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revisiting the blog

Ironic that I chose to look at this blog for my last post to see that it was just over 2 years ago and the topic was the cold weather.  I don’t remember that particular winter but I do believe that this one beats it hands down.  Icicles in the farm kitchen sinks, frozen fuel lines, pained frozen faces on the farmers, vegetables that only go to market in ice chests in hopes they will stay somehwat thawed.  Frantic phone calls for rescue from sisters stranded in snow so deep on the local roads that they have to be closed down from the drifts that can’t be kept cleared.  Day after day of sub zero temperatures add the wind chill and you’re hitting 17 and 20 below zero “feel like”.  YIKES!!!!  But soon this will be a fond or not so fond memory and the fields will be turning green with rows of lush verdant life.  I can see it already and I can feel it in my soul.  Spring is closer than we know – I could smell it off and on for a couple of weeks now!!!  It’s coming, it’s coming!!!

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Ooof it’s cold

Well we got we wanted a good old fashioned winter – snow, cold, wind a bit of ice brrrr.  Since we are a four season farm we haven’t stopped.  A different tempo but we’re still at it.  The field crew has dwindled in size to 3, the farm store is quieter, the farmers markets are a slow steady pace.  Heaters, tent walls and camping lanterns become the new fashionable must haves at market.  In the meantime seed catalogs have been pouring in the mail in a steady stream and I’ve been folding over corners and marking pictures of vegetables that I want to grow this year.  Some are traditional favorites, some are new and others are just a thought for maybe next year or the year after.  We’re starting to fill up the greenhouse areas with seeded trays and cuttings.  Already the anticipation is building here at the farm for spring time planting which is only 2 months away.Image

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One would think that the first signs of fall happen with the autumnal equinox, as if suddenly like the start of a marathon the gun sounds and they’re off. But it’s actually far more subtle than that. Today is Tues Oct 2nd the fall equinox was on Sat Sept 22nd. But here on our farm fall began about 4 weeks before that.
The signs are so slight you question your reasoning. The tomato plants begin to turn brown. The barn swallows that I alternately love and hate vanish. The mountain changes to soft, misty colors of ruby, garnet and gold, a mere whisper of the richer colors to come.
It’s 2 AM, the air is warm as we load trucks for market by 4 AM the temperature drops, and you begin to shiver. The dew is so heavy you would swear we had a serious rain fall. The moon is full and you need no lights to see your way. A few degrees cooler and the dew would be frost. The soil smells like fall and the air feels like the promise of it. The Jerusalem artichokes are in full glory their bright sunny flowers swaying 10 feet up in the air. The eggplant pull the plants down with the weight of the harvest, corn is sweeter and the peppers smell crisp, the perfume of kale and broccoli raab spice the early morning air. These and so many more are the signs of fall.

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Time heals all wounds.  2011 was definitely a year full of challenges and events that required time for healing.  And so it will and does.   Maybe it’s part of growing up on a farm or having been involved in caring for family, not that it makes losing someone or something easier,  but there’s an acceptance on a very base level as much as you want to rant and rail and cry out.  This is part of life.  Losing someone you love, enduring losses imposed on you by nature.   There will always be moments of sadness but also more importantly moments of light, life and joy as we celebrate who and what was and recognize what we have absorbed from the influence of those personalities and events that have shaped and molded us over time.

And so we go on….

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Monday after Irene

I haven’t written in so long, where do I start… Monday morning after Irene, I try to go the farm and I can’t get there, I can’t leave my house I am trapped on my own little island between two massive puddles of water. Never has the water risen so fast, so high. I go out back and try and walk out the old rail road bed, the water is mid thigh high and I have over a mile to go. I turn around and start to go home, after telling myself what a coward and wimp I am I try to plow through water one more time, step in a hole and decide it is just not worth it. I turn around and go home. No electric since last night, I wonder how long will this last.

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Made the call yesterday afternoon – closed the store, a state of emergency was declared for our entire town. No one is allowed to be on the roads unless responding to an emergency situation. I made the deliveries to the Bronx and East NY in Brooklyn yesterday morning. The rain was coming in spurts, the wind in waves. Tolls were waved on all the access points in the city. Tried to stop at a couple of places to pick up a roast or something for the house looking forward to some down time, the first in months. People are so rude and nasty and I am too tired to deal with them so I just go home to the farm. Everyone is heading to their homes the rain has begun in earnest. The farmers can do no more. They have worked for 3 days non stop harvesting as much as they could, now we just hope for the best.

3am the rain is fierce, 10am the same, noon the same.  I spend this part of the day alternating between dozing on the couch and prowling the house. 2 pm can’t stay inside anymore have to see the farm. The water is just pouring down the bridges and pooling in the parking lot. Get some work done in the office.   4:30 pm I guess I’ll go home now and do some work there.  The water has come so hard and fast there is water across the road but I can still pass with my truck. I go to the other side of the road past my house the water is no where near the road.  It should be okay I’ll be able to get out in the am. I make the choice to go home. Again alternate between sleeping and prowling. It has been a long challenging season.  Mom passed away in April, I miss her.

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Got the word late yesterday all of our farmers markets have been shut down this weekend. The loss in revenues is tremendous for us. Called my drivers to tell them they have two days off. Change all the cut orders, have to find a home for all the produce that was picked that now has nowhere to go. Still asking the farmers to pick anything and everything they can, get it in the refrigerators,  ask local CSA members to pickup at the farm.  Let everyone know the farm is open and we are ready and waiting for their business. Phone calls and emails are flying back and forth. Open the farm store,  make sure everyone at the farm is okay and we all have ways of communicating.  Load my little truck with CSA deliveries and leave for the Bronx and Brooklyn. The deliveries have to go. The pantries are depending on us. I personally do the run I won’t send my drivers out, we have to drive into evacuation zones to deliver some of the produce.

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How do you describe what is happening.  How do you describe what has happened.  How do you describe what is to come.  It starts with the warnings, there’s a storm, a big one, it’s coming.  At first you think okay we’ve had storms before, I’ve lived through hurricanes here before we’ll hang on and deal with it like we always do.  The warnings escalate, this is a big one, category 1, no 2 no 3 the projected path has us in the line of fire.  The weekend is coming when we have all of our markets and csa deliveries, maybe it’ll go out to sea, maybe we’ll be on the fringes and just get a few inches of rain.  Just in case let’s start harvesting.   Calculate how much I think we can sell, how many deliveries we have scheduled, what can we store the best.   Strip all the tomatoes, cut greens, pick the peas.  Check the weather reports, this is not good, how far out can we harvest and hold product.  Winter squashes, we’re just beginning to harvest them.  I just pick some pumpkins, get watermelons, *$! here comes the rain and there are still acres to harvest.  Work faster, harder, how much can we pull.  Stuff the refrigeration units.  The produce has never looked more beautiful than right now.  It sparkles.  I wish you could be here to see it, inhale the perfume of the herbs and on the horizon like a beast in a horror movie it comes.   The sky darkens, the heavens open up and there’s no stopping it.  I keep taking pictures so I can share what once was, what is.  To remind myself in a month why we are so limited in produce.

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Planting time

The weather has finally sided in our favor and the activity on the farm is rapidly escalating.  A friend of mine once likened his orchard to a giant engine getting ready to roar.  If  that could be said of our farm then we are now in the process of warming our engine up.  The vegetables are putting on size and color.  Seed orders are still arriving and the farmers are planting like mad.  Down in the back section of the farm on field mk1 the farmers were laying plastic mulch today.  This field is just under a mile in length and there were five beds made each covered with a layer of black plastic.  So that puts us at about 5 miles of plastic laid on the farm this year and we’ve only begun.    I really don’t like to put this out there but it means a tremendous labor saving issue and healthier plants that won’t have to fight the weeds to grow.  It also helps to heat the soil so plants like watermelon, whose root systems need the extra boost of heat, will survive and grow in our climate here.

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Think back to not that long ago, March, three months in fact. Rain, rain, rain and more rain. Then the flood waters came thankfully not the flood waters of biblical proportions but enough to set our region back on its’ heels. Enough to set the farmers behind a month in their planting cycles. Enough to allow time for other projects to become a higher priority while we waited for the water to recede and the soil to dry and the earth to warm.  Enough that we have seen the farmers markets a little bit emptier, the baskets a little bit liter as we start off a little bit softer this year.  A couple of weeks ago a major hail storm hit the Hudson Valley Region, luckily for us the hail was north in the valley, not so lucky the farmers whose farms were significantly damaged by the storm.  Last week the ovens of all creation were turned on to full throttle and we watched as the plants withered and wilted from the heat as the seed heads rose majestically above the plants, bolting we call it in our version of farmville.   Last night the moon was so full and the air temperature was steadily dropping – almost cold enough that the thought of frost crept into the fringes of my mind.   I think to myself what will this bring and watch as the morning dawns.  Put on a sweatshirt, watch the potato plants shimmy off the night time dew and stretch for the sun.  See the new seeds fall from the hands that feed us into the rich fertile soil, watch as the soil gently covers the seeds with a light blanket.   Breathe and sigh with anticipation and relief of the coming harvest and begin the days work anew.   So while we have a slow start due to the rainy days of March we all look forward to the bountiful harvest coming on as the cucumbers and squashes begin to vine out, the beans are planted and the tomatoes and peppers get ready to start setting blossoms for the bees to pollinate and the farm gets ready to burst into full throttle of growing for the coming harvest.

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