I don’t know if anyone else or other farmers are like this, but here is the small, organic farm roller coaster we ride. This is the ride or the seasons of hopes, dreams, hard work, and ambition this farm family endures.
In winter, we look out the window yearning to get outside and grow something. We read lots of inspiring books and blogs. At this point of the year, we seriously feel we can farm by hand at least 100 acres, no problem. Keeping it weed free with beautiful, neat rows with a very, large variety of vegetables growing perfectly, with perhaps even plants that aren’t normally grown in our area. Then starts the arrival of all those forbidden catalogs, making the yearning get worst. So we give in and start ordering seeds. Not just seeds we need and know will grow, but seeds of all those plants that are suppose to be able to grow in our zone although no one has ever grown or seen them here before. The sinful pictures in the catalog are so beautiful we just can’t resist because we are going to grow a new fruit or veggie and have something really unique this year. These catalogs cause you to spend hundreds of dollars you most likely shouldn’t have spent, like what a fieldman does to a conventional farmer. Conventional farmers have a fieldman to convince them to spend extra money on fertilizer and chemicals they don’t necessarily need and we organic farmers have seed catalogs. We don’t need verbal convincing, we look pictures and we are sold. I compare the seed catalogs to what I believe the Sears & Roebuck catalog used to be to past generations.
In the spring, we set out with our high ambition level, hopes, dreams, several boxes of seeds (some that never should of been ordered, that darn seed catalog is just too tempting), rolls of plastic, gloves, hoes and shovels to farm this land (except with just 20 acres, not the 100 we dreamed about in the winter). There are lots of hand drawn plans and computer spreadsheets that we end up not following or even look at after the first couple of days planting. To start, we plant thousands upon thousands of seeds in the cold frames and house. We work the land up using a disc and rototiller not shovels (hoping to achieve the goal of going no-till some day) and start planting outside. The arrival of irrigation water is an exciting day. That is like the starting bell going off signalling the official growing (farming) season is underway.
In the beginning of summer, we are still planting, weeding, watering, harvesting early season produce, marketing and working like crazy with no rest. We are going strong and not tiring yet, loving this lifestyle we chose. By mid-summer, we are exhausted, the weeds out grow our ability to pull them, everything needs harvested and water at the same time. There are not enough hours in the day or energy left in our bodies to function properly. By late summer, we are looking forward to winter and that early frost, not really wanting the frost for income purposes but our weak and weary bodies could use a nice, long break.
With Fall comes the cool down and a little renewed energy for us so we manage to function until that frost does hit. And with the prediction of frost, there is a long day of scrambling to get all the produce covered to extend the growing season just a little longer. Now wait, weren’t we asking for the frost not that long ago. I don’t know if this a normal human reaction or just crazy, torture we do to ourselves. Of course, plants can only hang on for so long and then they are done for the year too. So there is the last harvest, field cleanup and the storing and marketing of all the winter squash, pumpkins, onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes (new crop experiment for this year, one of those seed catalog temptations). Then starts that long awaited rest for us. Which is great for about a month, then we get our energy back. We start to go stir crazy with the cold weather and being contained to the house most the day. And the cycle starts all over again with winter.
As the old sayings go, “you learn from your mistakes” and “history repeats itself.” This little piece of farming history we are making keeps repeating itself every year. So I guess we aren’t making a mistake by living this lifestyle because we keep doing it again and again. It may be with different plants, seed catalogs, hopes, dreams, ambitions and temptations but the farming seasons will repeat every year.