Waxing Poetic (farm blog)
Emerging February crops
We haven’t allowed an alarm clock since the crew left us in November. Well, except for Wednesdays. We are trying to fool ourselves into thinking that we are getting our usual end of the season break, despite entering into the brave new world of winter farming. It’s quite the negotiation.
The to-do list looms large, but we’re still tending our winter crops and planting late winter crops, all the while trying desperately not to work more than 40 hours/week. That’s a break right? We keep pushing goals further and further into the future and it feels like we’re just spinning our wheels.
This must be what it felt like all those years ago when we first entered began, but all we can recall is washing radish bunches under fluorescent lights late into the evening. Something we laugh about now, but it must have felt a little like this back then. A little like your one mistake away from being completely out of control.
We take comfort in that. We survived. We’re still here, 11 years later, entering yet again a brave new world.
I just squandered a couple of hours taking a nap with the kitten. "Squandered" isn't exactly the right word since I have no regrets. Sure, there are things to do, but we've officially entered the slow(er) season. I like to call it the lap cat season, since it's what I spend a good amount of time doing.
It's cold and dark a bit later in the morning and earlier in the afternoon. Everything grows a lot slower, even the weeds. The farmily all scatter and leave us undisciplined. And it's plum difficult to muster the sort of urgency that has punctuated our lives since March. Things will get done when they get done and that's that. So let's put our feet up at the end of the day and provide a lap for a cat.
a random picture of an crowd surfing I found on the internet
I attended my first punk show last Wednesday. Ha ha. Can you picture it? A pair of overalls and a plaid collared shirt in a sea of black leather and painted skulls. But the punks didn’t seem to mind, or really even notice. In other words, I fit right in.
A large part of punk shows, as it turns out, is crowd surfing. Have you ever seen crowd surfing? It takes the whole crowd, essentially, to catch the stranger diving from the stage, each member lending their upraised hands, and pass them around overhead without dropping them. It’s an astounding exercise in trust and community. You leap, literally into the hands of many complete strangers and trust that they’re going to catch you and hold you up. And it works!
Of course I found a metaphor in this. I didn’t crowd surf at the show (after all, I had never even heard of the band before that evening…crowd surfing just seemed like too much, plus I’m Midwestern and surely Midwesterners do not crowd surf.) But still, I relate to the concept. This exercise in trust and community is not unlike the one that small business owners like ourselves experience every day. You leap out into the community around you and trust that everyone will do their small part to keep you afloat. See? Crowd surfing. Thanks, y’all, for not dropping us on our heads!
a random picture of an Italian mealtime I found on the internet
Have you heard of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? Of all the dietary trends and recommendations filtering in and out of our lives, the Mediterranean diet is the most persistent. Eating Well magazine had an article about “9 foods you should be eating” that was modeled after the Mediterranean diet. Jason (who is cooking lasagna from scratch including making the sauce and pasta), had enough: “Yeah Mediterraneans are healthy, but is it because they eat couscous and eggplant or because they have their priorities in order—they spend time preparing and enjoying meals rather than on the run in the car alone.”
Hmmm indeed. We do live in a super fast-paced society, where we accomplish the impossible and more, but rarely find time to prepare and enjoy a meal together. I’ve never been to Italy, but when I think of it, I think of large numbers of people gathered around long tables with wine and many courses of delicious, lovingly prepared food. I think this is what Jason meant: are Mediterranean people healthy because of what they eat, or because of how they eat? Or perhaps it’s a combination of both of these things. Slowing down, preparing meals from scratch, automatically means you’re using whole, unadulterated foods, and slowing down--being "present in the moment." Perhaps we're not just what we eat, but how we eat. I think I'd like to be more Italian :)
Big sigh. Big indignant sigh. Sometimes in life, you just have to suffer from heartbreak. “Grit your teeth and bear it”. “You win some, you lose some”. Etc. Etc. adages ad nauseum. But what else can you do? The trick, I am told, is to let it go. Recognize that nothing is permanent, that tomorrow is another day, and move on. Accept everything with grace and patience and equanimity.
But I don’t always do as I’m told, do I (Mom? Dad?)? Nope. And I. Want. Revenge. You don’t have to tell me that this is not becoming, or kind, or that those deer who destroyed our carrot patch didn’t know they were hurting us, or whatever other philosophical greater good you can come up with. I will indulge the lesser of myself and go back on my nightly prowls until I satisfy my deep seated tribal instinct and get my revenge. Indeed, this is a prime situation for the current day maxim: “Sorry, not sorry.” Now let’s go get us some venison.
And just like that we’ve landed right smack in the middle of stripping season. October (the best month ever!) has made its grand entrance and forced our wardrobe hand. If we didn’t know how to win strip poker before, October (not her stripper name) will teach us. Mornings require hats, gloves, and roughly 14 layers, but just until the sun arrives above the trees, then maybe the hat can go, soon followed by the gloves. Then, slowly but surely, you lose the poker hands until you’re down to a t-shirt and pants (hopefully) by the afternoon.
But don’t get too comfy! That sun gets lazy in the late afternoon and you’ll start winning hands and need to re-apply layers one by one until the evening when you’re back in roughly 14 layers. Which is probably good because otherwise you might be tempted to be a sloppy stripper and leave all those layers laying about all over the farm which would make mornings a bit, uh, chillier.
Jason said to me today, “I feel like I’ve been accomplishing some athletic feat and now I’m supposed to rest and recover.” I pointed out that I felt that way too, but that I had accomplished an athletic feat (if you count dancing at a wedding well into the night after being up since 4 a.m. and working farmers market and athletic feat).
It is this feeling, and not the lovely weather, that clues us into the fact that it’s nearly October. This is the time of year that our bodies let us know how old we are (they exaggerate a bit, I’m afraid). It is also the time of year that our bellies are the smallest and our muscles are the strongest, that our boots need replacing and our sleep needs increasing. You see, it’s not just the vegetables that are seasonal, it’s our lives and bodies too.
It’s also the time of year when half the farmily leaves us and destruction becomes our major activity. Which means that it never becomes a fire to put out. Planting has to happen when planting has to happen or you won’t have crops to harvest. Same with watering and weeding. But destruction, well…that can be put off another week, another month. Who cares really if the old rotten tomatoes sit there on the trellis a little while longer when putting it off means quitting after only 8 hours and the weather is perfect and you have some prosecco chilling in the fridge?
This is the time of year that we understand again that sometimes an ideal world is not having everything done, but having time to sit and sip on the porch a while. When we realize that the word “pet” is also a verb. And that we are not, in fact, professional athletes (or 20-something). This is the season of slowing down, just a bit, and enjoying the fruits of our labor.
Shiloh and Jason left Saturday markets in the competent hands of the farmily this weekend and traveled to Long Island for an old friends wedding!
Battening down the hatches just in case (and to avoid any regrets later that we didn't do everything we can)
I’m sorry all you cool weather lovers, but I was distinctly not ready to give up summer’s caress. I did not get enough prosecco on the porch, river floating, or just plain sitting outside with good friends. Part of that is self-inflicted. We worked way too many hours this summer. It felt necessary at the time, but we’re beginning to think regulating one’s working hours is more a state of mind. As a farmer acquaintance near Asheville said, “I’ve discovered that it’s more of a conscious choice rather than an opportunity that comes up. There are a million things to do on the farm today, but today I’m choosing to take some time off to rest and enjoy the nice weather and an opportunity to do a whole lot of nothing.”
But in previous years, we had more time. September can hold onto summer like a desperate lover, and I can recognize my earlier lifestyle mistakes and slow down, ignore the million things to do on the farm and enjoy the nice weather. Exactly a year ago, I was porch sitting with friends in a sleeveless shirt, skirt and bare feet well into the evening. This year, porch sitting was in full cold gear including a blanket, and soon migrated inside by the fire. The fire! In September!
Still though, it was porch sitting. And enjoying the company of good friends. And doing a whole lot of nothing. So I guess it’s not too late to recognize our earlier lifestyle mistakes and slow down…it just might not be enjoying the nice weather on the porch.
Yesterday, we floated down the New River. I love floating the river. Once you sit down in the tube, there’s nothing to be done except float. You can’t do anything about anything. It’s the most profound relaxation I’ve ever managed to achieve. Forget all the meditation and breathing exercises. Just float. Slowly drift into the clouds. Become a cloud. The lazy river just nudges you along ever so slightly, so slowly. Concerns are heavier than you and seem to have floated ahead and out of sight, out of mind. A giggle escapes you, and another, as you waft along on the whims of the river.
This was my celebration of labor: getting away from it for an afternoon. But now it’s labor day. I hope most of you are chilling out, grilling burgers and hot dogs (or peppers and eggplant!), floating rivers, squeezing the last bit of relaxation out of summer. Every year, I forget that it’s labor day and try mailing something or placing an order with another business, etc. We always labor on labor day. It’s just that the tomatoes and peppers and kale and, well, weeds, don’t know that it’s a national holiday. And so we labor.
However, this year we are going to celebrate labor all week by only laboring from 8 to 4:30. Well, except for Wednesday and Saturday, but still. This is a profound test of our strength of will. You see, there’s always work to be done. Always. And we often find ourselves completing tasks, finishing up projects, sending emails, early in the morning and late into the evening. Not doing so while still on the farm feels like a monumental achievement.
But we’re growing all winter this year, which means the whole seasonal balance has been thrown out the window and the excessive laboring has to stop. So, no time like the week after labor day and my lazy celebration of it!