Friday, October 28, 2011

Catching up to Fall

I don't want to be so busy I miss it.
Miss the bright yellow and red leaves and the smell of smoking chimneys.
I don't want to fall behind or skip ahead
and miss the smell of dried wet grasses and earthy soil as I pull up turnips.
I don't want to get caught thinking about winter snow and fretting about freezes
busting icy ponds and water troughs.
I don't want to be stuck in the heat of August
The twenty hour work days.
I don't want to look or think about the pile of  broken drip tape that couldn't carry the demand of a drought.
I don't want to remember all the projects I didn't get to, or all of the projects ahead.
The chickens that lost the battle from the relentless heat
The what ifs, the should haves, the I got to's, i did, I didn't, the I need to's
Today I have something better to do than all of that!
I have air to breath and knees to get dirty as I pull turnips from the ground.
I have trees to watch and the sun's heat to warm my face
persimmon trees to visit.
In one second flat I catch up to fall.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random as rain

The sheep are out eating hay. Two withers are playing king of the mountain on the turned over round bale just made short enough to jump on. The goats stand in the barn huddled close together like Armageddon has been bestowed upon them. The sheep eat and chew and play, free from the goat’s constant control and policing. The goats look on with disgust as the sheep with their weather proofing fleece allows them freedom in the rain.
The barn chickens and chicks have re roosted, they came down for a little while hoping for some spilt grain from the mornings milking. Since then there are small streams and rivers making the yard difficult for small and even smaller feet to navigate. The pullets have come out of their coop and now huddle together just outside the door sopping wet. Why don’t they have sense enough to go inside? I think to myself. A question I know better than to ask.

Most of the laying hens are still in the coop with an exception of a couple of brave old hens with priorities of eating. I don’t see the cows or the llamas I suspect they are in that group of trees next to the creek. It must be beautiful. I’ll have to join them.

This is a kind rain, steady and sweet. Tipping her hat as she passes.”Top of the morning to you” she says as she passes through. “how long will you be staying?” another question I know better than to ask.
It’s complicated. This rain isn’t the rain that uproots trees, I’ve seen it, well… after the fact that is.
I still don’t know why my sister didn’t add another window to the rec-room from the insurance money?
That was a big tree. We had a tire swing on that tree. It was a pine taller than a building and as wide as a house. That’s an exaggeration. But it was a grand old pine tree. A childhood friend.

Yes, this is the rain everybody likes. No dramatic lightning and thunder, no angry hail. This rain is kind of like glue that holds everything together, keeps roots alive and strong, and softens brittle branches.  This is the spa CD rain, You know that music that is supposed to relax you.
Did I mention the guardian dogs are curled up on the porch and the useless pet dogs are under thick blankets in the yurt lazily sleeping until either the rain passes or the cant hold their bladder any longer.
You know that mocking bird outside the window is singing her head off.  Who could blame her?

Monday, October 24, 2011

time on my hands

If I think about it long enough, if I start looking at old lists and filling empty pages with to-dos, then I'll have more work than I know what to do with, and more frustration of knowing I'll never get to everything. Today I'm kind of sitting still. This is very rare and in all honesty very uncomfortable (My butt is starting to hurt).

Several things have changed for me in the last two weeks; The last farm table dinner of the year, the last farmers market of the year (no more 3:45 wake ups) Kathleen (our farm intern extraordinaire) has left for the winter, and..thanks to the drought, I just sold 25 ewes and 47 lambs ( I held back 12 of my best ewes 20 butcher lambs and a hand full of replacement ewes to start over next year if I like). So in a way I'm grieving. I'm not asking to have it any other way I'm just trying to find a way to adjust from the absence of so many things that have taken up so much time in my life. There is plenty of work to do, so no need to worry about me sinking into the couch for three months. The winter CSA will keep me plenty busy but.... no more moving sheep, no more 20 hour work days, no more working in 100 degree weather, no more worrying over recipes and menus.

Now its taking care of the small flock of 30'ish sheep, a  herd of 20 sweet milk goats, 4 cows, 100 laying hens and 80'ish chicks, and winter gardening; basically raising food for 40 CSA families through the winter,.What will I do with all of the extra time I'll have on my hands?  Looks like I'll have plenty to keep me busy, who am I kidding. But I might be a little giddy. Hee hee, yes giddy. I am giddy!
I just might have time for reading, writing, visiting with friends, blogging and most importantly breathing.(insert crazy laughter)

I'm even thinking about not writing any lists for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.  maybe that's too much. I don't want to have a total melt down. No, I'm going to try it. No, maybe not. I cant help it, one started working in my head the minute I wrote the word no lists. my brain: "feed store, Camembert, Gouda, minerals to cows, hay in barn....." crap!.... Still, I wont write it down. hows that?!  does the blog count? I'm hopeless!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The cleansing

A freeze is very much like a fire, agriculturally speaking, it cleanses the soil of shallow burrowing pests and microbes. A freeze tells the plants still left in the ground from spring and summer that it’s time to step aside a new season is coming. For someone who grows in the typical seasons of spring and summer a freeze means rest, it means an end to things. Hopefully the previous seasons have been good. For the crazy folk like me who grow in what might be considered the “off season” a freeze creates a certain anxiety and fear. Cold weather crops, what most know as early or spring crops are very hardy and don’t mind a frost, but the question remains on the front of the brain, what about a freeze?  In spite of being very familiar with the cold hardiness of such vegetables as beets, turnips, spinach, boc choi, rappini, chard, baby lettuce, kale and carrots I’m never really sure if this might be the killing kind, even though I know better.

Yesterday morning at 5am the weather reported 36 degrees at 7am it was 28, still amazing to me that temperatures can fall at sunrise. I stood in the field inspecting the frozen tall once luscious arugula that now resembled thin green shrivel sticks sticking up from the ground, and thought, is it possible this could turn bad and I could lose all of this?. One and a half rows of beets and two rows of turnips and one row of lettuce had a frost blanket, I wasn’t worried about them at all and I scolded myself for not covering the whole lot. I wasn’t worried that everything would die (well there was a little of that) I was more worried that the leaves of all the beautiful greens I’ve been babying for the last two months would have too much leaf damage from freezing and they would be unfit for the 65 CSA members I would be delivering to on Saturday.
Nothing left to do but wait for the thaw. I had to work in Stillwater so I headed out leaving my frozen vegetables in the field all by themselves without me looming over them wringing my hands together waiting to see my future.

The hour drive to Stillwater always proves to be a nice time for reflection. It took me half way between until I calmed down. I thought of the freeze being cleansing and that the chances of me loosing anything were at best slim but worst case scenario I could cook my way out of this. If I couldn’t provide my CSA members with vegetables I could provide them with prepared food, rustic breads, soups and casseroles. I have a feeling they would be just fine with that, and even though I know a CSA member is aware of the risks involved I’m they’re best bet of redeeming most if not every cent of their investment, no matter what the weather brings us. 

I arrived home at 3:30, walked out to the field to inspect only to find a garden untouched by the mornings drama. “What?” They seemed to say to me, “you thought we would leave you just like that?” ”where is your farmers’ optimism?” guys, it’s been a long hard summer I got used to expecting the worst.

Soon I was on my knees in the soft damp soil pulling up fat Tokyo turnips, soft delicious soul nurturing soil under my fingernails. Linda came home from work and we washed, bunched and packed them carefully in bins until dark. Our tired hands stiff with cold. It’s good to be back.

So to update you on the last post, the two greenhouses are up and planted thanks to the help of new friends who spent the entire day here seeing through to the end. It turned out to be such an amazing difficult endeavor caused by the slant, and overestimating my own ability. So grateful to have such people in my life. My only regret is that I didn’t ask for help sooner.  Farmers optimism often comes with farmers pride and fierce independence. Can be a character flaw left unchecked.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

This time

The race is on and we are loosing. Moving the greenhouses to the new location was one thing. It took us a lot longer that I could have ever imagined to take them down then once moved to the new location, squaring proved to be even more difficult... and then the next challenge that has almost beaten us is leveling the posts with the string line (turns out our location has a major slant this is bad in a major way). If this all seems like gibberish I'm sorry. Let me put it to you like this; the green houses thus far have kicked our asses and have nearly defeated us. Oh they will get up, and they will be planted but not with out temper tantrums, tears, pain and sorrow. We are on the wire and I mean wire with planting. If we make it, it will be by the skin of our teeth. and we will make it, just not in the peaceful pastoral sense we will make it because we've pushed ourselves just beyond the brink of insanity fighting and scratching our way through it.

In spite of the intense stress I feel right now, I have to keep in mind that all else looks good the field is bursting with color and lots of food that will take us through the end of November and possibly into December. But a farmers life is looking far into the future. Being in the moment is absolutely necessary but becomes difficult when winter crops means rent and car payments. My head is in in January right now, I'm obsessed with January and February and March and the work I do today and tomorrow and Sunday will determine what my life and the lives of those around me looks like in those months and whether I'll be harvesting or applying for public assistance.

My nerves are outside of my skin, my anxiety has never been higher and I've finally gotten to the point when help is necessary. Soon (in the next hour) I'll send out a little cry for help to friends and csa members for a green house raising party here on Sunday. I'm sure we'll get a few willing folks who can help dig us out of this little problem, literally.

Hopefully my next post will be cheerfull and I'll be telling you that the greenhouses are planted.
stay tuned.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

a day of rest

It’s Sunday and the list of things to do is long and daunting but rest takes a front seat today. Not a choice but a stammering demand my body made as I tried to remember if I turned the water on for the sheep or if I merely just looked at the facet and walked away in a daze of exhaustion and body pain. I’m 30 feet from the faucet, I try to remember 60 seconds ago when I was standing in front of said faucet. Did I turn it on? I have to go back and check. It’s on. Rest today. Nap. Bed. Book. Eat. Drink water. The fields beckon me but I can’t fight my body's request for rest. I made sure the fields were watered well, animals had lots of hay and all on the farm could manage without me.

It’s an exciting time here on the farm, the same feeling as spring. Fall greens are filling the field with color, bright shades of greens, purples and reds. It’s a pleasure to walk down the rows of lettuce and each time I do my faith is renewed in the earth’s great abundance and its determination to sustain life. Life is renewed in the fall, just like in spring especially after a grueling hot dry summer. The sheep and goats are getting their bodies ready for breeding; it is a time for renewal. Just as it is in spring this farm is at its busiest. It’s the work I love and the work that gives me great results. I’m so satisfied at the end of the day with how things are turning out.

Sometimes the days are so long. Yesterday was, believe it or not a 20 hour workday. Up at 3:45 for farmers market and then a private dinner party at the farm in the evening. I don’t even remember going to bed. I just remember waking up probably an hour after turning in, hearing the barking of one of our dogs we accidental left outside. We slept in and the goats allowed us to come late to work this morning. Goats do have grace, I don t care what anyone says.

The famous to- do list is not so much long as it is conflicting. Everything needs to be completed at the same time. All fairly big jobs, all crucial to the overall success and operation of the farm. Beds planted, greenhouses taken down, moved and then reconstructed to be quickly planted for winters harvest. It’s a race against time. Literally, it’s a race against length of day light hours, soil temperature and first frost. It’s a race that must be won if the farm is to survive another season. So I choose. Each morning a look at the list and choose. Which one makes it to the top of the list today, which one waits, in a shroud of the farmers anxiety wrapped tightly around it, waiting to be freed, to be crossed off.

I feel confident that I’ll win the race but it takes its toll and I look toward winter as my time to rest in front of the wood burning stove in the yurt with a good book. I look forward to healing my aching back and legs. But that’s for later. I push through the days and the items on the list with great effort knowing that the work I do now will ensure the rest I get later. This, I know to be true, have tested it over and over. I ate my first fall salad last night seven different tender greens, from spicy red mustard to sweet green oak leaf. My mouth and spirit sang. Today I rest tomorrow I work.