I’m a wordy person; I believe I always have been. My Mom used to tell me that I would come home from kindergarten and eat my lunch (cream of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich was always a favorite), all the while chattering away nineteen to the dozen about the enormous number of things that had happened to me so far that day. It couldn’t have been later than 1 p.m.
Were school days shorter then, or am I just remembering wrong?
In addition to my tendency to write a paragraph when I could use one word, or no words, I also have an odd fascination with the origins of words and phrases, and just went off on a nice internet tangent looking up the idiom used above. I knew what I meant by saying ‘nineteen to the dozen’, but then realized that I didn’t know why it meant what I knew it meant and couldn’t rest until I did.
Although I’m sure that my language issues are fascinating to you, what do they have to do with farming? Nothing really, except that they have a lot to do with my ability communitcate with our community of friends, customers and supporters–and the world at large–about the latest happenings on 46 North Farm in a timely manner. And in this era of social media saturation, good communication is everything.
This summer, things got busy and complicated and damn challenging. It happens every year, so I’m not exactly sure why I continue to be surprised about this, but I always feel unprepared for just how busy it gets. The farm update blog posts sloshing around in my head kept getting longer and more involved and were all called ‘Triage’. In spite of Packy’s insistence that I was using it wrong, triage was the one word that kept coming to mind whenever someone asked how the farm was doing this year. It wasn’t terrible, but there were a lot of hard choices to be made.
We learned about what is physically, mentally and emotionally possible for each of us as we tried to blend the interesting cocktail of farming, off-farm-jobs and pathetic attempts at taking time off. (And by ‘interesting’ I mean, of course, ‘bloody exhausting and overwhelming’.)
There were also moments this year when I was reminded all too well that life is fleeting and precious, as I watched my beloved brother-in-law Leonard spend the year battling with a particularly mean and aggressive strain of cancer. His bravery, and that of my sister Laura and their kids, has been a continual inspiration to me. This was the first summer since we moved to Oregon a decade ago that the Fog City Gang did not come and visit the farm, and we missed them.
I tried to savor good moments as they happened, and sometimes managed it. I reminded myself to notice the beauty in the world that surrounds me, and not just notice what was left on the to-do list. Sometimes that worked. I do deeply appreciate my good fortune to live on a beautiful piece of land, and be surrounded by so many wonderful, kind, good people who helped make 46 North Farm possible this year.
Komatsuna was probably our most popular introduction this season. If you haven’t tasted this delicious Asian leafy green–sometimes known as Japanese mustard spinach–you’ve got a few more weeks to pick some up at our farmers market booth, as our late-season crop is coming on strong.
Pak choi was another favorite leafy green, both for our CSA customers and at farmers markets. And it wasn’t all leafy greens coming off the farm, although they were abundant. Our potato crop was beautiful, although our yield was not great due to a lack of irrigation.
It was a gorgeous year for cut flowers! In addition to weekly bunches of sweet peas and bouquets of colorful flowers, we hosted a fundraising day at the River People Farmers Market to benefit the Columbian Theatre‘s kickstarter campaign to help them purchase a new digital film projector.
Farm friends Jasmine, Kati and Martha were among the great group of people knocking out the beautiful bouquets that day, and 46 North Farm raised $615 to donate to help the Columbian Theatre’s ultimately successful campaign. We’re looking forward to enjoying some good movies there this winter.
I don’t usually do flowers for weddings, but we made an exception for a friend this year who needed a small number of table arrangements and just wanted them “colorful”. I love that flexibility, which lets me use what looks the most beautiful on the day and not stress if one particular color isn’t abundant. It was so much fun I’m actually considering taking on flowers-for-events more. Maybe.
One of the biggest projects of the year was building our new 96′ x 30′ hoop house for growing heat-loving crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. It was mostly completed and planted by mid-June–much later than we’d hoped, but better than not at all. It’s been an ongoing project all summer as we work to finish the end walls before the bad weather really kicks in.
We also experimented with hosting a sort of large-ish event, the Fort George Brewery’s Labor Day Employee Barbeque and Camp out. It turned out to be a super fun day, and it was great to see the farm being so well-enjoyed. It was a pretty low-impact event for us too, and everyone was remarkably well-behaved.
Although the good behavior might have had something to do with 46 North Farm’s highly professional team of park rangers supervising the event…
A major challenge for the farm this season was irrigation. That whole new 96′ x 30′ hoop house plus a large area within the same fenced growing area has no irrigation option yet. It’s a long story, involving documenting our irrigation challenges as a step towards applying for funding help from the NRCS, but with the super-dry season this year, watering was even more of an undertaking than anticipated.
Fortunately we quickly graduated from filling every bucket and bin on the farm, driving them back to the hoop house and then transferring the water to watering cans to irrigate the tomatoes. That was a whole lot of fun to do. The purchase of a 200 gallon truck-mounted watering tank made things much easier, although still ridiculously time consuming.
Early one morning in August before he went off to work at the brewery, Packy headed down to the new hoop house with me to water the tomatoes and peppers while I worked on pruning and trellising the exploding tomato vines. As I was kneeling there between the rampant vines with my hands all sticky with tomato residue, I suddenly realized what day it was.
I looked over at my husband, munching his toast and diligently helping with farm chores before doing and a full day’s hard labor shifting kegs and washing up brewing tanks, and felt awash with appreciation.
“Hey Packy,” I called over to him.
“Mmmbreghd…?” he mumbled around his toast.
” Happy Wedding Anniversay!”
“Shit! Is it really?! Damn!” He looked up in a panic. “Well, I don’t have a present for you…”
I said, ‘I don’t have one for you either.”
“Well, that’s a relief.” Packy was thoughtful for a moment, and took another bite of toast. “Maybe we can have takeout pizza for dinner tonight to celebrate?”
“Sure,” I said. “That sounds great.”
We just looked at each other for a second or two, and smiled, and went back to our chores.
I didn’t spend time nearly enough this summer looking at the stars, or sitting around the fire pit with friends and talking, or taking naps, or taking the time to make pickles and jam and cook new things, or accomplishing any one of a hundred things I meant to do. It was a crazy summer, and there were way too many tough moments in it for me to feel entirely happy about it.
But I did get to watch the enormous August full moon rise over the barn, and I did remember in the moment to think about how beautiful life can be, and how grateful I am for everything–and everyone–I am fortunate enough to have in my life right now.
Life is not always beautiful, or easy, or even enjoyable. But the potential for beauty and pleasure and joy are there in every moment, and sometimes just knowing that is enough.