Growing Connections

Week three into our summer farmer’s market and week two of CSA harvests!  We have been harvesting in  the rain this week, something we get used to during our late fall and winter harvests but don’t love in the spring.  Really, I should say the farmer gets used to working wet since he does most of those harvests himself; spring always finds me slowly working my way into harvesting again and quickly back  into washing and bundling all this growing food again and regularly back at the market again working the booth, all things I love to return to but am always fumbling with at the start.  At any given moment, there are a hundred and one things we need to do; not all of them farm related of course, but you know, all the regular old things that we always have to do with and for the children and in the house, as well as our own gardening and flower planting too, on top of the crazy amount of things on the farm to do list.  May begins and we hold to our winter-school routine for a week or two and then spring on the farm eclipses everything and in some ways life stops and we don’t get a hold of it properly for the next month and a half.  Right now, some of the projects in the house seem impossible to get to and really, although I want to do them, my mind is on the outside to do list just as much as that outside to do list is needing to be done.  Luckily, the weather has been nice for the most part and everyone is happy to spend time outside–swinging, playing, planting, weeding, running and learning to run, or what have you.

We need to plan our open farm potlucks for the year, sooner than later,but it is hard when we are in the thick of getting all of our ground worked and planted.  Even though we get an early chance to spring clean for our May day girl’s birthday/may pole celebration, after that it is a slow process getting the non-food growing spaces under control.  In addition to that, we decided to use the summer and all our time spent out of doors as a time to work on this little old house of ours.  So, with a living room full of ripped out carpet waiting to get disposed of and a beautiful pile of cedar in the lawn waiting to be turned into a deck, it is hard to imagine how to negotiate our usual potluck space until these projects are out of the way.

I jokingly mentioned the other day that I had my eyes set on July; in so many ways it is true.  By July, we will be fully settled into our summer routines.  We will still have harvests and markets and field work to dictate our schedule, but we also then have more time for those other important parts of summer, the farm potlucks being one of those parts.  As it stands now, social time feels like a luxury while we get everything in shape for the year.  After this weekend we should have the rest of our tractor ground prep done on the farm, the rest of our one time summer plantings in and summer succession plantings done.  From that point on, we start to consider the next round of plantings for fall and winter, and although that means we really are just continuing to plant all the way through September, there is a difference  and a huge sigh of relief once this spring work is done.  We can then get things tidied up and get folks out to the farm and have some fun!

We are leasing two acres of ground just down the road this year.  The land has been fallow for a while, but at one time it was the spot of a small, organic farm much like ours.  Although we have been actively looking for a space of 5-10 acres nearby to lease, this spot is really close and will give us two more dry acres to grow winter crops on which is probably our top priority for more space anyways.  Besides that, we love the history of the space and are completely smitten with our neighbor who lives there.  He grew up on the road, ran a duck hunting club on our very own farm during his college years and was also here the day they put in our well.  He has loads of stories to share, not only about our land and the surrounding space, but from his own full and well lived life.  He has experimented with growing wild rice on some of this wet bottom land that all of the properties along our road slope down to, and has been trying to convince us to give it a go too.  We are researching it, and the farmer, who is always game to try to work with what the land naturally wants to do if he can, is definitely curious.  But the processing, oh my!

Anyways, even though farming this space will mean taking time to listen to these stories, we have come to lean on our neighbors more than ever since starting this venture.  We find that the more time we spend with them, the more comfortable and significant we feel in our “neighborhood” here.  Our very next door neighbor is helping us with the mechanics of keeping our tractor running now that we have one, and has become an important part of the work of our farm through this role.  And just this week, while Andre was in the field harvesting for Thursday market and CSA pick-up, he was stopped by another neighbor driving by with one of her friends, a man who works with draft mules.  Through the course of their conversation, he excitedly offered to disc and cross-hatch those two acres down the road for us with his draft team!  All for some “real” tomatoes later on in the season and a small part on the old draft plough that our mailbox sits upon, a part he has been hoping to acquire to use in his draft work for some time and finally got the chance to stop and ask about.

When the farmer came back to the wash station with his bok choy harvest that night, he told me the story and ended with this–“I think we have landed in heaven!”

All of these wonderful connections, all a gift of this little bit of land we call home and our chosen line of work.

So, even though I am wishing to get over the hump of the spring rush so that we can maybe sneak off to the beach and then have all of you fine folks over to watch the sun go down across that river valley our property sits on the cusp of, I really do relish all of the seasons of the farm life.  As I try to pencil in dates for this summer’s social events and think about the growing relationships we are building with our neighbors, as I get back in the groove of summer market and see the friendly faces of our customers and CSA members and other market vendors that I only see regularly in this most busy time of the year, I keep reminding myself to stay in the moment.  The season of the farm right now is one of connection.  Day by day, minute by minute, we are sowing the seeds for the season, connecting with the community around us more and more with each planting.

And besides, if I mistakenly wished away June by looking ahead towards the surety of July, I would miss out on the sweetness of this month with its Strawberry moon and its small bit of time out of the year to enjoy the smell in my kitchen of my second to favorite fruit of all–because blueberries are the one to really rock my world, but my most favorite fruit of right now.

Status Update

 

This is really going to change everything.   We are pretty darn happy.

Details on this new old addition coming soon, but for now, if you happen to live here in the valley with us, feel free to come on over to the farm Sunday night and join us for an open farm night.  Super casual, community gathering, potluck style.  4:00pm.

And if you come, please do bring your own flatware if possible.

E-mail us at growingwild@french.toast.net if you need the farm address!

Through the bee’s eyes

So much depnds on how you look at it; on whether the sweet and beautiful children we adore are bickering with one another or are creating the most breathtaking drawings, forts, and stories, on whether or not we have a few extra bucks to buy some yarn with or other such fun purchase or we are staring at the checkbook wondering how to cover all those bills.  I am always in awe of this phenomenon.  One day this house can seem like it will never see order again and the farm will appear covered in weeds when the next, perhaps with the fresh eyes of a new day to view it all with, it will rival Eden in all its glory.  It all depends on the lens we are using.

As we gear up for one of our annual CSA open farms, we can’t help but think of “all” that needs to be done before the party.  This is the kind of event that immedietly brings out the worst sort of glasses for us to wear, not a hint of rose shading to help ease the glare that comes from certain areas of the farm (not to mention the house which is in mid-bedroom-switcheroo anyways).  All that seemed possible to keep up with in spring has reached its hey day, meaning that in those areas I didn’t make it to, the weeds I so desperately wanted to knock back have once again gone to seed. 

With just a few days in the midst of what is still a pretty busy time on the farm, I know that things are going to look mostly the same on Sunday as they do today.  We used to go crazy trying to whip this place into shape for such events–and we still do make this an opportunity to take care of certain things that we have been meaning to get to, things on the farm that get pushed to the side in favor of planting and weeding and harvesting the food crops–but I have also come to realize that it matters so much less than I used to worry it did.  The fun of these events is the getting together, the beautiful countryside, the spectacular view and warm summer evenings.  Sharing the growing space with the folks who eat from it.

So, like the bees and other wild critters who thoroughly enjoy not only the wild areas we intentionally create as homes for them and as buffers from our neighbors’ conventionally managed farm fields , but also the wild areas we meant to tend to that are now covered in thistles gone to seed, I will try to enjoy it all too.  The farmer doesn’t even want me to mess with those thistles anyways, he loves how many bees feed from their pretty purple flowers.   My take on it is a little different.  I figure since we provide a lot of bee forage from other plants on this farm, this one–so prickly and poking when it finds its way into the vegetable beds–I am going to try to get rid of, at least on this side of the property.  But since that didn’t happen this year, I am trying to look at it as I have in other years.  Positively.

Through the right lens, everything is as it should be.  The tale of this farm, this year, when you come to visit, is the tale of another year of living here, many things coming more and more to look like our vision of the farm, as well as many, many things that fell by the wayside.  It was a year with a new baby in tow, with three busy big kids to tend to, and lots of farming to be done.  All in all, what you see means good things happened.   It means time for the kids, for play, for summmer!  It means lots of food grown for our community.  And it has made a lot of bees very, very happy too.  Through their eyes, this place is a thing of beauty.  And when I look at it with my heart, that is what I see too.

Gathering together a new way of farming and eating

This weekend we hosted our second farm potluck of the year, this time in conjunction with Slow Foods of Yamhill County.  Unlike our earlier potluck this season, which was wide open to both farm members and market customers as well as our greater community of friends, this gathering brought in folks mostly from the Slow Foods mailing list along with members of Slow Foods and some of our farm members.   Many of the folks had farms of their owns, some were WWOOF-ers from another farm in town,and all of us were genuinely interested in not only eating and/or growing food locally, but in the greater implication of this act.

It occurred to me while talking with everyone that the new American small farmer can hardly help but also be a food and land activist as well.  While we not only attempt a different model of production from larger-scale agriculture through polyculture planting and direct marketing, we also attempt to take a somewhat man-centered activity–agriculture–and make it once again accountable to the rest of the ecosystem. This means many things, and covers a wide array of different approaches to raising crops and animals; but the common theme is that once again, farming feels as much like an act of stewardship as business.

a happy little frog hiding on a happy little pepper

And this is really the more important missing ingredient in modern ag today.  Large fields of monocuture grains aren’t going to dissapear and probably shouldn’t.  We buy grains for our animals and ourselves, and with the right approach, these fields could be providing just as much food without the chemical load and soil depletion that we commonly see.  And with even a wink and a nod toward the well being of animals, operations like Wright County Eggs wouldn’t be around to cause such huge food safety issues.

And one thing that has become clear to me this year, as more and more of our counties small farms add some portion of organic production to their retinue–a lot of this is demand driven.  The folks here at our farm this weekend are driven by conviction and belief, and this is a large percentage of where sustain-ably produced local food is going to come from; but many growers who have hitherto been fine growing more conventionally can see that the demand for less chemicals and more conservation is pushing them to make the decision to give this new model of growing a go.

And that is where all of us eaters come into the picture.  Our buying habits have more power than we can imagine.  Right now, there are not enough eggs being produced and sold at our farmer’s markets and directly from other small farms in the area–the demand is so high!  And yet, most of the time, if we can’t get eggs from a source such as this, we will still go to the store and buy them.  The egg industry can partly be the disaster it is today because we, as consumers, eat so many eggs.  This is a hard one even for us.  It is hard to see your way around consuming eggs year-round and as often as you would like when there is a such glut of eggs in production.

*nothing* compares to safe, healthy, delicious farm eggs

After we lost most of our laying flock to predators a few years ago, we had to go about a year without having our own eggs and we couldn’t always get them locally.  We would buy organic eggs from the store, raised in the Willamette Valley, but by bigger egg producers than could likely be considered sustainable.  When we got a small flock going again last year, we were happy to have just enough eggs for our family for a while.  Then this year we added enough to the flock to sell eggs again, but while we wait for them to start really producing (they are just now starting) and while we have an otherwise egg-laying strike going on with the older hens whom we moved mid-summer and disrupted somehow, we have not had enough eggs for ourselves again.  This year though, instead of buying eggs when we can’t get them at market, we are eating all sorts of non-breakfast breakfasts.  It has been a challenge for us all, in our minds mostly, getting over the egg thing; but it has been enlightening, and in light of the recent egg recall, it has felt especially important.

And all of this is just a roundabout reminder, to myself and others, to keep up the good fight we are all involved in, all at our own levels and in our own ways, of reshaping farming and food culture in this country, all with an eye towards a system that is more than just concerned with human activity and human desire.  Farming is at the same time so integrally connected with natural cycles and the natural world as it is so supremely anti-natural in what it attempts to do.  To bring these into balance is the goal of the new American farmer and should be the driving demand of the new American eater.  Together, small get togethers at small farms all over the country will be a much larger part of the picture than we ever could have imagined.

gathering

Abundunce

The exciting news this week is ripe tomatoes! We know you have all been waiting and waiting, and this is really just a small bit of the very first, still nothing to write home about; nevertheless, as some of you saw at this weekend’s open farm, the tomato planting is massive this year, so there will be no shortage of everyone’s favorite garden vegetable. Since things are just getting started, we will be picking off the cherry tomatoes for the next couple of weeks. After that, all of our farm pick-up members can pick from these every week at pick-up if they desire. Likewise, the cut-flower bed, a project idea that barely came together this year, is flowering nicely, albeit only a handful of varieties. Feel free to ask for help cutting some flowers to take home if you’d like, or ask our expert bouquet man, our oldest son Olorin, to pick one for you. Olorin has brought a small amount of cut flower bouquets to each and every farmer’s market this year, a business he has enjoyed and is considering expanding next year! Maybe with his help we will have a wider selection of flowers for the u- pick flower patch next year!  And it is almost canning time; once the tomatoes hit full speed, we will let all of you know about extra picking for winter preservation.

Our main winter preparedness goals lie in the fields. We have been working overtime to be well prepared for our second season of continued harvesting through the winter. There have been bumps in the road these last few weeks. The potatoes that had looked so good this year are now showing signs of distress. We imagine that yields will still be good, but his high cost start up crop is always leaving us wanting more. The parsnips planting we tried everything we knew to get started still hasn’t germinated, four weeks later. Notoriously hard to start, we can only try again in the cooler weather, with
hopes of smaller parsnips in early spring.

But, the planting and planning is still more positive than not, especially for us, eaters who have come to relish the flavors of these coming crops probably more than even the ubiquitous fresh tomato. Not to say these summer flavors aren’t just right for this time of year. Simple, vegetable laden dishes are fast and filling on busy summer farm days, and being able to snack on so much, from cucumbers to tomatoes, simply out of hand in the fields is a blessing. And being in the midst of abundance does wonders for the soul. Zucchinis and cucumbers and tomatoes up to our ears, a sign of the graciousness of the earth to bear fruit, and reminder to be thankful for all that we do have.