Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The phrase from James 5:7, "the farmer waits," has been on my mind. The writer of James is highlighting and promoting patience.
Patience is one response to anxiety. It is a choice. A commendable choice.
The circumstances of this past Spring have tested the patience of those of us who do the good work necessary to keep Hawkins Family Farm going. At the top of the list are the circumstances brought by the weather, with its high winds, persistent rains, and extreme variations in temperature. This week we are planting and replanting for the season, a delay in some cases of over a month. For the harvest this year, the farmer waits.
The circumstances also include a season of major farm repairs and other expenses, including the doubling of feed costs, coupled with slower-than-hoped-for sales. For a breakthrough toward a positive cash flow, the farmer waits.
Waiting has its place, as does working. We waited for good weather and the weather of these past days has been glorious--for work and for rest. We waited to plant and sow and now the well-manured and well-watered gardens are nurturing quick seed germination and speedy growth. We waited for customers and the meat and vegetables and pizzas we have sold thus far are being received with high praise for quality.
And so we come to today, another day for the farmer to work and to wait. We'll work hard today, likely planting more peppers and sweet potatoes and cucumbers. We'll feed baby calves and laying hens and chickens and larger cattle. We'll fix stuff that is in need of repair, a never-ending need. We'll prepare to pick up chickens from the butcher tomorrow to be ready to fill orders. We'll get ready to welcome HOPE CSA clergy groups, beginning on Thursday. We'll get veggie shares ready. We'll tackle thistles and other weeds that constantly threaten to get out of hand. We'll look for ways to better market our products. At least, that's what I think will happen today.
We'll wait and see how it goes.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
by Zach Hawkins, Hawkins Family Farm Garden Manager and 4th generation Hawkins Farmer
Blister, inside left thumb
They came from someone who knew someone who was just going to throw them away. Twenty blueberry plants means twenty holes in the garden bed by the asparagus and the raspberries, each one fifteen inches deep and fifteen inches across. David and I dug with garden spades, overturning clods suffuse with earthworms. I should have worn gloves, my hands still soft with winter. I didn't even notice the skin pulling loose with the work. Not as the bright plastic tags--green, yellow, and pink--offered new names to turn over on the tongue: Berkeley, Sierra, Bluegold, Bluejay, Bluetta. Not as the masses of roots pulled free from the flimsy nursery pots. Not as I moved the cool earth back into place and the tender twigs held white blossoms to the sky.
Incised wound, left index finger (knuckle)
Nathan Fingerle at RiverRidge Farm carries his harvesting knife in a sheath on his belt and his greenhouse smells like August in the middle of May: tomatoes and basil and heat. He uses the serrated blade to slit the stems of basil, ten to a bundle. I'm used to using scissors but Nathan got me wondering so when I went to harvest the weekly vegetables shares I grabbed a paring knife on my way to the high tunnel. Dad planted the lettuce in January and now it is growing thick and tender and shades and shades of green. The knife was sharp and the harvesting was fast. A bit too sharp; a bit too fast.
First-degree sunburn, neck, arms, and kneecaps
It was a day for the record books--eighty-eight degrees on the eleventh of May--and we went out to plant onions after lunch. David and I put down the black plastic and covered the edges with soil. Kira made the holes and Sarah tucked in the onion sets. I'd cut the sleeves off the shirt the previous summer to confound my perennial farmer's tan, and the jeans blew out at the knees years ago. How the winter stays in the skin, so pale and pallid. Not today. Give me some air. Give me some sun. We are planting for the warm days ahead of us.
Monday, May 09, 2011
My family did have a garden every year. We grew peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and weeds in garden beds constructed into the hillside using railroad ties, leveling equipment and plenty of child labor (the last of these I am finding to be a common theme in agriculture). Other than the garden, my farm exposure was limited to the annual trip to the pumpkin patch which until recently, I am sad to say, led me to believe all farms were haunted by children in cheap costumes. I know now that is not always the case—some of their costumes are very expensive.
I tell you this to give insight to how I view the farm. I see everything through juvenile eyes. Not literally, of course, I won’t have that surgery for months, but metaphorically approaching everything with a fresh, inquisitive mindset that bring about an array of questions to ponder in the solitude of my work.
This is my first revelation: spring brings about new life. Plants begin to grow, babies are born, and FOX premiers a new line up of shows to be canceled. As livestock manager, I constantly deal with new life, bringing fresh food and water to baby chicks twice daily so they may grow into marketable chickens. But I cannot help but wonder: why? Now the short answer is that Jeff tells me to, but I mean why do we all let bite-sized chickens become king-sized chickens? What prevented our ancestor Lucy from eating baby chicks long enough that she realized that grown up chickens provide more food for she and Ricky?