Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
We have this sense in this country that if we just work harder, we will get ahead. It’s the essence of the American Dream. What nobody tells you is that sometimes working harder is just not enough. You have to work harder doing the right things! You have to work smarter.
See, there are only so many hours in the day. You can say that you’ll work 16 of those, but eventually, you’re going to break down. I don’t care how much you get paid to work those long hours, you can’t do that forever. Extra dollars do not make you extra human.
We feel this intensely as farmers, but I’m sure all small business owners do. It’s a constant dance of ingenuity of necessity and triage. Your mind always considering potential better/more efficient ways of doing things, and figuring out what you can leave undone.
You might notice if you visit the farm that right now it doesn’t exactly look like a country club. That’s because we’re in triage mode and mowing almost never makes a triage list. There’s no satisfaction in things left undone but there is a sort of an art.
And we practiced that art on the fourth of July—leaving things undone in order to take a half a hot day off and float the river.
Well this is a good reason for July
July has arrived in relatively good humor, but with a note of ferocity. Like it’s namesake, Julius Caesar, July threatens an unsanctioned war upon us. Every day, the weather prediction is similar: highs in the high 80s. Also every day, several degrees are added to that. July is being sneaky. Luring us (and clearly the weathermen) out with cool enough nights, then striking us down mid-day with vicious torridity.
Ahem, July, WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO JULIUS CAESER!
Working the most important job of their lives:)
I stop at Dunkin Donuts on my delivery route on Wednesdays. Shhhhhh. That’s just between you and me. Organic farmer at Dunkin Donuts, I know. But there’s this guy that works there on Wednesday mornings who is an inspiration.
Vicki at Café 1841 in Lenoir put it this way, “the bible says anybody could be Jesus so you had better treat everybody as if they were Jesus” (she does). So I don’t know if that’s what the guy at Dunkin Donuts is thinking or acting on—I don’t even know his name (yet)!—but this is how he approaches his work day: like it is the most important job he’s ever going to do.
Now let me assure you that every small business owner believes that their employees are doing the most important work of their lives, and to that small business owner it is! But I’m pretty sure not all employees of all small businesses believe this. Except the Dunkin Donuts guy.
That guy is having a great time, working hard, and treating every customer as if they’re the most important person to walk into the store (or drive through the drive through—yes the donut shop has a drive through!). I absolutely love watching him. And you know what? I bet he’s a genuinely happy person. I know I always leave there with a bigger smile on my face (and it’s not because I’m leaving a donut shop😊).
The land that I love is the land that I'm working
In an interview today, I was asked about my connection to the land and whether it has changed over the years. Immediately, the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Take ‘em Away” popped into my head: “…land that I love is the land that I’m workin’, but it’s hard to love it all the time when your back is a-hurtin’. 😊
While that statement is true, that’s not my answer! We live and work in a stunningly beautiful valley. Early on in our careers, we took lots of pictures, gaped in awe, etc. We were tourists in our own home, so to speak. But sometimes when you’re working hard and have your head down, you can forget to look up and notice how amazing everything is.
I am reminded of this on my delivery route on Wednesday which takes me through the country to Lenoir. As I crest a hill on highway 18, the sunrise is in my rearview mirror and the purple mountains are in front of me. It never fails to take my breath away. I’m a captive audience.
So yeah, I guess my relationship with the land that I love, the land that feeds me, has changed a bit. It has deepened in its intensity, but I can sometimes tend to take that for granted. But not today. Today I’m noticing.
One of the reasons we've been harvesting so much produce on the farm is that Emily has single handedly turned the Charlotte market into a big leaue market! Here we are celebrating her "graduation" into the big leagues:)
Sheesh. What an emotional rollercoaster this year has been! We were on top of the world, ahead of the game, spring was being extra kind to us and them WHAMO-the wind storm damage set us back. We scrambled and everyone pushed extra hard to catch us back up, and then we got lucky and convinced Liz to come on board.
Back on top of the world. 7 is the magic number to keep Tumbling Shoals Farm ahead of the game of weeds and other disasters and we were cranking it out. Then WHAMO-we got dumped. One of our farmily broke up with us! I mean, witty charming us! I’m not going to lie, this hit us pretty hard and weighed our spirits down for an entire week. I mean, breaking up is hard to do! 😊
But we just got lucky again with a late applicant, available immediately, and looking specifically for farm work in western North Carolina! He called a week before the break up and I serendipitously had not gotten around to returning his call yet to tell him all of the positions had been filled. And now we’re back on top of the world today as he fit right in and everyone crushed it today.
While I much prefer to be walking on top of the world than to be carrying the weight of the world, I also understand that sometimes you need the dark to appreciate the light. Perhaps we just needed a reminder to pause for a moment and appreciate just how incredible our farmily really is and how much they accomplish. Thanks for your help with that.
We’ve been pushing hard to catch up this spring after the wind damage set us back. It’s a physical job on the laziest of days, but when you’re behind, it’s at least doubly so. Everyone dug deep and worked crazy hard to get us here. We owe the success of the crops to them. I don’t always know how best to express this to them, so I’m putting it to you. Please reply and tell the Tumbling Shoals farmily what this farm and the food they produce on it means to you! And thanks for being the reason we do this!
Here's what we're harvesting for you this week:
Zephyr squash: $2.25/pound
Green curly kale: $3/bunch
Collard Greens: $3/bunch
Rainbow Chard: $3/bunch
Baby lettuce salad mix: $3.50/compostable 5oz container
Japanese Scallions: $2/bunch
If ever you need your faith in humanity restored, have a crisis. There have been so many times when I experienced or witnessed communities coming together to help each other that I harbor a heady fondness for humanity. A month or so ago, I witnessed the community around a friend and his family come together in tiny little increments (less than $100 each) to save them from foreclosure. It was inspiring.
Today, we were the benefactor’s a farmer neighbor’s helping hand. Our walk-in cooler broke down on Saturday, during what just might be a record setting heat wave for May. Our back up cooler is WAY too small to handle our Tuesday harvest, and today was a holiday for most businesses (not farmers!), which complicated repair possibilities as well as rentals. But our neighbor farmers at Apple Brandy Beef responded and came to our rescue by lending us their spare refrigerated truck!
Once again, I am filled with gratitude and fondness for the folks that make up these small communities that add up to be humanity.
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.