Monday, November 28, 2011

winter prep

“I’m not ready for winter” I say and lay my head down on the table with an exaggerated sigh! “Honey, winter doesn’t care” was Linda’s response. I lift my head and give her the look.

Yesterday, most of it was spent preparing for freezing overnight temps that will be starting and continuing through the week. I still have tons of beautiful fall/winter greens out in the field and they are all cold hearty but I still must save them from frost and wind damage by covering the rows with a fabric called Agribon. Beets, turnips, carrots, spinach, chard, kale etc will all be protected and this should buy me some time until the high tunnels have enough density to start harvesting. This is the plan at least but if I’ve learned anything it’s not to have attachments to “the plan”.

I’m excited for winter, exited for cold days, warm yurt heated by a beautiful fire in the stove. After three winters on this farm we’ve got a winterizing plan and routine. It takes a couple of days of work but four months of less stress. The first year there was no winterizing the farm plan and we suffered, the second year we were set, over prepared and thus no suffering. This year will be even better. We’re over wintering in the yurt. It’s pretty easy and economical to heat a 400 square foot room than it is a 1200SF house.   The yurt is cozy and peaceful and a perfect place for contemplating the New Year to come. That’s what comes after the work of winterizing, contemplation. Not like I don’t do enough of that already but this I could call a focused contemplation of the evolution of the farm. Long title to write on the to-do list.

It’s an exciting time, it always is. Feeling like I have some say and control over my future is an exciting prospect. It may not turn out the way I planned i.e.drought, 112 degree days in the field, etc…but I learned so much and I have finally made peace with what I do and don’t have control over, that has made life so much more pleasant, although I still can be caught foot stomping in frustration at the wind, so enlightenment still evades me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Living within my harvest

Saffron, turmeric, cocoa, dried chili, burgundy, balsamic, nutmeg, salmon, key lime. Those are the colors of fall on the farm right now. I think this may be simply the most beautiful fall that I have ever experienced since moving to Oklahoma. The landscape that fills my eyes each day is staggering especially when I watched the orange harvest moon rise as the sun sets behind the fields and trees of such loud brilliant color.

There was talk that because of the drought all the leaves on the trees would just turn brown and drop off offering us no fall colors this year at all. Boy, they couldn’t have been more wrong. On my small front porch where I sit to take on and off my work boots, I face a tree that I’ve watched turn from green to the deepest burgundy I’ve ever seen, and right beside it is another thee with saffron  leaves. It’s a surprise that I get any work done at all. I get to drink as much of it in as I can. I waste no moments. I watch with awe and wonder and feel like I have been awarded the most wonderful prize ever given.

Rarely do I ever see a church reader board that I think is worthy of ready let alone thinking about, but the other day I saw one that said  "Live within your harvest" Wow. This was a baptist church. Who knows what they meant by that, but to me it almost had a Pagan tone to it rather than biblical one. I had a sense that it meant living within ones means, but for me it really does apply in the literal form. Live within my harvest. Yes. That is the sacred place. The place of peace and rest. 

These beautiful trees are my cohorts, they are my companions. My work day is spent working amongst them within their boundaries and protection.  Even though I spend many days here at the farm alone I never feel lonely. I look up and around in between bunching radishes or turnips and I see the world around me and the beauty of it gives me a sense of belonging and comfort, like that big ol’oak just patted me on the back, and that hickory encourages me to go just a little further. That sumac is just as impressed with herself as I am, and it goes like that. I feel like I am surrounded by good friends and family and I am happy, deeply happy. So happy I wonder if I might be going mad. But I don’t let a thing like that bother me if madness is what this is then let it be.

I love being on my knees in between rows of green crops. Pant legs scuffed and damp with mud, pulling up one fat turnip after the next, brushing of the damp moist luscious soil from the root end. Leave the soil in the garden is a mantra that plays over in my head as I harvest.  It’s hard not to notice how the soil has changed from that first year of growing. It was sandy and white, hardly could sustain growth. Now rich and chocolaty, smells so musky and earthy, full of flavor and body and strength. I spend so much time with it, touching it, moving it, feels like we’re old friends, comfortable talking about anything or just being silent together.

I’ve found this sacred place within my harvest. I’ve been searching for it my whole life. Has it been here the whole time? Or did I help to create it? I ask my friends the trees the soil; Are our hands working together to build it? or is your hand guiding my hand? It doesn’t matter really does it? no not really. There is no deception here. No lies no mistrust, mis-communication. No confusion, no illusion.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

wind, frost, sun and rain

It was Wednesday that we were all pretty certain we would wake up to a freeze or a heavy frost Friday morning. So preparations were made. Numerous rows of cold and frost hearty crops were hoe'd and lined with wire hoops all ready for the crop cover, (this is a fabric that is placed over the rows and protects the leaves from frost damage and in some cases freezing all together). A pretty simple task, one I've done many times. But this time there was a problem. The wind. We were getting gusts up to 35mph. This made the task impossible. So Wednesday passed and then Thursday came and it was still extremely windy. I would have to suck it up and struggle through it.

I finished what I could by around 6pm, sick and tired of the wind. Something no matter how long I've lived here I don't think I will ever come to embrace. I secured the fabric down with loose soil and bricks and said goodnight. This morning sure enough a white sea of frost blanketed the field and pasture. But I felt fine, no panic, no worry. That's a great feeling. As I look out into the field I am so proud of how much I have learned over the years. Mostly by mistakes I might add but I have really learned a lot. My turnips and beats are beautiful my spinach has never been bigger and the greens just keep getting bigger and greener. This is my best growing season ever. and its only because I just keep at it. I'm only able to keep at it because I have the faith and support of my CSA members. They have basically paid for my education. Its days like this when I know I have a huge harvest in front of me that I get teary eyed filled with such gratitude for having had such fortune and grace in my life.

This season I feel like I've passed a milestone. Looking out seeing my best harvest ever I'm given a sense of confidence that I've never had before. This time I'm aware of mistakes that I've made before and I acknowledge the things I'm getting right. Somethings I do know I have no control over and that's just fine, but as a farmer I have begun to finally define what I have control over and what I don't and that has taken me a long hard slow seven years to finally figure out. In my case I do have control over my crops when it comes to a frost of freeze, I don't have control over the effects of hail. I do have control over soil nutrients, I don't have control over floods. There are legitimate things to fret about and some times I just have to wait out the storm. Even if its standing at the window for an hour watching my future. But clearly defining my roll has been a great help to me.

As a new year quickly approaches I have for the first time felt a sense of confidence and security. I know I cant do everything I want to, that I'm going to have to choose and capitalize on my strengths and let go of things that stretch me too far. I'm not sure what that means quite yet. I know I'm going to make mistakes and I know I have so much more learning to do, But I have a sense that something great is just around the corner because something great is happening right now.  Wind, frost, sun and rain, it keeps coming and I get to be right in the middle of it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Anniversary Sweet heart!

Three years ago you came into my life. You were a light, a beacon for a better life, a better way of looking at things. When I first met you I had a great desire to know you better. And when I started to get to know you I wanted to know you in deeper way. 

Three years ago today you helped me muck barns. Not a pretty job but one that needed to be done in preparation for winter. It was a beautiful warm day. Later that evening you and I met at the Day of the Dead festival. You were un- chaperoned, which helped me to think you trusted our friendship. With the glow of the fire dancers lighting up your face, I looked at you and knew at that very moment you were the one. I didn’t want to do anything to compromise our budding deep friendship but as we parted that evening to go our separate ways I knew something great was just around the corner.

Three years later I’m still astounded that our relationship is one where personal growth and integrity is the center pillar. Respect and dignity are the stable structures in our lives.  These remain the walls and foundation of our relationship, walls that don’t keep us locked up but hold us up and free us to be our best selves, together and as individuals, Knowing were safe to express our true selves.  A safe port in the storm of life’s experiences.

You have enriched my life in countless ways. You have treated me with a deep love and respect that I have never experience. You celebrate my strengths and shortcomings, you embrace me unconditionally. You let me fall, make mistakes and laugh at myself. You celebrate my successes and are always encouraging and supportive of even some of my wildest thoughts and dreams. 

I am so grateful that my life included meeting you. I am so grateful to be in a loving nurturing relationship full of excitement and hope. I am so grateful to be able to celebrate this day with no question this will be the third of many more to come. I’m committed to living in this house we’ve built together of love, respect, courtesy, dignity, humor, passion, self awareness, and above all our deep kindness towards each other. I love you. Happy Anniversary!