Over half way

Over half way

Time passes.  Slowly at times, like when I'm bending to thin lettuce seedlings and my back is barking.  Quickly at others, like when we're back and forth harvesting a dozen different crops in a morning.  Back and forth between the extremes, every week, every day, every hour.  I realized last week that we'd reached the half way point of the season.  February, March, April, May, and June-- the growth period, expansion, push push push-- are now gradually falling into the roll-out harvest of July, August, September, October, and November.  We've made it past the hump, into full summer abundance, and I continue to be baffled by how quickly things grow, change, and fade.  Last week my Oregon Country Fair vacation was the longest period since January that I've been away from the farm-- just five days-- and it feels as if we're already suddenly in a different period.

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From seed to salad mix

From seed to salad mix

I was drowning in salad mix at the end of the day.  The coolers were packed full of totes and we needed more room, so I was stuffing bags and bags of leafy greens to free up a few tote spaces.  It felt like a burden, but at the same time, I felt rich.  This stuff is like gold, and not just because it earns us seven dollars a pound at our farm stands.  It's one of the most vibrant, colorful, texturally interesting crops- not to mention nutrient dense and gut-healthy- we grow at the Youth Farm.  It lasts for around two weeks in the fridge because it's so fresh and only a bit of every piece has been cut through in the harvest process, and it's my go-to easiest meal base- just toss in a bowl and add dressing and some sort of protein.  The process from seed to bowl is relatively simple and quick:

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Everything by the minutes

Everything by the minutes

8:30 am.  University of Oregon Duck Store.  I'm buying two cases of Listo grease pencils for marking flags with planting dates and varieties at the farm.  We've tried "permanent" markers (they fade), China pencils (they break), and yellow crayon-like grease markers (they don't show up).  Now we have a seemingly endless supply that do the trick.

9:20 am. Strawberry patch.  I'm poking around the plants while Michael weed whacks the end of the bed so we can hook up irrigation lines.  All three patches have been swallowed up on either side by tall cover crop, and I'd almost forgotten about them.  To my delight, they're ripe!  I pick one deep red one and pop it into my mouth, stem and all.  I almost forget to taste it while I search through the beds, looking to see how many are ready.  But then I do, and stand there for a minute, letting that ultra sweet summer flavor sink in.  This sensation will keep coming until fall sets in.

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Teaming up with Americorps

Today would be a good day to have a guest writer share their side of the story.  I was in my own world for most of the day, giving an orientation and tour to a new Americorps NCCC group in the morning, leading our last plant sale seeding with a few of them until lunch, and again leading them with potting soil and a couple solo projects later in the day.  I overlapped with Michael, Phil, Sophie, the UO interns, and Kiya and David just for a couple hours in the afternoon for a workshop, but the glances I could steal out into the fields toward the end of the day gave me an idea of how hard they worked out there all day. 

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Evolving visions

Evolving visions

My goals for Wild Heart Botanicals are constantly evolving.  The idea of starting an herb farm was in the back of my mind for years, and it got a jump start when my friend Dana and I started brainstorming herbal business possibilities in 2015.  She'd been training as a midwife and postpartum doula and had been thinking about making herbal products for women's reproductive health.  I mostly wanted to grow herbs, but I'd been studying the ethnobotany of women's health after graduate school and was keen on putting it into practice.  So, we got as far as forming a name and throwing lots of ideas around, and then she realized there were too many unknowns in her immediate future to commit to a business.  Though I would've loved to have a partner, I just kept running with it on my own.

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Japanese exchange... and a start to herbs

Japanese exchange... and a start to herbs

A group of young Japanese students came to volunteer at the farm this afternoon.  I usually give groups an introduction to our programs and FOOD for Lane County before leading them on a tour of the site.  Today, as I started to explain the mission of our program, I caught myself and backed up a bit to some key terms we use: hunger, food insecurity, and poverty are most central to understanding why we exist.  As I explained food insecurity and hunger to the students, their faces turned blank.  

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Whether the weather be fine...

Whether the weather be fine...

People can't seem to resist talking about the weather.  It's always happening, and it's always different, and I guess it's an experience that everyone nearby shares to some degree.  This time of year, the weather tends to be wholly unpredictable in the Willamette Valley.  And on the farm, the microclimates of my days fluctuate faster and greater than anywhere else I've been.

Today I looked out over my coffee mug to a gray morning rain, and accepted the fact that I'd be in rubber boots and waterproof bibs all day.  Just accept it. 

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Full house

The propagation house is full.  It happened so fast.  Not even three weeks ago, there were a couple snow scrapers and brooms, and onion peels still floating around from curing last year, and the house hadn't held baby plants since early summer.  (Back when we had to take all the sides off to let air flow, and it was nonetheless too hot in there for life.)

Now it's the only place life will tolerate.

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The menagerie

Wednesdays in February are unique on the farm, not only because they're when we make huge gains on filling the nursery to the brim, but also because they bring a sudden surge of diverse people to the farm.  We'll spend these next three Wednesdays seeding our entire inventory for the spring plant sale in April, and because it's a cooperative fundraiser for the Youth Farm and Grassroots Garden, volunteers from Grassroots migrate to the farm to help with all the seeding.

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February 1

February 1

This is, in my wildest imaginations, the first of a daily reflection on my experiences at the FOOD for Lane County Youth Farm, set squarely in the midst of a painstakingly gradual and messy rebuilding of a food system that sustains us all.  The process is gradual and messy enough to have me believe that whatever I write will have no impact on the longterm path of our unprecedented global trajectory.  Because what I do every day on the farm seems to somehow chink and chip away at it-- seems to create a shift, subtle though it may be, in my self and those around me and the material world in which we engage-- I can't help but believe that sharing it with a wider audience might strengthen and quicken that shift.  Where the change comes from I hope to articulate throughout this season.  Where it is bringing us, I have no idea. May it be beautiful.

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