Saturday, April 26, 2014

Steep Learning Curve

 I wrote this terribly negative post on Thursday night, complaining away about the blackout of a day we  had had. The discouragement was thick. Damaged hoophouse, work going backwards instead of forward, an unfavorable pathology report and a connectivity problem with our internet.

I didn't push send. It seemed so unfair to dump all that out here, to be so negative, so overwhelmed. I want more often to present my best self, the farm's best self. But, for some reason, the time between when the snow melts and when the plants grow is dreary. There are weird bones lying around the yard, buried in the snow by Stella, found with enthusiasm on some winter walk after they were left behind by a hunter. There are shingles and tar paper strewn about and flapping plastic and blue tarps torn to shreds. We've started the clean up but then the wind blows hard and we're going backwards again.

When the weather starts to change, the dooryard fills with visitors, turkey hunters, brides thinking about their flowers.

 I always feel so self conscious about our projects, our working landscape, our disheveled selves. I want it to be tidy, green, lush, blooming. Or, I want that clean, white snow cover back to hide all the imperfections.

After 8 years here, I know there has been progress, I can see it when I look at old photos of when we first arrived. I see it in the pup who is now a mellow dog, in the infant who is now reading, in the girl who is heading to college. The trees we planted in these barren yards now fruit and we are rotating back around with crops into fields where they were first planted 8 years ago. I see larger cycles.

It is in this vision of larger cycles that I know even a long winter and a cold spring and a strong wind will pass.

Crops will take off and enjoy the compost we've made, our interns will learn the nuances of weather and water and field, but not this month. It will take some time, quite possibly a whole season. Their excitement and their wide eyed optimism remind me of the importance of being positive, even after a series of unfortunate affairs all occur within a short stretch of time. We plant pea seeds together, I teach them how to use the Japanese paper pot transplanter and I show them how to use their body parts to measure spacing in the rows....a span of pinky to thumb tip is 8", wrist to elbow is 12", tip of middle finger to elbow is 18".

 We hand transplant kale, cabbage, broccoli, 8 four hundred foot rows worth, water lines laid and Remay cover added to protect from the arrival of the hungry flea beetles. They learn how to move their bodies, how to pace themselves, how to smile and keep going because there's no sense in frowning. And I try to make it obvious from the start: the importance of keeping grouchy in your pocket.

I love this land we work and I love the lessons it teaches....over and over again. I guess it's a steep learning curve. The weather will forever humble me. The force of it is far greater than my ingenuity. I've never thought of everything and am wising up to know I never will. But, every year this land teaches a new crop of growers how to farm and the old ones like me are reminded why we farm: to feed, to beautify, to endure. Mostly, I'm just existing between the hour each Monday night when I can watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, Season 4 while nibbling on popcorn. Spring on a farm only allows for minor indulgences.

Blessings on the meal-


  1. lovely. power through is all we can do! at least you can say this work is never boring and always a challenge.

  2. Life is always an adventure isn't it? Wishing you peace filled days ahead as the sun warms and the plants grow. Life is good!

  3. What a lovely post! Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Love your poetic self-righting. Power to you.

  5. Thank you for sharing your good and overwhelming times, it reminds us all of how hard farming is! Thank you for sharing with your interns, your customers, the public on Maine Calling and most of all, thank you for all you've taught my Laura, she is learning a lifetime of knowledge from you! Keep at it, the better times will come. Blessings on you and the meal! Becky

  6. I just read this nodding at each paragraph.
    And eric dragged me into Game of Thrones last night. He said it was a rather tame episode. I figure watching it together can be the one thing we do together that isn't farm related.