Growing the good stuff in Athens, GA since 2006

Friday, January 25, 2008


January 25, 2008
Yesterday found me indoors yet again, organizing, working on the computer. Which is probably a good thing since I was so achy from swinging a mattock (yeah, I spelled it wrong before--oops) on Wednesday. That really works your core more'n you would think. Anyway. By mid-morning, I realized that Friday was my deadline for making and posting a new flier to announce the opening of the CSA to new members. I had the poster designed already, but lacked printing power. And I couldn't email the poster to myself to open at the copy store because the file was too big and I couldn't use Chris's jump drive because it was full. Dilemma. So I went and purchased one. Buy jump drive--check. Go to copy store--check. Drive around town and post fliers at all the coffee shops, taco stands, bookstores, organic grocery stores, and friendly restaurants--almost check. I got most of the east and west sides of town, but still need to post campus and finish downtown. It's funny--posting fliers. Finding the places that'll allow them. Finding the boards within those places to post them. I got smart this time and brought my own tape and thumbtacks. After a while, you notice other people know the same boards you do 'cause you see the same fliers over and over again. I wonder if there's some great un-tapped bulletin board out there I'm unaware of. Probably. I hope people see 'em. I hope they buy in.

Posting fliers reminded me of one of the reasons I like this town so much. I ran into a lot of people I know and like. And I got to do things like buy bread from the bakery (where I used to work and happened to see someone I used to work with and got to converse with him for a while), get my Ethiopian food to go while supporting a friend's business, and stop by the locally grown pickup to get my milk, eggs, and flour from other local farmers. Everywhere I went--good people. Everywhere I looked--a beautiful town. Yea.

Posting fliers was followed by my Thursday night yoga class. Yoga saves my ass as a farmer. Keeps me fit and flexible and well. Not to mention straightening out my head. It's my health insurance. God bless it. And bless my teacher and mentor--she's amazing in many, many ways.

Often my yoga class opens me up to some enlightenment knocking at my door, waiting to be heard. This week, the message was, "Fill your self with light and love and there's no room inside for fear." Yes ma'am. Crowd the fear out with an overabundance of wonder and awe. Joy. I'm gonna be so filled up with the positive, so shining with the light of love, that darkness can't get near me. There's no space for it. That sounds about right.

So. Glowing with the light of insight, I made my way on to my next class--trapeze. Yep, I said it--trapeze. Farmer on a flying trapeze--that's me. It's my first session, but already I love it. All that fun you had on swings as kids--multiply it by 20 (or how much older you are now than you were then) and you get the amazing experience of finding yourself on a trapeze. That's all I'm gonna say about it for now except for this: on Thursday, my new posters weren't the only fliers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hog Wire and Asparagus

January 23, 2008
Beautiful. Today there was a thick fog that burned off into blue skies by mid-morning; birds were singing; temperatures rose into the 50's-60's. It felt like spring. Funny--it was sleeting last week at this time. Snow. And today I was peeling off layers like an onion getting smaller. Snow last week, t-shirt today. I love Georgia. Will says that's what he loves about the South--winter just can't get a firm grip on things. No solid freeze, no perpetual night. The South is just too slippery when it comes to weather. So it's cold. And then it's not. And we like it that way.

Wednesday. One of my work-traders was out with me and we paused early on to watch the sun steam the dew off the top of the tool shed. Ahhhhh. Then we got to the business of sifting. Sifting what? Dirt. Why would a person want to sift dirt? To get really fine particles. Because really fine particles are what you need when you mix soil to make a blocking blend. Big particles cause your blocks to fall apart. Structural integrity compromise. So we sift. Tiny bits of sand, soil, compost, peat, and wormcastings are what we want and what we get. I can hardly believe it, but soil blocking is coming up soon. Just last week we set our first 2008 planting date: cabbages, cauliflower--early February. That's soon. And that means we make soil mix.

But that doesn't take us all day today. Today we accomplish a myriad of small farm tasks and for once, one of them actually took less time than I thought it would. That task would be finishing digging out holes for burying our irrigation spigots. Kevin did most of the work months ago and the task had simply lagged in the interim. Not urgent enough to address immediately meant not addressed at all. Today, I found one of the pipes had busted in the freeze, so not urgent became urgent and we went and got our shovels. And shoot if it didn't go so fast I wondered why it had taken so long for me to get around to it. C'est la vie. I'm just happy something finally took less time than I imagined.

On the flip side of that, one task that I thought would take half an hour took an hour to do half. Yep. It's winter, and winter means prime time to do anything that requires reclaimation. This particular task found us on the farm margin, digging hog fencing out of the privet and thorns and clay to reclaim it as trellising material. The previous owner had set up a (dog? hog? goat?) pen that had fallen into disuse. So we decided to reuse it. Future home of tomatoes or beans or cucumbers, peas or melons or flower vines. I thought it would only take a little while to pull it apart. It was 11:30am and I thought, hey, let's do this easy bit of work and then we'll take lunch. What I didn't bargain on was having to dig out the bottoms. 6 inches deep, 8 inches deep, a foot. Roots, rocks, and clay. Sheeze louise. We swung maddoxes and dug with our hands, pulled and levered and hauled at it. An hour in, we had only salvaged 3 of the 6 panels and decided lunch could no longer wait. Later in the afternoon, we came back and finished the job with another hour of labor. Half an hour? More like 2 hours. Often the case.

Which leaves us with asparagus. Ah, asparagus. Delightful perennial. Last year we put in a row about 70' long. At this time of year, the ferny tops are all dead, so we cut them back, top dressed the row with horse manure, mulched over them again, and stood back, admiring our work. If only annual crops were so time non-intensive. No wonder people love perennials.

Let's see--to wrap it up, it's Wednesday. Family dinner potluck night. My work-trader stayed on and we picked a big salad from the garden. He put it together with some mixers we picked last week--claytonia, endive, frilly mustards--and made a roasted garlic dressing---ummmm. I made an Indonesian squash and greens soup (one of Chris's favorite Moosewood recipes) with a pumpkin we salvaged from a leaf bag--we were spreading leaves and I upended this bag and a pumpkin rolled out! In perfect condition! It must have been in there since October. Someone raked their yard and tossed their perfect pumpkin on top for disposal because Halloween was over and pumpkins are decorations, not food. Silly American. So we decided to keep it and eat it. It came out fantastic. Two thumbs up. And that was just half the fruit! Chris made pumpkin biscuits and gravy and there's even still some left. Maybe I'll make pumpkin bread later this week. God bless pumpkins. We're gonna grow some this year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cold Rain

January 22, 2008
This gray and rainy day finds me indoors, chipping away at the task of organizing our farm records and trying to set up a better system to keep track of things this year than we had last year. Last year, we did what we could; this year will reap the benefits of our previous struggle. Now I know what I need lists of. Now I have some idea of how to structure it. Bless God for spreadsheets. Or the god-part that lives in whatever techie brainstormed spreadsheets. Which is to say that spreadsheets are wonderful. All those little columns and rows. So neatly laid out. So easy to edit. So pre-formatted and ready to go. Ahhhhh. Beats the hell out of the pen-and-paper, where-the-hell-did-I-put-that-list, pass-me-the-ruler system I had last year. Scheeze, and yea!

Memberships have begun to trickle in. I put out the call last week to last year's folks and we're up to 7 return-ees now. They've got one more week before I open up the flood gates to newbies. I hope to get many more back again--I think we will. I like returning members. We had a lot of satisfied folks last season. We'll satisfy some more this go-round.

It's a good thing the memberships have begun to flow because our finances are dwindling much like the land in late winter. The seed order is coming up soon, which'll be a large chunk of change, and we need to invest in a truckload of finished compost for the garden (upwards of $1000). Oh, and Kevin and I need to get paid. Yeah, don't forget that. Plus, there's greenhouse supplies, equipment. Funding to send us to the GA Organics Conference in late February (which we applied for scholarships for) so's we can learn to be better farmers and can network with other farmers. Lots of early-season costs in farming. That's one reason why CSA's are so damn awesome--the money comes in when you need to spend it--at the beginning. No more borrowing capital in the hopes that you might make it back. No more fretting on finance. It's wonderful. Thanks to our amazing community members who understand and are willing to do the unusual and pay for 4 months of food 2 months before any of it appears, we can run this farm and make our small organic farming venture successful. Wow. Brilliant. I love our folks.

I also love our work-traders. This year, we already have them coming out once a week--in January! Powerful, the amount of work they do and how much they help us get done. I just want to hug 'em. Usually, I do. We planned for 3-4 full-trade members this season. The 4 spots are spoken for already and I'm just tickled it's going so well. I've got 3 field hands/pickup organizers and 1 outside sales person. Now all we need is a part-time volunteer coordinator and we'll be set. Ooohwee. So exciting.

The volunteer coordinator will be nice. We need volunteer labor and we realized last year that for it to be efficient and effective, it had to be organized. People coming out any hour of any day just doesn't work. We have to have tasks lined up, adequate instruction and supervision. Yeah. There are some things that require lots of folks and lots of hands--for those things we need a posse of volunteers. Other things require few folks and few hands--those tasks are good for us and our regular work-traders and harvest volunteers. And still other things require just one of us and many hours alone to deal with it--then I need peace. That, or someone else to direct my volunteer laborers. It's a delicate balance of needing both the help and the days without it to gather ourselves and our tasks and get things done. So hopefully, we'll get our labor co-ordinator and s/he can line up people when we need them. Then we'll be glad to see them; they'll be glad to work; appropriate tasks will get accomplished; and we'll all go home happy at night. May it be so.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sweet Onions

January 21, 2008
It's a cold January day out on the farm--crisp and breezy with highs in the 40's. Brrrr. Still, the winter rye is deliciously green and the garlic looks happy all nestled in its thick blanket of leaf mulch. The small hoop house is full of 4 inch high braising mix and 2 inch lettuce, baby leeks, spinach, endive, claytonia, golden frill mustards, arugula, a few small beets and chard, and a whole glorious row of sweet onions. Ah, sweet onions. I weeded the field row today. 12o feet of sweet granex onions from Vidalia. We can't call them Vidalia onions because we're not growing them in Vidalia--ah, well. They're still sweet and beautiful. I sang them a little song as I hoed, "Sweet, sweet onions, growing in my field. Sweet, sweet onions, gonna give me sweet yield." The fact that I was working alone led to a wide variety of verses, but that was my refrain, and ah, it was sweet to sing it to those gentle beauties. Bundled up against the cold, hoeing in sun, the wind whistling and singing through the fence with me, it was fantastic. Hoeing wasn't a chore, it was pure pleasure. I sang to those beautiful onions, calling them into fullness, celebrating them, telling them how much we would cherish them and how we would eat them with joy, exuberantly. Thanking them for being. I think they were smiling back at me, liking my song, reaching their long, round leaves up for a taste of sun and wind and attention. We take care of each other, we do. I tend them; they feed me--body and heart. I celebrate their beauty and flavor, they respond to my love and attention. Somehow more is created than just onions and cells. There's a wholeness to it, healing. Present being. I stood there in that field singing, in the rows where eggplant grew last summer and where the red shouldered hawk keeps watch and I could almost touch the web that connects us all. It's so close here. I wish everyone could feel it like I do.

January is a slow month for outdoor work, and a good thing, too, since June will bring us 12-hour workdays and nonstop to-do lists. For now, the list is short. Reconstruct hoop house. Weed carrots. Mulch everything. Aside from field work, we've been deep in the planning process. Last week, we buckled down for two four-hour sessions to decide crop varieties, planting dates, row space needed, seeds required--basically to plan how the spring and summer will play out for us. All in January. Still, it was easier this year. We had last year's data to guide us and a better idea of what we were doing. We're still not done. Flowers and herbs await their turn on the list. Crop rotation and location remains to be addressed. It's all a process. We'll get there.

All in all, the farm is in a good place right now. Quiet. Gently growing. Well-tended. Enduring the freezes and cold days and nights with fortitude. Spring waits in the eves, heralded by the daffodils pushing up through the forest floor. Soon she'll be here. But I'm content to wait for now--enjoying the nakedness of the trees, the open invitation of forest and margin, the lack of rampant weeds. It's a good time. I'm glad I have the privilege of being a part of it--a caretaker, steward of a land that so graciously gives and gives, even in its quiet times. May I deserve its blessings.

So here's to the Roots Farm in its second season, third year, and my continued care of it. I'm excited about this year. My heart is full of nervous anticipation, like a mama-to-be. It promises so much. Will I be up to it? Will everything work out alright? I suppose so. The farm forgives mistakes more easily than most people do, rewards effort with tangible results, and provides learning opportunities as abundantly as weeds. I'll give it my best and somehow, that'll be good enough.

Here's to the Roots Farm. In the making of this farm, I've found more than just food, more than a job, more than a home and a community. Somehow, I found myself. Will wonders never cease? Silly universe, conspiring in my favor (by the way, thanks for that). Silly me, being afraid it wouldn't. Who ever thought I'd find my way through farming? I guess the universe did. I reached my hand into the earth not knowing what I'd find and when I pulled it up, I found my roots, imagine that.