Melon mornings

Melon mornings

“You’re having a melon morning!” I joke as I walk back toward the tool shed. I’ve left Casey near the farm stand with a pallet of cantaloupes, Israeli melons, and watermelons to wipe clean and set aside fifty more for our CSA boxes this week. First thing in the day, he got the pallet ready with empty crates and I drove it out to the melon patch, him running behind the dust and clatter of the tractor. He caught on fast to harvest: the skin color shifts from green to yellow on the green-fleshed Israeli melons, and the fruit easily falls off the stem with a small amount of pressure. We hunched down the rows, me in the cantaloupes, him in the other melons, and harvested a few crates of watermelons— which I insisted on choosing since they’re sticking to the vine even when they’re ripe— together. After a chaotic return among the hubbub of a large volunteer group of Willamalane (Springfield Parks and Rec) staff, Casey had a bucket of water, a rag to wipe down the melons, and a clear idea of which sizes to keep for CSA.

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To offer

With all the daily to-do lists and weekly goals and pushes to finish big projects in farming, I often forget to look back at-- and especially to really appreciate-- my successes.  This morning, I would never have guessed that I would be looking back on the day with pride and joy.  I was in a sour mood.  Lately I've been focusing on some of the things I don't have, and it had caught up to me by this morning.  I could have crawled back into bed and given the leading to others, hid in the weedy onion patch by myself and sulked in my ungrateful thoughts all day.  Even on the brightest morning meeting up with the most positive people, sometimes I'm just caught like that, blind by choice to the good.

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In the dirt

In the dirt

They planted Cal White potatoes, which are usually huge but came very small (and easy for little hands to tuck under ground) this year.  One girl caught on quickly and led the charge down the bed, plugging in spud after spud with enthusiasm.  Between kids unearthing bits of plastic and worms as they dug, she found a single clear marble.  She carried it with her as we left the field to wash hands and switch stations, showing her friends with a smile.  I wonder what she'll do with it.  And I wonder, if she keeps it like a treasure, what it will remind her about this warm cloudy morning when she visited a real farm and planted a whole bed of sprouted potatoes with her classmates, once she's my age and finds herself digging in the dirt.

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May morning photo journal

May morning photo journal

I arrived early today to finish revamping a little herb and flower garden near the farm stand, and to document all the beautiful crops approaching harvest.  I've been struck dumb a lot in the past couple weeks, walking through a field, looking down to notice how fresh and thriving the [insert broccoli, green onions, carrots, peas, etc etc] are looking.  It warrants another photo journal, since the brief evening one I did about a month ago caught nothing of this sort.  It's really time.  We're on the verge of harvest season.

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What is Community?

Community.  It's an overused, misunderstood, idealistic idea.  I use it all the time in my orientation tours for groups at the farm, mentioning "the community" as if it's a concrete group of people.  Or on social media, thanking "the community" for its support of our plant sales and farm stands.  We talk about it as part of our organizational values, emphasizing that everyone is included and welcome in the work we do.  Back when I first starting organic farming at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon, I was doing interviews with staff and surveys of Community Supported Agriculture members for an independent study in school, and asked the owners what they thought about "community".  For all the talk of inclusiveness and outreach toward consumers in this food movement, what they said really stuck with me: "If people talk about the community, it really is the group of us working."  Small farms do so much work to try to include customers and families to feel "part of the farm," but the real connections come from working hard together.  

On Saturday, a new community started to form as the youth farmer crew started their first day of work.  Most arrived early and huddled near the tool shed, labelling their cubbies and making nervous small talk.  A few friendly words exchanged among strangers.  Step one.

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Garden symphylans

Garden symphylans

Our visible achievements always get the glory and recognition, but for me the invisible is just as important.  And for all the conversations about life, learning about plants, skill-building and muscle memory developing in everyone's bodies and minds, I leave the week with persnickety obsession with what we have yet to accomplish.  It's such a relief to look backwards, see what we've done, hear feedback from people about how they've grown.  Maybe even more than the plants have.

Sometimes, that growth is wildly uneven.  We grow and learn only because the plants don't thrive as expected.  Take the first round of spinach from the greenhouse. 

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Spring begins

Spring begins

This was the first day I got to spend a big chunk of time in the trees with the core crew, and it was so lovely.  Pruning continues to be one of my favorite activities-- not just farming activities, but all-around all-time activities-- because it starts as a big jumbled mess, lets you climb trees and think three-dimensionally and move your body in unexpected ways, and ends with a much tidier framework for the tree to grow into the season. 

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Potato holiday

Potato holiday

In lieu of wearing tacky green shamrocks and drinking too much Guiness today, we planted potatoes.  I was pretty determined to make it happen, actually.  Yesterday Ted passed off a long work list for the next week while he's on vacation, and I have free reign to plan and play each day as I see fit.  Sowing our first round of potatoes in the greenhouse was already overdue, so today seemed like the day to plug in some spuds.

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