Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer work

Tonight after my work was finished I sat in the garden studying a squash plant, hoping for some answers. Earlier it was the beans and yesterday it was broken limbs of several tomato plants that took quite a beating several nights ago in a storm that blew through. Summer is here no matter what the calendar says. Summer for me is marked by scorching days in the field battling crab grass and Bermuda on behalf of struggling vegetable crops.

It’s like this every year, the only difference is this year the work I’m doing now is a month early. My spring work of lumbering through soggy fields admiring heads of lettuces and greens standing out against the dark soil, with only little cultivation needed passed quickly, I feel like I missed it all together. I do get little comfort in knowing come fall I’ll get another chance. The carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and all things spring will get their chance to flourish again come the cool days of fall. But right now it’s down to the summer business of daily harvesting, hacking away at the grass that threatens the peppers, tying up tomato plants, and of course watering.

Something is getting my squash plants. It very well could be the vine borer but when I dissect a wilting plant I find no trace. Whatever it is, it strikes at the base of the plant just barely below soil level like a cut worm, although, again I have found no evidence. So there I am sitting, watching, expecting the answer to appear before my very eyes. It’s always something, squash bugs, vine borers. So I just take out the dead and dying, cultivate the soil a bit and re- plant usually no questions asked. No use fighting with squash bugs although I do try and I will go to the effort of careful surgery on the vine borer.

I miss the cool mornings of spring, walking into the field in a sweat shirt, shorts and muck boots wet with dew, coffee in hand and small pad of paper in my pocket. No time for that now, no time for morning walks. Mornings are windows of opportunities to get hard jobs done before the heat becomes unbearable. Walks now are in the evening just before the sun goes down, glass of wine in hand and a small pad of paper in my pocket so I can write down something I see that needs to be done. I can’t trust myself to remember.

Summer is a crucial time of year, it’s when all the winter planning comes to bear fruit, failure and success delicately balanced, anything could happen and usually does. So much rides on summer, recouping all the investment that came from purchasing seed, compost, tools and labor and insuring a smooth financial transition into winter when income is extremely small. Back in February when I first broke the winter sod with the chisel plow, cutting through the earth loosening the ground to make way for an edible landscape I was full of hope of what summer would bring. Sometimes things don’t work out and I have to cut my losses, I’ve come to accept that now and come to understand what is worth saving.

It only takes a few things going wrong to make summer a living hell and it only takes a few things going right to make that living hell half bearable. One must be an optimist to survive an Oklahoma summer. One must always look to cooler days and second chances and lessons learned. That’s part of summer work, mopping your face with your filthy shirt and going on to the next thing on the list.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Being honest

I left a new out going message on my phone today. I had procrastinated long enough. People must know why! why I never return calls, why I never have my phone with me and why I never answer my phone even when its in my pocket.

"Hello, you've reached Lisa at living kitchen farm and dairy, if you are calling about reservations for farm table dinners please e-mail us at Living Kitchen at G mail dot com. Your call is very important to us and please know this is the busiest time of year so we may not get back to you right away...bla bla bla....."

Lets get real:

"Hello you've reached Lisa" (who cant carry her phone with her around the farm because inevitably it falls out of my pocket and gets lost or eaten. or I set it down on the back of the truck, 4 Wheeler or a 2X4 in the barn and it takes me about 4 days to find it) "e-mail us with reservations" (so a responsible person actually gets it) "Your call is very important to us (it is !with out you the goats and I are no one). "Please know this is the busiest time of year. (I am up to my ears in sheep fencing, manure, crab grass, soil and sweat, my patience has been "disappeared" and luckily I am self aware to know not to call you back when I do have time which is when I am peeing and really because I'm so dehydrated its only a couple of seconds and who knows where I am, or when I'm finally done with the day because my speech becomes incredibly impaired ). "So we may not get back to you right away" (until I hand the phone to Linda and she calls you back)

(If I do happen to answer the phone.....e-mail our conversation anyway because 10 seconds after we hang up I have forgotten everything we've talked about. and if you've told me a number or an e-mail, well I've written it on whatever I could which might be a with a stick in the sand or on the back of a feed bag with dirt or blood depending on how the day has gone).

I should not own a phone.

but ya know what ? today I gave a farm tour to a gardening group, I battled crab grass, harvested nearly 200 pounds of new potatoes, bunched red onions, milked the goats, and made 8 gallons worth of chevre. Add you don't even want to know what I did yesterday.

Everything I do results in food in one form or the other. I figure most folks I know prefer it this way.

We choose our battles.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The twins

Boris and Igor on tick patrol

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Days like these

I was at the feed store when the sheep made a run for it. Scattered about in the front yard and dirt road. No telling why when they do break out they make a Bee line to the house. Lambs mowing the front yard isn't that bad but its when they start wondering down the road toward the highway when it becomes a problem.

"Should I take them all up to the barn?" Says a voice on the other end of the phone. This is my intern for the summer Josey.

"Yea, that would be good and then we'll just deal with the fence when I get back" I say

I hung up the phone and sat in the truck for a minute thinking; wow, Josey can just bring the sheep back, just like that! When I got back the sheep were back in the barn area waiting for what I don't know. So the day was again struggling with electronet fences trying to get a charge. This is my life!

The garden needed to be hoed and watered, the cheese needed to be strained, the list of farm chores was huge but I spent the day arranging fences, and checking the charge.
Covered in ticks, a cloud of mosquitoes hovered around my filthy sweaty body waiting for me to quit moving so they could feast! Finally I finished. Hopefully this will hold them for a while.

Yesterday was the first day of a string of many that I will make my peace with the Oklahoma heat and in spite of it being nearly unbearable I will endure. I will want to lay under a shade tree and die but instead I will keep working. I will drink gallons of water and have on long sleeve cotton shirts and a big hat. and at the end of the day I will peal off my filthy clothes and stand silent in a cold shower until I shiver. I like days like these, not the whole sheep thing but
the hard work. I like it. It makes me feel some how alive. I feel like I earn what I have including a cold shower. Nothing is free and I pay for it with muscle and sweat. That's what most of my pleasures costs.