We made it through July!
The silence on the blog always indicates the summer heat, the running around like mad and the onset of some degree of panic. I’m happy to say that panic has been less than in previous years (which hopefully means it dissolves entirely at some point), but the weeds keep growing no matter how I feel and the plants still need their regular TLC.
Crooked Row has had an interesting little summer. Mama Wagner hasn’t been in the field in over a month due to that rolled ankle, though she’s graduated from her big foamy boot to compression socks and hiking boots. She’s been flustered at her lack of field time and her paced recovery, but we’re just happy she’s getting better each day.
In the mean time, I’ve had a revolving cast of characters stop in to help with various projects. My Tuesday market manager from Farm to City spent the day cleaning out beds, two friends I’ve known since pre-school have made semi-regular appearances to weed for a couple hours at a shot, some city friends have been regularly saving this blog with their amazing recipes and photos, and this delightful Kombucha brewer and farmer from Bethlehem has planted dozens of beets and winter squash in the field over the last few weeks, and along with piles of vegetable cooking, intense and sparkly conversations, assorted off-farm adventures and mutual admiration, he’s become a well-loved and much-appreciated presence in my world.
My aunt and cousins, along with a new friend from a nearby work program, stopped in for a day of garlic harvest. Things that would have taken me a couple of days were wrapped up in a morning, and the boxes and piles of garlic hanging in the back barn are one of the biggest victories of the summer.
Jess Wagner stepped in as MVP last week by delivering CSA shares to my Philly crowd! That saved trip allowed me some time to start some big fall prep. And I got to take her to meet the chickens and piglets at Willow Haven Farm, much to my delight.
The puppies do what they can to assist, too. Arya has moved in as Mom’s sub, parking herself in the Bobcat and patrolling the fields for afternoons at a shot while I weed and harvest. She’s taken to pretty much every vegetable she’s tried, and can often be found hopping in and out of the hedgerows.
But there’s always room for adaption and change within a season, and this was a big one for me. I left the Rittenhouse Tuesday market a few weeks ago – I needed more time to not be rushing around the city so manically before and after that market delivering shares, and the extra time and space that afforded me allowed me to consider life without any markets. There’s some nerves associated with that – after all, I left Keith’s sure I wanted to be a city market farmer, and that’s mostly all I’ve known for the last two seasons, but with my growing CSA, the evolving herb business and my growing life, suddenly being closer to home feels like a priority. And, maybe even more importantly, it feels right.
This week I said goodbye to my East Falls market – at least for a few weeks. I don’t have enough of a variety to support a market and my CSA right now – which may have been poor planning on my part, but really I feel is a solid sign that I’m growing in positive directions. Everyone involved has been supportive and empathetic to such growing pains for a new farmer, and I think come fall my return will be well-met once I’ve regrouped.
And this break will allow me to focus on some other avenues of the fields I’ve been thinking about. A local permaculturist came to the farm a few weeks ago and we walked around for an afternoon, thinking about some growing methods I could shift to over time that involve less human direction. Fruit and nut trees, meadows, perennials. I’ve also started to take a hard look at the dried tea blends and herbs, considering how big of a presence I want them to be in the farm, and I sat down with a packaging company out of Kutztown to talk about labels and branding. Ah!
I’m trying to find that farm/life balance some seem to strive for and some seem to totally throw in the towel on once summer hits. It’s a lot of work during the season, sure, but don’t I get to read a book or take a nap once in a while? Do I get a day to travel? An afternoon to go to a meditation? I thought “no” for a few years – others farmers I know scoff at the idea of time off, and my ego seemed to thrive on feeling and looking exhausted every day – but that perspective is changing. I’m learning to work at an even pace and listen to an audio book in the field. I’m learning to walk away, even if just for an hour, when the brain fog sets in. And I’m learning to work smarter, not harder, though this is regularly a skill that takes me some time to absorb.
The field is a beautiful space to learn, grow and share. I hope those of you that have eaten this food and seen the work know how loved you are for supporting this wild endeavor. And for those of you who can’t, or haven’t, know that the good vibes you send in my direction are always appreciated and taken in, and that I’m sending them right back out through the ground every day.
Here’s to August, and these cool mornings and evenings. Here’s to sun, rain and green.