleasantly, and then we shook hands and I left with Lenny. Again, that strange hollow feeling of closing the door on a potential friend. Single day friendships. Strange.
Only a couple of weeks ago, I said this:
I literally shrink down like an abused dog expecting the next blow when I say this, but “this spring has been pretty good to us so far”
Oops. Insert sheepish grin and shoulder shrug here. Because this abused dog got what she was expecting: mother nature’s revenge for feeling good about spring. Seriously, I think she hates spring. All that green and re-birth and renewal nonsense. It just makes her grumpy. And anybody liking spring is going to get a swift kick in the pants!
And so she kicked us swiftly in the pants with powerful gusts of wind that took down a couple of bays in our brand new (to us) “umbrellas” that we put there to deal with her excessive amounts of rain over the last few years. Sigh. Sometimes farming is frustrating.
But farmers are also resilient. Or crazy. Or stupid. So we spent the weekend lamenting and licking our wounds, and today, we were back at it: replacing parts and putting our little plastic castles back up because…..well because we’re either resilient, crazy, or stupid. But also because you’ve put your faith in us to feed you and feeding you feels better than any alternative we could think of.
Hosing off the frost on the lettuce at 28 degrees at 4am Sunday morning
Did today really just happen? I had to scramble this morning to dig out my box of summer clothes, unsure of weather (get it?) or not I should actually put away the long johns. The conversation revolved around sunscreen, swimming holes, and shandy. And the tomatoes grew.
It has arrived, my friends. The shifty season. We call it spring, but it’s moodier than that. And more secretive. It moves through the weeks all shifty-eyed, hiding its intentions beneath its trench coat. We, the farmers, just follow it around like police, trying to predict its next move so we can catch it in the act.
Should we cover? Uncover? Plant? Pull our hair out? So many possibilities.
I spent the last week hobnobbing with and learning from the movers and the shakers in the sustainable agriculture community. Nothing can make you feel as insignificant and ordinary as milling about in this crowd, I tell you. At the same time though, my brain is overflowing with new information and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the willingness of these giants to share that information with the likes of me!
And now, in the days of coming down from such collective effervescence of a thousand like-minded (ish) agriculturists coming to learn together, I find myself in a tangled jungle of thoughts and ideas. It becomes difficult to sort them all out in a practical way so that we can implement them on our farm in this season or an upcoming season. See, the very seasonal nature of our work makes it difficult to implement any new techniques if they come about after the plan is made. A plan has us already taking step after step along an already forged path and deviation means looking up from the path, risking our footing, while things are coming at us left and right.
But I’m trying to sort it all out and relay it to Jason in small conversations organized around a single topic rather than one giant idea salad.
Because we need the space for spring crops, we have torn out the winter crops and will no longer be attending the winter market. We are planning for the best season ever in 2019, which requires big space. We will miss all your smiling hungry faces, but we'll see you in April!
Meanwhile, we are as busy as ever purchasing seeds and supplies and hiring our "farmily" and you could be a part of this by purchasing a harvest share! It works like a subscription where you pay for the season up front (or in increments) so we get the cash flow when we're spending the most money and you get the produce when we're producing the most produce! All the details can be found here, you can sign up here, and you can always contact us with any questions or concerns or to set up a payment plan!
Obviously, I did not take this picture with my smart phone (I didn't even have the hubris to try) Photo from Griffith Observatory
With a name like “Super blood wolf moon”, who would dare to resist? So there we were, nipping outside for a quick look every few minutes, then sprawling out in front of the fire, well past our normal bedtime. Turns out, we could have just watched it live on-line and skipped the most frigid night of the year!
I loved that whole idea: the comfortable way to witness this phenomenal astrological event. Does it get more 2019 than that? Don’t get me wrong, I probably would have opted for that if my internet was fast enough (for a slow moving eclipse??), or if I had realized that was an option. But still it makes me smile in awe of both our hubris and our ingenuity. I mean, who would think we could even do such a spectacular astrological event justice? I mean, surely you need the frigid wind to heighten your senses in order to be able to process the appropriate amount of awe! But of course we can!
It with no small amount of hubris that we announce that we are about to have the best season yet on Tumbling Shoals Farm. And you can share in that season by purchasing a share in the harvest. You can find more details here, and register here. You can always contact us with any questions or concerns you might have, or to set up a payment plan.
Of course, in order to have the best season yet on Tumbling Shoals Farm, we need to be preparing ground and planting for it already (yes, already!). Which means that we need most of the space for the upcoming season that has been nourishing us this winter. Which in turn means that we are not going to attend the winter farmers market in February. We just need the space (I swear it has nothing to do with the frigid temperatures and wind!).
Wind? What wind?
The wind prediction was for 0-2 mph all day. But the sun came out and warmed the bones of the valley we live in, which stirred up the breezes and challenged our best laid plans. But the carrots need to be sown in a high tunnel this week are there are no other tunnels immediately available. Plus we hate to get off schedule so early in the year, and Emily had driven up from Hickory, and IT WAS THE PLAN! so we covered that darn high tunnel in the wind despite ourselves.
I’m not sure what life lesson we are supposed to glean from this, but I’m sure that there is one. It took us twice as long and about four times the effort, but by golly, we got that sucker covered. Your spring carrots will be on time just by sheer determination. Maybe that’s the life lesson: when things don’t go as planned, exercise sheer determination to get to the end destination. Is this good advice? You tell me (in May when you’re eating those carrots).
Welcoming the first seeds with the first sunshine
It is with great hope and optimism that we enter the new year. It’s this way every year. It’s just that this year, the new year didn’t begin until Jan 5th when the sun finally came out. After all, if mother nature doesn’t have to follow the calendar year exactly, neither do we! So…we kicked off 2019 with a gorgeous sunny day that hovered near 60 degrees. We emerged from our impermeable cocoons, kicked off our mud boots and planted the first seeds.
Standing in an empty greenhouse with those tiny seeds in my hand felt like the promise of a rainbow after the flood that was 2018. Rebirth. Renewal. All the “re”s you can think of. It was time to turn our backs to the rain and clouds and things that went awry, and take those first steps on our new, well thought out path toward success in 2019.
2018: a retrospective
There comes a time in every journey when you cease to be a tourist. When you’re not even sure what to take pictures of anymore because the extraordinary has become the ordinary. You forget what it’s like to see life with fresh eyes. I remember this well from my Peace Corps experience. What was once interesting and noticeable becomes simply the way things are.
After so many years of farming this little piece of land here in the Tumbling Shoals Valley, it can often feel this way. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve called us “boring”. We forget what an astonishing thing it is to coax life out of the earth; to reap fruit from what was once just a tiny brown seed, nearly unnoticeable.
So sometimes Mother Nature must remind us how not boring this job is. She decides to shake us out of our languid torpor with an extraordinary weather event. Or a whole season of them. Just to remind us, it seems, that we are not, in fact, passive boring farmers, but warriors of a sort. That we must fight for the lives of each of our plants. That food is hard won, and that we shouldn't take it for granted.
This, it seems, is the retrospective of 2018. A year of extraordinary effort. A kind of war. A reminder that what we do is extraordinary.