2005. It is truly a fruitful and prodigious time
of year in nature. Right now in our silty clay loam vegetable gardens,
the lavender Japanese eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, green beans,
and patty pan squash are flowering and maturing into lovely young
fruits! The bees are buzzing happily from flower to flower, burying
their faces in the squash flower pollen. Just across the way, the
farmers and interns at Gardens of Eagan are picking cucumbers, kale,
and cabbage, with melons, sweet corn, tomatoes, and peppers all
steadily reaching towards maturation. From our field, Garden’s
of Eagan’s verdant green acres spread out before us and have
been an especially bright contrast to the dark, stormy skies passing
overhead these past few weeks.
In mid-June, one such thunderstorm popped my balloon of idealism
regarding farming, and any grand illusions I had about the ease
of our first season deflated into hard reality. We had an incredible
thunderstorm, complete with golfball-sized hail and driving winds,
that, as you can imagine, or maybe even have experienced (God forbid!)
really does a number on those newly developing crops. At the time,
I thought it was the most devastating thing that could possibly
happen to our fields, as well as to my hopes and dreams. Our neighbors
at Gardens of Eagan, the Diffley’s, who have weathered their
fair share of storms, were hit just as badly as us, but on a much
larger scale, and yet they were the ones giving pep talks and telling
us we would look back and laugh at this. Of course, ten days later,
just as Atina Diffley predicted, things had healed right nicely
and we were even able to harvest and deliver the majority of our
lettuce and greens. Looking at our tomatoes now, one would have
no idea each plant had once-upon-a-time been reduced to a stem stripped
of all its glorious branches. Amazing.
After the hail storm, the weeds and the work began. As always,
a million different jobs are waiting to be done in the back of the
mind, and I seem to only have time for maybe two or three a day.
But already we have learned so much! The mantra on our lips is all
about next year: Next year we will put all of our rows on 36-inch
centers; then we can cultivate everything with a tractor, even our
salad mix! Next year we will plant straight rows—no hooks
to right field. Next year we will plant earlier, and we will plant
more, more, more! I think we are setting ourselves up again to have
a whole fistful of illusionary balloons, but we need to think that
someday, somehow we can figure out how to make completely straight
rows…and all the rest of it. Otherwise, it would be too overwhelming,
and we would never get out of bed at 5 a.m. to harvest and sacrifice
ourselves to the mosquitoes.
The major task we are dealing with at the moment is selecting and
planting the appropriate cover crop for parts of our unused field.
The hairy vetch winterkilled last fall, and so many fields were
left without vetch this spring and early summer. A somewhat local
source of organic seed is difficult to come by, and also finding
a cover crop that will actually grow in the heat has proven hard.
We seeded some winter rye this spring, with some success, although
we are battling pigweed and lambs quarter in the patches. Eventually,
we will probably plant soybeans for their drought and heat tolerance.
We are also preparing for our organic certification inspection.
Our inspector will come in the next few days to inspect and check
our progress. I hope that inspection goes smoothly and that we will
be certified soon, especially because we have begun to sell regularly
to the co-ops and farmers' market!
The list of things going on here continues, but we do have worthwhile
moments. Tonight over dinner, I sweetly savored the first red beets
of the year (finally), thinking of the fifteen families who may
be eating these same beets they snatched up at the farmer’s
market today. After a chaotic spring and a stressful day, these
beets and the thought of others eating them as well, actually makes
me want to wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. It is the
simple act of growing and eating healthy, fresh food that is the
most basic and satisfying motivation of all.