moving forward in a circle

into the unknownWe are one week away from the start of our summer farmer’s market season.  We have been so steadily putting one foot in front of the other this spring, getting ready for this stretch of the year, these next 20-30 weeks or so, our “main” season here on the farm, and now that it is just one week away, of course, we are feeling not steady at all but instead just rushed, rushed, rushed.  Those gooseberries I wrote about that never got weeded are nearly giving me nightmares, they have all but disappeared underneath the bindweed.  And the strawberry patches we hope to be harvesting from in the next few weeks are playing hide and seek in some knee high grass. 

Oh, the adventures of it all!

We are fairly used to this routine by now, seven years in, but that doesn’t mean we can always control our feelings of ineptitude when we encounter, even repeatedly, the sheer force of the wild world.  With a leftover sore throat caught from the children, today I feel it overtime.  Today, I dream about the many hired hands we could use if only we could afford to hire them.  I dream of a week straight of childcare so that I can get ahead.  I dream of the sleepy feel of winter. 

So silly!

Life on the farm truly is about routines and cycles, and as such is fairly predictable, at least in general, even if it is not in the particular.  Those things change every season, and are always a mystery we have to watch unfold as we go.  But the cycle remains the same. 

Every year, at least once at this time of year, we will feel overwhelmed.  Some years it is the weather, the waiting for the land to dry.  Some years, it is the planting and keeping things going in the ground on schedule.  Some years it is the money and do we have enough right now when we spend it the most. 

And this year, I swear, it is the weeds. 

I walk the farm with the babe of a boy on my hip and worry about getting some air to our perennial fruits.  And I can’t seem to catch up.  And everywhere I look I see another thistle or burdock or hemlock plant that needs to be knocked down before it blooms.  I sigh and let the one rainy day in this month, today, comfort me with rest while I make the lists that will keep us moving forward.

Then, tomorrow, I will set out again, one step at a time, moving towards this unattainable goal of getting to all those weeds.  With or without reaching it, just like every year, I know that soon the summer will fully set in and we will be back in the swing of it all.  We always “catch up” eventually.  We always move from this kind of busy to the harvesting kind of busy, all fun and full, hearts raised and beating hard, out in the sun while it lasts.

The farm is always moving, both in a forward-upward motion, as well as in a circle.  Kind of like life.  The path it takes always leads somewhere good, even though it is not always right on target or 100% predictable.  We start a farming season in all possibility, all hope.  Then, inevitably, we get a bit waylaid for a while in the weeds, until we emerge and find that once again, everything is again.  Even more than okay.  We find that just like every year, it is bursting in greatness.  We find ourselves swimming in the river on hot summer afternoons, staying up late not just working but playing by the bonfire, wishing on twinkling stars.  We find ourselves blissfully breathing easy again, while the land provides, ever abundantly.

I could almost say that it happens with or without us, and that would almost be true.  The earth provides.  It cycles, on and on, ever and always.  But we did, and do, a lot in order to receive this fecundity year after year.  This, we must always remember, no matter what kind of spring craze we are feeling. 

This, we must remember, no matter if we feel a bit like we are still at the bottom of the staircase of the year.  Because all of us, most likely, have been doing the work we need to do, moving forward on the journey, even when we are at that point when we can’t exactly see it.  Perhaps a few steps more forward, even with a blindfold on, will lead us up and into the light.

this rewarding life

tomato planting, farming, family, csa

sunset, farm, csa, farming

The smell of tomato as we began to plant this year’s crop was strong,  reminding me of that one and only singular taste of summer to come.  Salivating, taking in the sun and the beauty of this after dinner hour, it was a very easy job to get started on.  My oldest son was helping–some–but more than physical help, he was definitely good company.  It was all bliss and joy for a while.

But because it is good to be honest and because it is the truth, 300 plants in and only a third of the way done, in need of water and upset with myself for not being able to plant in a straight line without a string (which I did not bring down to the field with me), I was exasperated, despite all the lovely around me.

So, I stopped for the night and just let the sunset wash away the day as it so brilliantly does, knowing that piece by piece is how any good job gets done anyways.  We would start again tomorrow.

sunset, farm, field, farming

sunset, farm, field, farming

Which we didn’t.  That tomorrow was yesterday and early on in the day found me injured beyond simple repair.  A funky back tweak and I was laying in bed for most of the day.

Tonight, the farmer is in town at a banquet being held to recognize distinguished community members, of which, he was named outstanding young farmer.  We were named together, but really, he is the farmer and I am merely the paid help and fancy PR rep.  And even though we are both a bit cynical at times and feel neither young any more, nor all that outstanding as farmers (aside from the fact that we are still here and haven’t (and won’t) give up despite all the challenges), we were deeply thankful for such an honor.

And, I was really looking forward to a night of recognizing the many other wonderful folks in our community, growing and strengthening connections new and old and all that, in addition to receiving our own accolades.

But instead, I am home still dealing with this intense back pain/injury that I shouldn’t even have, hobbling around the house not planting the rest of the tomatoes, or attending this lovely banquet.  And two kids have sore throats, coughs, and mild fevers.  What!!

The timing kind of surprises me.  I tend to expect the best, and things tend to work out favorably for us–knock on wood–but whatever, right?

The thing about life is that we don’t get anywhere overnight.  Or in one night.  The tomato planting is a big one, the road to our farming award seven years long, and I am trying to do it all for the farmer while he keeps up with two businesses through the busy planting season for the first time ever.  Slow and steady and all that good stuff really does apply.

And, this man, who has been amazing, doing practically all the farming for most of our seven years out here, really is the one who deserves to be out tonight, getting some attention.  Because the truth is that he could really care less, in the very best possible sense of this expression.  He does little in his life for acknowledgement from the outside world, a trait I truly admire in him.  So, in my book, he doubly deserves this.

Meanwhile, the other night as my son and I sat by those trays of un-planted tomatoes and watched the sun set–and the sunsets on our farm are truly breathtaking–I didn’t think for a second I wouldn’t be out there finishing the job the next day, but that is how it ended up.  Another lesson in letting go, I suppose.  They are all around me.

But even sore to the bone and so very ready to feel better, we get to do the same thing again tonight.  Being here, witness to such beauty every night is its own reward too.  And such rewards can go a long way to keep us up and at them when we might rather crawl into bed.  My goal is to finish that planting job sometime this week.  My back should play along (with the help of some acupuncture I hope!).

And my sweet husband, who works as hard as all the other outstandingly hard working farmers out there, can work just as hard but without too much worry about not getting it all done, because we now know that if we just take each day (and setting sun) as it comes, piece by piece, it all adds up to a lifetime of accomplishment.  Learning that lesson is perhaps one of the best rewards of these last long, hard, wonderful years.

Because life will be full of rewards, some big, some small, but not always in the way we imagined.  And the most important thing to hold onto is that life itself is really the biggest one of them all.  But we have to show up every day to really get that.  And sometimes for years on end, we might need to just keep at that one thing, over and over again, showing up.  Simply paying attention and working hard and loving life for the glory of nothing at all.

Perhaps, for nothing at all, but the mere but spectacular glory of one more day to watch the sun explode in color as it nestles into the hills of the horizon.

Learning under water

It was a stormy day yesterday, and the rain fell and fell and fell.  And so, this morning’s sun slowly rose over a flooded veggie field.  I could hear the arugula calling out, “hey!  we’re under water here!  Hope you enjoyed our time on your plate!”  The rest of the veggies didn’t even write a letter.

Truth be told, the Asian greens were already too soggy for harvest last week.  This field is wet all winter long and well into the spring, so it is never a surprise when this happens. But that never makes it any easier to watch all that growing food go under overnight.

Most everything growing there was well harvested though.  The arugula would have kept on going for a while, and there were some good Chinese cabbages we lost.  But between the deer eating all the other cabbages and the fall broccoli and what we pulled out ourselves, it was all okay in the end.  The frisee was looking really good and was fun and it isn’t planted anywhere else on the farm, so I will miss the pretty, spike-y spunk it added to the salad mix.

The real bummer was that the strong winds ripped a corner of our greenhouse plastic off. Those end walls we meant to build on it all summer; well, we never got to them.  So now, we will take all of the plastic off  and re-use a portion of it for the smaller propagation greenhouse we need to build this winter.  And then we will have to buy new plastic for this one.

A good lesson, all of it, always, this weather.  We could easily come away from these things feeling like we can never catch a break from it, never win.  It is a formidable foe.  But the beauty of being six years in and having this element of nature challenge us over and over again is that we had the choice from the beginning to decide we could just let it roll off our skin instead of sticking.  And we had the choice to decide that instead of caving in, we could just keep learning from each event as it happened, adjusting as best as we can to face the next round of winds as at least as well as we did and hopefully better.

Those were our choices, are our choices.  That is how we weather all the storms around here, big and small.  With a grain of salt and goggles if necessary.

Everyday

Yesterday was just an everyday kind of day, so quiet and good.  Home until the late afternoon, we did school-y stuff by the fire and read books and ate soup, then went to the thrift store and with minimal stress came home ready to be costumed for Halloween.  It rained off and on, as it has most days lately, and even though I have a few piles of winter squash to go grab and some perennials and trees I need to plant and green tomatoes to harvest, I have taken a BIG break from the garden these past few weeks.  It takes a different momentum to get out and work in the rain, even when I know from experience that it is almost always as nice as working under the hot summer’s sun.  I have really just needed some down time, some sit in my living room time.  It’s been good.

I’m not sure if it is the turning of the seasons, the quiet force of rainy days, or the pull of the cosmos, but there has been a whole lot of introspecting happening over here.  This is how my mind works as it is, but the never ending analysis of life and all that it encompasses can lead to many places and it isn’t always so self centered.  There is just this heavy weight that wants lifting, and I can’t help but feel like now is the time.  It is not exactly liftable, but I  am graced like never before with a refusal to let it be a burden anymore.

The air is so fine, each moment I breath it in, I don’t want to waste any of it.

We all know that feeling.  We know we should really be living with it as our mantra at all times; but life is life and we are all human and so many of us were raised by broken people who inadvertently broke us a little bit too.  It can be hard to take hold of each moment, for whatever that moment is, and just live it.  Live it without the voices in our head, without the pain of the past, without the worry over the future, just live it.  Without judgement of ourselves or of others blurry-ing the clear moment of time we are standing in.

Hard–even impossible–at least at every moment, save for those highly evolved souls amongst us.  But I’m fine with my ordinary self and my everyday life, I know that just being here and experiencing it makes me and it extra-ordinary, even if I fail, repeatedly, to do each bit right.

Do you know that, really, about yourself, deep down?

Because knowing it, and embracing it, and being ok with it all, it helps you keep going.  It helps me, at least, say to myself and the world, I will take a little more of that.  I deserve a little more of that.

And I will give a little more of that too.  I am afraid, but I won’t let that stop me.

Everyday.  Everyday.  Everyday.

Lighting a spark

The post I had in mind for this week was going to be about Independence day; about our little bit of farming here having to be our way of “doing” something to make the future brighter.  Our way of saying yes to this country, this state, this county, this small piece of land we live on.  In a time when many people agree that the government in out of hand but no one agrees on how to make it better;  in a time when even if we think we have an idea of how to make it better, it is so easy to feel helpless in the grand scheme;  in times like this, we have to believe that our small bit of farming is a legitimate act of patriotism (as we define it), that our act of creating a vibrant and connected small scale economy we feel can weather the storms is our pledge of allegiance to the future of our country.

I’ve already briefly mentioned how farming = freedom for us in last year’s thanksgiving post, and I thought I might expound upon that.

Happy 4th of July, you know.

But the fourth of July this year was the day before market, and that night and the next morning were kind of rough.  As much as I feel like I can’t share the harder parts of our farming life here, let me tell you this–when I was driving to market this Thursday, I heard myself in my head telling my children to never become farmers.  Bleck!

What was wrong, why was it so bad?

Like I said, I usually like for this space to be inspiring.  It is for all that is good and wonderful about our farm, and it is ultimately the bigger look into our lives on the farm for all of our farm members.  Since it is all pretty fabulous at its core, and since we want to bear the brunt of any problems in private, the big stresses are discussed elsewhere.

But this is it; we are in our sixth year and we felt so overwhelmed to be facing harvest snafus still, even though we know that every year we will see unpredictable outcomes from the given mix of crops and yields and weather and pests, even though we know that they are always manageable in some way.   We were hit with the realization that we had needed to make a hard but necessary decision that would have been best for our farm and our family as we went into this year, but we didn’t because we just weren’t sure, and now we have to wait the whole season to right that even though we both know now without a doubt we should have done it.  Having one shot at some things for a whole year, having so many factors out of our control changing our plans on us–it can be frustrating.  I think we had a mini crisis this fourth of  July, and for the first time ever (out loud at least), we heard ourselves saying, “Will it ever be too much for us to bear, will we ever just give up?”

And so in this funk, I went to market.  It was hard to rally myself and about halfway through the day I decided to grab a cup of coffee from the coffee shop.  One of the employees asked me how market was going and I didn’t give a very lively response.  The other asked what we sold and we started talking about the farm.  They asked why it was a bad day and I said, mostly jokingly, but clearly coming from the stress I had been feeling, “whatever you do, don’t go into farming!”

And the second employee, the new one whom I was just meeting that day, said, “That’s what I want to do, I want to be a farmer.”

And I smiled and laughed and felt so elated for the first time that day.  I told him I didn’t mean it at all, that he should definitely become a farmer!!!  That yes!  you can make a good living.  That yes!  the demand is still way higher than the production!  That yes!  it is the most wonderful way of life!  And that yes, some days are hard, but oh my goodness, please do become a farmer.

We talked a bit more about it all and then I had to hurry back to our market booth.  I was giddy.  I couldn’t believe that the conversation had come up, but in talking to him and encouraging him to try this whole thing out I was affirming all the reasons it is good and right for us and certainly not too much to bear when weighed in the correct light.

The farmer felt better today too.  We both wondered if we weren’t under some kind of cosmic black cloud; looking around today under the hot July sun showed us that things really look great out here– beautiful soil, healthy plants, loads of fruit.   They say that summer doesn’t start until after the 4th of July here.  Today it felt like things were shifting.  So much yummy food coming into harvest, the bounty of summertime.  We probably won’t have any more stressful harvests from here on out.

Sometimes I think it is good to find yourself on a hump, stuck on the road.  Getting yourself off requires either going back down or finding the strength to go over.

Looking at the fields today and the whole farm, really, we see so much life exploding out here.  We are proud of where we have taken this land and committed to continuing this work.  Whether or not this has as much significance as I was going to give it in my original Independence day post, I don’t know.  I do know, most assuredly after this week, that it has the utmost significance to us.

And to some of you, I hope too.