Sorry I’ve been a little MIA lately. summer in taking its toll on me. There is so much to do, so many things to take care of…
I am really proud of us… Yes, I feel out of control and for a control freak, feeling out of control is not a good thing, but when I look at all that we’ve done at the farm and at the house this year, without the help of anyone, I am truly amazed.
I wished more than one time this year that we had family around here. A grandma that will take the kids for a few hours or cook us a meal while we work on the farm, a grandpa or a brother that can add some men power for the heavy kind of projects.
But it’s us, just us and even though the field is full of weeds that drive me nuts and make me feel out of control, there is still so much food growing there because we put it there. And in my eyes, that’s something… A valuable something.
The struggle is so real, you guys. Farming is such a romantic business… You imagine fields and fields of beautiful crops in straight lines, a farmer driving a tractor down the field, healthy and smooth leaves, clean and flat walkways… I know we will get there eventually but the reality is very different at the moment.
There are no clean walkways, they are full of weeds.
The tractor is not doing any work because we couldn’t really figure out how to make it do the work.
The bugs are everywhere enjoying the buffet of leaves.
And the farmers are so tired they find themselves eating a hamburger at Cook-Out very often instead of their own home grown organic food… Ironic, isn’t it?
Farming is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I birthed four babies naturally, so that’s saying something…
But when I manage to calm myself down a bit and look around and ignore the weeds, forgive myself for the hamburger and the dirty house, I see so much beauty.
We started all those plants from a tiny seed, we planted it in the soil, watered it, protected it and now it gives us food. It never gets old no matter how many times I do it.
I get to see my kids maneuver the tall weeds in their quest for the perfect ground cherry, they know the names of all the bugs around and which one is a good one and which one is a bad one, they know all the vegetables; they helped plant those seeds and some of them get to come to the market with me.
Yesterday was so hot and they were falling apart but we had to finish picking the beans. So I rolled the wagon close to me so they can sit down while I work and we started this game where one person starts a story and the other needs to continue it. We can up with stupid funny stories about grasshoppers that were too hot so they went swimming in the goats’ water bucket and a ladybug that was lost and met a mouse that showed her the way…
The other day, the girls were in day camp and I had the two little ones with me at the farm. I had only a couple of hours to work before I had to head back to town to pick them up and even though my baby was sleeping, my little boy was such a handful (the hyperactive bugger!) that I couldn’t get anything done.
He was constantly trying to check on the baby and I didn’t want him to wake her up. I kept running up and down the field to check on him because he just won’t stay close to me.
I got so frustrated, it was a Friday and I had to finish picking if I wanted to have anything to sell at the market the next day… I stood there in the field trying to calm myself down and convinced myself that I can get it done. Maybe I’ll be back later with the girls, maybe I’ll be back at night after my husband comes back from work, maybe I can pick at 3 am before the market even though it will be dark….
It was one of those times when I was wishing my mother was closer so I can get just a tiny little break. Usually, those times make me feel very lonely, but I’ve been doing a lot of inner work lately so I was just talking to the universe trying to understand what was its plan here…
Then suddenly from nowhere my neighbor from across the road is walking down the driveway, a bag in hand…
I met her a few times but never had too much time to get to know her, we are practically strangers. She had a bag full of coloring books and crayons and a few stuffed toys. Benny grabbed a book and crayons and disappeared into the tiny house, and my neighbor? She wouldn’t leave! She insisted on staying and helping me pick.
I couldn’t believe it. She is an older lady and I told her she should go home to the AC, it was a 100 F outside. She wouldn’t go, she helped me pick the whole field and I even managed to stop at Walmart on my way to pick up the girls from day camp!
You see, I wholeheartedly believe in this lifestyle. I want to raise my kids on a working farm. That’s my dream, this is why I want to do this backbreaking work. I don’t believe there is a better way to grow.
It’s hard, it’s so so hard. I’ve heard so many times over the past few months “Lee, you live in lala land”, from the people that are important to me the most… But dammit! I love lala land, I don’t think there is a better place to be!
So that’s where I am and I don’t know how to not be there. I’ve never been good at doing something I don’t like doing. I cringe when I hear people talking about how they hate their job, I always think to myself that I prefer living in a tent in the woods than being so miserable.
I hope this mindset won’t kill me, I hope this mindset won’t destroy my family, I hope we are doing the right thing… But the only way to know if you are doing the right thing is to do what feels right. So it is what it is and that’s it.
We are doing so good, but it’ll get even better if we can just hold on, I know it in my heart.
Let me show you the beautiful mess…
There is more zucchini than I know what to do with. I’ll definitely won’t plant so much next year.
At some point, I thought it was lost to bugs, but we fought hard and won even though we lost some plants to vine borrowers and stink bugs.
The variety is gray zucchini, it has the shape of an eggplant but even though it’s fat on the bottom, the seeds are pretty small so it’s got a lot of meat to it.
This row also has summer squash plants in it. I found that locals like them very young, I have to pick them when they are still smooth… But even then I have too many and can’t sell enough at the local market.
I already froze a yearly supply of squash and zucchini for us so I think I’ll try making squash lemon marmalade. I found an interesting recipe online that I want to try.
Peppers are everywhere…
We grow four kinds; sweet bell, spicy banana (or Hungarian Wax), jalapenos, and cayenne.
I didn’t mean to grow so many spicy ones, the banana pepper was supposed to be sweet but I made a mistake and ordered the spicy one.
The ground cherries are crazy! Those huge plants that you see in the picture started from the tiniest seeds, the seeds are smaller than a carrot seed. I started them in flats in the germination room and never thought they’ll grow so big (it’s my first time growing ground cherries).
I wish I could say that we are getting a good harvest from them…
The fruit supposed to look like the one in the picture above; light orange and so sweet. It tastes like pineapple and is great as a snack or in salsa.
But most of the cherries look like this.
It’s the craziest thing and we weren’t ready for it because the plants are doing so good and there is no sign of pests on the outside. Then you open the husk and the cherry is all rotten or eaten from the inside.
Is it a worm? Is it rotten from too much water? I have no clue.
But anyway, the kids love hunting for those and it’s easy to let them since they just need to pick what is already on the ground and not make the judgment of picking or not picking the fruit off the plant (great for the little ones).
Eggplants are starting to form and they are so beautiful.
I don’t eat eggplants but my husband loves them and they add this amazing purple color to all the green.
Soon we’ll have loads of corn! If I can get to it, I would like to can some corn this year. I’ve never done it before but we do eat canned corn so I’ll try to can as much as I can.
Tomatoes are big and heavy and green…
We have a hundred and forty plants or so and the only ones that are doing good are the little cherry tomatoes. They are called Matt’s Wild tomatoes and they are tiny and beautiful.
The other kinds, the large ones, are having a very hard time with the amount of rain and the humidity we have here this summer.
A lot of them have blossom end rot and many of them have been green on the vines for weeks and don’t ripen. We get enough for our family to eat, but from this amount of plants, I planned on selling a million tomatoes and it’s ain’t happening.
It’s the year of cucumbers, I tell you.
The cucumbers are having so much fun! This variety is called Marketmore 76 and they are beautiful and yummy cucumbers. They have little seeds even if you pick them big, and they are good for both pickling and salads.
Can you see the sweet potatoes in between the weeds? We have about 200 ft of sweet potatoes that we started from slips and as long as we weed this bed I am sure they’ll do really good, we live in the sweet potato state after all.
I just have to find time to weed!
The lettuce was beautiful and so yummy. This is a buttercrunch variety called Speckled Bib. At the beginning, people at the market weren’t sure what this thing was, but whoever was willing to give it a try came back to ask for more.
I had one eight years old boy coming up to me at the market to tell me how good the lettuce was, he was so excited and he made my day.
Kale was another great seller at the market earlier this summer. It’s such an easy crop to grow and it just keeps giving. I harvested the same 200 ft row every Friday before the market for a few good weeks before it got too hot.
The kale is now sleeping in the heat and once the weather cools down it will start growing again.
We had a few beets just for ourselves but lots and lots of beans. No matter how many beans I bring to the market they will always sell first.
I also froze many many vacuum bags of beans for us. I wrote here before about the ‘right’ way to freeze beans by blanching them first, but I had no time for that this year so I simply bagged them and sent them to the freezer. I am sure they’ll be ok.
Our favorite way of eating beans is steaming them and then adding butter, garlic, and salt. It’s an easy side dish or a snack. Check out my healthy green bean recipe here.
We also had a great harvest of onions. We are keeping those for us. I’ll have to see how long 110 onions last us and then adjust my number for next year.
We don’t have a root cellar so for now, I am storing them in crates with straw inside the house (same for the potatoes), I hope it will be good enough to make them last a while.
I am so proud of our potatoes! The Colorado potato beetles almost got us like they did two years ago, but we got it under control and we are now digging the beauties out.
I love this variety. It’s called Kennebec and they are medium size potatoes. I buy the seed potatoes from The Potato Garden, cut them and plant (you can read more about how to grow potatoes here).
They are round and have white skin and flesh. You can make anything with those; casseroles, french fries, hash browns… Any potato dish.
We planted about 300 ft and only dug 60 ft or so. We are trying to do a little bit every day but we have to hurry because I don’t want them to rot in the ground.
I am not selling them at the market but trying to keep them for ourselves. Just like the onions, I put them in crates with layers of straw and store them in the air conditioned house. It’s not cool enough, I know… They need to be stored in a 40 F space but I don’t have a root cellar yet.
We are thinking about burying barrels or an old fridge for a temporary cellar but didn’t get to it yet. If you have another idea for a temporary root cellar that is easy to make, please share in the comments bellow.
Another great crop that we are doing so good with is the basil. It was very easy to start in a 128 cell flat and super easy to transfer to the garden. It doesn’t need any special conditions, we didn’t even compost the bed it is in… If it’s hot outside and its got water, it will grow.
I’ve been making lots of pesto and freezing it and I take some to the market.
So that is what’s growing on the farm this season. I feel like we started this year knowing nothing about growing vegetables on a larger scale and now we know so much more.
Of course, just by doing it you learn a whole lot, but I also have to say that going to the market is teaching me so much.
First, all the other farmers are sharing everything they know. Years and years of experience and knowledge, I think they are so happy to meet someone young who is eager to learn since their own kids don’t want anything to do with farming.
The second thing is that just by hanging out at the market and talking to people, seeing what they are willing to spend their money on and what they won’t spend their money on teaches you so much.
I know to grow more beans but less zucchini, I know to grow more tomatoes but less hot peppers…
I feel like we are now at the peak of the summer. I feel like I am losing control, like the pressure of the million things that there is to do is almost too much to take. But I know that if we hold tight for just a little bit longer things will start to slow down again.
Before you know it it will be time to plant the fall garden (wich will be much smaller than this one since there will be no market) and then winter will roll in for some time of slowing down and reflection on the year that passed.
What will happen next year, I have no clue. Something will grow but I don’t know what and how much. We will have to evaluate and decide where we go from here but no matter how hard it is, I am so happy we are farming.
It was my dream, it’s still my dream and I WILL figure out an easier way to do this.
I told my friend the other day that until a year ago I was still feeling like a 16 years old. I haven’t yet found what I wanted to do when I grow up. This past year I grew up so much. I found it, this is it, this is what I want to do and I hope I’ll be able to keep doing it.
But no matter what happens I am so thankful for this experience.