It’s been seven weeks since my last post. A post in which I promised myself I would try to post more regularly to help me keep track of what’s happening on the farm and in my mind about what’s coming next out there. That hasn’t happened. So, today I’m going to record seven vignettes, one for each week I missed; reflections on what’s happened in that time. I’m feeling kind of stuck so hoping this might help move me along a bit.
1. June 9: 9:13 AM
I had to go back to the weather history to remember just how fucking awful this was and continues to be. In mid-May, there was so much amazing flower set on all the perennial berries. I took a series of photos but I guess I deleted them. Trust me. The raspberries, gooseberries, currants, and blueberries were all exploding with flowers. And then it stopped raining. For weeks.
Check out the middle row below. Bear in mind, that to keep plants healthy and thriving, they need an average of one inch of water EVERY week. This isn’t a cumulative thing. Imagine you were doing hard work outside for a month. You’re out shoveling, hoeing, weeding… How would you feel if you got only one, albeit tall, drink of water that month?
Things weren’t much better into early June.
Yeah. So, by the middle of June, all the berry bushes started to look like the blueberries above. Full of fruit that was desiccating before my eyes. I’m not in the habit of watering perennial bushes. That’s the beauty of them. You set them and (basically aside from pruning and harvesting) forget them. Reluctantly I brought over the hoses. I was upset and feeling hopeless as one plan I had for the future of the farm was converting more beds to perennial berries that wouldn’t demand much time and effort.
2. Jun 17 – 2:14 PM
In mid-June, The Spurgeon General and I took the young one to Colorado for a week. We did a lot of hiking in the mountains. We played disc golf on courses nothing like what you see in Ohio. And we spent a day in Boulder where we stumbled on an exhibition at the contemporary art museum – agriCULTRE, a collaboration between artists and farmers. All of a sudden, the distance between my day job as an art educator and my hobby farm work seemed a little smaller. You can find information about the show here (after you finish reading this post!). Below are a couple of my favorite moments.
Anthony Garcia Sr. with Laura Allard-Antelmi & Richard Pecocaro – “Masa Seed Foundation harvests, distributes, and archives bio-regional, climate-adapted, open-pollinated heirloom seeds, each with a unique history…This seed shelf, a small cross-section of Masa’s massive library, educates us on how plant kinship exits throughout the world.”
Esther Hz with Erin Dreistadt & Jason Griffith – “Interdisciplinary artist and former urban farmer Esther Hz revisited her research in biodynamic farming through her collaboration with Aspen Moon Farm.” She furthers Steiner’s ideas by exploring through play with image and text – “replacing ‘soul’ with ‘soil’. in famous quotes. To compound this idea, she constructed two zoetropes (a pre-film animation device) to emulate the ‘wheel of life…” (quotations here and above from text by Guest Lead Curator, Jaime Kopke)
3. June 21 – 3:35 PM
Somehow they made it through. When we got back from Colorado, the berries were booming. Friends who were farm-sitting got most of the red raspberries, and I was happy to share. I never grew berries for the CSA. They were always a selfish endeavor. A few times, towards the end, folks got some raspberries, ironically from those red ones that came under the fence from the neighbor’s yard or elderberries from an abundant bush that succumbed to fusarium wilt this year. But there wasn’t really enough of the rest to share broadly.
This mid-to-June was all about the berries. As I watched the tomatoes and marveled again about just how long it takes them to set fruit and ripen, I spent many hours carefully plucking currants (red and black), raspberries (mostly black), and gooseberries along with a few blueberries and last gasp strawberries. The gooseberries and black raspberries require long pants and sleeves to protect against thorns. It’s hot and touchy work. But when you’re inhaling a bowl of mixed berries topped with whipped cream, that all fades away. I made black raspberry jam from a bag I froze last season (yikes!) and froze tons more to eat throughout the year.
4. July 2 – 2:49 PM
One day I noticed something strange looking on the poppy heads I was drying in situ to use in bouquets. Upon closer examination, I noticed something had accessed the seed chambers. A little information on the architecture of a poppy will help it make more sense. Basically, after the flower falls, which happens maddeningly quickly with poppies, the head starts to bulge. As the seeds take shape and start to dry out, the head forms vertical cavities around the center point. Something was working its way down these, one by one, gobbling up all the seeds. Who was it? Was it poisoning them? I had never seen this before.
For a few days after my discovery, I noticed the poppies swaying when I approached the farm gate as if something had just flown away. I was dying to catch the little opium fiends in the act! One day it finally happened. A goldfinch landed in the poppy bed and had its fill. Mystery solved and thanks to Google, I now know they peel the pod open and the seeds help aid their nutrition and digestion!
Overall, the garden was a jungle at this point. The spring cool flowers were giving way to hardier summer blooms and native volunteers that joined the party. There was (and still is) Spiderwort everywhere! The paths between beds were growing over with red clover and wild sorrel. I enjoyed and was complimented on how lush things looked but I was feeling claustrophobic and annoyed with myself for letting things go all Big Anthony’s garden again. (See Strega Nona’s Harvest – an all-time favorite picturebook about gardening.)The upside is lots of gorgeous flowers to share with family and friends.
5. July 9 – 5:59 PM
For the first time in ages, we have summer squash in abundance! This is largely due to diligent squash bug and egg-picking work aided by our friend Katey. I’m not holding my breath that it will last, but we’ve been trying tons of new recipes while it does! A few favorites – Zucchini, Quinoa, Mint, and Pistachio salad; Zucchini Chocolate Layer Cake; and Zucchini Szabi.
6. July 12 – 6:29 PM
The first and only peach we’ve gotten to eat from our tree. This spring, for the first in memory it was loaded with fruits. Then the June drop followed by the drought left the ground littered with immature fruits the chickens and raccoons took great pleasure in making disappear. Completely.
While I’m on the subject of raccoons… They are the worst! After a few mornings of finding the work table and storage tossed like a cat burglar had come around, I set up the trail cam. Sure enough, it was a raccoon. I cleaned up as best I could including some seeds and things that were out and no doubt tempting. This helped. With the supplies. But then they moved on to a few dozen newly planted basil seedlings which they dug up and left for dead. #thisiswhatthefuckersdo
7. July 20: 7:28 PM
The tomatoes are finally coming in. Sun Gold, Berkeley Tie Dye, San Marzano, Purple Cherokee, and a few more I can’t remember. Feels later and later every year but I’m happy to finally be binging on their fruit. Last year we had a lot of issues with the tomatoes and have been back to diligently watering and fertilizing. The plants, overall, look much happier and healthier. But stay tuned. I just found a mosaic virus (above) which looks an awful lot like a tie-dye to me…