And while I don’t have time to write…I’ll just show you what we’ve created in a matter of months. For me, the aerial shot puts it all into perspective.

This lovely collage was shot & put together by one of our CSA members who’s also a local journalist, Marie Flanagan, back in May.

Wow. We have a farm. We have 16 families in our 2012 CSA Share and we’re already on week 2! This is mostly why I haven’t had time to update this blog. However, here are some photos I snapped from today’s harvest and a lovely recipe from one of our CSA members (and partner in this project) Jennifer Young. Thanks for sharing Jen!

Braised Young Root Vegetables

INGREDIENTS:

12 little turnips with greens, trim greens to 1″, slice in 1/2
1 bunch radishes with greens, trim greens to 1″, slice in 1/2
3 carrots, peel, slice lengthwise, cut into 1″
6 oz snap peas
1 bunch green onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon armagnac or brandy
1 tsp. tarragon, dried or 1 tbsp fresh
salt & pepper

METHOD:

1. Bring 4 cups water to boil. Rinse prepped turnips and radishes in cold water.
Add roots vegetables to the boiling water and blanch for 6 minutes. Then add the
snap peas and blanch for one more minute. Remove the vegetables from the cooking
water. Save water.

2. Heat the olive oil in a 10″saute pan. Add chopped green onions and cook for a
minute or two. Add the blanched roots and snap peas to the onions along with 1/2
cup of cooking liquid. Add the tarragon, lemon juice and armagnac. Simmer for 5
minutes until tender. Check seasonings and add salt & pepper.
SOURCE: Jennifer Young

And recipes from last week’s box are below!

CSA BOX week 1:

~French Breakfast Radish
In France they are sliced lengthwise, spread with butter and salted, or placed atop a buttered baguette for a “tartine.” Read a full article on French Breakfast Radish here.
Or, try this recipe from one of my favorite blogs of all time! http://orangette.blogspot.com/2011/04/have-your-way.html

~Arugula
I just made a batch of Arugula pesto! Recipe here: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/arugula_pesto/
ps. you don’t have to remove the stems!

~Hakurei Turnip
You haven’t had turnips until you try this beautiful variety from Japan. They are pearls of the earth.

~Spicy braising mix
Lucias served it this weekend lightly sauteed in an omelet. YUM!

~Red Russian Kale
This kale is young and tender enough to mix raw into any salad and dress lightly with your favorite vinaigrette!
and…
a small amt of fresh oregano!

Also-Check out this lovely article written by one of our 2012 CSA members Marie Flanagan on Minnesota Monthly Blog! Thanks Marie!

I know it’s been a long while since I’ve updated this lil’ blog. So, let me catch you up to speed:

Jim and I have our very own farm!

It’s not exactly Grandma’s farm… but it is close to home.

It’s our farm (or farm-to-be). In the city.

When we moved back to Minneapolis, we envisioned digging up the backyard, side-yard and front yard to grow as much food as possible for ourselves and maybe a few neighbors, you might remember my earlier post on this. If nothing else, we’d have plenty of canned goods for next year’s holiday gifts. Then, just as we were getting our hands dirty splicing up the backyard, expanding the chicken wire and planting the garlic for her long winter rest under the soil sheets of earth, we received a call.

Our dear friends, John and Jennifer, invited us to visit their one acre vacant lot across the street from the California Arts Building in NE Minneapolis. The lot is approximately 8 blocks from our house. They were interested in finding farmers, or urban gardeners, who could cultivate the land into a space for food production. They were interested in us not only because we are friends but also because we had just returned from a year of farming on 33 acre organic farm. We took one look at the vacant lot, sprawling out against railroad tracks, woods and concrete, covered in tall grass and trash, and immediately said YES, we’ll take it!

What fills me with hope and joy are people like Jennifer and John, who could have easily decided to develop this land with more buildings or storefronts, or whatever, but instead decided they would rather like to see food grown here. They believe it is “good for the village.” And I couldn’t agree more.  The soil tests returned with overwhelmingly positive results–well, for the city that is. There’s no lead or toxic chemicals in the soil. We took numerous soil samples back in December and had them all tested through the University of Minnesota. Although, the soil is full of grass seed and completely lacking in nutrient– that’s all amendable!

So, just over three months back in Minnesota and we have a real -urban- farm. Careful what you ask for!

Jim–who has the most diligent, disciplined work ethic of any man I’ve ever known–has been working non-stop preparing for the season ahead. OR, rather, the season that’s abruptly arrived in MN the beginning of March. We ordered thousands of dollars worth of manure to build up the soil beds and to cultivate delicious ground for the plants. We built a greenhouse (ok, mostly Jim, but I did help!), measured our planting beds on the lot in the middle of winter with measuring tape and fell asleep with seed catalogs in January. We’ve bookmarked hundreds of sites, watched YouTube video-how-tos and checked out loads of books from the library. We’ve ordered thousands of seeds (you should see the seed spreadsheet Jim has on his computer for the flow of the season! …everything from when to start the seeds, germination, maturation, crop rotations…etc.); we’ve gleaned materials, borrowed tillers, and today as I write this, Jim is putting up shelving units in the basement with grow lights and heating pads. On Monday we’ll transfer the first starts to the greenhouse. I registered our LLC, am working on a CSA brochure, ordered the business cards, am coordinating the volunteers, figuring out budgets and trying to build us a website.  An enlarged, poster-size aerial view of our farm hangs on the wall across from our bed (our office at the moment). Below it hangs a big farm calendar with dates and deadlines. I feel like we just became parents of a very large endeavor and didn’t even get 9 months to prepare for it!  Most of our conversation as a couple revolves around farm-talk or disagreements over which varieties of tomatoes to grow. We are trying to find the right balance of being business partners and life partners. And I wonder how couples manage to do it all sometimes…? There are many couples who I deeply admire who seem to meld work, life, art and family. Since Jim and I are relatively new to this, let us know how you do it!  Jim just informed me we’ll start the alliums, eggplants and peppers first. Right now, I’m craving arugula.

I realize it’s only an acre and we came straight from a 33-acre farm, however, there are new challenges when you begin to build a farm from scratch in the city. Water and refrigeration are two problems we’re working through. There’s currently no water source on the farm. This means setting up some contraption and irrigation, tapping into city water (expensive!) or hauling it over…. We’re really not quite sure how we’re going to do it yet but we’re determined to make it work. We’ll also have rodents and squirrels, rabbits and cats to deal with. But it’s nothing new. People have been growing food in cities for a very long time. We are resolute in our goals to localize our food economy, minimize our carbon footprint and provide accessible, fresh produce to our neighborhood.

The backyard vision has transformed into the fruit production area. Our goal–modeled after Finnriver’s CSA–is to provide vegetable and fruit as part of our Community Supported Agriculture package. En route, we have blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, melons, a plum tree and soon hope to add cranberries and apples! The fruit, as perennial,  will take longer, but we hope to be able to offer some fruit this year and much more fruit in the years to come.

As I sit here, planning, dreaming and worrying about our little city-farm, I think it’s important to recognize that this farm is in the middle of an urban environment and to understand what this means. We are not in the middle of a rural setting, or isolated from an urban landscape and so it’s vital for us to integrate into the neighborhood, to become a part of the greater whole. I believe we are the stewards now of this land, that we will cultivate beautiful soil, food, art and community… but I do not believe I “own” this farm. Indeed, I do not. This is the neighborhood’s farm. And because of this, we will also protect a space to gather community, host neighborhood meetings, present performance, art, poetry, music and most importantly have pizza nights! I hope this farm will feed neighborhood families and children fresh fruit and vegetables for years to come. I hope it will be a place where anyone who wants to, can come learn how to grow their own food, get their hands dirty, and be embolden.

Oh yes, we’re calling it, California Street Farm.

On a love note- Jim and I first met six (seven?) years ago performing in a play in the California Arts Building! We played opposite each other as husband and wife in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. You couldn’t have paid me enough money then to believe what we have now.

On an awesome note- we recently discovered (thanks to Jim’s mentor, farmer Don) these amazingly cool boxes for turning a room into a walk-in refrigerator. And they have the best name ever, Cool Bot.  Check it out!

Here’s what the farm looks like today. Winter.

Sometimes life is a tangled mess.  Especially when we find ourselves navigating through difficult transitions. For example, moving from a rural agrarian life back across the country to a city, and realizing you are not the same person you were when you left the city. But the city is still the city and the people inside the city still keep on keepin on and you say to yourself, Where do I fit… inside these cracks? Suffice it to say that life is mostly a tangled mess; the art of it is to find the melody within this beautiful unraveling.

For me, this whole transition is a lot like whiplash. Within the struggle of trying to find or define or create myself anew inside the city we left four years ago, I often wander along the river yearning for open fields, long spaces to absorb the day and mourning the lack of dirt beneath my nails. I’m reminded of an essay I read this past summer on Finnriver, The Small Farm as Art Form: Thoughts on Applied EcoPsychology, by Robert Greenway. In it, Mr. Greenway discusses  the distance between “culture” and “nature” as the core “disease” in our contemporary understanding of nature and goes on to explore the language of applied Ecopsychology to help mend this dissonance.

“…we have created lives that -consciously or not- presume nature and culture to be separate realms, and we often find difficulty in joining the realms. And then, in this illusion of separateness, we act ‘as if’ it were true; we allow mental assumptions to dominate our relationship with the earth, to exploit and degrade the natural systems of the earth for the short-term benefit, for wealth, or merely out of a kind of crazed, hungry greed that more and more functions like an addiction.”

Greenway goes on to write in the essay that, “Ecopsychology, whatever it is, is somehow meant to provide a new “cultural program” to reverse this disastrous state of affairs- a language that expresses a nature-culture / human-nature relationship that is “sustainable” not damaging to either, but synergistic.” He dismisses the idea that we are separate from nature as a “devastatingly spurious idea, ” and presents ideas for how Ecopsycbology seeks a language for one’s understanding of this gap. At least a way for us to begin to process all that has been taken from us if we allow ourselves to believe we exist outside of nature or that nature is simply a place we “visit” on vacation.

The city is intoxicating and I love diving into it but it violently wants to convince you that it/we exist outside of nature. And fair enough, there are a lot of distractions here; inside the cityscape. But somewhere in me is the thread of wild that flung itself into my heart and won’t let go.

Just as I was beginning to grasp the agrarian life, in concert with nature in a far corner, tucked into the edge of the continent, I turnaround to find myself in city-speed where everyone around me is rushing to be somewhere and do something very, very important. The lack of rhythm is disorienting, with the urban soundscape swirling round and round and stars so very, very far away.

It’s not that I’m not happy to be back because I am, it’s just…these things take time. Like recovering from whiplash.

It is ironic that I’m writing this since when we began this journey, nearly one year ago, I was a mere city girl talking of the difficulty in transitioning to rural life.  Once again, there’s a face-off between the barefoot farm girl and the sidewalk stomping flirt. Here we are wrestling as we find ourselves back on broken pavement.

I asked Mr. Greenway during our course “Thinking through the Land” this summer, how one transitions back into city-life after having tasted life off the grid (Mr. Greenway is not only an agrarian but has lead dozens of groups into the deep Western Wilderness –without any modern day gadgets, tools, or food mind you– for months) and his response was blunt: “It’s not easy. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to return to the city after experiencing true wilderness or life on the land.” But then he said something else that took me by surprise.

“Yoga.”

“Yoga is the only way I’ve learned to retain my connection to the wild inside the city. You have to remember it is always with you, the nature-human relationship, the wilderness experience. And you have to find a way to tap into that, even if only for a moment, every day. And for me, it is through Yoga.”

In that way, tapping into the wild or the wilderness experience, is like art. Art never leaves you, it is always in you, it’s just a matter of finding ways to tap into it or divert it into new streams.  The art in us, the wild in us,  can be spontaneously present if only we take the time to acknowledge it.

So as the New Year enters…I will do my best to welcome wilderness within these city walls.


 …Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

Long ago I vowed to leave Minnesota and never return–at least to live. For me, the Pacific Northwest was love at first taste–literally. I was seven years old when I tasted my first salty sip of the Pacific and right then I made a promise to myself:  I will one day live here, beside mountains and salt water.

Some twenty years later that dream became manifest, the lure of my seven-year-old dreams leading me west. Life on the Olympic Peninsula delivered a gasp of salt water in the breath of sky framed by luscious green mountains. It was, truly, beguiling.

We could have stayed. There was an option presented to us to help build a new energy efficient cabin, across the dirt road from the farm, where we could live happily ever after with our dog while continuing work, at least some, for Finnriver.  We thought and thought and then thought some more about how we could make it work. We teased the idea, put our house in Minneapolis on the market and then waited to see what fate would befall us. Ironically, it was not until after we put our house on the market that we both voiced what was in our hearts; we missed Minnesota, our family, our friends, our community.  It was the unspoken silence that had been hanging heavy inside the 10×12. When we realized we would not be able to sell our house without taking a major blow, we both exhaled a sigh of relief. Sometimes everything has to not work out–everything has to fall apart– to find peace. To find home.

This has been a year of riding a steep learning curve, a year of plunging into the unknown (namely, farming!) and often not knowing what the hell we were doing. It was a year of letting go and trusting that the work would lead us where to go next.  Through it, we have given birth to new pursuits, new joys and work that has forever changed us.  We will look back on this year as a pivotal moment that shifted the direction of our lives. That, and we’ll get to brag for a long time about living in in a small cabin in the woods–or as my dad coined it, “the Menards shack.”

Finnriver was a place for us to learn and grow, a place to experience the agrarian life and commit ourselves more deeply to being stewards of the land and to building resilient communities.  But in the end, Finnriver was not our home and we struggled to think of finding our place there long-term. When our house wouldn’t sell, we thought about what we wanted most: a place to grow food  (our property has a large south facing lot with ample room to grow food), a home (as old and clunky as it is), a supportive community of friends and family and a place to continue our education, artistic pursuits and farming dreams. When we considered all of these things, the decision was clear.  It also helps that my husband loves this place. Jim’s heart is in Minnesota. In fact, it is through him and his deep affection for this state that I’m able to appreciate it fully and experience it more wholly. The first time I took him to Park Point, a long sandy beach on the south shore of Lake Superior, his jaw dropped in disbelief that this miles-long golden beach was hidden inside the eastern edge of Minnesota. It is a joy to see this born and raised east-coast boy so in love with my native land and through him, I am reunited with its bounty.

dreaming in the land of big sky...

Leaving Finnriver, has meant leaving a bucolic dream for a flat city block. Our house is located in Northeast Minneapolis, a neighborhood that has long been an industrious, blue collar community with about as many bars as churches. Down the block is a cardboard box factory which omits curious smells, railroad tracks crisscross throughout and the old grain belt brewery is but a stone’s throw away. We’re within a couple of blocks of the Mississippi River although we’re afraid to let the dog swim in it due to pollution. Our block is a mix of first time home owners, section-8 (low-income housing) and elderly folks who’ve lived here all of their lives. It is also an emerging arts district with vibrant (unpretentious) restaurants, good ol’ fashioned midwestern bars, retro-spun coffee houses (like Maeve’s Cafe), artist lofts, vintage furniture shops and home to a very hip used record store, Shuga Records, which features in-store performances by local bands and visual art from local artists. The neighborhood was even featured in the New York Times travel section in the article “A Minneapolis Stretch Reborn.”  The HolyLand, only a mile away makes some of the best falafel in the city and the array of Mexican bakeries along Central Avenue provide a sweet tooth fix in a minute.
Needless to say, however, it’s a bit of culture shock reentering the city from the idyllic rural bubble we’ve just popped out of.

So why, again, did we really return to this gritty old neighborhood? I find myself asking this question over again now that we’re back.
I remind myself that we have a dream.  A farming dream.
Yep.
A farming dream right here in the city.
We returned with a somewhat simple goal (at least in theory): to feed ourselves and our neighborhood fresh produce.

We aspire to build our own farm that expands beyond our backyard and into the community where we can apply what we’ve learned this past year at Finnriver, as well as continue to learn and experiment  within this new climate/environment. Call it a sort of FarmSpace– an intersection of food, education, outreach, community and culture, right here in our neighborhood.  A space that occupies an important place in the community for food, forum, activism, and culture.  A lofty goal perhaps, call me a dreamer, but we believe in it and that’s enough fuel to get started.  However, it’s possible I’ll have to change the name of this blog, High Heels AND Hay…? For now, we’ve packed up our passion from the rolling fields of the verdant Chimacum valley and landed back in the dirty inner-urban city streets of NE Minneapolis with its blaring music and blowing waste to try to transform a space into something beautiful and delicious.

A view from Three Hearts Farm in Bozeman, MT

October Day
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Oh Lord, it’s time, it’s time. It was a great summer.
Lay your shadow now on the sundials,
and on the open fields let the winds go!

Give the tardy fruits the hint to fill;
give them two more Mediterranean days,
Drive them on into their greatness, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house by now will not build.
Whoever is alone now will remain alone,
will wait up, read, write long letters,
and walk along sidewalks under large trees,
not going home, as the leaves fall and blow away.

____

the time has come for us to bid adieu to this fine farm.

wasn’t it just yesterday we arrived? you and i and this little blog to help keep us sane.  i haven’t quite been able to find the words to articulate my heart. so for now, i’ll leave you with a few photos from our last days of work on the farm. what a beautiful month it was in the great northwest.

more soon. i promise. (click on a photo to view the gallery display:)

 

even though i’m supposed to put my heels up and rest in duluth in order to recover and indulge in mom and dad’s comfort & care (note to self: adults are not meant to live with their parents); i can’t seem to keep my heels off farms. even in chilly middle earth. 

farmers here deserve true bragging rights. for the record; i don’t need yet another book lining the shelves about a california-based urban farmer. i mean, really, who couldn’t grow a tomato in california?

 

Duluth Urban Farm tour 2011

i’ve been inspired as of late by my hometown, even a little touch of what you might call hometown pride, has set in.  this small city on a great big lake not far from canada has seen a lot of change in the 12 years since i’ve lived here.  the small farm revolution, the return to the homestead,  is a little behind here, no doubt–especially coming from the Pacific NW–but it’s also on a very exciting crux of change and possibility, where every experiment has not yet been done and one has the ability glean from other places to effect change. the momentum is spiraling forward.   

who needs a front yard when you can have a farm?!

a couple of weeks ago,  my friend kristin invited me to go on the 2011 duluth urban farm tour. we started at her and her partner charlie’s 5 acre farm just outside of duluth and made our way into the city. on the west side we encountered the bright and voracious urban farmer, francois medion, who began orchestrating and creating his urban farm in April of 2011. the farm, which you’ll see pictures of in the slideshow, uses biointensive raised beds and traditional gardens to provide local, fresh organic vegetables, herbs and flowers to Duluth Grill restaurant. they are also researching and developing product that is not readily available to restaurants in Duluth (white cucumbers, hardy kiwis, celeriac and apricots to name a few). they are also insulating from below ground a 20′x30′ hoop house in hopes that it will operate year round even in the frozen tundra of northern mn. the greenhouse is under construction and you’ll notice  in the photos the beginnings of a 26′ long x 6′ deep x4′ wide fish pond where francois intends to raise fish and vegetables in an aquaponic system as well as sprouts for the table and seedlings for the gardens. francois also took Will Allen’s (the former Milwaukee-based pro-basketball player turned urban farmer) Growing Power workshop.  Growing Power is a national non-profit that seeks to inspire communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time.

rock on D-town!

Greenhouse being built in west duluth urban farm to supply Duluth Grill Restaurant with locally sourced food!

thanks to my bestie billie (pictured below with her backyard chickens) i also attended a free screening of the documentary FRESH hosted by the Duluth Whole Foods Co-Op. you can click hereto watch a selection of  trailers from the film. i think every american should watch this film….

among several main characters, FRESH features the aforementioned urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

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the seattle skyline from the boat. the sky was so perfect.

This whole experiment in farming and rural rustic living was riding on risk. We needed to stay healthy and steer clear of injury. Injury is not conducive to farming nor the, ahem,  rustic living conditions on the farm. We are strong, healthy, flexible, hard-working…we cast our line prepared to fly.

What is the old adage…all good things must come to an end? OR– an abrupt fracture.

The truth is, we avoid thousands of potential collisions at any given moment and in an instant, one line coexisting within myriad moving lines, comes undone or is suddenly misaligned–and snap.

We are fragile, miraculous creatures.

Our plans came undone six weeks ago when a boating misadventure on Puget Sound, on a seemingly perfect summer day spent crabbing out on the water, left me with a broken arm and dislocated wrist. My radius snapped in half causing other residual damage to the forearm and wrist as it split. A perpendicular collision with a massive force of moving water from the wake of a cargo ship, sent the small fishing boat we were in, flying up into the air and slamming back down. It all happened in an instant, and thankfully, we hit the water right side up.

It’s just now that I’m able to process the whirlwind we were suddenly swept into in that instant. The crack that left me…lying on the floor of the boat, my body in shock, the way I remember the color of the sky so much more than the immediate pain, the way everything seemed silent and loud at once, the deep yogic breath that helped me from passing out until the morphine in the ER came to the rescue. Ah, Morphine, that liquid angel dressed in warmth, teasing everything dreamlike and wonderful before dumping you cold on her way out the door. I was left with a large plate and six screws in my left arm fusing bones back together. We found ourselves, post-surgery, feeling displaced, a little homeless ( not able to immediately return to the farm) bound by injury and out of work.

With gratitude I could never express in words, we were able to stay with family upon leaving the hospital in Seattle. Skip and Louise Volkle opened their house to us where I stayed for the first weeks after the accident, mostly in bed and often weepy. Jim and Louise took care of me with such attention, grace, love and kindness, I still get weepy thinking of it and I’m not even on drugs. Then our friends who took me out of my drugged haze and fed me delicious homemade meals, lifting my slightly dampened spirit. After all, I kept thinking of those wet spring months of mulching and not being there to reap the benefits of harvest. Or missing out on pig slaughter.

Such a minor injury in comparison to what could have potentially happened–yet in this space, I found myself drifting mid-air. Confused and aimless.  Maybe that was the oxycodone… but one thing I’m certain of–this experience has left me with deep empathy for those who live with chronic pain and the caretakers who help them through and through. We are truly rich when we have our health. And we are truly blessed when we have loved ones who help us up after we fail.

Jim returned to the farm the week after the accident and after my initial follow-up, I flew to my parents’ home in Duluth, MN to recover here among family and friends. I have been seeing an Occupational Therapist to begin to recover the lost movement in my wrist. It is painfully slow, still slightly sprained but I am gradually moving back toward my normal range of motion. I still have a long way to go with the wrist and yet each day I feel more confident.  I wonder if my new normal will always hold the memory of these fractures…the way you will never forget a bone that has broken.

Jim calls with daily updates. The next pigs will be slaughtered on Saturday. Bottling cider in the barn today. The ducks are devouring the mummy berry; the experiment is working! The nights are getting colder. The cabin is chilly; all the blankets and wool sweaters in use. The chickens are out again. 

 I am a universe away.

__

I pack my bags once again to return to the farm next week. We’ll pick up the pieces and keep on keepin on.

crabbing in the boat that day. this was our pot as we pulled them in.

Jocylin & Zee take a break from work to pose for the camera.

As Americans across the country pack suitcases for summer vacations and relaxation–sipping on flourescent watermelon wedges (or salty margaritas) sprawled on brightly colored beach towels beside pools and along beaches–farmers swing their wheel hoes  into action at full speed, head down and dirty inside 14 hour work days. And then some.  Our bodies are heavy with harvest; the busiest time of year. We wear the sun on our skin; new lines decorate our faces and muscles sculpt beneath summer work clothes to transform shape. Jim lost enough weight to demand an emergency thrift store outing to secure pants that would not fall down in the fields. Our hands are so swollen from the work our wedding rings no longer fit and now sit collecting dust in a bowl inside the cabin. But really, who needs rings when you’ve got your hands tangled together inside of a pig! (As for our wedding rings, we spent less than a 100 euro on both which we bought in a tiny jewelry shop in Greece from a woman who had been married to her husband for over twenty-five years and had never worn a ring. I took this as a good omen and we decided to buy our mismatched rings from her.)

jim rocks the wheel hoe.

We have little time for anything other than work but we’re rewarded with food meant for kings.  This is why farmers farm; harvest means money in your empty, worn out pockets and food that makes you weak in the knees.

What seemed difficult this past spring– the mulching, weeding and aching back–is replaced in summer with earlier start times and later endings, ever more weeds needing to be pulled out like rotten teeth daily.  Some days we spend nine hours tediously picking berries, packing flats full of pints to and fro, interrupted only by animal chores. I never thought I’d be jumping up and down to volunteer to climb into a manure filled pig pen with sour whey spilling down my arms, the weight of soaked grains in each hand as I try my best to lift the buckets over the fencing without getting trampled by squealing pigs. One morning I was chosen to harvest broccoli over berries and I practically danced through the fields. I could feel the eyes of envy from the interns left in the berries.  Even Jim confessed to a tiny particle of jealousy as I made my way from the raspberry hills down to the vegetable fields.

Sometimes, to stay sane, I need to remind myself that this is my year of “Farming Peace Corps.” In fact, I always wanted to join the Peace Corps but with my fear of long-term commitment, I  fell short of actually completing the application. Then, as you know, I got married, smacking that fear of commitment right in the face and with that, left my indoor bathroom to move to a farm. I think my father in law calls regularly to check in on me to make sure I’m not going to divorce his son. I find this is endearing. Jim shrugs.

Small farmers across the country are witnessing the weight of the year. Here, we had much too much wet for too long. Prolific fungus growth, called mummy berry,  has destroyed up to 90% of  our most delicious berry and most profitable crop–the organic blueberries Finnriver is famous for. These blueberries are voluptuous purple gemstones, the kind that would decorate a goddess or fabled in fairytales to release enchanting powers. If there were a Blueberry Superhero she would eat Finnriver blueberries. But in our loss, we are not alone. Disastrous yields have hit farmers hard all over. Here, we had record setting wet and cold but other parts of the country face horrific fires and tragic droughts.

"mummy berry"

Mummy berry is a result of fungus that proliferates under moist conditions. It is seen almost every year in this region; the temperate, wet climate lends itself perfectly to the spread of the disease. As mummy berry attacks, berries which at  first appear to be normal, begin to shrivel into a mummified nest and die before ever ripening. Normal measures of protection against mummy berry include removing fallen berries and mulching with an absorbent material to at least 2 inches thick to bury the fungus and prevent it from fruiting and sending out spores to the wind. Due to the massive amount of mummy berry this season, lead farmers Janet and Jeff, have decided to try a new plan of action: Ducks!

“Ducks thrive in wet and moist conditions and introducing them into the fenced-in blueberry field will create a symbiosis of farm life; the ducks will eat the fallen mummy berries, thereby cleaning up next year’s potential damage, and their feces will fertilize the field. This symbiotic method is a tribute to permaculture, an eco-systematic, sustainable approach to food production through edible landscaping that was developed in Australia. One of the tenets of the philosophy is that the ‘farm’ operates on a closed-loop system; bringing as little outside influence in as possible and losing or wasting as little as possible.” Link to full article on Finnriver Mummy Berry.

In other words, the ducks are here to devour the carnage.

So yes, there is burden bound to every harvest season that hangs heavy on already sore backs. But there is also much joy to be shared including my favorite, Friday Pizza Night! Every Friday evening  Jocylin (our master bread and pizza dough maker–I like to call her sourdough goddess) fires up the cob oven outside the barn as our ensemble gathers at the end of a long work day to dig our hungry faces into homemade pizzas. The pizzas are made with flour from Finnriver grains, decorated with our meat and vegetables, and accompany cold beer or cider from the barn.  It’s during these moments, when our little community comes together overlooking the glowing Chimacum Valley to share the bounty of all we have worked so hard for together, that I realize there  is no place else in the world I’d rather be in this moment. By the time the sun sets,  we collect our boots, wash our hands, and drag ourselves to bed; our eyelids glued with sleep before even sinking into the down of the pillow.

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If we’re not working, we’re trying our best to get off the farm to truly let it escape our minds by hiking and camping in the mountains. For our one year wedding anniversary we took a beautiful–if difficult–bike trip across the epic Orcas Island in the San Juans, with our camping gear strapped on the back. The island is a horseshoe shape with a mountain in the middle. You begin at sea level, climb up the mountainous terrain and end on the opposite side of the horseshoe back at sea level.  The hard part is the fact that once you get there you have to do it all over again to get back. Our legs were already sore from harvest, but the bike trip did them in. We took time to indulge in a delicious 2 hour yoga class–a luxury time does not allow on the farm. We both sort of melted beside the saltwater cove after that and then we just slept for a very long time.

On Quiet Wings

Inside the water bucket

A still corpse

on quiet wings

Death

As delicate as a whisper

 held in the palm of hand

It’s not so easy as all that

This humming from thistle to thee.

An insect in prayer

 on a sword of still grass now forgotten in wake of blue sky

There is nothing left to say

 Words float from empty hands and life dances on

Will you wrap around sky to remember us?

Even now

we will endure

Even now

we will remember

Even now

 we will sing

Even now

war collides

cracks open seams of life

We will love.

We’ve been finding floating dead bees inside the chicken’s water buckets. Maybe they are thirsty? Maybe they get stuck? Maybe we should invest in more lids so they aren’t tempted to take a swig.

Speaking of dead bees, last week, I was introduced to the art work of Renee Adams & Justin Gibbens, artists and beekeepers in Eastern Washington. Their exhibit, Peaceful Death & Pretty Flowers, is at Punch Gallery in Seattle all month. Renee Adams makes simple, delicate signs out of her collected dead bees in a series titled, “Telling the Bees.”

Here’s a little snippet from the exhibit:

“To this day, scientists are still unlocking many of the mysteries of this social insect for which so much of our modern day agriculture is dependent upon for pollination. It’s no surprise that Apis Mellifera, is the most heavily studied animal on the planet, second only to human beings themselves.”

Nough said.

I would like to dedicate this post to my dear sister (in-law) who suddenly & unexpectedly lost her father yesterday, out of blue. These photographs came to me in my aching for all that is suddenly lost. My heart is with my sister and brother tonight and my precious nieces who together, lost a father and a grandfather. As I sit here and type so many miles away, know that I hold you here on quiet wings.

May we love fearlessly.

“Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world. The world needs our happiness.”

From Teachings on Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh

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