Swallow the dew (poetry)

small farm, farming, tomatoes, play, love, redemption, poetry

Each dawn,
I breath in,
enough.
Out,
enough.

The soil loosens in my hands.

Farming has shaped us both,
this land, and I.
It has shaped us into one word, on repeat.

Enough.
Enough.
Enough.

I load the tomatoes into the crates.
I haul in grace,
pound, upon pound, upon pound.

This deal we’ve made,
it is no small deal.
I can not wash the dirt from under my nail no matter how hard I try.

No.
It is no small deal.

Tender, tended. Provider, provided. I am not sure where I begin, where the Earth ends?

My skin is stained yellow.
I smell like tomato.
I feel that someday I will be
no more than
dirt.

hot, sweaty, dirty, love

hotsweaty + dirtyloveToday, we planted and planted and planted.   The soil is perfect.

I’m not sure where the rain is hiding, but for this pacific Northwest farm, the sun is like a dream.

And for this summer-heart, dirty-hands-happy mama, this is love.

Catching up

Hello everyone!  It has been a quiet month here on the interwebs, a month busy with ground prep, planting, thinning and weeding.  Today marks the start of another CSA season!!  And so, it seems like a good time to catch up with one another, to take stock of the happenings on the farm so far this spring  and those still a-happening!

We went into this spring feeling like we had made three decisions that would ease some of the problems that the last two long, cool, and wet springs had given us.  We purchased a tractor (finally!), we built a field hoophouse (finally!), and decided to rearrange the length of the CSA to by-pass spring, encouraging CSA members to drop by market and shop during the late winter and spring with their CSA discount instead of offering shares during the seasons when harvests are less predictable.  Most significantly, we didn’t want to feel pushed to harvest things before they were fully mature to fill shares in the spring, thereby lessening our overall yields  for the season.

And we have been happy with all of these decisions, immensely!  We just can’t help but chuckle at the never ending surprises of each season and realize, for the millionth time, that we won’t ever be fully in control of this ship!

The tractor has served its purpose and we have more land worked up and planted than ever before… but we also have to deal with the reality of an old machine that needs a lot of tinkering and love and coaxing to keep running.  And the hoophouse has lush tomatoes growing in it with blossoms already…but it was also put in a field that has only just been amended for this first year of growing on it, and as with most first year soil, it hasn’t lovingly turned into a loamy, lush dirt that produces even growth and blissed out plants.  The bok choys that we wouldn’t normally even have in spring because of pest damage are growing without flea beetles on them in there, but looking down the rows of them shows some barely growing and others full size.  We should see more consistency from this soil by fall and even later this summer as the organic matter breaks down and the soil loosens more, but still…

By far the biggest contender we have towards predictability on the farm is, of course, the weather.  This spring has been all over the map.  The truth is that it was extremely wet, cold, and even snowy in March!  We had to wait longer than usual  to get into our fields.  And even though the last two years we were able to work some soil early, we then had to wait for so long for things to grow well in the cool and wet weather.  This year, since it has dried out, it has been actually, beautifully warm!  We have been swimming already…in May!  We have worked sleeveless and in sandals and the sun has felt so good!

But even this brings with it complexity.  Last year, despite the delay in harvest of heat loving crops, the overwintered crops like rapini and purple sprouting broccoli lasted into June because of the cool weather, leaving us with some overlap in the seasons.  This year, those crops have burst into flower, unstoppable, in response to the warmth.  Certain crops that got a late start aren’t yet harvest-able, and certain crops that would normally thrive in the spring aren’t producing well…our first round of radishes got soft in the center because they matured right during a particularly warm week.

And so, we laugh, to think we had taken steps to have it all under control.

Still, awesome things are happening this year too.  Because we had the tractor, we were able to work up so much more space than we have in the past.  Time has always been one of the factors limiting our growing space, as it took so many man hours for the farmer to prepare space with our little rototiller.  We have planted out our propagation greenhouse twice, which for us is a win!  We usually, again, run out of time and space for all of our starts, so this is exciting.

And the starts were beautiful this year!  The farmer created a d-i-y heated space for germinating seeds and growing our warm weather crops that involved christmas lights and plastic (instead of heat maps designed for this purpose but remain out of our tight investment budget); it worked wonderfully!

The main space we have planted this year is our lower field, bottom land with great, fluffy, healthy soil!  The crops that are on their way are growing daily in an even, consistent manner…we love to walk down there every morning to see the growth and the beautiful cell structure of these healthy plants, it certainly puts a smile on our faces.

And even though we couldn’t have foreseen this, not starting the CSA six weeks ago was literally a lifesaver!  Because of the weather this year, for the first time since we started harvesting for market year round, we had a gap in things to harvest.  We took the middle weeks of May off because we literally had nothing to bring to market.  The stress of that would have been terrible had the CSA been in full swing since April as it was last year (although to be honest, had we planned on CSA harvests during that time we would have managed our winter harvests accordingly).

In the end, all the decisions we made for 2012 in response to 2011 and previous years have been good ones and just like with any other year, we will also face new challenges and respond to them as they come and in our planning for next year. We look forward to the harvests to come, and are happy to taste that which is ready now:  the first lettuces of the year, those first mouth watering strawberries!  Green garlic and green onions to replace stored onions in our skillet, a fourth child discovering the joy of spring peas!  The kids can go outside now and pick a snack from the garden again and we all all are ready to stretch and grow a little in the sun after digging in our roots in a little deeper through the quiet of winter.

Moment of Bliss

Sitting in the field, in the sun, taking a break from moving compost to nurse a hungry baby, just awaking from his nap on my back where he was lulled by the movement, up and down the hill, scooping, filling, returning matter to the earth.

Over near the house, I hear the squeals and laughs of children splashing in the hand-dug mud/water pit they have already taken to filling on this first, very warm day.

From my spot, I watch.  Pure play is a thing of beauty.

Then I look over and watch the farmer, the sounds of spring farm work fill my ears.  He works so hard, each year doing more and more in the same amount of hours and days, it amazes me.

This moment is so perfect.  All of us together, working on this farm, food and souls growing in this warm, fertile ground.

On the farm and off

Even though we are blessed with a temperate climate and the ability to grow food year-round, and even though we will continue harvesting through the winter, the farm is still very beholden to the seasons.  The days are getting shorter and shorter, which means that the long work days of summer have come to an end.  We sleep in later, have dinner earlier, the evenings are quiet affairs.  The farm, although it doesn’t slumber in the same way as farms in colder areas might, still feels like it is getting quite sleepy.

Last week, the farmer planted the last of the last of things for the year–more garlic and pototoes.  There is little field work for him to do, and although there is a whole lot of firewood to be cut still, he is spending most of his time these next few weeks working off the farm.  The saddest part about going into winter for us is that our family togetherness becomes more disjointed.  The kids and I spiral inward, becoming more focused, less stretched out into the world.  Soon, the fire will be lit every morning, we will move through our day with this at the center of our activities:  home, warmth.  But like about 50% of all farmers or ranchers in the state of Oregon, for now, the farmer will spend part of this season working off the farm.   So, we don’t all get to experience the wonderful slowing down and focus on home that fall and winter can be, together.

And even though we have thought that each year we might push past that place where we still need to do outside work, it doesn’t feel as bad this year, knowing that the main reason we need to supplement the farm income this year is because of the weather, not because we were still new farmers or because our soil wasn’t good enough to support us.  This year, the soil in our main field was really so beautiful (especially when compared to the mess of clay and rocks it was to begin with), and the soil we are working with in our lower field is beyond beautiful–layers of topsoil, it is almost bouncy to walk on!   Even though we had to deal with a fickle summer, we had more vibrant and consistent growth than ever before.  And I swear, as good as the food we have grown in the prior three years has tasted, it tasted even better this year.

All of this to say that as we wrap up our fourth season and our routines shift to one market, one harvest day, little field work, more home time for us and less for the farmer, the outlook for our fifth year is a good one.  Maybe we will make that 5-year make it/break it goal that so many businesses have…even though there isn’t much that could happen to really break the business.  But to make it the sole source of our income, that would be great!  We are patient folks, thank goodness.  And we love what we do so it doesn’t really matter much in the end, the income is both necessary but secondary in many ways.  Like the majority of those farmers and ranchers who keep their farms and continue  working the land despite it not meeting all of their financial needs, there is something more that keeps us all at it.