Morning notes from a farmer:
March 23, 2013
A beautiful sky of pale blue, with soft grey, pink, and white clouds faces me out the window. I face it. The window to my left shows only grey.
It is the time of year when I want to be scheduled. Take care of Beth things by 6am. Then dishes. Then chores. Then, Then, then… With the start of sunlight illuminating the clouds before me and my still typing, I’m already late.
This morning I’m trying to remind myself that my clock is only my own. I won’t get everything done that I’d like. We’ll eat dinner, go to sleep, and face another day. From where have I created so much self importance in this farm life that I feel the need to be productive all of the time? Is it a question of ego? Do I feel so small in this big farm world of living that I try to make myself bigger by constantly trying to control the fluttering life around me?
As I type I notice my toes curled under me. I’m holding myself in. If I relax and stretch my feet will I feel more grounded to the truth? At this moment is it the idea of control that keeps me trapped in myself? I tense further, as I try to understand my place in the control. I curl myself in to protect myself from the vastness of the farm and my truth, and then explode out in a response of lists, to-do’s, manipulation, dominance. I’ll feed the chickens at 7am, I’ll plant seeds in neat 50 cell grids, I’ll store my carrots at 34 degrees fahrenheit and if it gets too warm in that carrot storage box (that I’ve built out of lumber and foam and plastic, materials of man), I’ll turn on the cooling unit. It it gets too cold, there is a space heater plugged in.
Would those carrots taste better if I stored them in a hole in the earth? Would they still be firm this time of year? Or would they be soft and hairy, starting to send up leaves, preparing to go to seed, biennials that carrots are – with a true nature of only surviving through the winter with enough energy in that root to send up a flower in it’s second season and produce seed. Is our great supply of firm, delicious, carrots a sign that my dominance is a good thing?
Today a man will arrive in a vehicle from Pennsylvania with 400 pullets for us. These are four month old chickens that in the next few weeks will start laying small eggs, and over the next month and a half will work their way from their “teenage” years to adult chicken-hood, and a steady supply of full sized eggs. We already have 800 chickens in the barn, two groups of different ages, and one set are definitely elders. This new batch will assure us a continual supply as we move into summer.
The birds will run free upstairs, but first they have to get there. The question I have this morning is if these chickens will be carried up to the third floor of our barn (the big, bright, airy chicken penthouse) in the crates they arrive in (about 12 birds per crate), or will we take them out of the crates in the vehicle and carry the birds by hand (two or three sets of feet grabbed in each hand)? If the plan is to take them up in their crates, I cannot carry them, and my job will be to unload them once they are upstairs. I will make myself feel guilty for having not done the heavy lifting up the two flights of stairs. If we take them out of their crates and carry them in small groups, I can run up and down the stairs (and we do run.. part of that proving ourselves thing) just like the men. Now enters ego into that self designed clock. And it is not my voice, it is that of the men involved in the chicken moving party, that decides what happens. I’m out numbered two against one. It matters to me to be seen as an equal to my larger framed male counterparts, but does it matter enough for me to raise my voice and say, “Hey, let’s carry the birds up without their crates?” to buck the system of allowing the men to make this decision.
My awareness returns to my feet. One of my feet covers the other and my toes curl again at the thought of playing out my desires in the chicken moving game. But why not? Wouldn’t the men like to share the job of carrying? Will their egos allow them to not lift as heavy of a load?
I can now see the sun in the window frame. My writing has me sitting long past my scheduled clock. The dishes still wait. My morning animal chores wait. The lists that I made last night wait.
I’m thinking about how often I look up to the sky. Often. I love it’s big open expanse and continual change in energy. This big sky is the direct contrast to this little farm world, where we run around, bring in the ego, bring in control, dominance, all in the effort of creating healthy food.
However the chicken moving game plays out. However successful I am at regaining ground on today’s lists, perhaps now I’ll do so with an added consciousness when I look to the sky, aware that my look upward is balancing the ego that is running around below.
In the many depths of farming, this winter I feel like I’ve been spiraling in between the practical, get my feet on the ground organizing with what I know, and expanding my own vocabulary of what it means to “farm.” I’ve been learning about biodynamics on paper and through conversation. I’ve been thinking about plant spirit medicine and apothecaries. I’m planning my traditional every day, and seeing openings for new dreams and grounding to work their way in.
What does this really mean? As the experience of growing plants becomes more rooted in me, so that while there is always more to learn about the bare bones planting and tending, I can also operate successfully on autopilot (more or less.. less if I acknowledge the number of hours I put into planning and communicating with crew). In the meantime, there is new freed-up energy to understand the next layer of what that plant really is. How does it feel to be around it? What does that plant give us energetically? It is with this awareness that I feel like the next layers of Dandelion Spring can grow.
In the black and white perspective:
In many ways our business will look the same – at the farmers’ market you will still see clean wooden boxes over-flowing with fresh, colorful, produce. We still will bring consistency, diversity, and as much color and nutrition to your plate as possible.
The second layer is hard to quantify. I want that nutrition, that energetic nature of the food we provide, to be as rich as possible. It is the relationship with the plant that feeds me, and that in turn I hope will feed you.
My elevator drop description for people is often that conventional agriculture focuses on the plant itself. We need corn now! Organic agriculture focuses on the soil. How do we create healthy soil so that we can have healthy plants? Biodynamic agriculture focuses larger universal energy in creating healthy plants. How can we take that big energy from the sun and moon and universe (think tides!) and the deep energy from the soil, and bring it together to create healthy plants?
I will try to keep you posted with words, in conversation at market, and here, about what I learning, and how I see it affecting the big picture of our farm. My silence here over the winter has partially been because I’m starting to turn this writing energy outward. You’ll be able to find an article in a periodical from me early this summer – I’ll let you know when it comes out….
In the today:
This big snow fall means that my goal of working fields by April 1st won’t happen this year. We will have a packed greenhouse of healthy seedlings, and many other projects to keep us going until we can start turning over soil, but I’m eager to share spring grown food with you. In the meantime, there are still plenty of carrots and other roots in the walk-in for our April deliveries, and the spinach from the greenhouse has become a daily addition to our diet.
Seagulls are flying and squawking over our snow covered fields.
I have a bottle lamb in the entry that is stirring about, with it’s delightful sounds of tiny hooves on wood echoing up the stairway to my office.
Today we have a meeting with folks from a bank, in the long process of reorganizing farm finance needs.
I have a new building for a walk-in freezer and other considerations to pick away at details for. And, and…. the work of this farmer is diverse. I embrace all, but these days, my embrace is especially fueled by sitting a little deeper in my feet.
Thank you for being part of our community.CSA shares! Follow the tabs above to learn more. Sign-up today We really do like getting to know you better through the CSA form. And, we need more start-up capitol. Your spring time investments will help us to build a walk-in freezer, space for an insulated, year round, bathroom facility for apprentices and guests, and the final orders of row cover and fabric needed to warm our early spring crops (think early cucumbers and tomatoes!).
Our look back at 2012 has us reminiscing with smiles
- Farm picnics held each month during the summer with the Uproot Pie Co. and Oxbow Brewing
- Full Diet CSA – better community building than we hoped for. We feel so fortunate that the risk of this new venture only turned up rewards. We have plans for a repeat, with more families, in 2013!
- Fore St. benefit dinner for Dragon Farm held at the farm. This six course meal in a packed, dressed-up, barn was satisfying for guests, farmers, and chefs alike. The feel of big group participation was huge. We are hosting a repeat in 2013, for a new benefactor. Mark your calendar for Sunday, October 13th.
- So much abundance – vegetables, milk, meat, eggs. We feel gifted to eat so well, witness the health of soil, plant, and animal, and to share this with you.
- A willing and able crew – stand out individuals who helped us every day in the field and barns.
- The returning of Lee’s son, Aran, to the farm full-time, along with his partner, Megan, has been gift. There is no wonder here why generations of farmers have shared work within a family.
- A single most memorable moment: We had a calf that had been scared out of her paddock and was loose in the woods. Lee was able to walk up to her, and she stood steady while he put a halter on (her first halter experience) and quietly walked home. It was a beautiful moment.
- Cheese workshops (Brittany!) and fermenting (Andrew!).
- Peace walk: a wonderful group of men and women resetting the boundaries of the farm
- And the sad passing of MOFGA Director and local food advocate, dear Russell Libby.
We hold all of this as we move into the New Year. With grace, with some rest, and a tingling of wonderment about what 2013 will bring.
These sunflower stalks are what sit on the edge of the flower garden today. I like to imagine blooming dandelions. Bright, sunny, yellow petals in a thick cluster, calling bees and welcoming the bright spring sun that will warm the soil. Potential. Pure, practical, beautiful, potential.
In the garden today we are still in a place of fall time clean up. There is a small amount floating row cover in the fields, a temporary greenhouse left split and flapping after hurricane Sandy winds came through, a few more roots to dig, existing greenhouse space to tend, and new greenhouses being built. To-do lists. oommpphh.
It sounds as though we’ve moved on from one project to a next before finishing the dirty clean-up work of where we were. In some instances this was true. Farming is about prioritizing and time management as much as choosing varieties and handing food to customers. Sometimes we make it most of the way through a task and then it’s too cold, too dark, or there is another crop or project calling louder, and we abandon what we are doing and move on.
There is also the balance between doing the work that needs to be done, and keeping it interesting and inspiring. Some of the above tasks certainly do feel like work in the traditional sense. Moving row cover surely gets one wet, tires the arms, and then what… at this time of year you don’t move the cover to find a secret stash of thriving arugula or spicy mix. You are moving the cover for practical (boring) reasons, so it will have the best protection necessary in order to leave the barn, ready and able for duty during the spring season – when the dandelions are blooming.
These days the inspiration for me to plow through those dirty, end of season tasks, comes from day dreams about flowering plants and bulbs. Although the small amount of flowers we’ve grown in the past have always been received well, I’ve always focused our efforts on food that people can eat. Why not plant more flowers? Food for the senses I think can be just as fulfilling at the carrots we put in our bellies. This fall I’ve planted the idea in me that if I finish…. I can make a break for the hardware store and snatch up any remaining tulip and other interesting bulbs. Maybe at night I can find a reputable company online and get an express shipment….
I live in the idea that although consciously planted, the spring time arrival of tulips and daffodils would feel like the unexpected. Their strong stems and bright colors would feel like a bonus, cultivated delight, to get a glimpse of and inspire a smile during May, one of the most stressful months in the garden.
And, yes, it is growing very late in the year to plant bulbs here in Maine. Perhaps it is even my naiveté that it is an action that makes sense at all. But, this morning, even though writing during darkness, I know there is not frost on the ground today. A balmy stretch of 50 degree weather rolled in yesterday, which gives me hope that maybe, maybe, I can still work the soil enough to plant some bulbs. And then there is greenhouse space to consider too. Edges of beds and empty tables that could hold flats and containers… maybe I’m on to something here. A whole new layer of planting, full of color, and energy, and surprises. Maybe my early morning and lunch time day dreams don’t have to be just that. Maybe it is time to really plant some bulbs, to add a new dimension to our garden.