“Odder than plowing flowers,” someday, will be a proverb. You’ll say it when you’re ripping down old wall paper that could eke by for another few years. When you’re cutting a friend’s hair that’s grown beautifully to their waist. When a spring ice storm splits open your full-in-bloom cherry trees. You’ll say it when a friend puts to sleep their cat that doesn’t seem that old or decrepit, and when your teenager cleans out the fridge and tosses a few bags of veggies that were still salvageable. It’ll be the perfect utterance when you’re sorting through all your children’s artwork you’ve saved over the years, and somehow, bittersweetly, choose which pieces to let go.Read More
A week, a journey through another food shed, a rain, a flurry of breakdown, and just like that: I can see the end. Only three more market weeks. Six more CSA packings. Eight more apple trees to strip. Three and a half greenhouses to flip into winter crops. Another acre of crops to till under, and four acres to cover crop in a frenzy before the rains come. Seven beds of garlic to sow. Five sections of black plastic to lay out for next year’s early plantings. A few tons of potatoes to wash, a dozen tours to give, and a couple hundred volunteers to train.
Piece of cake.Read More
It’s been really hard to focus on the present these past couple weeks. It’s a lot to think about, to be part of a nation where elected leaders squabble across partisan lines rather than attempting to address the root causes of sexual assault and gender inequality, to give up a treasured relationship over my abstract desire and optimism to have children some day, to be wondering where I want my farming path to lead toward. It’s all been weighing heavily on my heart and mind, and I’ve noticed it: out in the cilantro bed, day after day, my brain running through news clips rather than savoring that overwhelming aroma. Swirling salad mix in the wash tubs, replaying rough conversations about interpersonal incompatibility rather than feeling the icy water reach my forearms, letting my thoughts override my eyes’ delight at the shimmering reds and greens below me. Trying to keep up pleasant conversations with coworkers and volunteers after spending an hour on my own, brooding over a president’s recent speech that reinforced rape culture. It’s just a lot to think about.Read More
This is why I do this work. It’s for the production, of course: the thousands of pounds of potatoes popping out of the ground that will be eaten by all kinds of people with all levels of resources, including wealthy families, unhoused people, and those with nothing but crumbs and an old can of green beans in their pantries. The meticulous attention to quality for sale, cleaning and processing, weeding and row covering, transplanting an entire greenhouse in an hour. I do it for the pride of production and satisfaction of efficiency, the rewarding feeling of physical exhaustion at the end of a long day. But there’s more than that.Read More
I actually worked today.
Yes, I actually work every day that I’m at the farm. But a lot of it’s the same kind of work, almost all day every day these days: Squat, kneel, or bend at the hip to scan and choose bright fruits and vegetables to harvest; chop, pull up, or twist off said produce and bunch, rip off leaves, feel for soft spots, or fill hands with as many little prizes as possible; fill crate or tote or bucket with the bounty, hoist it against my hips, and carry it to the cart or truck; set up tables or wash tubs to sort, bunch, bathe, or spray; carry full totes to the coolers. Apart from the glory of the still-alive produce I get to admire, taste, and smell all day, my physical work is essentially squatting a lot, lifting and moving around heavy oversized boxes, and levering my torso up and down, up and down all day.Read More
The annual Farm Fest on Saturday was a hoot— the only day of the year that I get to hang out on the farm, not feel like I need to be doing anything in particular, and really chat with people. I spent the morning harvesting more flowers and making bouquets while the stand got set up, youth farmers set up infrastructure for the music, seating, cider pressing, and kids’ activities, and Jen coordinated the chopping and displaying of a couple dozen varieties of tomatoes for tasting. Attendance was a low, steady flow of regular farm stand and CSA customers, people with little kids running around, FOOD for Lane County staff and board members, and folks who just happened upon it for the first time— a now regular occurrence at the markets.
The cider was shockingly (as it tends to be, despite trying it every year) flavorful and thick— a distillation of all that sunlight-turned-sugar with a strong dose of pome flavor. The tomatoes were shockingly bright, tart, sweet— numbing my tongue after a few tastes and then reinvigorating it every time I went back with a fresh pallet. Zing! The farm stand display barely fit on even an extended line of tables out front— the season is abundant and we’re in the exact moment of overlap between summer and fall crops, when eggplants and strawberries shine beside the dried onions and winter squash.
To share it all makes me proud, and to see how much people appreciate it and are wowed by the farm makes me grateful that I’m such an integral part of it.
Let the beauty of what we love be what we do
They come, they sing, and they go.
And there’s a period in between that no one likes to think about: that period when they’re fading, succumbing to pests or disease or simply old age, leaves thick and gnarly, defenses raised, bitterness overcoming sweetness in their tissues. It sounds like a bummer— and it can certainly feel like it sometimes, especially when it’s premature— but it’s just as much a part of this cycle as the freshy fresh tender baby time. I’ve celebrated the first tastes, first harvests, vibrant colors, bursting sweetness of summer for months now, and in many ways it’s a relief to lay attention on the decline, if only for a few minutes as I drag a tiller through an old bed of sunflowers in the dim evening light. Ashes to ashes, petals to petals, dust to dust.
Well hello, great Fall.Read More
When I think back over another week that’s flown by without any writing, I try to think of the one thing that a day would be remembered by: a conversation? a new harvest? a challenge? a storm? By this time of the year I tend to think we’re cruising on auto pilot— that every day has become somewhat predictable and blurry under the steady stream of harvest— but it’s not true. Each day in my history continues to feel distinct, new things pop up, old things remain beautiful, and the blur of early autumn harvest time is punctuated in real time and in memory.Read More
They were born in February and March. Single, grass-like cotyledons springing up from the cold, moist potting soil in the nursery. Thousands of them, soft and supple, forming a carpet of growing tips that I used to run my hand over as I walked through the winter greenhouse to check on all the babes. I love the way they come out folded over-- creased right in the middle of that single fine stem-- and hang on to their black seed coats for a while, giving them a brief ride toward the scattered daylight.Read More
Christopher's slurping from the side of a green melon as I get up from my lunch time resting spot in the orchard. He's gnawing on it from the side, looking out over the youth farmer gardens.
"Is that melon from your garden?" I ask.
"Yeah, it is!"
"Sweet, that's awesome." He nods, keeps gnawing, looking kind of unsatisfied. It looks a little underripe from the deep green of the exterior. I was headed back to the picnic tables to start getting ready for the afternoon's projects, but I decide to linger for a bit.Read More
Early mornings are becoming more golden as the summer wears off. This is a short photo journal of a Saturday morning of harvest for the farm stand.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-Robert FrostRead More
The farm's Community-Supported Agriculture members have a choice between shopping for items at our farm stands or picking up a collection of produce that we select each week. Normally, Jen packs the CSA totes each Wednesday while I help finish the harvest for it. She's on vacation this week though, so Ted packed boxes and I did the deliveries. In previous years I've delivered more often for various reasons, but this might be my only chance this season to share how it's done... so get out your CSA geek glasses and let's dive in to the nuts and bolts!Read More
It rained over the weekend. Lightly and little, but the ground was wet when I woke up on Monday morning. We all had different reactions to it this morning, equally confused by the sun's heat beaming down on us after an unusually chilly morning. Is it coming? Is summer already passing? I have a hard time believing that, even when glancing at the extended forecast (sunny upper seventies to low eighties, nights around fifty degrees for the next ten days) that seems remarkably cool for a time of year that usually bakes us. But the mornings feel crisp, the morning dew has returned, and yellow leaves on the trees are beyond what drought would cause.Read More
This is why I've been forcing myself to write every day: because when I set out to document and reflect on an entire week that's somehow slipped past me, the task seems impossible. There are so many details and conversations and colors and projects that happen in one hour, let alone one day-- and forget one whole week!-- that to try to encompass the whole will be woefully inadequate. Nonetheless, I guess, I'll persist.Read More
As always on Thursdays, my head was deep in Market Zone for most of the day. Loading totes, displaying produce, checking off countless boxes ping-ponging around in my head to make sure that the farm stand sets up smoothly, beautifully, and on time. Check. Then in the late afternoon, as the interns overhauled our debris mountain into a working compost pile with Ted's guidance and a pair of sprinkler hoses, I found the Wild. Something I never even imagined existed in this place. At once terrifying and mesmerizing, she caught me in my tracks.Read More
It's the middle of August. The broccoli is done, for the first time since it came on in June, for about a month. Spinach has been missing for while, each planting succumbing to premature bolting before we can get anything out of it. Bok choy seems like a long-ago dream by this point. Radishes, salad turnips, green onions, cilantro, kale-- all those enthusiastic harbingers of spring harvest season have come and gone. In their wake we're left with corn, eggplant, and celery. Red and yellow peppers, finally ripening to fullness in the greenhouses and fields. Heirloom tomatoes finally glowing in mismatched collections, melons almost ready to burst, Asian pears ripening to yellow, bigger than in years past.
And exhausted as I am by the harvest, blinded to the vividness of each tomato by the sheer abundance of them, I still find myself giddy on a regular basis.Read More
It's rare that I get to have my hands in the dirt on a single project for more than a few minutes. I'm running from one crop to the next, harvesting a dozen or two bunches here and there, checking in on small groups scattered around the farm and coordinating whatever washing and processing needs to happen up front. I love that rhythm, of never getting stuck in one project too long. It can also feel frenetic sometimes, and even isolating since my conversations are usually cut short by the next task at hand.
So on mornings like this, when we're just staff and interns and a short list of long harvests, I sink in. Literally, in this case.Read More
"Useful non-commercial plants of the Youth Farm, aka Weed Walk"
An annual workshop for the Youth Farm crew about plant medicine
(In much better words than I could conjure up on this hot afternoon)
1. I am not an expert. I have been studying herbs intentionally for about seven years, in varying degrees of intensity and in various ways (reading books, taking workshops, class series, and experimentation with myself, friends, and family), but I've only scratched the surface. My training has been focused primarily on Western European herbs that have naturalized here in the Pacific Northwest, as well as many northwest native species. Most of my perspective comes from two teachers, Jaci Guerena and Howie Brounstein, as well as a smattering of other teachers at herbal gatherings and workshops. If anyone ever tells you they're an expert in herbal medicine, run away.Read More
Two animals ended up in black trash bags by the end of the day. For all the plant life we nurture and control on the farm, there usually isn't much animal life to speak of. Richard's two "guard" dogs that live on site might have something to do with it. There are rodents off and on, lots of snakes, a stray cat or two that lay low and scurry away whenever I spot them, and all manner of spiders and insects. But big animals (besides the human variety) are rare. So to have two close encounters in one day overshadows any of the other highlights of the day I can imagine.Read More
It's finally fresh corn season on the farm. In just the week I was gone, our first planting came and (almost) went. Our next one is fully pumping now, and we have four more waiting after that. Imagine: the youth farmers were planting baby seedlings for our last round, just down the field from where others were harvesting from the first round last week. Field two, behind the greenhouses, is a microcosm of the summer season, with three successional rounds planted side by side, baby to kid to teenager corn stalks, all still waiting to tassel and reproduce. The crazy part of it all, I realized yesterday, is that each planting's maturity brings us one week closer to the end of the crew's season. By the time they say goodbye at the end of September, we'll be closing in on those last plantings that today seem so far off from ever producing ears.Read More