After waiting patiently through an entire summer, we finally made it to the beach as a family a few weekends ago. And much like the time until then was filled with many good intentions to get there that never worked out, the trip itself went nothing like we had planned.
The camping the night before–scratched. Because really, we should have known better than to plan to camp over an hour from home after a full day at our Saturday farmer’s market.
The early morning meet up with our friends, whom we were supposed to camp with the previous night, so we could still spend some time together–nope! Busy baby boy was not a happy car traveler that morning and they were ready to head home by the time we arrived.
And the Farmer’s one and only chance to surf this summer since he is still borrowing surfing equipement from those friends–missed!
After what seems like a year full of plans not seeing fruition, arriving that day at the beach to a gray sky and that chill coastal breeze instead of a nice sunny day (like the day before), layering on our warm hats and jackets, and saying good-bye to our friends–I couldn’t help but feel a bit defeated as we walked down to the beach.
What a year! We made a plan last winter, took the leap, and instead of dividing his attention by working off the farm from late fall to early spring as the farmer has always done, he stayed here and kept things moving forward. And it was a good plan, one we feel worked out well for the business. We moved the CSA back to its original, more traditional structure, and took the commitments to our farm at the beginning of the year, spreading the farm income out more evenly over the course of the whole year. We expanded the CSA to close to what our first year CSA number was, only this time we had enough good soil to grow in and enough years of growing vegetables for a CSA under our belt to make it a wholly positive experience for both our farm members and us farmers.
This part of our plan has been a real joy this year! We love the CSA and all it brings to our farm! So many great members, connections, interactions! So much great food to share.
The real kicker for the year was the weather, and the fact that making the farmer’s markets, and the income generated from them, a necessary part of your farm income lacks all of what the CSA doesn’t. The cool and wet, extra long spring meant crop failures and lower yields…all of that is lost income. And markets are truly unpredictable and fickle at times. Come September when our farm is producing the most food of the year, the markets are almost always quieter and slower while everyone adjusts to the change in seasons, the start of school, and the end of summer, not to mention the abundance of their own or their neighbor’s home gardens. As with every year since our start, the business grew and had many successes, but the growth was not quite as much as we had planned, and the buffer we needed against the unpredictable affect of weather and farmer’s markets on our business was not as great as we would like it to be.
There have been stresses, mostly financial, and a busier farmer; less days to play and enjoy the summer as a family, less help in the house and with the children (one more, no less). It was a year so different from last that even though we have been through growing pains in the process of building this farm business before, it took me by surprise, and I don’t think I really wrapped my head around it and settled in until just last month. As much as I find myself chanting words like embrace, let go, and enjoy under my breath when I am talking to new mother’s, thinking all the time about how the easiest thing to do with a new baby and your new motherhood when it seems challenging is to just let go of everything else and be with that little person, knowing so well myself what they can’t know yet, that the time when they need you the most will go by so fast, this summer I found myself with expectations of our lives not being met and spending time worrying about it instead of heading my own advice.
But that day at the beach, after everyone let go of the expectations we had for the day, after we built a little fire and centered ourselves around it, we ended up having the most amazing and satisfying day. The children built driftwood forts, stuck their toes in the very cold waves, flew kites, and didn’t stop for one moment to bicker or cry or otherwise not jsut have fun. The baby dug right in and explored that sand, so happy, so cute. The farmer played around with his mandolin by the fire. Later he and the baby napped. And I just sat there watching them all, my beautiful people, thinking about how simple and easy and wonderful we have it, together in such a beautiful place. Then I took some pictures and read for longer in one sitting than I had the whole year–bliss!
This day that had seemed to be almost impossible to get to and was not turning out as we had planned, ended up being so perfect. All it took was a little bit of letting go to enjoy it, to embrace it as it was.
And that is just what I have needed to do all summer long. Choosing this life—to be family focased, to do work that we really love and think is important but that is equally challenging and as it is rewarding–it requires that we be the kind of people who can make do. We have to be completely frugal, in a way that might seem a little crazy to some (and does to me at times, believe me!), we have to give in to the long days of work summer holds for us, to let go of having things in any old way we might like them and embracing the difference in what we can and can’t do depending on the land, the weather, the season, the work to be done to bring the food to both our table and yours, and the tending and care four small people need at every given moment from us. But the fact of the matter is, we are make do kind of people, so this hasn’t been that hard for us to do.
This summer, as busy as it was for the farmer and as tight as the belt needed to be cinched and aside from my own slow acceptance of the kind of year it was going to be, the children never skipped a beat. Their expectations in life are family togetherness, time to play, play, play, to spend time with their friends sharing joy, for good food at our table as a family, stories upon stories to read, and the occasional camping trip and day trips to the creeks and lakes around us. There is very little else that they clammer for. They are happy little farm kids, and thankfully, they have not felt too much sting from the slow but steady pace we have been at as we build up this farm.
This isn’t to say that every year as we plan, we plan according to our vision of the farm, which undoubtably looks a bit more secure on the financial end and allows for at least one day off each week during the summer so that we can come together and relax, together, even at our busiest times. More time for hiking and camping, definitely. A tad bit more freedom to make time for getting together with our friends and family, yes! But what else do we really need? Not much.
For the rest, I think we can probably make do, as long as we have each other.