Twenty Down, Twenty To Go

While this is week three for our CSA members, for me it’s more like week twenty. (With maybe another twenty to go, but who’s counting?) So I’m about halfway through my season, with the summer solstice right at the pivot point, which seems fitting. We’ve moved from that first awakening at the beginning of March and the start of work in the greenhouse, and we watched that work crescendo up to and through the start of May, right around when field work began. May was madness, seeing us move from field to greenhouse and back again, the days full of field preparation, greenhouse seeding, and transplanting. With June, we spent most of our time in the field, transplanting and seeding all our major crops, plus making time for cultivating and weeding.

Now most of that labor is behind us. Much of the greenhouse work is done for the year, and the only major field work remaining is transplanting the fall brassicas in July. (The brassica family includes cabbages, kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and many more.) There’s still plenty of other work to be done, of course—weeding, cultivating, scouting for pests and diseases, trellising tomatoes, and harvesting, harvesting, harvesting. But hitting that solstice pivot point is a chance to take one deep breath and a swift admiring glance at all the work we’ve done, then dive back into the new cycle.

And all told, things have been going well for us so far this season. While our greenhouse and transplanting schedules did go a touch askew there in the spring, they didn’t stray far, and we’re now back on track and should stay there for the rest of the season. The weather wasn’t too wacky, and though that August heat in June did stress out some of the cool-season crops—and made me a little nervous—most crops pulled though and are looking fine now. (We did loose some head lettuce and Asian greens to heat stress, but not enough to make a difference.) The dry spells haven’t been enduring, nor have we had storms bring too much rain all at once. Our pest pressure has been a gallery of the usual suspects—flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, thrips, aphids, imported cabbage worm—but none have been overwhelming. And, above all, the crew has been exemplary, leaning into the work with enthusiasm and good cheer.

All of which is to say, I’m grateful for these gifts over the past twenty weeks and am eager and expectant to see what the next twenty will bring.

Just As Much a Part Of My Job

Last Thursday, while transplanting lettuce, the crew disturbed a nesting killdeer. We knew she had a nest nearby from the way she performed her broken-wing act—fluttering as though she was injured, hoping to draw any threat toward her and away from her eggs. I love watching that bit of bird behavior, love how the killdeer, once you approach her, will swiftly move further away, then repeat the whole routine.

Since killdeer like to nest in open spaces, like farm fields, they’re vulnerable to farm activities like plowing and mowing. And the nests, even though out in the open, are remarkably well camouflaged and surprisingly difficult to find on foot, let alone to see from a tractor’s seat. So we took a moment to hunt for the nest and, once found, to mark it with a bright survey flag. And yesterday, while making beds in that plot, I was able to pass over that little bit of the field and leave her nest and the four speckled eggs in it undisturbed.

Maybe I’m being overly sentimental and romantic, but I think taking care of creatures like the killdeer and the barn swallows and the tree frogs and the snapping turtles is just as much a part of my job as is growing vegetables. Or, better, my growing vegetables here in this place requires me to keep in mind the whole web of life of this place. So I use organic sprays that won’t harm amphibians, and I set out nest boxes for bluebirds and tree swallows, and I leave some spaces on the edges of the farm ragged and unkempt and natural so the creatures here have places to hunt and to hide, to forage and to frolic. And I think the farm is a better place for it.