Another Season Passes – But We Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Next week is the last CSA delivery of the season.

radishes

I can hardly believe it. It was just the other day we were setting up the bunker in the greenhouse for the first round of seeding, wasn’t it?

Time moves strangely always for me, but particularly so in the last eight months. Not sure where it all went or how we got here, where I’m wandering Philly before 7am and posting up at a coffee shop in Fairmount in all my winter gear before work at my old office.

ocf

OCF Coffee House – this pot of tea and breakfast sandwich made my whole week. Ya’ll don’t even know.

August-October passed in a straight-up blur. It was really hot for awhile, I remember that. I remember the weeds, of course. And I remember a fair number of markets chock full of awesome and adorable humans. But it was a crazy frenzy, interrupted by bouts with new friends, hilarious market antics and small animals.

Stubbz

Baby Stubbz was a big hit at market.

market kitten

Farm Fresh, Local Kitten!

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And then there was that time Steve hosted a coup at the Saturday market.

Both markets ended two weeks back, and last week I had my first Saturday off since May. It was so surreal and so very calm. I think I drove around a little aimlessly in New Tripoli just because I could.

Not that we aren’t without farm work. Not just yet. We are packing up the season – organizing, breaking down supplies, and thinking already about what we need to do better next year. We have over twenty pounds of garlic that went into the ground last week, and another seven to go before we’re through. We’ve been awaiting soil test results, thinking about what the future holds, and printing 2015 CSA pamphlets.

Not that I’m still soldiering on at that manic summer speed. I’m sleeping more. I’m really enjoying nights with Epsom salt baths and movies. I’m moving a little slower to cut the last of the CSA greens in the field. I still work at the health food store three days a week, and now I work 2-3 days in Philadelphia, archiving and helping with Toy Drive business in my old stomping grounds at The Support Center for Child Advocates. I’ve been starting to run again – which I don’t have the time or energy to keep up with in the thick of the season but which makes me happier than I ever really realize until I start doing it again after a period of stagnancy. I’ve been ordering books to read on Amazon. I’ve been lying around, occasionally, trying to learn how to do nothing.

Oh, and working on my house. Did I mention I got a house?

Like I said, it’s been a weird last few months.

My parents, who guide and support me in all things, believe in my endeavor enough to help financially back my soon-to-be home-ownership. The business did expand exponentially this year, and I still love farming, so we figured it made sense to look into buying rather than renting in the area. And when they showed me Little House a few months ago, I lost my mind.

I mean, look at it. It's the most adorable teeny house I've ever seen. And the trees are great. I've already spent an hour reading in one of them.

I mean, look at it. It’s the most adorable teeny house I’ve ever seen. And the trees on the other side of it are great. I’ve already spent an hour reading in one of them.

In the last few weeks since settlement, I’ve spent hours in Home Depot trying to navigate pex fittings and ceiling fans. Two of my oldest and dearest friends from home, Steve and Mike, have decided to invest their time and energy into getting this place in order for me. Electrical and plumbing work for food and beer? Yeah, I think I can manage that.

I truly have some incredible friends. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this love from them and so many of the people close to my soul, but I am so, so grateful to have them.

The end of the season has been exciting for my family, too. Instead of getting bored about winter, Mom was gifted a puppy, and there is warm little ball of light in there house that makes her so happy. And Arya Stark is pretty adorable, even for a Jack Russell.

Strider is probably the least thrilled of the team to have Arya in our midst.

Strider is probably the least thrilled of the team to have Arya in our midst. But he loves her, too. 

But back to Crooked Row. I’ve learned so much again this year, I’m not sure where my brain is storing it all (or rather, I do – I can’t seem to find my car keys, like, ever, and I am constantly setting things down and forgetting where I put them). I had a really supportive and sweet CSA base this year, who didn’t complain when they got piles of summer squash for a few weeks straight or that my corn never grew to fruition. I’m doing an end-of-the-season survey next week to see what folks really thought of the season, and no matter what comes of it, I’ll learn more there, too, about what it is people are looking for in their local food sources.

tea

Near the end of the season I finally got my act together and started making tea blends. By the last market I had some on the table and folks were ecstatic. Though the blends still need some tweaking in terms of recipes, I ordered some more herbal books and want to take some more courses in this vein to create some really delicious and beneficial tea blends in the next season. And the dried herbs smell amazing. If you have any interest in these things, give me a shout at liz.m.wagner@gmail.com or any other way on the contact page. I’m trying to set up a tab for them on here in the next week or so.

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As usual, there is an enormous list of folks to thank for this season. Many of you know who you are. My mom, dad, grandma, aunt, sis, friends and family for all the helping and guiding hands and motivational support. The Lehigh Valley for all the networking opportunities and support for the local food community. The Philly home base for being supportive customers and beautiful, sweet friends. And the kids of West Mt. Airy for being the most hilarious market pals/pseudo interns I could have hoped for. The Community Art Collective for providing summer activities and support and PR for the Wednesday market throughout the season. If you’re in Philly, check these folks out. They are doing some really cool things over in the Mt. Airy/Germantown area. The Food Trust and Farm to City for allowing me into such lovely markets all season and for hiring such magnificent managers.

carrot

 

broccoli

On Tuesday PA WAgN held an event at the farm featuring the beautiful, strong and amazing ladies of Green Heron Tools. Liz and Anne brought their lady-friendly tiller for the women to try out in the fields, and while Liz ran the tests, Anne taught us about ergonomics and the importance of understanding the differences in men and women’s bodies, particularly in terms of agricultural tools. We learned how to use our bodies and equipment more efficiently and safely to protect ourselves over time. It was such a fun event, and ladies came from all over to participate.

lexi tiller

Liz and Lexi, an urban farmer from Easton, running the tiller.

ladies ergonomics

Anne explains the importance of additional grips and posture while doing even the most basic of farm tasks to protect your body.

lexi and liz

This past summer I was also nominated to the Lehigh Valley’s Farmland Preservation Board, which is a really cool opportunity that both they and I are really jazzed about. We get to help farms get funded for preservation, which offers a financial incentive to owners to give up their developmental rights and preserve farmland as farmland forever in the area. More to come on this development as I learn more about the process, but it is surely a necessary function as farmland continues to disappear all over the state at a rapid rate.
board papers

This winter is set to be a phenomenal one. I have so many projects and mind – from the tea to that lot in North Philly to some oral history projects I’ve had on the back burner for months.

And I want to learn, and not just about farming. I want to see what people love about their crafts and watch passions grow. I want to know my friends and acquaintances better, and learn about people I see every day but never have a chance to talk to. If you’ve got a story, I’d love to hear it.

learning

If anyone is interested in next year’s CSA, drop me a line. I’ll be posting more on that in a month or so. But if you work in an office or somewhere where you think others would be interested in learning about farm share opportunities or the importance of local food, please let me know! I’d love to come in sometime and talk about this with you guys.

Thanks for everything, folks. If you’re in the Lehigh Valley or Philly and would like to go on some adventure or other, let me know. I’ll be bopping around trying to raise vibrations and spread that good field energy everywhere I go.

Yours in Love and Kale,

Farmer Liz

 

Have you met Stef? – The Lady Fair and Cheese Queen of Valley Milkhouse

I have been incredibly lucky to meet and become friends with some amazing people in my lifetime, and especially in the last few years. They create, the grow, they shine. It’s so inspiring and so humbling.

And on Sunday, I had the opportunity to take my mom to meet one of my all-time favorite one of these folks – Stefanie Angstadt, at her amazing enterprise, Valley Milkhouse.

Always adorable.

Always adorable.

My love story with Stef started back in 2012, when I moved to New York to work on Keith’s Farm. We met in the Union Square market, where she was working and running markets for Eckerton Hill, a well-known heirloom tomato and vegetable farm right across the county line from me back home. I can truthfully say that my girl crush grew wildly that season, and when I returned to the Lehigh Valley to start Crooked Row Farm, our friendship solidified. She even helped me build the greenhouse this season, as you may recall.

When she decided to venture out on her own with her newly-purchased cheese-making equipment this past winter, I was overjoyed. Stef had experience on a dairy in the past, and spent a lot of time honing her recipes, looking for a business space, and networking with other area cheesemakers.

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In a few short months she was already making the papers. My mom would cut out the clips of my “cheese friend Stef,” and I watched through the Internet as her business grew and grew. This past Sunday she held and open house at the creamery, and it was a stretch to find parking. With chef demos, live music, wine tastings and tables overflowing with cheese (and, in the cheese room, sales), no one could have asked for a better launch party.

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Her cheese in on artisan shelves in Philadelphia, in Frecon Orchard’s store, at the Saucon Valley and Easton farmer’s markets and on-site at the Creamery in Oley Valley. Oh, and maybe at my market stands very soon. We’re testing some sales on Saturday at East Falls, so if you want to try the cheese that fits this romance story, get there early.

Follow Stef @milkhousecheese on Instagram, like her on Facebook, and check out her website for more info. Read her full story about her foray into cheese. Some day we’ll all have a big party with our fare, and you’ll be invited. Then you’ll get to meet her. She’s great.

Until then, here’s to dairy and watching the broccoli grow.

-Farmer Liz

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Awesome ladies unite! Me and mom, Cheese Lady Mistress Stef, And Anne and Liz, the awesome duo who run Green Heron Tools, the one stop shop for lady-friendly farm swag!

thank you us

A Start of Fall Catch-Up – The Summer Was Awesome, Let Me Tell You About It

I did that thing I do where I fall off in the summer. But it’s all for good reasons this time. Here at Crooked Row we’ve been working like mad, running two Philly markets and meeting all sorts of wild and interesting people. We’ve been learning about different growing methods, what people are looking for in their farmstands, and what gets people excited about food.

It’s been lots of fun and grossly tiring. It’s September – the marathon is winding down, but I can’t wake up without the sun no matter how many alarms I set, and my back and legs perpetually hurt. I am talking a lot of salt baths and drinking a lot of water with magnesium powder and starting to drop in to hot yoga classes at West End Yoga to fix this. I am catching up on mountains of filing and paperwork and already editing and creating promotional materials for the 2015 season.

This season has already been such a transition from our first foray in 2013. The diversity of growth, the successful and the failed growing experiments, and the prepping of new areas are all setting us up for an even more bolstered season next year. I already can’t wait.

It’s hard to talk specifics after so much lag time in the posts. Here’s some idea of what we’ve been doing.

The tomatoes came in half-heartedly and left quickly.

The brief season of crazy tomatoes

The brief season of crazy tomatoes

Next year, (shakes fist), next year will be better.

Next year, (shakes fist), next year will be better.

The garlic was beautiful and great and this year I’ve got some new seed stock that I just picked up TODAY from the guys Dan and PJ at Garlicspot, out my way. Music, Hungarian Purple, , and of course the staple Keith Stewart Rocambole will be in the CSA bags and at the stand next summer. Jazzed? I surely am.

hanging garlic

Hanging garlic just looks so cool, right?

garlic stock

Chesnok, Rocambole, Music to my ears…

mom garlic

The greens are coming in great for the fall. In a couple weeks I’ll have fall brassicas that got away from me last season. I still haven’t perfected having lettuces and a good pile of salad mix during the hottest months, but I’m working on it.

carrots lettuce

And the potatoes. Man. I love growing potatoes. I love how happy they make people, with the colors and the flavors. My dear chef friend at My Grandmother’s Table says the Carolas are second to none when it comes to making gnocchi. And I started digging my fingerlings this week for the CSA, and they look awesome.

fingerling potatoes

I’ve learned about streamlining, and promoting, and marketing, and all that necessary work that you have to do out of the field. I had a really amazing opportunity to attend the Sam Adams ‘Brewing The American Dream’ Business Speed Coaching sessions ten minutes from the farm Tuesday night. I met some incredible folks doing really important work with business incubators, economic development, business strategics and planning and more, and for two and a half hours I had the opportunity to pick their brains, pitch the farm and talk about how to network with food connections, create a stable business plan and, eventually, get myself to a place where I am financially stable doing the thing I love.

My speed session card - each person I sat with had something great to share and teach.

My speed session card – each person I sat with had something great to share and teach. And the food was fantastic. Check out Thomas at the Book Shop when you get a chance.

God, that sounds good. And looks even better in writing.

We’re trying out some dehydrating and dried herb and tea blends. Stay tuned for where you can pick them up.

dehydrator

Plans, schemes, expansion. We’re winding down and building up at the same time. And the scenery never stops being amazing. This winter will be one of adventures, and I’d love to take the time to share more about Crooked Row and some of my friends who are doing amazing things with their own farm endeavors. Won’t you stay awhile?

sunet

Yours in Purple Majesty, Rocambole and Red Russian,

Farmer Liz

They were diggin’ for something.

“You look so happy.”
“You look so strong and, like, capable.”
“You look so tan!”
“This really seems to suit you.”
“Where’s the broccoli?”

This has been the theme of the last couple months since I’ve fallen off the blogosphere again.

Of course it’s a weedy mess again. It’s July! But I don’t feel that throat-clogging panic of 2013. I feel awesome. Every day I get up – and though it’s a little more of struggle now than previous months to do so – I feel freaking great. I am excited to get over there and get working. Every time I dig my hands into the dirt I feel like I’m learning something and I’m moving forward in the path I’ve chosen. It’s not going to be all farming all the time for me, not forever, but right now is still the high energy work and learn environment.

 I need to hone my skills and get good and streamlined on a handful of vegetables that will be my staples. I want to keep enough of a small variety of everything for my CSA folks, but I don’t need to keep growing some of the same things everyone else is growing. I gotta find my niche. It has taken me some time to get my head around that idea (what do you MEAN bigger isn’t better?), but I think I’ve been figuring that out a lot this year.

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Everyone has been so incredible and supportive with this season. Friends get friends to join the CSA. I have market regulars. Though I didn’t stay long at Rittenhouse, I was there enough to meet some great people and feel really excited about working in Center City. Markets in the park are always a good atmosphere for people watching and feedback.

East Falls is chugging along. I love hanging out with Nancy from McCann’s. The Trolley Car Café folks are supportive customers and awesome team players – I eat there, share homebrews and use the facilities (which incused the coffeemaker) whenever I need. Matt from Farm to City said that my stuff looks world’s better than last year’s crops, which is really encouraging. We could always use more customers – spread the word!

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And last week I started a Wednesday market in West Mt. Airy, near La Salle, and it made me unbelievable happy. I love that neighborhood and I can’t wait to be there more. The Food Trust is an organization I have always admired, so being able to operate in conjunction with them is really thrilling.

But yes, the weeds. We are tackling sections at a time. Whenever I’m not around my mom goes out and weeds the kale patch. This morning we started the peppers. The later tomato planting needs some breathing room. And I think we had onions at the start of the season, but who can say at this point? Aha. Year two of tiny onions. Sorry, guys. All I can say is that some of them are big. I am getting better at a weeding schedule, but only just. But, hey, every year is progress.

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I think tonight will be garlic harvest night. I am really looking forward to some garlic-in-the-pores for a day or two.

The walk in has been such a huge asset. It only works if I load the truck right before market, but that’s okay. Vegetable quality is just so enhanced with the cold storage. So grateful to Justin for the help there.

And to everyone. My dear friends pop in to visit and weed and pull garlic and spread encouragement. Green Heron Tools, who are letting me play with their lady-friendly till and bring us such delicious eggs. My aunt and grandma, who are bringing pies and lunch so I don’t have to stop too long to eat and so I can enjoy my life in this way. It is so vital. Donna Wagner is killin’ it every day, even on days when I’m not. Thanks, team.

till

See you in Philly?

The broadest of smiles, the tastiest potatoes, and all the gratitude this little dirtball can muster,

Farmer Liz

radish and turnips

spring onions

watermelon radish 1 watermelon radish 2

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Because Every X-Men Needs an Origin Story or My Quarterly Identity Crisis

I remember the instant I sealed the deal on this future.

I was sitting in a car with my then boss, filled with the nervous conviction teenagers have during break-ups, when I told him I was leaving the city in a month and going to work on a vegetable farm in New York. “I’m not meant to save the world this way,” I said. “I want to feed people.”

Liz Wagner: Queen of Dramatics.

Weeks have gone by when I forget this end goal, this purpose, this reason I had for dropping a 180 on everything and everyone in my life and vanishing into a world of soil and green things. But whenever someone asks me my farm’s mission statement, or I’m faced with the sobering need to defend my new(ish) career choice, I remember why I wanted to do this in the first place.

I want to feed people. I want my friends and family and acquaintances to be able to eat delicious, healthy food and be able to see where it’s growing if they want to come for a visit. I want people to learn how to trellis peas and the best way to weed onions and what hardneck garlic feels and tastes like. I want to get green food to people who haven’t had a grocery store in their neighborhoods in years. I want chefs to expose their customers to new and unusual foods that will make them want to start eating differently or try their hand at growing their own foods.

With the food culture the way it is right now, it’s really easy to lose sight of your purpose in the wake of the social stigmas and villianization that is happening with farmers today. This is something I’ve been thinking about for years now but have never really been able to articulate until now.

I was sitting in a park in Northwest Philadelphia the other day where my newest market will be starting in a month or so. It’s a newly-renovated park with a brand new rec center, benches and trees. The center is run by two women, and I was meeting with two of the awesome women who lead The Food Trust to talk logistics and get to know each other. This amazing organization promotes food accessibility within neighborhoods and institutions, and does a lot of education on a now-national scale.

I sat on a bench reading a book, a collection of stories about new farmers, and the excitement I felt about this upcoming market and the anxiety I felt about being away from the farm all morning still couldn’t compare with the frustration I felt toward many of these new farmer/writers and the sentiments expressed in this anthology.

Don’t get me wrong – I think the program that spearheaded the book years ago is an amazing one, full of opportunities to share ideas, socialize and work with like-minded folks, and their hearts are a thousand percent in the right place. And a fair number of the stories do feature the hardworking, humble, financially-draining trials of folks looking to break into the farm world.

But over and over again there was the same sentiment – this sense that what these new farmers were doing was so novel, and so noble, and so much better than what you do with your life. There were younger, anti-establishment folks who wanted to fight the powers that be. There were folks coming from a white-collar background with years of savings and capital who wanted to set out to start “doing the right thing,” with subtle and not-so-subtle digs at the farmers who had been supplying their food throughout life up to that point.

I took a new farmers class through my extension office last year, and I met a number of people my age who had no hesitation in expressing similar opinions. The farmers renting the land and monocropping in the area were barbarians who gave no thought to what they were doing to the environment and blasted their crops with chemical fertilizers and pesticides just to turn a buck. What we were setting out to do was to fight these evil agricultural tyrants and return to the old world of good, clean food the way it was supposed to be. It’s easy to switch from the mindset of a challenging career and the want to grow food to a crusade, and pick up the swagger that comes with such thoughts. I’ve caught myself doing it from time to time, when I’ve forgotten why I’m really here, but thankfully someone or something has knocked me off that high horse before I’ve made too much of an ass of myself.

Every time someone does this, it’s like they’re scoring a goal into their own team’s net. Farming is farming is farming, and if you’re doing it feed people, or to feed the animals that feed people, or to power the vehicles that get us to places to feed people and your head and your heart are in the right place, you’re on the same team. If you’re trying to start a farm because you think it’s cool to work at a market or because you’ve seen Union Square and Headhouse and thought, “Yeah, I can do this and make fistfuls of money,” or because you want the cred, you’re in the wrong building. And if you think that just because you have this idea the government and crowd-funding and local groups should throw money at you to combat the evils of other food growers, you’re not even in the same complex.

All you’re doing is severing the already tense relationships between the commercial, traditional, conventional, small, sustainable, diversified and local farmers that work – literally, with the geography of our region – side by side in the fields every day.

Our PASA president cautioned against these farmer-on-farmer combative vibes in his address at this year’s conference. Though we can’t maintain a “separate but equal” mentality – not with chemical drift and industrial giant heavy-handedness as it is in marketing and government decisions – we can’t attack each other the way a lot of activist and small-farmer groups are.

Many farmers went to school to learn what they are doing, and continue to follow industry-promoted standards. Many are living hand-to-mouth  and following a path that was laid down for them before they were born. And many don’t have the resources, finances, time for educative reform or, really, time at all, to completely change an operation that is more mechanized, more organic and yielding more product than their counterparts, even if public opinion is swaying away from their practices.

I worked at a dairy this past year that cared adamantly about the quality of their milk and their animals, and many would consider them a commercial or conventional farm. They didn’t feed their calves soy-based milk replacement and would tend meticulously to a sick or injured animal. They cared passionately about their work – it was what they were educated to do and grew up doing. And these farmers talked to me all the time about how they felt they had to be on the defensive with these “new farmers” who came in and tried to tell them they were doing it wrong, and how they were insidious in their actions as supporters of Big Agricultural.

And I hated it. I hated feeling like I fall into that demographic of a young/new farmer who picks fights with their comrades. We’re all heading the same way. We’re all trying to feed people. But we all have different ways of getting to that end result. If science and evolution proves that what one of us is doing is harmful to the other, I want to believe we’ll work together and not in opposition to do what’s best for each party. There are so many combative and differing studies on everything – so many that each side ends up looking (and feeling) like the bad guy at some point. And at this point there’s people saying, “But what about the antibiotics, Liz? And what about the pesticides and the Round-Up Ready corn?” and “How can you say these things and practice what you do?”

To those people, I say, “Hey, look at my broccoli.”

My beautiful, giant – and completely worm-ridden – broccoli. We spent hours cleaning the worms out of the broccoli last season and still didn’t catch them all. I didn’t use a single chemical in my field last year, and that is what I saw. Yes, there are organically approved substances to use. But some of them are just very diluted forms of what conventional folks use. Yes, there are homeopathic and natural remedies that are somewhat effective. But can you imagine the expense and scope, and the time to commit to trial and error needed to use these methods on, say, the amount of broccoli a grocery store needs to supply an area of people? Because let’s be honest – I don’t see a near future (maybe distant, but not near), where the majority of folks are heading out to their local markets once or twice a week for all their needs.

And I can’t imagine cleaning out that many worms, for sure.

I know there’s a middle ground in there somewhere where lots of successful growers reside, but that’s not me, not yet. I didn’t go to school for this – my education if a few years clawing around in the soil – so I can’t pretend to be overly-knowledgeable – but I also can’t be cocky or judgmental in my approaches. There’s just no reason for it.

And not to say roles aren’t reversed, as well. Sometimes I walk into a store around here for cover crop or fish emulsion and am immediately not taken seriously by the staff because I’m the 25-year-old female asking what is the best winter cover to use in my area. Sure, that may be a stupid question to an old hand, but I’m happy and unashamed to admit I’m still new to this. A tattooed friend who comes to help me on occasion gets carded at my hardware store. I’ve had people laugh at me when I tell them what I do. People ask me how my garden is doing at least once a week. At market, people kept asking me who I worked for (until I made my tag-line “Lady-Run,” anyway). And a number of folks didn’t take me seriously until I survived and thrived my first solo year because so many idealists get into this venture without the real drive or plan you need to make it work.

I’m not sure where I fit into all this. I am the mutant of the agricultural world. My parents run an auto body shop. Their parents had family farms, but until we bought the land that I’m farming now, my hands didn’t dig further than our backyard garden. Until I was 22 I thought wholeheartedly that I would be a journalist, and then for another two years I thought I would run a social services program in a city. I got straight A’s in school and ran extra-curriculars. I hug my parents regularly.

I’m not a disgruntled chef, an anarchist, a tattoo-covered train-hopper looking for seasonal work , a girl caught up in the notion of working the land with her romantic partner, or someone who is trying to take down big ag singlehandedly or plunged into this adventure with a blind ideology, a soapbox (but look at me now! Hah!) or a wish to fall off the grid. I wanted to feed people. And this is the way I am choosing to do it.

Maybe I’m talking in circles. I’m sure I’m talking in circles. I think about this stuff for hours at a time in the greenhouse or weeding in the field and don’t draw any significant conclusions or resolutions from it. I’ve straddled this talk from farmers and customers on both sides of the line. Sometimes I just feel like a pretentious bitch. Sometimes I feel defeated. Or exhausted. Mostly just confused. But I keep reminding myself -. practice patience, practice empathy, and keep trying to feed people.

-Farmer Liz

Ode To My Mother

If there is one thing my mom hates, it’s public embarrassment.

Seed those onions!

Clearly, I am a bad daughter for this.

Gifts can be tricky for a woman looking to downsize her life – the CCR tribute band already left town, her lifetime chicken collection has been decimated in the move and she was never one for fancy meals.

But if there’s one thing she can and will have, it is an ode to her awesomeness.

Mom Wagner has a lot on her plate – she’s been roped into Greenhouse Visionary/Master of the Weather/Official Weeding, Seeding and Harvesting Partner of Crooked Row, roles she sort of volunteered for without maybe realizing the full scope of the work to come. And she has to deal with me and dearest Father Wagner on the regular – which means she has the mediation skills that specialists need in hostage situations and the patience of saints (like, not just one saint).

Mama Wagner sorting alliums!

She manages a household, keeps us fed, oversees two sets of business nonsense and still plays around in the soil most days. When she’s out in the field she is constantly waging a very active war on the thistles and dandelions, dropping whatever task she has on hand to fork out a couple in passing and sass them for their insubordination. In the greenhouse she seeds to classic rock and talks to our seedlings, reminding them how pretty they are and urging them to come on out and join the party when they’re slow to germinate.

All this, and she hasn't murdered us yet. Just some raspberries.

All this, and she hasn’t murdered us yet. Just some raspberries.

She has always supported my decisions, even if she was wary of them (read: my overall taste in men), and when I told my family I wanted to leave the city and learn to run a farm, she may have had hesitations, but to me was always on board. And once I was moved home to become a thorough leech and stress, she welcomed me with excitement.

It has been so rewarding and fun to spend this much time with her. As a kid I picked a lot of adversarial roles with my parents on the daily. As an adult, having your mother as a business partner AND a mom is as rewarding and satisfying as I could have ever hoped. She’s thoughtful in her decisions and our discussions, she plans ahead and she has altered her routines to what’s best for the farm. She’s thorough and adorable and did I mention that she’s hilarious? Sometimes we have to pause in our worked, doubled over laughing, no less than a gazillion times a day. She’s goofy and sweet and I see what I like about myself in her every day.

She’s spoiled me terribly, though. I don’t want to work with anyone else – especially a man – again.

mom hides from rain

She needs a cape, you know – No rain or potato beetles or blazing sun can keep her down! Super Mom!

So thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. I know lots of great moms, but there is no one who could put up with my temperament and nonsense, work with me all day – even on those angry and frustrating ones – and still make me coffee and want to hang out and do it all again the next morning. I will never be able to truly express how amazing the last year has been with you, and how excited I am for this one and all the farm adventures ahead. You are my best friend, my guidance counselor, my sounding board, my on-site comedian, my number one partner-in-crime and my rock.

Lady Wagner, The Mom of all Moms. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you.

The coolest.

The coolest.

Spring springs some tasty things.

Garlic at the start of the week - happy and excited to grow!

Garlic at the start of the week – happy and excited to grow!

Note: this is a different side of the garlic patch. But yes, it was a swamp from The Great Flood.

Note: this is a different side of the garlic patch. But yes, it was a swamp from The Great Flood.

Swamp. Le sigh.

Swamp. Or, really, a running river. Le sigh.

So maybe you heard. It rained.

It rained for days. And as I am a terrible farmer who broke her rain gauge and never mounted its replacement, all I know is that it rained A LOT. I’ve got video of a veritable river running down the side of the field (and sadly, but not too tragically, running through the bottom of my pea rows), and the trenches it left behind are pretty impressive. My dairy boss nearby market it at 4.8 inches – which translates to a mess for a lot of friends and fields in the area. Today has been a soggy day of runoff and assessing any damages, and determining when we can get back on the ground.

Nature, my friends. It’s a heck of a thing.

Thankfully, one of the only upshots to growing on a hill (hah) is that everything above flood level is now really happy. The perennial herbs are stoked.

happy perennials

My happy perennials – rhubarb, lovage, sorrel, thyme, sage, chives, lavender, and more to come soon.

happychives

The Chive.

lovage

The lovage, which was pretty irate about the severe temperature change two weeks ago, has since recovered and is ready to be celery 2.0 for the masses.

It’s fun to see all these things come back to life.

We’ve had a busy, busy time of things since we last spoke. Lots of seeding, prepping, and now, finally, finally starting to plant. Everything feels so delayed – from the fluctuating temperatures and weird, late-April snow to The Great Flood – but in the next couple days all the happy greens and potatoes should be in the ground, the peas, radishes, spinach, beets and turnips should be a billion times bigger than they were two days ago, and June 1 will be that much closer.

purple passion asparagus

Some purple passion asparagus popped up yesterday!

breakfast radish baby

Baby breakfast radishes :)

Mizuna

Our friends Mizuna

tomato country

Big tomato country!

Darling dearest wife Olivia came up on her birthday to spend the day potting up tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and planting onions in the field. Momma Wags helped put in onions, scallions and onion sets, and Strider helped with the row cover on the first mesclun planting. Grow, babies, grow.

Liv workin

onion sets

Don’t worry – even if we get the cultivator working for potatoes and greens, we’ll still have some crooked rows of things. But they are less crooked with the Valley Oak Wheel Hoe!

dog helps

My dog is better than your employees.

onions sets

Stuttgarter and Red Baron sets – for tasty spring onions.

Certain tasks are easier than last year. We got ourselves a Valley Oak Wheel Hoe from Green Heron Tools with a furrowing attachment to make arguably less crooked rows when we do one row of things at a time. Allegedly the cultivator will be up and running for rows of greens and things, but I don’t want to get too excited until it happens.

In the meantime, this guy is great!

In the meantime, this guy is great!

And the hops are happy and alive and growing. As we gear up to bottle a ginger beer this weekend (which I am beyond excited about – Steve has a killer recipe), I can’t help but be stoked to use these guys in the future.

Hops1

Hops are hoppy and happy.

My dear compadre and exquisite carpenter friend Justin has been coming up to the property after a full day of work to build me a walk-in fridge. I love guys who can build things, especially when they are friends and like smaller projects. Tomorrow my air conditioner arrives, and once this puppy is insulated and dry-walled, I won’t be quite as crazy about running around hours before market trying to pick last minute mountains of peas and beans and bunches of greens. The Coolbot will allow these veggies to stay happy and fresh despite the summer heat.

maurer climbs

Justin climbs around in the dark being awesome.

just walkin

Strider admires Justin’s skills.

On a bittersweet note, Thursday marked my last day official day at the dairy until the cold weather comes around again. I just couldn’t maintain last year’s crazy schedule with another Philly market in play. I am excited to get on the field full time, but I’m really sad to be leaving the hilarious and sweet friends/new family who have helped me grow so much and put up with me for over a year now.

And, of course, I’m going to miss the cows and other assorted farm creatures.

chilling

These punks don’t even care that I’m leaving.

dairy candy

This dairy family even gives me Easter cows. Cows! Good thing they’re stuck with me for life now.

totoro kittens

Goodbye, Totoro kitten!

brown swiss baby

I will especially miss my clan of baby Brown Swiss. Now who will slobber up my ears and hair and hands every day?

So now we’ll be getting down to business – Cue the Mulan!

If at any point next week you are feeling bored or sad or don’t want to be inside, you just let me know. I’ll make a frittata and some tea and put on whatever music makes you happy (because plants like all kinds of music – at least my plants, anyway) and you can come plant or move fencing or seed lettuces or play with the dog. See you there?

See You, Field Cowboys…

dairy and oakley

Photo by Miss Dairy Boss Lady Andrea S-L.