Every year I plant 1,000 sunflowers just for the birds and the bees. I don’t sell them, or even harvest but a few. I love to watch the bees ravenously crawling around on the flower in full bloom, desperate as a swarm of 6 year olds when the birthday party pinata bursts. Then the giant blooms fall over when the seeds fill out, signaling the gold finches to swoop in for a summer snack.
2017 was a wet year, if you hadn’t heard. A great year to be a slug, and slug is who I blame for eating so many young sunflower seedlings last year. The strongest sunflowers I had the whole year was planted by a visiting class from the World of Inquiry Middle School. The kids lined up in the dirt, squatted down, tucked in the seeds, and walked away. This beautiful oddball to the left grew among that row of stunning golden giants, a tangled and curious anomaly.
One thing that really struck me about farming early on was how much of it I could do with absolutely no experience, background, or prior training. I was handed seeds and a given a basic, brief explanation. And they grew. The most eloquent way I’ve heard it explained is, “Shit wants to grow.” Nudge along but get out of the way and enjoy the show.
What I’m trying to say is that my job is really easy. You’re probably qualified. Must love dirt.
Like Snow, By Wendell Berry
I headed out to the farm today and enjoyed a crunchy morning stroll across the field. Four months now since I first walked out here; I’m constantly taken by the views.
When I started this land search almost 3 years ago, a wise friend and mentor told me that it could take years to find the right place. Naturally, I didn’t believe her.
I’ve seen dozens of farms come up for sale. I’ve searched actively at times, passively during my busy farming season, and aggressively at moments of desperation. Told myself it doesn’t have to be perfect, it will be perfected over time. But back in September, when I was out of town, my realtor Dennis sent me a listing, a little farther out of town than I’d wanted, a little bigger than I’d been thinking.
“Sure,” I said, “Can we take a look when I get back in town if it’s still around?”
A week later we met at the gate and walked 30 feet into the field.
“Yep, this is it.”
He asked if I was sure; the soil seemed rocky. Let’s walk a little further.
OK, I’ll walk, but I already know. I was drawn to the dynamic wavy soil, high and low spaces, the wooded slope, the small marshy pond-puddle. One tall tree left in the middle of it all to give a tired farmer shade.
4 months later, the initial terror of taking on this daunting endeavor has at least momentarily subsided, giving way to a well of excited anticipation being fed by streams of supportive friends and family who managed to keep believing this long-thought day would ever come.
I feed that energy into planning and preparing paired with a little bit of dreaming for now while this crunchy snow coats the soil, barring me from fieldwork but not field walks.
During an intimate fireside gathering with friends toasting champagne to each others’ accomplishments, our hostess asks me if I need a pitchfork. Well I have one, but one can hardly have too many pitchforks. She leaves the room, goes up and down stairs, passes through again saying, “I’ve had this one set aside for you,” eventually returning with fork, ribbon, and a dibbler, which she bowtie bundles before handing over to me. The others chuckle and tease that the fork comes ‘dirt included,’ but I’m touched; this gift is just my style. The gesture says my friend was thinking of me, wanting to contribute to my new endeavor; the tool tells me she knows and respects my appreciation for thrift and utility; the intact dirt speaks to her comfort with my unconventionality. Thank you dear friend!
On Christmas morning I shuffled into my mom’s house and kicked off my snowy boots. I noticed a giant scarecrow laying on the couch, covered up to its neck with a blanket and thought nothing of it. The grandkids are here, surely they tucked in this scarecrow last night before heading off to bed themselves.
Alas, to my surprise, this was a gift for me, ‘wrapped up’ and ready to go to the farm. Of all the items on the checklist to ready the farm for spring: seeds, tools, irrigation… the vital resident scarecrow hadn’t even crossed my mind. Thankfully, mom was focused on the details, and I pity the crow who dares come near this formidable beast.
I did tell everyone present not to be surprised if, come busy July, I borrow these overalls sometime when I run out of clean pants…