2005. As winter begins to taper off and the
daylight hours increase, I sit down with my “to-do”
list and realize that it, too, has lengthened quite appreciably.
At the onset of this farming experience, I remember hearing
that little voice of many a veteran farmer whispering “the
work begins with the coming of the sun, and isn’t finished
until the light of day wanes.” I, however, was determined
not to let time beat me into submission. I had my days planned
out with great scrupulousness, and I was going to explore
these mountain ranges that hover in the distance at least
once a week.
Again, I come face to face with my tendency to live in a
state of idealism. The romantic mind paints a glorious picture
that is often far removed from reality. However, I am quickly
learning to accept the fact that with farming things don’t
always play out as envisioned, there are too many variables.
I am convinced that the number-one quality a successful farmer
must possess is patience. There are simply not enough hours
in a given day to accomplish all one wishes. Inevitably, something
else will come up that must be tended to. Farmer Bob from
across the road will pull up a bucket and commence to talkin’
and spittin’. So the “to-do” list spills
over into the next day, and soon that day off is nothing but
a fading notion.
However, when you are doing something that you love, the
sacrifices are incredibly worth it. There have been many an
opportunity to remember why it is I put in these long days.
The reminder comes with the bursts of laughter as I notice
Mocha, one of my goats, chewing cud, cheeks bulging, goofy
expression lingering. It is in the sunrise as I walk into
the morning light, hands numb from the brutal cold, but soon
warmed by a toasty goat teat. I also find it as I sit down,
at day’s end, to a meal that consists of produce from
last season, eggs from the hens, and a wonderful bowl of goat
Yes, it is quite a blessing to be here finally trying my
hand at—what has become known as a dying occupation—small-scale
farming. It has been a dream I have been working toward for
about five years now. I have put in many hours reading, interning,
experimenting with my own small gardens, wwoofing in Thailand,
and coming up with a plan. Now it is here, and the work, joys,
and challenges of starting a small farm are in full swing.
Last year I moved onto 260 acres that my grandparents own
and started out by testing and amending the soil, then erecting
a 7-foot fence to detour the plethora of deer, elk, and rodents
that share the land with me (however, something still managed
to maul my baby sunflowers). The fence enclosed 1,400 square
feet of garden space. I planted a variety of vegetables, edible
flowers, herbs, and raspberries. At the time I was working
as a wilderness therapy counselor, so I was gone every other
week. A drip system took care of the watering and the blessed
wind kept most of the winged marauders away from my plants.
It was always amazing to see how much evolved (weeds included)
while I was away.
The plan for this season is to expand the garden and include
a 10 x 60 foot hoop house for growing red bell peppers, tomatoes,
squash, and cucumbers. The hoop house was donated by my grandparents
in exchange for a season’s supply of real tomatoes.
They’re sick of the red, solid, spherically shaped objects
that “taste like cardboard,” which they purchase
at the local grocers. I have also just acquired a flock of
112 laying hens. They will be housed in 24 feet of the greenhouse
and will provide CO2, heat, and manure for the plants. Most
of the produce from the garden will be sold at the farmers'
market, where the competition is obsolete (last year’s
market consisted of a hot dog vendor and a guy selling paintings).
The local health food stores have expressed interest in
selling my produce and eggs as well. From last year’s
experiment with heirlooms that grow well here at 8,000 feet
with a short (80 day) growing season, I have decided to focus
on ‘Lacinato’ kale, ‘Green Arrow’
peas, and ‘Five-Color Silverbeet’ chard. I hope
to save seeds from these as well as other varieties that prove
themselves fit for this climate.
Right now I am a bit behind schedule as funds are low—the
money from this article will increase my savings to a whopping
100 bucks—and much of my time has been spent renovating
an old school house on the property. I have decided to take
a part time job in town to assist in building up the capital
I need to get this season started. Again, not what I had planned,
but we patiently roll along.