Chilly Today, Hot Tamale?
There are many things we can count on about a year at Brookfield. Still, we wonder about the details - what will this year be like?
Some years it's the planting that's the tricky part - we have to wait til just the right day when we might get a spec of cloudy or wet weather to let the new transplants establish themselves before the sun dries them all up. Not this year! The rain and the cool, overcast weather are keeping us supplied with planting days, and so, in order, everything that Rebecca has grown in the greenhouse is going in the ground: the onions, the leeks, the corn, the tomatoes, the peppers, the eggplants, more lettuce, the fennel, more lettuce ... this is the time to set the stage for the whole season of growing and harvesting and eating, and we've got the weather to do it.
The flip side is that in a year like this, it's the growing that's the tricky part! It’s been really, really cold. The early crops, turnips, squash and beets and early carrots, are a bit behind in terms of plant growth. They all want some hot weather to be able to access the nutrients in the soil so that their teenage growth spurts kick in. The weeds, of course, are made for this - as organic farmers, most of our strategies for getting rid of the weeds to make room for our crops to grow include uprooting the weeds and then letting them dry up on top of the soil. Ellen uproots and dries out weeds before we plant with the Lely, a big rake that gets the tiny weeds off the tops of the beds. Sunny goes next with the basket weeder, a delicate tractor implement for the tiny weeds. And on and on with other tools, but the drying up part takes a little sun, a little breeze, and we haven't seen too much of that recently.
It's predictable that we'll fret about something in any farming year. This year, I'm a new kind of fretful because it's a first for me, of taking a bigger bite, taking on a new role. So my reality, appropriate and predictable for farmers in early June, is to wake up worrying about the farm. Looking at a forecast for another rainy week, and hearing reports of flooding and hail (!!) at farms around the Valley, the worries are cradled by everything we have going for us: land and crops above water, poised for growth, the apprentice's joy and resilient teamwork, Ken the mechanic, Abbe keeping us all organized. These are days, like all the other days, when I'm grateful for the mentorship and continued leadership of Dan and Karen at the farm; they wake up worrying too, but they have so many years experience of farming here to draw on for comparison and comfort. Most of all, we're all cradled by the community of both new and long-term shareholders, all committed to this big experience of reality. Brookfield Farm! So this is the rhythm, young farmer. Keep worrying, it's okay (it's motivating!), and also keep falling into the cradle of controling what we can, and accepting what we can't. Every year we are real and we are alive and we are farming, and there is weather - and we wouldn't have it any other way.
And then I wake up with another question: "What about all the weeds we can't cultivate?" Enter the weeder crew! Heroes already! They started last week and it sounds like trumpets here every morning now, seeing them coming to work and knowing how much will get done before they leave at noon. They've weeded the cutting lettuce, giving it a chance to pop up (it seems to be waiting for just a little warmth to take it's final cue ... it’s still small). They've weeded the arugula for spicy spring salads. They're weeding the beets. And they've weeded the spinach.
Did somebody say spinach? You might be wondering, reading this e-mail about the slow spring that's taking it's time to warm up, why we're opening a full 8 days earlier than we did last year. By almost any measure, we should have waited – the soil is still just too cold for vegetable growth! Well, for one thing we're ready to see you - ready to start the big parade! And the lack of heat is creating a real growth disparity between the crops that prefer cool and the crops that need more heat. When it comes down to it, we’re opening because of the spinach. It's ready. It's alive. It's green. It's delicious. And longtime shareholders know, it's not every year we're able to grow a good crop. With the fickle early summer weather spinach sometimes quickly goes to flower in the heat before the share starts. Spinach has a short window – if we’d waited til next week to open, we’d likely have lost it, along with the first radishes and arugula. Radishes, arugula and spinach love the cool weather, and ripe spinach waits for no cutting lettuce.
What a different year! So much rain. So much cold. We're glad we have a little food to start, and we expect more will come on as soon as it warms up. We'll welcome the sunshine to the farm when it comes, but first we'll welcome all of you to your farm as the share starts this week (for most of you shareholders, it's more of a welcome back!) And you can welcome (and welcome back) the apprentices. And we can all eat spinach! Here we go!
(for Dan, Karen, Abbe, Rebecca, Sunny and Ellen)
Chilly Today, Hot Tamale?