September 21, 2010

Why I Married a Farmer

Two years ago yesterday, I did something I promised myself I would never do: I married a farmer.

I've never in my life made a better decision.

Jacob and I married in front of an historic red barn, with our friends and family surrounding us. The leaves on the cottonwoods were just turning and the air had that unmistakable fall crisp to it. The food came from Jacob's first farming experiment in Big Sandy and the flowers from my first large cut flower garden. It was the beginning of so many things for us.

June 17, 2010

The Clouds are Either Half Full of Moisture, or Half Full of Delay

The other day, Jacob pulled me into the greenhouse. "I want to show you something," he said. "Look at all of this. Look at what we've accomplished. Look at how much work we've done."

He was referring to this:

I laughed out loud. Just the day before, I took a moment to fully survey the greenhouse and got a little despondent thinking about all the work we had ahead of us. "All of this," I thought, "Has to be in the ground in the next few weeks."

So, the greenhouse is either half full of accomplishment or half full of work, depending on your vantage point.

Luckily Jacob and I have a knack for balancing each other. On days when I see work, he sees accomplishment. On days he sees a to do list, I remind him of all we've caught up on. That's what marriage is all about, right?

But back to the greenhouse. There are two main reasons it is still so full this late in the season:

Nights are still dipping down into the mid-30s, leaving us a little leery of transplanting things like tomatoes and peppers and the likes. Last Saturday, as a matter of fact, we got our last (knock on wood) frost and it got a few of the tomatoes we'd just put out to harden off. (They'll survive though.)

And, with all that cold is coming lots and lots of rain, which has hampered our efforts to get into the field to work beds and transplant.

But, as a kid who grew up on a dryland farm I'm never going to complain about moisture, no matter how much it's pushing us back. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that just when you think something is not working for you, like all the rain, you turn around and see that it's just what something else needed, like our emmer and Kamut and lentils:

Just look at that pretty stuff, popping up in nice little rows.

We delivered our first CSA shares this week and despite our worries about not having enough yet, we filled bags with lettuce and spinach and kale and radishes and our customers walked away happy -- some even overwhelmed with the bounty. We have so much spinach that we're delivering our first order to the local IGA tomorrow. So, the weather has been good to us in some ways, and bad to us in others.

There's the lesson.

The truth is, farming is an exercise in surrender. Surrender to weather and pests (we've stopped losing tomatoes, by the way) and schedules that are not your own. We control very little on this little patch of land and sometimes, that's just as it should be.

April 16, 2010

Progress, and the Long View of Farming

I'm always amazed at how quickly they grow up. In the last few weeks, we've gone from this:

to this:

We're having some problems with spotty germination (I know, sounds like a personal problem) but other than that, our little greenhouse in our *actual* house is working thus far.

Today, I moved a handful of these flats out to the real greenhouse, where we'll still have to use some additional heat, but we're nearing the day when all these little ones can be in the greenhouse without worry of frost. (Fingers crossed.)

We're T-minus six weeks from the first farmers' market, CSA delivery and hopefully, last frost. That means the seeding is in overdrive around here as we scramble to get everything started on time.

I have a love/hate relationship with the discipline that all of this necessitates. One the one hand, no one is here telling Jacob and I what to do. Our farm time is ours and that's one of the reasons we do this. (Both of us have always been keen on working for ourselves.) But, on the other hand, these little plants and the unforgiving schedule of a farm can end up being more of a heavy-handed boss than either of us have ever known.

I could take a break from planting, for instance, but that would mean one less harvest of lettuce or basil come June. We could skip that late night planting spinach, but then, it wouldn't get in before the snow and that would mean less spinach to harvest for that first CSA delivery in June.

As a modern society, we are so used to the immediate. For me personally, in my online work, every action has an immediate reaction. It's easy to get accustomed to that kind of immediate gratification or dissatisfaction.

But in farming, what you do right now does not have consequences tomorrow or next week. It has consequences three months from now. And, while that can be a somewhat difficult concept to grasp, it's a valuable exercise. It teaches us patience and perseverance, two qualities we don't take enough time anymore to foster.

So with that, I'll plant another flat of basil, that isn't likely to germinate for a few weeks and which I won't likely enjoy until the end of June. But I'll be dreaming of that pizza with every seed.


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