Farm surprises: strawberry avalanches and rascals at the front door


You never quite know what late June and the start of July can bring in on a farm.  From early smoke and heat, to an unplanned dunk in the irrigation ditch (with phone in pocket), to being greeted at 5:00 am by a lamb munching weeds from around the front steps of the barn, to the "Hey, Farmers!" call announcing the surprise return of some farm-family insiders, Margo Cilker and her sister Sarah.  It's been a wild week.  But as we look at the still-long list of things to harvest, a few plantings we need to sneak in today before market prep, and the hot and veggie-popping months of July and August rolling out in front of us, I remember one of the lines we used often last year during Margo's stay:  "It's gonna get wilder before it tames down."  None of us quite remembers the origin of that phrase, but it's often apt, one of the lines we use to brace ourselves to rally up and hang on.   

It really began last Friday, soon after the newsletter went out, and Noah began to pick strawberries "because we might have kind of a lot," he had wanted to start picking no later than 4:00 pm.  He did, and when he only moved a few feet down the row in the time it took me to move a batch of greens through the sinks, I had to check on him.  All that was wrong was that those few feet had already yielded rather a lot of pints.  His eyes were growing wide as he admitted there were more than just "kind of a lot."  By 9:00, he had a full garden cart loaded, and as I continued to work harvesting everything else, he called out with a slight note of panic "I've stopped counting pints. I just know we have cases and cases!"  In the end the berry harvest went till past 2:00 a.m., aided by headlamps and coffee, and we brought 170 pints of berries (we counted when we set up at market).  The overwhelming tide of berries appears to be beginning to ebb, but we should have a sizable abundance for market again this week, so come ready to stock up! 

On Thursday, halfway through the harvest for the grower's co-op we are a part of, Noah came in to find me flopped on the wood-chip covered floor of our washing station, stray bits of arugula stuck to my face, desperate for a nap there was no time for.  We'd been up butchering chickens past midnight then rose at 5 to fill a flower order for a wedding party, before beginning a sizable harvest for the co-op.  It's crazy, sometimes, this farming.  Just nuts.  In some moments, we wonder if we really can keep doing it--or we acknowledge that we cannot continue it indefinitely like this, and that some of this pace is in order to make enough this year to upgrade to things like an indoor kitchen and enough space for it all to feel just a little more sane.  

We aren't alone, though.  When we asked Ian (of Ian and Ellen's Produce, at the other end of Bedford) how he was doing as he passed by our booth a few weeks ago, he just raised his eyebrows, cocked his head, and appeared to weave a little on his feet.  We nodded, agreeing completely.  After a rare foray out of our booth to buy cookies from Peter and Helen (Kangaroo Gardens) last week, I slipped one onto our market-neighbor Lindsay's table, knowing she might be dragging as much as we were.  As we packed up after market she leaned over a stack of collapsed wax boxes to thank us--"that cookie, that was amazing."  

More and more as we scale up and grow more seriously, we forge relations with all our friends and colleagues trying to feed people here.  People ask us often at market, about competition between farmers.  We are never quite sure how to get across that the feeling is more of solidarity, of being on the same team. Farming is more athletic than you might think--not just sprinting for the escaped lamb or hefting the 60-pound tote of potatoes, but keeping going when you are just plain beat, feeling some days like it's been a marathon or two. The real competition is against the limited number of hours in the day, days in the week, and precious moments between our last and first frosts in a mountain valley that can make it hard to grow enough to feed the community and make a living.  And taking on that challenge, we are on the same team.  That's why, when we have a great recipe that calls for an herb we won't have at market, we text Linsday to see if we can send people to her for parsley.  It's why we call around to Leon, Randi, and others when we have more people interested in our leftover berries than we can actually supply.  And it's why, when we have a question about potato beetles, or how to get better at carrots, or a myriad of other things we need to learn, we have people to call. 

And whether you realize it or not, you are a part of that team, too.  None of us could keep doing this if you, the eaters, weren't willing to come to market, join our vegetable share programs, frequent the restaurants and stores that buy our produce, and continue to help us make progress.  So, thank you.  We haven't won yet, though, and we need you still.  Because we weren't able to get the word out enough in spring to meet our CSA vegetable subscription numbers, we know we may fall short of the income needed to do our next wave of building this fall, so Noah will be away for 4 days next week to do a sustainability audit of mint farms in Oregon.  It's tough to leave the farm for outside work in mid-summer, but critical to our future years of farming.   If you are interested in helping beyond your own purchases, we are still accepting donations for CSA vegetable shares, and have a handful of households in mind who could use them--some in the business of food themselves, in various different ways.

 As we look forward to potential waves of tomatoes, summer squash, and all the unexpected wildness of July and August, we continue to invite you to join in whatever ways you can.  But brace yourselves, folks.  As crazy as it is, it just might get wilder.