Life is abundant and new and green at A Place on Earth. It is Spring, and green means go. Time hurries forward much faster than before. Campbell, 4 months old, sings and smiles sweetly, like his loving big brother Clark, now 2 ½ years old. Amidst diaper changes, trips to the potty, feedings, book readings, greenhouses, chicken coops, tractor work, seeding, cultivating, watering, digging and so on, the weeks and months pass by, fully engrossed, mostly delighted.
We are rooted into this place now, watching trees grow, observing familiar phenomena cycle back around. While “watching” and “observing” sound as if we are sitting on the porch, taking it all in, the truth is a bit more hectic. This year presents an even greater challenge to maintain focus through the blur of activity, to pounce on small windows of opportunity, to live and not simply be swallowed by life. We deeply need moments of quiet, time to reflect, a way to make sense of things inside the incessant swirl of responsibilities. I need to be writing these newsletters as much as anyone needs to read any of it. Life is too brief and precious to constantly be buried under busyness.
The Omnivore’s options
We are pleased to announce our partnership with two other farms in Turners Station. Now in addition to our own offering of chicken, we are able provide other local meats to complement your vegetable shares. Sweet Sixteen Farm is located just a couple miles from us, and they raise pigs and goats free range and rabbits in moveable hutches on pasture. Their website, www.sweetsixteenfarm.com, has a list of available cuts and pricing. With a couple weeks advance notice, we can deliver any of these products to be picked up with your produce. Our next door neighbors, John Grant and Bonnie Cecil at Dancing Star Farm (they also grow potatoes for us), raise sheep and sell them whole for $4/lb plus a $70 processing fee. Let us know what you would like and when, and you can pay us upon delivery.
More from Phyllis’ kitchen
Phyllis Fitzgerald, our resident cook and home economy expert, is doing a class in Louisville called, “How to Use Your CSA Share” on Wednesday, May 29, from 6:30-9:00 at Cooking at the Cottage. The cooking will be done by Lelia Gentle from DreamCatcher Farm, and a meal is included. Phyllis will still be providing her written guidance through the year, but this is an opportunity to join her in the kitchen and learn firsthand. For more information, visit www.cookingatthecottage.com.
And keep in mind as the veggies start flowing that her website, www.phyllisfitzgerald.com, is brimming with food wisdom specifically catered to CSA eaters. She also hosts a weekly radio show with Sarah Fritschner on crescenthillradio.com called, “La Vida Local.”
High tunnel still in progress
The Winter months, with the birth of Campbell and four subsequent hospital stays, were not the most productive on the farm. The bare necessities were attended to: firewood was cut, hauled, stacked, and fed to the woodstove, and the chickens were fed, watered, and their eggs gathered. With freer minutes, I dug a drainage ditch on the lower side of the driveway, so that it is now navigable after a rain. The high tunnel, with its warmer climate, took to growing a lush carpet of grass. Heavy Spring rains clearly indicated that the tunnel needed its own drainage ditches. In the last weeks we have dug a 150 foot long, two-foot deep trench to the tunnel for a water line. Lots of digging, lots of slow, primitive work. But the soil down in this bottomland is beautiful, and we are filled with visions of future, robust harvests. As we remarked while pounding, prying, and grinding at rocks in our way, this is surely the opposite of fast food.
Early start to the season
It appears as if our first harvest will be ready a week earlier than scheduled. I will send out another email confirming this, but make a note that Wednesday, May 15, and Saturday, May 18, will be the first deliveries—that’s just two weeks from now! Spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, green garlic. Getting hungry?
This farm is a collaborative effort and never more so than this year. Thanks for a wonderful crew of working shares, for grandparents’ childcare and meals, for generous neighbors and dependable friends, for encouraging words and creative talents. Thanks for your patience and understanding of the numerous needs tugging at our pant legs. We are blessed to belong to such a supportive community, and hope we can be as good to you as you are to us. Thanks for joining us on this fruitful journey. May the rewards be bounteous!
Many of you don’t want the vegetable deliveries to stop. Thus we are offering three more deliveries: November 17, December 1 and 15. All shares will be delivered on Saturday either to your house or to a conveniently close location. We’ll be in touch soon about exact details, including egg share delivieries*. The cost for these extended season deliveries is $90.
Winter share veggies: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, garlic, onion, winter squash, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beet, carrot, parsnip, salsify, rutabaga, leek, celery, celeriac, and a variety of greens.
Our baby is due December 26. We will reassess the situation come the new year and new life and determine if more produce deliveries are possible.
*Egg shares* The hens are not laying many eggs these days, so we’ll let you know when we’ve accumulated enough to make a delivery.
Your turn to share
Your feedback is very helpful in the evolution of this CSA. We understand that being a CSA member requires a commitment to weekly work: planning, preparing, cooking and creating. What makes the work worthwhile to you? What is the most challenging aspect of CSA eating? What are your favorite varieties or least favorite vegetables? How can we improve A Place on Earth CSA? Please take a few minutes to send us your thoughts so that we can include them in our planning for the 2013 campaign.
Thank you for your participation. This community makes this farm happen. Through our expanding diversity of produce and willing, giving workers, we weather storm and drought and revel in good food and good thoughts. We are ever grateful for the relationships that flourish alongside well-loved crops. The earth and its infinite, interconnected inhabitants are beautiful and sacred. It is an honor to keep striving to be a better steward of this place on earth. We appreciate your faith in us, and our faith is perennially bolstered by your presence.
We feel deeply blessed to belong to such a strong and supportive community, helping us each step, toddle, tumble, bumble and sweet success of the way to see that we grow to our potential.
I have a small story of dreams, humility, friends, love, and learning. My new wife, Lori, and I wanted to learn to grow our own food so we could move to our own homestead in the country. We planned on doing an apprenticeship on Carden and Courtney’s farm from April through October and then buying and moving onto our new land before Winter. So we sold our house, bought a farm truck and a 30′ camper, and showed up at the foot of the Willis’ ridge. A few weeks after that, they hosted the best wedding I had ever witnessed, but I was the groom so I could be biased. That day was full of love, good spirits and more than what I could ever ask.
During the 5 months that followed I continued to receive more than I ever remember asking for. In April, I remember chatting with Carden about what farm work meant. “When I tell people that I’m going to do a farming intership, most of them say ‘Whoa! That’s hard work.’ As if it’s drudgery. What do you tell them?” I asked. “I tell them it is definitely hard work, but it’s good work,” he said. “Yeah, but it’s not that hard is it? I’m sure there are rainy days here and there, but overall it’s good outdoor work,” I said. His facial expression and silence let me know that I had things to learn.
In the spring, I do remember enjoying the outdoors and taking in lots of sun. I hadn’t been outdoors that much since I was little and was loving it the same as I did back then. There was some rough work, like when Carden would plow another field and find another 150lb rock that needed to be pried up. The farm work could be physically rough or repetitive and there was always more. When the work was done I felt good about it too. It was surely good work.
It was the extra work that I didn’t see coming that had the most frustrating impact on me. There was camper maintenance, water main hydrant leaks, solar panel issues, trucks breaking down, tractor tires blowing, etc. I once thought that farming just meant planning and planting. No. It means being a carpenter, mechanic, plumber, and electrician. I kept telling myself, “This is just another learning experience,” but by the middle of Summer when things were still breaking down there was a message that broke through my wall of naivety that said, “This is the reality of hard work.”
There wasn’t too much romance between farming and me by late Summer. I snarled at it for crushing my lofty make-beliefs of farming and melting me down to an angry realist version of myself. When things got hard for the squash, chickens, or trucks, I thought, “Come on! Give me a break!” I broke down and had to take a couple personal days during that time, but I humbly say that I bounced back each time and put my all into the work I did.
Towards the end, I became a little more okay with things breaking and dying, as it is the natural way of things. I also got to see my pet project (funded and envisioned by Carden), the pastured chicken operation, become a working and very productive addition to the farm. I was so grateful for Lori and me to be a part of the harvest produced during this Summer’s 70 year drought, and Fall was a dream with its bounty of produce and cool weather. I met a ton of friendly folks around the area. Lori and I met a legend of a farmer, folks lending various skills to support the farm, and even got to experience nanny goat nannying. Courtney and Clark constantly added to the love and support that we received.
In the spring I was full of excitement and zest for what might lay ahead, coupled with frustration of doing new things. In the summer I was oppressed and zapped from the relentless heat and never ending days, but relished in my siestas. By the time the leaves were changing the pressure of performing tasks was as light as the fall breeze, and I regained the pep in my step. “There’s my breeze again,” I noticed. I had never been so personally connected to the natural cycle of things. And this Winter I am looking forward to the depressing dark days of restoration like I never have before.
In the end, Lori and I decided that it would be best to move back to Louisville. I missed my profession and believe I have a lot more to give and receive from working as a massage therapist. Lori had her reasons too. We’ll homestead in the city until the time is right to move out.
Lastly, I brought back with me a realistic notion of what it is to work towards a dream. Also I proceed with a more intricate understanding of an economy of fairly and cleanly raised food and how it can work to improve our lives. As far as healthy food, responsible energy usage, communal responsibility, and land stewardship, the CSA model is a very honorable way to sustain our community. Supporting it is precious in the strongest sense of the word.
How did he talk to you into this crazy idea?
Well, he didn’t. He just asked what I thought, and I said, “sure, let’s do it.” We were both itching for a change to a more simplistic lifestyle, and an apprenticeship seemed like an excellent start down that path. Spring started simple enough, aside from having to piece together a wedding and figure out how to live in a camper with very minimal amenities. Between those two issues I had a few meltdowns in the beginning, but they did make farming seem like a breeze in comparison. Nothing seemed better than those first sweet ripe strawberries we picked; I wished they could have lasted all year. Eventually our wedding came and was a beautiful success and we slowly began to get electric and water. Things were on the up and up, but so was the temperature.
Gosh it’s Hot…
We have a huge cat, Bernie, that we brought out to the farm with us. He loves sniffing flowers and chasing grasshoppers. He even caught a few field mice (super proud of him on that one!), but when the temperature started to rise he became pretty miserable. I think we all did, but for the most part we kept on truckin. Ronnie’s main project was helping raise the chickens, which I am irrationally scared of so I had very little interaction with them. Instead I focused my attention on starting a Place on Earths’ first farmers market endeavor. After a few weeks Carden and I had a good setup and it was looking good, only problem was a lack of customers. Towards the middle of the summer swelter amid a couple other complications we decided to abandon the booth in order to have substantial yields for the CSA members. Besides, there was plenty to keep me occupied on the farm.
Holy Tomatoes Batman!
It seemed like they were going to last forever. During their peak, two whole days a week were spent picking tomatoes. It was monotonous. Though I did learn one very important rule about picking tomatoes: never wear a pink/red shirt. It’ll reflect in the sun making picking ripe maters quite maddening. I made that mistake more than once. While I did partake in quite a bit of arduous work it did not seem to be nearly as hard physically as what Carden and Ronnie were doing. I enjoyed spending some quality time with my tiny little lover Clark and experiencing new things like canning and prepping the boxes. I was very happy to be part of the Willis’ rare chance to escape the farm mid season, and seeing that our presence was truly helping out the farm. Through the hardship one theme seemed to persist: the good times came across as truly genuine and heartfelt. I suppose that’s the Yin and Yang of farming.
Once we had decided that the farm life wasn’t in the cards just yet, I became invigorated with the idea of making a homestead in the city. Though this apprenticeship ended much differently than we planned it was a necessary step in finding out what we really truly wanted. We hope to find a house with a large yard and make the entire property edible and work towards other self-sustaining practices. With my new found commitment to all things uncomplicated, I am determined to make a living doing things I enjoy. I also appreciate the act of creating more, whether it be a seed I’ve planted or dainty bag I’ve woven.
I have trusted that the produce has been walking the walk of late, as I have had hardly a moment to talk of the walk. What a productive and constructive year it has been! From early Spring plantings of fruit trees and berries to a nearly constructed high tunnel, from raising chickens for meat to installing a new drip irrigation system, from baby to busy, babbling boy to a new ballooning baby in Courtney’s belly, from asparagus (just planted this Spring) to zucchini, our cup has overflowed with exciting, growing things.
In addition to our veteran, generous contributors, this year we owe a brimming bushel of thanks to Ronnie and Lori Hager, who just last week concluded their successful internship program. Despite faltering utilities, scorching drought and the normal (yet unfamiliar to them) hardships of farming, these two friends were a constant, positive force propelling the farm along. They may never want to see another tomato plant again. But we have them to thank for the many hours they spent bringing in the many bountiful harvests from the fields. It was a pleasure to share this growing season with them, to learn from them and think and laugh with them. We wish them the best going forward and hope that in them the agrarian seed has been planted and will never die.
If you are interested in extending the CSA season into the Winter, please let me know. Because the high tunnel construction is not completed, I don’t think we can offer a full, Winter-long share, but there is quite a bit of food here beyond what will be delivered the next two weeks. Perhaps we could make deliveries every couple weeks until the new year. I am curious to learn how much demand there is before getting too far into the logistics.
Thanks for your patience and understanding as we continue to run short on eggs. We simply need more laying hens, and it will be a while before we can remedy the situation. When there is a shortage, we rarely partake ourselves, so at least know that we are missing out too!
Whittling away at the list
The sweet potatoes have been dug. Winter cover crops have taken the place of Summer food crops. Irrigation supplies have been pulled from the fields and stored in the barn. At present we are in the middle of garlic planting, which, besides mulching the garlic, is the last big farming project every year. There is not much work remaining to finish off the high tunnel. Soon cutting, splitting, hauling, stacking and burning firewood will be my main outside occupation. It is quite a refreshing change of pace to watch the list grow shorter.
This is the time of year that I first fell in love with farming. There is something ineffably magical about October. Besides the majesty and fanfare of vibrant leaves, there is the crispness in the morning, the pure pleasantness of a sunny afternoon, the feeling of completion, rightness, and relief that accompanies death. It is as if the earth is imbued with wisdom and poignancy. We are invited to look back over the lives we lived, to let go of the relentless weight of urgency and busyness, to feel it is good to go gentle into that good night. The story is writ, the cycle spun, the deal done, and—whatever suffering may have come to pass—we give thanks for this great mysterious aliveness and know that it will ever keep springing anew, with or without us. A season for every thing, and in this one we celebrate the rich gift of death.
Next year we will have a new little person in the mix. How will the farming get done? Good question. The answer, I think, is the same it has been for years now: more generous offerings of humbling help. We are blessed beyond belief here. I am proud to be a part of such a strong and compassionate, giving and joyful community. I don’t think life is easy for anyone anywhere, but I think life is truly good when you are doing good work with good people. To quote my dad quoting Dag Hammarskjold, “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes!”
Despite an extraordinarily dry Summer, a prolonged period of sweltering heat, and numerous setbacks, we enter the last 1/3 of the season in a good place. Enough Summer crops with enough irrigation have held on well enough, and enough Fall crops germinated and survived and are actually looking quite impressive. Of course it’s too early to claim victory, but it appears this CSA has weathered yet another roller-coaster year in fine fashion.
And despite a mere 0.2 inches of rain over the past weekend and my inclination this morning to curse the weather gods, today brought several more series of showers to boost our grand total up over ½ inch. Compared to the trifling rains we have become accustomed to, this seems monsoon-like. It’s not nearly the multiple inches the weather people had me anticipating, but the clouds and intermittent misting these last few days have brought a greenness to the farm we have not seen in some time. The drought is not exactly broken, but then neither are my spirits.
Chickens still available
We have done a few rounds of butchering already, and we are rather pleased with the way these chickens have turned out: tender and flavorful. Again, we’re asking $3.50 per pound, which ends up around $10-12 per bird. The opportunity will not be back around until next Summer, so jump on it now if you are interested.
High tunnel construction begun
It is unclear just yet if construction will be finished in time to plant this Fall, but the hard part is done. As anyone around here will tell you, once you start digging feet down into the earth, be it for foundation or fence posts, you are likely to hit rock. So it was not all too surprising (but a bit disappointing) when we began hearing the familiar, stubborn sound of rock as we went to set the ground posts for the high tunnel (high tunnel=greenhouse without supplementary heat). In any event, a few blisters and cuss words later, the ground posts are in. Pretty soon we’ll have metal arches spanning across the 96 foot long shelter, then plastic, and then, with some luck, maybe we’ll have some green things growing in there this Winter.
The baby in Courtney’s belly that Clark likes to kiss
Is now 24 weeks along towards its Christmas due date, and is kicking away. We have just started seeing the midwives at Clark Memorial Hospital and are happy to have their support through this process. It is amazing how much faster this pregnancy is progressing than the last. I guess it is true what people say: once you have children, time hurtles ahead. Farming is going to be so much easier next year with two little sets of big-time helping hands! Life is endlessly interesting, isn’t it?
Gratitude for good help
With Courtney back in school and the days growing ever shorter, there is no way I could even approach getting everything done on my own. I hope every one of you know how crucial your contributions are; you may feel it is small, but trust me it all adds up. While CSA shareholder numbers are down this year, the strength of spirit that drives this CSA only grows. I hope together we are able to make this living, breathing, meaningful endeavor last way out into the indefinite future. The world at large often seems to spin frighteningly out of control. But I believe the community that all of us are accomplishing brings a real kind of peace and purpose, light and delight to a spiritually hungry planet. Keep up the good work, and thanks again.
Despite the extreme heat and drought, the tomatoes are coming on strong. One plus of the dry weather is heightened flavor and nutrition. Hope you are enjoying the 50 different varieties we grow. Let us know if you would like extras for preserving, and please specify if there is a kind or color you prefer. The cost is $20 for a 15 pound box.
Chickens nearing harvest time
We are just a few weeks off from our first chicken processing. After we solved the raccoon problem (with electric fencing), the birds have sized up well. They eagerly await being moved to fresh pasture every day. While most pastured poultry farmers raise one breed, the Cornish cross, we have two different heritage breeds, White Rock and New Hampshire. While the Cornish is ready for butchering at 6 or 7 weeks of age, we will not begin harvesting our chickens until 12 weeks old. The Cornish cross is something of a freak of nature: beyond 7 weeks old, its breast may outgrow its bones and make the bird unable to walk; it is so lethargic it can hardly exert the energy to forage for food; it is prone to heart attacks and other unnatural maladies. So, while our chickens may not be the most economical choice, we are proud to have hearty birds that don’t make us feel like Frankenstein.
We will do all the processing work and sell whole chickens, ready to eat. We do not know exactly what weight to expect, but the price will be $3.50/pound. Let us know soon how many you would like; they will likely be snatched up quickly. We’ll keep you informed as soon as we determine the precise date we plan to harvest.
Farming for sea shells
In a completely unprecedented move, Courtney, Clark and I took a vacation to the beach during the middle of July. My family has gone to Hilton Head, South Carolina, every year for 15 years, and I had not gone in 9 years. Courtney and Clark had never gone. The plan, up until a few days before the trip, was for Courtney and Clark to go on this year’s trip without me. As their departure approached, the brutality of this Summer was weighing heavily upon me. I was having trouble seeing how I was going to make it to the end of the year. Thank goodness I was able to be persuaded that it was possible for me to go; I can’t imagine now not having been there to experience Clark’s first trip to the ocean. It was a perfect trip for all of us, and it could not have come at a better time. Thanks many times over to Ronnie and Lori for being here, for all the working shares who helped make the CSA deliveries come together, to my parents for showing us such a great time, to all of you who were so supportive of me going for it. I came back renewed and refreshed, ready to push on through to the end of this growing season, whatever ungodly weather may come.
A scarcity of eggs
Every year as the days grow shorter the chickens slow down their egg production. This year’s intense heat has further contributed to the slow down. And then there were a couple of puppies that wandered onto the farm while we were away. Their cuteness kept people from running them off. It took us a few days after returning to realize that one of the dogs had developed a taste for chicken and was quietly killing them. When I caught him in the act, it was clearly time for them to take their cuteness elsewhere. All of this has left us with too few eggs to go around to all of our egg shares. Our goal is to try to get eggs to everyone two weeks out of three. Don’t worry: you will not be paying for eggs that you don’t get. It will just take us a little longer to fulfill your egg subscription. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Halfway through a historic year
Over half the country is mired in drought, perhaps the worst since the 1930s. Trees are dropping their leaves, commodity farmers are plowing in their corn, cracks in the earth grow large enough to swallow small animals, and even the weeds are suffering. We feel fortunate to have so much food to share despite the awful weather. The new irrigation system has really saved our season so far. But we still have half the season to go, and we need rain badly. I’ve sown many of the Fall crops on the back of the farm, where we are not currently able to irrigate. The seeds will just sit there until they make contact with water. So in order for us to have a bountiful Fall season, we’re going to have to get some good rain sometime soon.
Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts. I’ll try to get the next newsletter out before another six weeks have passed.
A touch of relief
Exactly one month later, at last it has rained again. With the intense heat and pure dryness, ultra-ugly scenarios had taken hold of my brain: 100 degrees and sunny for three more months. Well, we are far from out of the woods, and this .4 inch of rain won’t last long under the punishing sun. But just perhaps this Summer will not be one big dust bowl.
Thanks for another wonderful solstice gathering: ideal weather, good food, good music, and especially good people. These events are really meaningful to us. It takes the energy of a community to make this farm happen, and we are blessed with such a super, supportive circle of giving souls.
The alliums have arrived
The barn is full of gorgeous garlic, and lots of nice onions are maturing early. You really have to love these crops. Come what may this Summer, we will have plenty of these cooking staples to go around. We used our last of last year’s storage onions in June and have a hard time imagining life without the aroma of garlic and onion cooking in the kitchen.
The low down
Here we go again, breaking weather records. A few weeks ago the garden was in fine form, as good of a start to the growing season as we have had. Now, however, we are in dangerous territory, on the precipice of something perhaps quite ugly. One soaking rain in the last seven weeks, and that was a month ago. We have seen this kind of heat and drought before: the crunch of dead grass underfoot, soils baked into impenetrable bricks, lesser plants dying and great trees giving up noisy leaves to the hot breeze. This is not so uncommon in August. But June? This is the time of year when plants become established and strong, not when they merely struggle to survive. That the hottest, driest months are yet to come could well spell a very long, painful Summer. Have I mentioned that we do not have an irrigation system in place?
Clearly I have put off irrigation as long as possible. Farming is being a juggler of priorities and endless investments. In order to farm, we bought land. In order to work the land, we bought equipment. In order to store the equipment, we fixed up the barn. In order to grow crops for human consumption, we bought and built a deer fence. In order to store our harvest, we built a “walk-in cooler.” We made it to year five on this un-irrigated farm without getting badly burned, but the droughts have never come so soon, and we have to be prepared for even greater and earlier droughts than this one. My hope is in a week or so to have drip lines running to an acre of our most critical crops. My hope is also that it will not be too little or too late.
Farming is not for the faint-hearted. Blueberry growers in these parts had their crops wiped out by a late frost this Spring. Cattle farmers, as the grass goes brown and the hay gets eaten, may well sell off cows. Tobacco farmers may just have to call it another lost year. For generations now, the fates of many farmers have been in the fickle hands of the jet stream. You roll the dice dreaming of a big, bountiful year and you get a devastating hail storm instead. Another bad drought, flood, or storm sends the unfortunate farmer to the city looking for work. We don’t get paid just for trying.
No one knows what the coming months hold. A resurrected Summer? A luxurious Fall? More of the same into October? An early killing frost? Regardless, we are blessed to have you behind us. CSA lives on, and it provides us all some security in a volatile world. Though we can’t make it rain, we can together ease the pain of nature’s whims and sustain into the future a fertile place on earth. Though “the market” couldn’t care less about hot and hurting farmers, this community of love is like a gentle mist of mercy from above.
It’s not a goat. We’ve already added interns and honeybees and more chickens. Some time around the new year we are expecting a little sibling for Clark. Courtney is in good health and getting a lot more rest than she is able to during the school year. We are so thankful for the way in which you have embraced Clark and been so good to our family, and we have no doubt that the new arrival will be just as celebrated and fortunate.
Summer Solstice Farm Potluck
Join us on Saturday, June 23, for our 7th annual Soltice celebration. The farm is approaching high tide, the dishes are delectable, and the community convenes in the fellowship of food and good farming. Come around 4 PM and we will have plenty of daylight in which to dine and discover. Bring a musical instrument and/or dancing shoes, too, as we expect to have some pickin’ in the barn.
More new residents
The seven chicks that hatched last month are roaming farther and farther from their mama, the honeybees are making babies, and last week saw the arrival of another batch of promise—100 day-old chicks: 50 New Hampshire cockerels and 50 White Rock cockerels. Once they have their wings to keep them warm, they will move from the brooder to the chicken tractor, which Ronnie has been building, and then in a few months they will move on again to become nourishing food. More about this fascinating process later.
High Tunnel Granted
We have been approved by the Natural Resource Conservation Service for a grant to build a 2000 square foot high tunnel. A high tunnel is just a greenhouse structure with no supplemental heat. We’re excited about the possibilities of season extension this will give us. Even with just a single layer of greenhouse plastic, hardy crops can be harvested all Winter long. Look out Phyllis Fitzgerald—here comes the Winter Share we’ve been talking about for seven years. The challenge will certainly be getting this high tunnel erected during the busy Summer months.
We did not fill up our CSA shares this year, but we nonetheless planned and budgeted for more shares. This extra food has to go somewhere, so you can now find A Place on Earth at the Westport Village farmer’s market on Thursdays from 3-6:30.
Although the weather has moderated, the heat and dryness of a couple weeks ago effectively ended the (always) short Spring run of peas and spinach. We’ve had a good month of strawberries, but their season has wound on down too. Fear not, for the end of Spring crops heralds the return of the great fruits of summer. Carrots are ready to go, squash is coming on, cukes and beans are not far behind, garlic bulbs are sizing up, and of course you know all the rest that follows.
So far, so good. One never knows what natural disaster awaits when, but at this point many of our crops are established, weeded, and looking great.
It is dizzying, as always, these scores of different crops with their different demands, these fragile baby creatures, these 16 hour days, and—since Clark was born—these at times interrupted short nights. It seems I look up from the ground and three weeks have passed. Have I remembered to eat or sleep or smell the roses? I hope so, but I don’t remember. Did I close the chicken door in my post-dusk rounds? I hope so, but time is all running together, maybe it’s last night I’m remembering. Are the plants in the greenhouse watered, the seeds sown, the rows covered, the tomatoes strung, the mulch moved, the beets thinned, the eggs gathered, the flowers arranged, the gate closed? I hope so.
Community and comraderie make the chaos worth it. Each year, each season, each day even is an odyssey not to be endured alone. Solitary moments are still filled with familiar faces, encouraging, appreciating, cajoling, reminding that the ends of our work are the same as the means—tangible and together. These hours of hunched over “tedium” are not anonymous cog-turnings, not isolated, un-unionized actions. The work is a gift generating gratitude through participation. Each who partakes is linked to a unique field on a unique farm and the circulating of food through the community is like blood through a single organism.
Of course Wendell Berry, author of A Place on Earth (among many other things), expresses this beautifully:
I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.
…A positive cause, still little noticed by high officials and the media, is the by now well-established effort to build or rebuild local economies, starting with economies of food. This effort to connect cities with their surrounding rural landscapes has the advantage of being both attractive and necessary. It rests exactly upon the recognition of human limits and the necessity of human scale. Its purpose, to the extent possible, is to bring producers and consumers, causes and effects, back within the bounds of neighborhood, which is to say the effective reach of imagination, sympathy, affection, and all else that neighborhood implies. An economy genuinely local and neighborly offers to localities a measure of security that they cannot derive from a national or a global economy controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment.
Linked through this network of food and affection, we proceed towards the highest noon of high Summer. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.
Get your pans oiled and your knives sharpened, because another harvest season is upon us. Deliveries will begin next week—a week earlier than scheduled! Luscious greens, fragrant herbs, garlic, strawberries and more will make a short trip down I-71 to rendezvous with you.
First Wednesday pick-up will be May 16 and first Saturday will be May 19.
Shares are still not filled up for the year, so we will still happily accept new members after the season starts. Thanks for spreading the word.
The New Farmer Movement
Your very own CSA farmer was among the farmer-authors published in Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers Movement. Many of you would recognize “The Ambush” as the story of my discovery of our massacred flock of chickens in November of 2010, when Courtney was 41 weeks pregnant.
The various samplings of young farmers’ stories from around the country offer rich glimpses of why we are farming and what challenges we face. The proud and humble voices in this book are encouraging about the future of agriculture.
This is a link to the trailer for Greenhorns:
It is available from storey press at: http://www.storey.com/book_detail.php?isbn=9781603427722&cat=Animals
and also through Amazon.
One of our hens became the proud new mama of seven this past Sunday. Nature is beautiful. She, like every hen (that has ever been allowed to hatch eggs) before her, hardly moved for 21 days. Stoic and patient, there she sat every day, seemingly watching the world go by. Sunday morning she was still there, but in the afternoon there was a family where there once was none. And she now has the ineffably precious gift of life cheeping beneath her, something spectacular to show for her three weeks of sitting.
May is a mad month on most farms like this one. Brief planting windows open and close too quickly. Planting is clearly critical, for if you don’t plant it, it certainly won’t come. But meanwhile weeds are gaining speed as the days lengthen. When harvest begins, you should be in three places at the same time. May is full of manic movement on the produce farm. Here at A Place on Earth, Courtney is still in school, and the moment she gets home in the afternoon I need to hurry and make hay while the sun shines.
It’s a whirlwind, and it won’t let go til Fall.
Fortunately, there are still some fine evenings when, before Clark’s bedtime, I work in the presence of my family, when my wheelhoeing is accompanied by my son’s sweet singing and my wife weeds nearby, when the endless (loco)motion stills for a second, and there is perfect peace on this place on earth. It’s hard in our busy lives to devote time to stopping and “smelling the roses.” But you don’t even have to stop. I was still moving, still pushing that wheelhoe, but I could feel that “Love is all there is. It makes the world go round.”
Next week we will start sharing the results of nurturing this earth with work and love. We look forward to being a source of deep nourishment.