Waxing Poetic (farm blog)

Welcome to Shiloh's world!
Posted 3/24/2012 7:19pm by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh planting tomatoes in the hoop house
Planting tomatoes in the hoop house today (here's to June tomatoes!)


“No one to blame but myself” always seemed like a nice concept to me.  It’s one of the reasons I cite for wanting to work for myself.  As it turns out though, sometimes it would be nice to have someone else to blame.  At least in theory, that is.  Take this year’s first planting of carrots, for example.  Everyone keeps asking me how this exceptionally warm spring is affecting us.  I keep saying “not too much.”  Other than things in our passive solar greenhouse growing more quickly than planned, we’re pretty much a “plant according to schedule” farm.  So, failing to translate “exceptional warm spring where plants are growing at an exceptionally fast rate” to seed germination in the field, we expected our flame weeding timing was perfect!  Except carrots that normally germinate in 21 days in the spring and 4 days in the summer, didn’t get the memo that it is, indeed, still spring!  And so we, diligent weed control freaks that we are, busted out the flame weeder at the first flush of weeds and, unwittingly, killed our first planting of carrots.  Oops!  Here’s where it might be nice to say something along the lines of “mistakes were made” and forgive the offending parties.  Luckily, though, it is an exceptionally warm spring and carrots are germinating in much less time than normal so it’s not too late to re-seed them for a slightly later crop.  That is the beauty of mistakes being made in the spring—there’s generally lots of room for forgiveness and recovery.

Posted 2/8/2012 3:32pm by Shiloh Avery.

happy farmily
Last year's "farmily"

It’s February. You already knew that, didn’t you—every store reminds you of it: the month of wine and flowers and chocolate.  The month of love and romance. For us though, it’s the time of re-birth of the family.  A family we get annually.  A friend of ours refers to this annual family as the “farmily”. Each year, we “adopt” a new crop of aspiring farmers, work hard together under some pretty intense conditions, sweat, laugh and cry together, get to know each other as well as (or better than) family, only to find ourselves waving and smiling at the end of each season as they drive off into the sunset-into their own lives and endeavors.  And then February comes again and we begin finding our new family.  It’s all part of the farming cycle.  New seeds, new faces.


Posted 1/9/2012 3:50pm by Shiloh Avery.

fennel sprouting in greenhouse

When visiting various unnamed retired folks, I found myself amazed at how breakfast and exercise could take up an entire morning, dumping us off dumbstruck at noon.  Until, that is, we found ourselves sort of retired (albeit not entirely and only temporarily) and lo and behold! Breakfast and exercise does indeed take up an entire morning, dumping us off dumbstruck at noon. But today, mind you, I’m plowing through my “to do” list with unfettered fervor as we plant our first seeds in the greenhouse.  Yep, you read that right: today, the season begins.  Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.  While starting seeds does indeed signify the start of the season, it’s not like we jump in that shocking cold stream polar bear style.  What it is though, is a slight sigh of resignation that we are now pretty much home bound.  At least overnight that is.  Someone has to be here to take care of those little baby plants: let them out to play in the morning and tuck them in at night (and they don’t make car seats large enough to accommodate those little chubbers).  It’s kind of nice, really, this whole seasonal “parenthood” thing.  Where we get to live the retired life (which this year even included travel to Florida) for a month, reflecting on our past year’s life and enjoying the fruits (canned, dried, or frozen) of our labor and then ease back into that whole 24/7 gig.

Posted 11/18/2011 3:44pm by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh with seed catalogues

Soon I will look like this!  (the seed catalogues are beginning to roll in already)

I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that November was not yet vacation time.  But enough of me wanted to dream of sleeping in, lazing around, reading novels, traveling, etc. that I grew into the idea.  So imagine my surprise when November wasn't yet vacation time!  Don't get me wrong, we like to ease into the winter "schedule" around here.  So while we are still working, that work doesn't generally begin until 10 a.m. and usually ends around 4p.m. or so  (all dictated by the sunshine and weather of course!).  But still!  Working in November.  I might have to overcome this habit.  However, all the "putting the farm to bed" tasks have been completed save for moving the tomato umbrella which we're halfway done with.  And then there are those pesky "winter projects" that we've severely limited this year.  So really, I'm looking at some pretty good rest and restore time this winter, which suits me just fine.  Don't mind if I do disappear for a while (and bury my nose in some seed catalogues). 

Posted 10/24/2011 6:53pm by Shiloh Avery.
EZ-GO down again
EZ-GO down again
broken irrigation pipe
A broken irrigation pipe

Restore and Renew.  That’s what the winters are for.  Like professional athletes, we use the off season to restore worn out bodies and renew our inspiration: to be physically and spiritually ready for the next season.  When you have an intense seasonal work schedule, sometimes it takes missing the work to remember how great it is to do something you love for a living. Along with the tired out bodies, we rest and restore the tired out equipment: fix the fixable things, replace the unfixable things. In the winter, we renew friendships we forged sometime along the way to where we are now.  We rest and exercise muscles we need for the work of the next year.  And we restore our inspiration by learning from other farmers, reading farm articles and perusing seed catalogues.  Barbara Kingsolver said it well in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle when she said, “I have seen women looking at seed catalogues with a misty eye and one hand resting on the heart, and I only know what they are feeling because that’s how I read the seed catalogues in January.”  I can relate to that.  We’ll miss you all, but will also enjoy our annual trip into winter oblivion as well.

Posted 10/18/2011 7:25am by Shiloh Avery.
Fall colors
drive by colors
Drive by colors
witch hazel
Native witch hazel blooming
leaf tourists at the viaduct
leaf tourists on the parkway near the viaduct
valley view of fall colors
The leaf tourist draw


I know there’s a scientific explanation for all of this, but I prefer the majesty.  It’s as if some playful child cracked open several different cans of warm colored paint and spilled them all at the top of the mountain, and they are oozing their way down to us.  And then we’ve had days of perfection like yesterday and this whole weekend to make sure we can get outside and feast our eyes.  Once again, nature conspires to pleasure us.  Just in case we were tempted to feel gloomy about the winding down of the growing season (I’m not) and the approaching cold and potential wetness, nature stuns us into submission with its magnificent light show.  We’ll all be sure to ease into winter now with a smile pasted on our faces. Okay, I say, bring it on, I can head into winter this way.

Posted 10/10/2011 6:04pm by Shiloh Avery.

Autumn colors
Okay, so this was 2008, but I forgot the camera today (and it's not yet this pretty)

I’ve always thought that change was slow.  You know, evolution, the shifting of tectonic plates, that sort of thing.  But some changes seem to happen overnight.  Take the leaves, for example.  I always thought of the changing of the seasons to be one day on the calendar, but a slow easy process practically.  Yet I swear there was no color in our little valley yesterday.  But today there was a burst of vibrant color that rocked across the landscape.  Geez!  I get the point!  Autumn is here.  It’s time to box up those shorts and tanks and bust out the long underwear.  It’s time to throw that extra blanket on the bed, stock up on decaf teas and firewood (well, okay, we should have done that last year, but oh well), and switch to heavier reading material.  It’s only a few weeks before our lives make the bizarre shift from rural farmer to more urban style gym member, yoga class attendee, and football-in-the-bar watcher. That's still a few overall weeks left though.

Posted 10/3/2011 4:38pm by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh and Brooke harvesting bok choy
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.

Posted 9/19/2011 6:29pm by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh and David with EZGO
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. 

Posted 9/12/2011 5:01pm by Shiloh Avery.

Jason hauling in shade cloth for the winter
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.



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