Growing the good stuff in Athens, GA since 2006

Friday, January 29, 2010

Leaves & More Leaves

January 29, 2010

Leaves and more leaves. Today we finished an epic leaf-spreading, mass-garden-mulching task that has been looming on my horizon for weeks. Leaf bag stacks 5 high and 3 deep and were languishing in the bottom lands, paper slowly decomposing, waiting for us to act. Bare soil was crying out to be covered. And cover it we did. Hours and hours of hefting and toting damp bags full of leaves out to the field to blanket the beds and the isles. Pitchfork after pitchfork of loose leaves tossed onto the trailer, off of the trailer. Now, it's a beautiful sight. I look out over the fields and a mosaic of leaves stretches before me. Oak and maple, sweet gum and pecan, pine and pear--all nestled together in the rows. It's a good, good thing.

Why leaf mulch? It prevent soil erosion and protects soil microorganisms. It blocks out the weeds. Provides organic matter. Conserves soil moisture in dry years. And did I mention that it blocks out weeds? We've probably got an acre in leaf mulch right now. Wow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Daffodils & Dogwoods

January 25, 2010

I spotted daffodils in the woods yesterday, some over 7 inches tall already, though not yet blooming. The dogwood buds are swelling. Sure enough, even though it's only January, hints of spring are in the air. A peek in the hoop house today revealed lettuces that seem to have perked up overnight--plants that were hugging the ground last week are now reaching up to taste the warmer air. Onions that looked piddly not too long ago are more robust. Garlic seems to have gotten its second wind. Already? Already.

We put in our first seed order last week for broccoli and cabbages. The rest of our seeds, I plan to order today. Soon, boxes will arrive in the mail, full of potential life.

I plan to open the CSA today to accepting members for our 2010 season. Indeed, it is that time already.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Confidence and Satisfaction

January 20, 2010

At the SSAWG conference this week, learning about farming from other farmers. Today, I spent time in a CSA workshop, and I am left with questions of grower confidence and customer
satisfaction. We've been thinking of offering a smaller share to our members. Most of our shares are split between two or more folks, and we've been considering that perhaps our people would be happier with smaller, individual shares. Studies show that many folks who don't sign up again for a CSA do so because there was too much food provided in the past. Is that why we had higher turnover this year? Or was it the economy? I don't know. We don't know. But we've been thinking about this smaller share thing, and now I don't know if it's such a good idea. The logistics are frustrating.

Logistics: we currently offer 46 full shares. If we doubled it, that would be 92 smaller shares. The thing is, how do I plant for that? Many of the things we offer, I wouldn't want to give half of. Half the bunch of kale? 2 or 3 radishes? Cut every melon in half? But at the same time, I don't have the land to grow twice as much stuff, or even half again as much stuff. So how do I plant for 92 smaller shares? Do I give people a choice? Radishes or turnips? Kale or kohlrabi? And if so, how do I plant for that? How much kale do I need? How many melons? Which things get bunched together as choices? Which always appear? If we make this decision, then I have to make that choice, and I am foreseeing a giant headache that leaves me feeling as if I'm always disappointing someone, or falling short of the abundance I'd really like to provide. It's not a good feeling to anticipate being immersed in for the next 8 months.

Jeeze louise. To top it off, I emailed my members last week to let them know that we'd be making our CSA decisions soon and to begin thinking of re-joining. And I highlighted the idea of the new, smaller shares. If I change my mind, I feel a bit foolish. If I go ahead with a foolish plan, then we all suffer. Yikes. Hard decision-making sometimes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This Thing We Are Creating

January 16, 2010

We just spent 12 hours straight deciding what we're gonna grow next year, how much of it, and when. It's January, and yet the farm slowly begins to wake up and move again. This organism, this entity -- we are building it, creating it, breathing life into it. From dust and dirt it arises. Skeletal now, soon we will flesh it out. And it will take on a life of its own. Like parents, we birth it, then watch in dismay and delight as it finds its own way and goes about it independent of what we had planned.

Sometimes I wonder if it's my own life that I give it, and it is. My breath, my sweat, my hope and my fears. Yet it's not a one-way street. Not just an out-pouring, but an in-flowing as well. And perhaps, really, I am just the conduit, the reed through which the universe sings its farm-song, its food-song, its work-song. Gibran says that, "when you work you fulfill a part of the earth's furthest dream," and so I am also the heart through which the earth dreams. And I am the hands that bring that dream to fulfillment.

I like that thought that the earth is dreaming through me, that perhaps the feeling that keeps me up at night and knocks on my door in the morning is just the universe, asking me to help it manifest. Maybe then I can relax and be at ease--if it's the universe's dream, then perhaps the universe has more resources at its disposal to bring this dream about. Perhaps I don't have to do it all. Perhaps, indeed, it will be all right, and maybe even more glorious than I had imagined.

Which is a good thing for me to remember, because, often, I get lost in the fear of it all. Fear that what I am creating is an animal, that it will eat me. Maybe that's just the veggies getting back at me for eating them, but as I am here, on the cusp of setting this plan into motion, I tremble because I know deep down that I cannot control it. That it will get away from me. That, ultimately, I am bound to its timing, its demands, its requirements. It will ask of me and I will give. So I am afraid of what it might ask. Afraid of what I might give. My life becomes not my own, but part of the greater whole, the larger effort at hand. Which is what it has always been. Maybe what I really grieve is the loss of my illusion of control.

Perhaps what I stand to gain is a realization of my true partnership with the universe. The earth dreaming, and dreaming through me, means that more than just my desire will move this dream into being. More than just my sweat and effort and striving. All the energy does not have to come from me--just through me. I can be the conduit. I can sit back and release my death-grip on how I think it has to happen, and simply let it be, perfectly as it is, flowing into existence as it will. I can ask and know that forces beyond me are moving my passion forwards in ways I can't even grasp. I can dream and I can manifest.

I can ramble. I guess 12 hours of ounces and grams, row feet and plant spacing, yields and planting dates will do that to you. It is the beginning. Something big has begun. It is larger than I am. And perhaps that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be scary. Maybe it's a gentle giant who wants to bring me treats. Maybe that's what I'm creating.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Frozen Earth, Frozen Carrots

January 7, 2010

A new learning experience: when the ground itself freezes, the things in it also freeze. Okay, so it seems like a no-brainer and perhaps it is, but the idea and the practical implication are just now coming together for me. My carrots are frozen. Actually, it's mostly just the exposed tops, perhaps an inch down, but that inch drastically reduces their marketability. Thankfully, I have a somewhat forgiving market, but this may be a bit of a costly education in paying attention to severe weather. Now my carrots are covered, albeit late, and I'm making a note in my crop folder, "when the temperatures dip into the 20's, cover the carrots!" Who knew that the earth itself would freeze a few inches deep at that temperature? I didn't. But it has been damp, and it is cold, so there you go. A couple of years ago, I would have kicked myself pretty hard for making this mistake; now I simply realize that mistakes are oftentimes how you learn, and the bigger the mistake, the more firmly the lesson sticks. Ah, well. So it goes. January. You'd think with the light returning and the days getting longer now that the heat would follow suit, but this is the coldest it's been all winter. Days and days of 20's and 40's. Yikes.