Hard work

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.

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An onion life

An onion life

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.

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Medicinal plant workshop with the crew

"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.

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Snippets

Snippets

Experimenting with a new format and combining two days into one post: a first, and a sign that both on- and off-farm lives have been stacked full this week.  There's so much to share.  More prose coming soon :)

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Good tools

Good tools

I'd like to take this evening to appreciate some of the tools I work with at the farm.  I love working directly with my body and hands, and wouldn't want to farm in a way that replaces all my labor.  That's one of the joys of small scale farming or market gardening: I get to be in there, planting seeds and pulling weeds and tossing handfuls of limestone down each bed to keep the fertility high.  There's nothing like the joy of hand-cutting a head of broccoli or gazing out over a bed of young chard plants I just tucked into the ground, and there's no substitute for physically walking the fields to assess how everything's growing.

But there are also many times that I can't imagine doing a project without the right tools, and others (like today) when I realized how much time and energy I'd wasted using the wrong tools. 

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Field walk

Field walk

For the first time this year, Ted and I walked the fields together.  In my focus on all the seedlings and greenhouses, I'd almost forgotten the acres surrounding them, patiently braced against winter.  There's an old adage that the best fertilizer is a farmer's footprints- or something like that- and it always turns out true.  Even when there's not loads to do out there, making regular observations inevitably turns up new developments, new projects that need attending, new pest or disease or irrigation problems that need solving. 

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