Waxing Poetic (farm blog)

Welcome to Shiloh's world!
Posted 4/9/2010 12:29pm by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh with organic certification application

Shiloh with the organic certification application!


I have only this to ask: how did it get to be April 9th?  Whew.  This transition of ours into full production capacity just whisked March away like Cinderella to the ball.  But this time when the clock struck April, I’m suddenly part of a four person team and have crossed so many things off my list that I find myself sitting here at the computer on a pleasantly rainy day emerging from my shell of incommunicado.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my propensity for lists.  Oh boy.  I love to make lists.  Lists litter my office, my pockets, my kitchen table, my vehicles.  But more than making lists, I love to cross things off from the lists I make.  There is an inevitable joy, a disparate power associated with the crossing off from the list.  So powerful is this feeling that if I perchance do something that wasn’t on my list, I actually write it on there after the fact just so I don’t miss out on the crossing off. 

With the arrival of our two new employees and with the transition to Jason full time on the farm, I’ve had an absolute ecstatic week in the “crossing off” department.  Enough that I spent the afternoon digging through the mountain of paperwork in my office and catching up with the instantaneous communication from weeks ago.  In that mountain, I found several old and current lists that provided incalculable joy as I crossed off item and item.  Whoopee!

In the whisking away of March, and the quickly approaching harvest season, I have failed to let you know that the April 2nd deadline for Harvest Share sign up is arbitrary and thus, completely ignorable.  I still have about 10 shares available if you or anyone you know is still interested in being a part of our growing harvest share community.  We are especially hopeful that folks in the Elkin/Thurmond/Roaring Gap area are interested because we need a few more shares to make it possible to carry out the McRitchie Winery/Elkin drop off on Thursdays.  Or a drop at Lifeskills Martial Arts in North Wilkesboro on Thursdays is still a possibility if we have enough interested folks.  It’s looking to be a fabulous production season this year and we are very excited about the prospects of some fabulous flavored nutritiously rich organic food coming out of the fields.  I, for one, am ready for my spring green tonic.  I’m tired of canned, frozen, and otherwise stored veggies!  For more information including a description of a sample full share in July, check out http://www.tumblingshoalsfarm.com/content/1887.


For those of you who requested pictures of the inside of our little house, I've (finally) posted those! You can check them out at http://www.tumblingshoalsfarm.com/slideshow/505

Posted 2/15/2010 11:01am by Shiloh Avery.

Shiloh with seed catalouges in winter
Shiloh with seed catalgoues in winter

My vacation is officially over. I took that frist heavy step toward the inevitable onslaught of spring.  A heavy step it is indeed.  While it's one thing to sit in front of the fire getting excited over seed catalogues, actually trudging through heavy white stuff to sow those seeds is an entirely different thing.  One my entire nature railed against. Like attempting to wipe sleep from your eyes in a dream of waking.  But once that first step is taken, it's a very slippery slope to the mad rush of the season.  As it turns out, slippery slopes are sort of fun, and quite easy to slide down.  So I say again, my vacation is officially over, but I say it with a hint of enthusiam, optimism for the upcoming season, and excitement. 

We are in the final year of our expansion this year, which means we're applying for organic certification, Jason comes full time on the farm, and we add two seasonal employees, and an additional 20 shares to our subscription program!  In addition to those 20 new shares, I'm excited to announce a partnership with McRitchie Winery in eastern Wilkes County this year.  The plan is to have a subscription pick-up there on Thursdays.  You can pick up your week's worth of veggies, and a few bottles of wine for the week too!!  If you haven't tried their wine yet, it's an absolute must.  They do a fabulous job, check out their website ttp://www.mcritchiewine.comfor their location and hours.  We'll still be offering pick up at the Hickory Farmers Market, here at the farm, and at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Wilkesboro.  We've changed a few things this year as well.  We are offering half shares for the first time.  The cost for a half share is $300.  Also, if you'll be away and can't pick up your share and you let us know in advance, we will issue you a $25 credit for Tumbling Shoals Farm produce.  You can use that to augment a share one week (say, when you're having guests), or to purchase flowers, or to pick up a few extra ingredients at farmers' market or here on the farm, or to purchase vegetables after the harvest share season is over.  No more scrambling to find a friend or neighbor to pick up your share!  Of course, we've adjusted the content of your shares according to the feedback we got in our surveys too.  For more information on the harvest share program, check out our website at /http://www.tumblingshoalsfarm.com/content/1542.  We're looking forward to an awesome season this year!

Posted 1/30/2010 11:19am by Shiloh Avery.


An old friend of mine, in asking how to feed his family better food, told me that some days it would be 5:00 before he and his wife would look at each other out of the haggard chaos of family life blankly and ask, “dinner?”  My aunt spoke of the same thing. “It’s not the cooking that’s the problem,” she laments, “it’s the figuring out what to cook!”  This winter I realized that I understand this problem.  Being bad at food preservation (or not bad at it, per se, but bad at accomplishing it at all), we, too, struggle to decide what to eat in the winter.  After the hard freeze that finished off even the hardiest kale in the garden, we suddenly had to think about what to eat “from scratch.”  What I mean is this: during the growing season, our menus are dictated by what’s coming in from the fields.  So the thinking about “what’s for dinner” begins there: with the ingredients.  Then it’s only a matter of looking for a recipe containing those ingredients.  Easy.  Sometimes the sight of the veggies themselves will spark a memory of a tasty recipe.  Or there are lots of websites, including ours, that allow you to search for recipes by ingredients. Or sometimes the ingredients do just fine by themselves (sungolds anyone?) And if you become a Tumbling Shoals Farm CSA member, we also provide all our favorite seasonal recipes.

So this is one of the many benefits of a CSA (which is what I recommended to my friend as a way to feed his family better).  They are the building blocks of your meal planning.  Another is this: you have all the freshest vegetables in season already there in your refrigerator each week so you’ll automatically be eating more fresh fruits and veggies than you probably would have otherwise.  The other day I read in a fitness magazine a recommendation to "purchase in advance" because if you've already spent the money, you're more likely to do it!  It was referring to gym memberships, but I think the same thing applies to eating more veggies.  According to all the research, this is precisely what all of us need right? So paying in advance for your veggies makes you more likely to eat more of them!  For more details on our CSA, click here.

Posted 11/17/2009 9:32am by Shiloh Avery.

Ornamental cabbage

I wonder what the difference between “thanking” and “giving thanks” is.  It’s a fair question this time of year.  Is it the balance between giving and receiving?  “Thank you for the gift” versus “here is my gift of thanks”.  This reminds me of a Billy Collins (former poet laureate) poem called “The Lanyard” in which the speaker is remembering his gift to his mother of a lanyard (look it up, I had to) made at camp:

“She gave me life, and milk from her breast,

And I gave her a lanyard…..”


“’Here are the thousands of meals,’ she said,

And here is clothing and good education,’

‘and here is your lanyard,’ I replied”


I’d like to give thanks to Billy Collins for that poem (“Here are my words, my life’s labor in poetry” he says, “and here is my thanks” I say).

So in this final week of the Tumbling Shoals Farm 2009 production season, I’d like to take this moment to give you my thanks.  No really, thank you for your smiling faces at farmers market that carry me through the crazy early mornings till noon, and thanks for your purchases which allow Tumbling Shoals Farm to continue in its existence and allows us to keep growing food, thanks for your encouraging words as we crept out of the camper into our new house, thanks for coming out to the farm on farm tour, for the tomato tasting, and to purchase produce.  Thank you for your support.

This Saturday we will be at BOTH Hickory downtown farmers’ market (7-ish to 1 pm) and Boone from 10am-2pm.  This marks the official end to our 2009 season since we skip town soon after.  I promise to pine away for you this winter and it will be your faces in my mind as I kick it back into gear in January.


Posted 11/9/2009 5:13pm by Shiloh Avery.

Moving the box springs in

Okay, so some engineering is
involved in moving into a tiny

Shiloh relaxing in new chair

Now this is more like vacation

Finished house

Really finished

(Our "vacation")


It was my first day back on the farm since our "vacation.”  Well, unless you count last Friday’s harvest/wash day and Saturday at market.  And with this return to work comes the season of deconstruction.  We like to call it “putting the farm to bed,” but it involves a lot of something akin to destruction.  I almost wished I was mad about something today as I forced energy into my yanking on landscape fabric held fast by weeds.  But after moving out of the camper, it’s hard to muster up anger about anything.  That’s partially why I have so little to say today, but also the computer is still located in the camper which means the longer I ramble, the longer I have to be in the camper and not in the house!

Ornamental cabbage

Ornamental cabbage for your Thanksgiving centerpieces.



Posted 11/3/2009 7:31am by Shiloh Avery.


Instead of the beach, we're taking a moving into house "vacation" this week!

I'll let you know when the party is:)



Jason was gone for three days and nights last week and I found myself feeling a little depressed and grumpy by the end of that time.  Now, some might conclude that it was his absence alone that makes me this way.  Isn’t that sweet?  But Jason knows better.   He said, “well, I haven’t been home to feed you,” and it dawned on me how terrible I’d been eating while he was away.  Eating junk, skipping meals, etc.  Right after that conversation, I made myself a big ole salad and ate an apple.  Nearly immediately I began to feel a little better.  It’s amazing how intimately connected the mind is to the body.  And how nutrition drastically affects this connection.  And how crazy it is that I can manage to eat poorly when I live on an organic vegetable farm and I still have produce!!!  Incidentally, we just watched the film “Milk” (which was great, by the way), and the defense for the man who shot the mayor and Harvey Milk was that his diet of junk food made him crazy.  I’m not saying that the defense and the resulting sentence was justified, but I am saying that if his diet was junky, it probably didn’t help his crazy problem.  They called it “The Twinkie Defense.”


Posted 10/26/2009 6:53pm by Shiloh Avery.

We took advantage of "migrant labor" and a sunny day to put the plastic on the first hoophouse:

Held together with duct tape

Held together with duct

All paws on deck!

All paws on deck!

Just about to put the plastic up

About to put the main plastic on

use #101 for tennis balls (who knew?!)

Use #101 for tennis
balls (who knew?)

a game of twister?

A game of twister?

And the plastic is on!

And it's up!


This is the time for big slow change.  The pace of life slows to a “lazy” crawl as the sun sets earlier and earlier, leaving us with a gradual increase in evening and night and sleep.  We find ourselves with “leisure” time and piles of books left unread throughout the season.  We bake more bread, watch more movies, and just plain get less done.  Call it the unproductive season. I still have lists, of course, but it seems like few things on them are crisis anymore so it becomes easier and easier to put them off.  Perhaps the biggest slow change of all to happen this season is the finishing of our house!  We are moving in!  We had planned to escape to the beach next week, but instead have decided that moving into our newly finished house (well, almost finished) is a higher priority.  Jason promised me that we would do no work except move into the house (we’ll see), but I was easily swayed.  We sat around the other day planning all the things we would cook in our real kitchen with our real oven.  Oh, the small pleasures in life (and big ones).  We’ve been joking for a week that we’re going to quit doing dishes and instead just pile them into the wheelbarrow and haul them up to the house to be cleaned by our new automatic dishwasher!  I can’t wait to have a soak in the tub.  Oh! I could go on and on about how excited we are to move out of the camper and into our real house. See pictures of the house here!


Posted 10/19/2009 6:19pm by Shiloh Avery.

Fall field 2009

Half of this year's fall field in the beautiful Tumbling Shoals Valley


I have a thing for french fries.  I consider myself a connoisseur.  And no, McDonalds fries are not really up to snuff, but they’ll do in a pinch.  And this was a pinch, let me tell you.  We were all sitting around at the library discussing Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and local food (and why everyone should love Tumbling Shoals Farm) and there was all this guilt.  It seemed that reading that book elicited a lot of guilt from folks around here.  There was a funny story about being in the grocery store suffering a mild panic attack thinking, “there’s nothing in here I can buy!” 

But all this discussion about eating close to the source did not elicit guilt in me, my friends, oh no!  It ignited an incalculable desire for french fries.  I had already consumed my daily dose of local healthy veggies, yes sir, I was headed for McDonalds.  This was a pinch, after all.  I should have gone through the drive through.  Despite all my scoffing at the mere principle of a drive through, I should have driven through.  I even considered it, but my bladder and the usual excessive cleanliness of any McDonalds restroom dictated otherwise.  But then came the guilt.  I guess you could call it that.  But really it was more a fear of embarrassment, of getting caught.  I parked, thanking the inertia that has us still driving an anonymous van rather than one painted with the Tumbling Shoals Farm logo.  I walked into the rear entrance, ostensibly to use the restroom first, but probably just in case I got caught on the way in, I still had the ready excuse of the restroom.  But then my desire for salt and fat had me up front in front of all those people.  My eyes darted furtively around me, “why is that man looking at me that way, does he know me?”  “What if someone here saw the article in the Welcome to Wilkes magazine?”  I wished for a disguise while I silently tapped my foot waiting for the contraband, cringing every time the door opened with fear of a familiar face.  I nearly ran to the van with my booty and relief washed over me as I pulled away.  I got away with it!  And then, to my desperately awaiting mouth went a french fry and woosh, all of that anticipated joy was lost.  Ugh.  Not even worth it.  Old stale McDonalds french fries.  Should have stuck with local stuff.


Posted 10/12/2009 6:08pm by Shiloh Avery.
purple cabbage
Purple cabbage
October asters
October Asters
A large flock of grackels
taking off

When most people think of the seasons, they think of winter, spring, summer and fall.  You and I might think something more like greens, summer squash, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.  In many parts of Africa, there are but two seasons commonly acknowledged: rainy and dry. But around here, there are a lot more signs of the seasonality of things.  There is the Turkey visitation season (last year I counted more than 40 in our local flock!) There is the season of the blue jays.  There is the spring fireworks season with the spectacular dogwood, cherry and redbud explosion of colorful blooms.  There is the passing through of the Northern Flickers and the hatching of the Swallows and Indigo Buntings.  There is the explosion of the tick population and their subsequent disappearance (a much celebrated season around here).  There is the buzzing of the Tupelo Gum when the bees find it blooming and the blue season of the Tupelo berries.  There is hunting season when those pesky deer seem to disappear.  And now: now it is the purple season.  Wild native purple asters are awakening the green forests before the forests can awe us with their own color explosion.  And the iridescent purple grackles have returned en force.  Open the door and a thunderous explosion of purple tinted wings temporarily clouds the sky. 


Posted 10/5/2009 9:35pm by Shiloh Avery.

Savoy cabbage plant

A recycled picture of a savoy cabbage (the camera with new pictures is on a road trip)


A year or so ago I read an article in the High Country Magazine about a few local Ashe County farmers that I knew.  Most of them had come into farming as a second career.  You know: left a corporate career to play in fields of barley thing.  They spoke of the career switch as a search for a slower, simpler life.  I’m sure now, that the interviews must have taken place in October.  I laughed at the time.  “the slower, simpler life.”  While I never found myself climbing the corporate ladder, I have had a couple nine to five jobs in my time on my way to this land here, and I recall the nine to five life with free weekends a much simpler and slower life.  Not satisfying, mind you, but definitely slower and simpler.  But now October has arrived and my tired body is slowing down, the cool weather is slowing the crops down, and the shorter days have me inside at a reasonable hour (kind of like nine to five).  So yeah, I can see their point now. 



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