Waxing Poetic (farm blog)

Welcome to Shiloh's world!
Posted 9/14/2015 5:07pm by Shiloh Avery.

 

We went to pick up cider from McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks for our (shameless plug) chamber of commerce business after hours event this Thursday (on the farm from 5:30p.m. to 7:30p.m.). While there, we tasted the current slate of wines, and chatted with Hannah about the seasonality of wines.  

You see, I’ve always thought of seasonality as happening within a given year. There’s greens season and squash season and tomato season and pepper season, etc. But Patricia McRitchie had just pulled out a few cases of a 2011 wine of theirs which had us reminiscing about the near perfect weather we had that year and what a good year it was for certain grapes. And I realized that we have this kind of seasonality too.  

We’ve noticed that this year has been a good year for “winter” squash flavor, and tomatoes. And that the chilies this season are tending toward the hotter end of their spectrums. And that this wasn’t the year for eggplant but that one of the varieties of sunflowers grew huge this year. It’s the same longer term seasonality, just not one we can preserve in a bottle for several years down the road.  

 

Posted 9/7/2015 5:18pm by Shiloh Avery.



Shiloh basking in the success of her mower "rescue"

 

“Knowledge is power”. I’ve heard it a zillion times. I’ve even rolled my eyes while witnessing it in action. It always seemed better to just share the information with the other characters—it would make everything easier. At least that’s what I thought until last week.

Our mower quit working. Well, one wheel of the zero turn mower quit turning (which, as it turns out, makes it a 100% turn mower instead of a zero turn). It sat out in the field for two days until I (the resident “mechanic”) could get around to looking at it. I got out the owner’s manual, some oil, and a set of socket wrenches and got to tinkering. Everyone, including me, thought we were going to have to load it up and haul it to the real mechanic. Until “oops”, I suddenly had both wheels not turning. The little light bulb went off and I knew we were back in business. I just undid what I had done times two and voila, I came rolling in to the packing shed the resident hero.

I was basking in the glow of my success: Jason beaming at me, even taking a picture of me rolling in with the mower, and the crew was all smiles and praise. I couldn’t even part with my “shit-eating” grin (where, on earth, did that phrase come from?). Part of me knew I should show them the quick and easy fix so that if it happens again they don’t have to wait for me. But knowledge is power, and glory, and respect and so another part of me just didn’t want them to know the simple truth: that the (very) simple fix came from just tinkering, and not from any knowledge base on my part.

So I’ve come to understand those who withhold information and knowledge at, perhaps, the expense of ease and simplicity. It means someone must depend on them, must need them, and maybe, just maybe, they will get to be the hero.

 

 

A reminder about our upcoming farm events:

September 17th; we’re partnering with the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce to host a business after hours from 5:30p.m. to 7:30p.m. with light refreshments (lots of pepper themed things mid-Sept) and farm tours. Everyone is welcome!  

October 4th; we’re celebrating a great season and the upcoming wind-down as well as Shiloh’s 40th birthday. 3 p.m. until…..there will be live music from Josh Perryman, games, food and fun. Kyle will be cooking up some pork, but bring a dish to share! Plenty of camping spots available and even a couple of cabins will be available! More details will emerge as we finalize plans, but put it on your calendar, it’s going to be lots of fun!    

 

 

Posted 8/31/2015 3:00pm by Shiloh Avery.


The weedy ginger/sweet potato field is the first stop on the trail of things left undone

Exhaustion has settled upon the four of us like the morning dew when you’ve stayed up all night. We can pinpoint exactly when it arrived, we just know now that we are soaked with it. It’s the kind of exhaustion that clings to you like a tick—blood sucking day and night—so that you just can’t shake the feeling that something is missing. It’s the exhaustion of overwhelmingly long to-do lists that have no basis in the same reality that we are living. It’s the exhaustion of things left undone.  

It’s been constant triage around here for the past few weeks. I glance quickly and sadly at the things I’ve left to die, choosing instead to spend those limited minutes on fresh, new arrivals glowing green in the morning light. The fall crops. They speak to us of hope and renewal. Of inevitable cooler weather and a lighter workload. Of a time when we all expected to be just the four of us because the season winds down. So the trail of things left undone grows wider behind us, but we just keep stumbling forward, and each new footfall lives up to its name, surprising us each time with its timeliness in keeping us upright.  

So, it is with this hope and sense of renewal that we wish to announce two upcoming events at Tumbling Shoals Farm:  

September 17th; we’re partnering with the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce to host a business after hours from 5:30p.m. to 7:30p.m. with light refreshments (lots of pepper themed things mid-Sept) and farm tours. Everyone is welcome!  

October 4th; we’re celebrating a great season and the upcoming wind-down as well as Shiloh’s 40th birthday. 3 p.m. until…..there will most likely be live music (still working on that), games, food and fun. Kyle will be cooking up some pork, but bring a dish to share! Plenty of camping spots available and even a couple of cabins will be available! More details will emerge as we finalize plans, but put it on your calendar, it’s going to be lots of fun!  

 

Posted 8/17/2015 5:55pm by Shiloh Avery.


The "Emergenc-ees" (Elliot and Eli) rescuing us today at the farm

We value the “farmily” above all else. I like to tell them that they are the most valuable tool on the farm, but since “tool” became an insult, I’ve had to choose other words. We can’t do this without them. This is why we call them “farm superheroes”. Because they continually save us from the impossible tyranny that farming can impose.

That was evidenced more than ever last week as we found ourselves shorthanded and began triage. Some things just have to get left unharvested or undone. Kyle and Sage were wonderful and supportive and very superhero-like: working late every day, and carrying the weight of the “missing” farmily member, but without that fifth person we were supposed to have this time of year, there just isn’t enough time to get it all done.  

But today, we got rescued. Elliot and Eli (I call them the “emergenc-ees”) came down the mountain in a whirlwind of energy and saved us from the relentless cruelty of the ticking clock. It was amazing. We blew through our list, allowing a (perhaps temporary) sense of “normalcy” to return to the farm. The crew quit at 4:30 like they’re supposed to, I got to run the broken down gator to the repair shop, and here we are at a reasonable time: writing this blog and cooking supper, with a hope for a reasonable bed time. Sighs of relief abound.  

 

Posted 8/10/2015 6:43pm by Shiloh Avery.


The 2015 farmily on Sonia and Nathan's last day

And then there were 4. Sonia and Nathan have gone back to their student lives, and left the rest of us here to crawl around, our old bones aching, to harvest yet another tomato. Kyle was sick today so Sage, Jason and I literally crawled around on our knees for 8 straight hours. How do babies do that? Oh wait, they take naps.  

That’s a lost art: napping. Or a lost cause. Some days we like to play anthropologist here on the farm (and so days we like to play anthropormorphist), and today was one of those days. Today, as we scrambled in our suddenly 3 person team, we discussed how other cultures move so much more slowly and so much less consistently. Like there’s no pressure to get it all done. Like everything can just stop because it’s clearly too hot, or raining, and that everyone intrinsically knows this protocol.  

Today was not too hot or raining or too anything but shorthanded. Should we have just stopped, shrugged our shoulders and waited to work until we had enough people? Skipped market because we just couldn’t get it harvested? No. Instead, we crawled, because our society doesn’t stop. It doesn’t wait.  

 

Posted 8/3/2015 5:41pm by Shiloh Avery.



Happy bean pickers on a lovely August day.

It sounds like summer outside. I know they call these the “dog” days” but I think they’re more like “cicada days,” because the cicadas create the soundtrack to our days. The dogs are dug in the dirt in the shade somewhere, hiding from the heat. The farmers and the cicadas are out there, proud of their resilience.  

It takes a bit of resilience, this farming in August thing. We’ve been going hard for months now and our bodies and souls are beginning to show signs of wear. Still, the cicada song is a nice rhythm for our somewhat slower pace. The sun shines a slight bit lower and the evenings are cool enough to lie beneath the open sky and recover from the day’s hot hard work.  

 

Posted 7/27/2015 6:58pm by Shiloh Avery.


Mother Nature's gifts to the farmer: a cloud, a breeze, a funny shaped vegetable

I’m sure we hear all the time about “appreciation for the small things in life.” Nothing has taught me more about that than farming in the south in July. There we are, laboring under the cruel gaze of the sun, salty sweat burning our eyes and every little skin abrasion we can’t imagine how we got, when along comes a cloud and a light breeze. Everybody straightens up and sighs with gratitude and relief.  

Sometimes, in July and August, under that cruel gaze of the sun, it becomes difficult to keep the heavy work light. We’re just too busy noticing the sweat burning skin abrasions and wiping the sweat out of our eyes. We’re afraid to expend any unnecessary energy with jokes or lightheartedness. But difficult jobs are made lighter when everyone is distracted by humor or fun or downright silliness.  

Enter nature again, bearing gifts of funny shaped veggies. A tomato with a nose. An eggplant with a mouth. A potato with a nose mouth and hair to boot. We stop thinking about the hard work and how hot we are and play show and tell with each other for a brief minute. And those minutes add up to hours, and suddenly, the work is done! It’s time for popsicles!  

 

Posted 7/20/2015 3:34pm by Shiloh Avery.

 

See how happy (and color coordinated and dirty) we are in our old(er) age?! (photo courtesy of Sarene Cullen)

I heard on the radio the other day that the older people are, the happier they tend to be. They had several hypotheses as to why this is the case. One hypothesis really stuck with me though. It reminded me of myself 20 years ago. I always had my hands up, ready to fight, to defend my place in this world (wherever that was) and my raison d’etre (whatever that was). I would look at the world through different identity and moral glasses and defend them tooth and nail. I’m soooo much more mellow these days—it takes quite a bit to get me riled up.

The theory is that as young people, we are so caught up in thinking about the future and all that goes with that. What path should we follow? What is our place in this world? Age 20 years and the future isn’t such a big question anymore. We have pretty much chosen our paths and know who we are more or less. It just seems more “sure”.

So yeah, compare me to myself 20 years ago and I’m much happier. I fit right into the statistic. The future no longer filled with so many questions as I head into middle (ish) age. It’s good that I love what I do, because farming is a very long road. A long road that rests on a cushion of contentment, with no minimum speed requirement, and I can just plod along, stopping occasionally to pick a flower or two.

 

Posted 7/13/2015 3:54pm by Shiloh Avery.


This, too, is organic farming

When it’s cold in the winter, and we are tucked safely indoors with the heat and the hot chocolate and the pretty Christmas lights, it’s easy to romanticize working on an organic farm. Isn’t it? I mean, we even do it. When we’re gazing at seed catalogues all misty-eyed, envisioning the perfect season with the perfect weather and everyone working hard in perfect harmony here in this beautiful valley.  

Somehow the sweat never enters the romantic vision. Nor the back aches. It’s just human nature. Especially young human nature. Young people envision dirty smiling people posing for a group picture after accomplishing some great but difficult goal and it make our hearts sing. Yet somehow, the abusive sun and dripping sweat day after day after day remain evasive to our romantic montage.  

Then we find ourselves deep in a North Carolina mid-July haze with our muscles sore, our skin sunburned, sweat dripping into our eyes, and yet ANOTHER weed to pull and can’t remember how exactly we got here and wondering whether we should question our own sanity.  

Or at least I think that’s what happens to some people. Despite the brutal sun and aching back (and feet and hips) and ALL those weeds we thought we would prevent in our romantic winter visions, I still love my job. But I’ve been around this rodeo before. Somewhere in the back of my mind, while sipping hot cider with my feet up in front of the wood stove, envisioning the perfect season blah blah blah, there’s the little cynic laughing and remembering the sometimes harsh reality that is running a farm. Even a lovely little organic farm set in a picturesque valley with a gurgling creek running through it.

Posted 7/7/2015 6:01pm by Shiloh Avery.


The characters in the Tumbling Shoals Farm choose your own adventure

 

Do you remember those “choose your own adventure” books from when you were a kid? You know, where you turn to page such and such with this choice, or flip the book over and turn to page such and such for this choice. I adored them as a kid, without ever contemplating the crazy complexity it must have taken to create such an adventure. As an adult, I can’t even fathom how the authors and editors kept it all together and making sense.  

Lately, I’ve felt a bit like one of those authors: trying to plan out all the possible outcomes of decisions that we need to make in order to choose the best adventure, while managing potential weather situation, employee health situations, etc. I feel like I’m writing the upside down version sometimes. Wait, how did I get here? Who are the characters on the farm today? How are they going to get to the desired outcome?  

 

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