what happened this year that caused my rift? i feel so detached from this long process, from the blood sweat and tears that fed this farming endeavor and eventually, led to a fracture of my pursuits in which my wanderlust and existential despair outwitted my roots in this soil. i don’t want to done. or lost in a cynical existence where i can’t relate to my enthused peers about the righteousness of our work. i still believe in the pleasures and in the ecstatic. i stand behind my original pursuit and will try my best to rally the goodness in my consciousness that recalls the fight i’ve weathered, the days i’ve worked and worked and worked….the products of that labor and the many many people fed and satisfied and enlivened. i can’t forget those accomplishments, the hours under my belt and the highs that outweigh the lows in which i can easily dwell. farming is hard and the frustrations are real and sit heavily, i gave up easily i think. i had higher expectations of myself than i was willing to work for. i wouldn’t let help in, and so my reality stayed stagnant and stale. i slipped inward and judged myself too had and lost sight of what this was about. to fuel my soul i spent more time away from the soil as shit got real, and the aesthetics and production took a toll. but my soul was alive, if only when i was behind the wheel, or any way i could express my freedom as an unattached human with the wind in her hair. i still swoon over memories of arugula growing soft in rows and onions growing upright along irrigation lines i thought i’d never be able to figure out and install. thank god for the photographic evidence of my years spent on this ground and of the fleeting beauty that this farm provided, all out of what? a vision and a stubborn determination and constant, daily work to turn my dreams into a seasonal wonderland. i was constantly frustrated, yes. i was endlessly disappointed in myself, but get over yourself i want to scream. i wish i wanted to be in the greenhouse right now, and wanted to act enthused about this or that as i continued into my next season, but i’ve given in the towel and need a long recess before beginning again. because this is the life for me, but there is much to be lived and my kicks lay out there in the open world, in my current state of unattachment i crave anywhere and everywhere, hermitted or surrounded i’ll struggle, in the mountains and coastlines and soils here there and everywhere. to where we’re all going every moment and striving for in every quest to do good, be good. to the rest of our lives, starting with this moment. do good be good, plant seeds sow wild oats live free and forget the rest. here we go.
nearly a year has passed, and in it all that has happened is the story of this little farm, growing and growing despite all the odds. so many iterations have passed that to tell the story would feel like years. but alas – no time has been made to tell the tales, and so here we are, experience and trials under my belt and what to show and where to go? well it feels like a hundred years since the last fennel bulbs, since the last moldy, two-pound tomatoes were composted and beans have been dried and eaten. summer squash grown so large they turn into gourds, and flowers sold to countless brides, on the table of dozens of farmer’s markets stands. salad mix grew so steadily and so succulent, it was on every menu item for nearly a year at the downtown haunt, traded for paychecks and pastries. arugula was on fire and fava beans and rye were ever steady, an every afternoon golden hour harvest date for me myself and I every day, and it was so very romantic, that yellow glow and the scythe. the beer-igation, the music that has played from my pocket hour after hour after hour, screaming it’s love, torment, and delight at every ounce of grain, grass, veg, bulb collected. there were parties in the tall grasses and cocktails in the barn morning noon and night. tears, gossip, and cappuccinos aplenty. hoeing and weeding like it was my job. waving pellet guns over gopher holes and discovering camaraderie in all kinds of unexpected and delightful ways.
it’s still a mystery and a struggle to know what may come of this experiment, to feel clear and serious in the endeavor at hand – but the vision that has been so stubbornly persistent remains and taunts, won’t let me go and won’t let me let it down – and so onward we go. the csa grows and grows while the field sits completely submerged, soggy, frost bitten night after night, but clovers and vetch and favas grow, and a plan formulates over and over again through these long nights and restless mornings, days where the nights won’t come soon enough but morning leads me again to the row edges, pulling grass and thinning beets, cleaning and organizing the barn, accounting, dreaming, scheming, agonizing.
this is real speak but it goes much deeper than this. the realest may be that when the crimson clover blooms all is right in the world, and that tiny heads of lettuce never fail to delight. every delivery i make on the weekly route is a revelation and the sales made to strangers at the market continually awe. i may feel like nothing is right, like i am letting myself down, but there are ways every day that prove me otherwise if i stop and look.
here’s to a new year, to farm 2.0, and to embracing and reveling in what i have in front of me, and what is yet to come.
on the farm, as in any endeavor, an air of the unpredictable is ever steady, constantly close. temperature, weather patterns, plans, and moods are erratic or unexpected. the ground freezes, or sits in a muddy mess without signs of ever drying up. or the field sits dry and waiting for rain. and then the pressure tank freezes and explodes open, leaving you with no way to irrigate except linking together ten hoses to reach from farmhouse to greenhouse.
the cows got into the fields yesterday, and trampled new beds, emerging seedlings, and created general mayhem among all parties. it was more amusing than anything for me, with no major harm done, but goodness if you don’t have to just roll with the punches in this and all things, to keep your sanity and to keep on keeping on.
there is a good variety coming out of the side gardens, new beds being seeded and planted out. the greenhouse was full, and now planted out, ready for a new flush of seeds sown this february moon. clover is scattered underfoot and undersown in most beds, in an attempt to create the picture of beauty i see in my early morning dreams- a mass of white and red clover flowers, oats, buckwheat, with the scattering of the edible emerging from their cover. fukouka and cannard rubbing off.
cows are hooting and hollering from up on the hill, holding on to their memory of their garden romp. be still your hearts! the rain and the sun are out today, creating the hope of lushness and fertility for your pastures, and for the fields. come what may.
farming on a major road (the thoroughway between petaluma and pt. reyes) and a farm field adjacent to a much traversed driveway (shared with ten other ranches/families) has it’s ups and downs.
there is the shril from dueling atv’s on the sheep ranch, or the lost call of a neighbor’s cows run amouk. traffic sounds at days end, and faces from a rolled up car window that stare in bewilderment or disapproval at a greenhorn working land they’ve grown up on. all that aside, neighbors in the cuttys are lovely.
one never travels our driveway without a cooler of coors in the back of his pickup or atv. seriously. and he’ll wave every time he passes, with that handlebar mustache and offer you a beer, no matter the time of day. ask for a coor’s light, though, and he’ll offer with the caution: “it’s like kissing your sister.” he’s known to loan out farm equipment and has helped split enough wood for our ranch to keep the houses tucked in tight all winter.
another runs his sheep on the east pasture, and gives me whispered advice like “hang in there” and “don’t worry about what the others think.” his nephews are the drivers of the atvs, rounding up sheep and chickens on their ranch behind the creek.
most consider petaluma “the city” and travel to san francisco once or twice a year, while others at the ranch here call it their daily commute. oh, and have i mentioned hunting season and the men’s club down the driveway! when these events occur, you can sit on the porch and count dozens of trucks, one following the other, down the drive, right before dusk, and then see them out again come dawn. the real deal country. not anything like west county country, non. this is the real deal: beer in cans, shotgun shells, atvs, cows. and a little farm growing, growing, growing.
winter has come and with it frost every night which lingers until noon. then, layers are shed as the day moves on and it is warm and dry, and I start to dream of warm season crops, and then, reality! it is literally freezing every night in the greenhouse. alas, it is not spring, but winter, and winter-you are truly beautiful.
winter, which all it’s warmth and sunshine, has been busy. greenhouse is built and up, doors added just days ago boost temperatures into the high nineties in early afternoon when sun is just about to tip over that western hill. trays are set with seeds- broccoli raab, onions!, lettuces!, herbs, brassicas. oh, and maybe some tomatoes, for giggles.
many hands now work this land, and boosts of energy and plans and glee-filled labor surround the barn. remnants of community show up in forms of toys found beneath mulch, clementine peelings in a heap on a chair. new spaces have been cover cropped, and lines and lines of salad greens sprout up in newly tilled ground. transplants are laid out neatly by the trayful in a pattern of diagonals – cold hardy and vigorous in these persistently freezing soils.
and we are eating well – tiny lettuce heads fed us daily, mizuna and pac-choi are abundant, along with arugula, kale, chard, leeks. onions, garlic, beets, radishes all grow slowly in these short, cool days but hold on tight.
more and more i am marveling at the capacity of this farm. reading and scheming in the warmth of the greenhouse at last light, i am full of inspiration and hope. full of a practical vision of the next year with many frustrations(!!) and inspirations(!!!) to come. here we go.
frost came the other morning, killing back all the winter squash. harvested and dried the squash, and threw the blackened and gnarly plants to the compost pile.
back field is now with irrigation and is tucked all over with fava bean seeds. may you grow fast and strong and make for a maze of beans come spring.
brassicas in garden site are hesitant to grow, but faith remains. kale and cabbage from last spring still holding strong with absolutely no sign of bolting – what troopers! coming soon – a greenhouse and some four legged friends. plus lots and lots of salad mix. oh! and got three interested buyers: santa rosa city school district, san rafael city district, and the north bay children’s center. sit tight, little ones, local greens coming to your school salad bars soon!
autumns come and it’s off and on weather. a lull occurs. finally compost that was made in spring from piles of manure, pond scum, leaf debris, field mowings, and the occasional food scraps, gets put to use. raised beds to the side of the field for winter garden were hand built on top of tilled soil. seeded with greens to feed the ranch and to play around with varieties and techniques for next spring when the real deal farm job gets going.