Meet this week’s vegetables: (Newberg options may differ slightly!)
- Cherries — These are “Sweetheart” cherries from my parents’ property, next door to us. They haven’t been sprayed with anything!
- Salad turnips
- Bok choy — One of the most well-known Asian greens, bok choy is great for chopping and stir frying with Asian flavors (ginger, soy, etc.). Pair it with broccoli, tunips, spinach, and/or sweet onions. Serve with chicken and rice. Yummy!
- Salad mix
- Summer squash
- Sweet onions
This season … oh, this season. How do I even begin to express how full of everything this season has been? It’s hard at times to do this year justice when we are still in the midst of it, not knowing exactly how each week will unfold, let alone having time to process all we have just lived through the week prior.
Needless to say, it has been intense and packed so full of decisions, new lessons, mistakes, surprises, joys, griefs, laughter and tears. I have said this before this year, but each Monday when I sit down to write the newsletter, I struggle the most with choosing which story to tell from the last week, because it is hard to believe that it has only been seven days since I last documented our doings here on the farm.
Some of the stories are easier to tell than others; some are more private and harder to share — especially some of the hard moments. There is something acutely private about the different kinds of exhaustion each of us can feel at the end of a challenging day — Casey’s private story is different than Jesse’s, which is different than Kimmie’s, which is different than Chloe’s. (I haven’t even had a moment to introduce Chloe, our newest employee! Welcome Chloe!)
A farmer friend recently posted on her farm blog about a very hard day, when the emotional challenge of managing it all came to a head and had her almost warning her children to “never become farmers.” She came back around of course, as we do too after moments of mini internal tantrums and frustrations.
I responded to her by saying that I very much relate this season. As I have been saying, it’s hard to express how this season has been so challenging when in reality so much of it has been positive in the final outcome.
I was talking about this with Casey yesterday, about how hard of a season it has been. This was at the end of a weekend full of challenges, and yet Casey still expressed surprised: “Really? It’s been a hard season?” Because of course, if we look out our window, we can see a gorgeous planting of blooming potatoes (probably our best ever), a third year orchard with the best fruit set yet, and more. The CSA shares and our restaurant harvest list are growing in diversity and abundance, just as they should — in spite of an extended cold, wet spring.
It’s just that we’re stretched so very thin at this point by our farm’s growth in every direction. Some days, we are working at the thinnest margin of our energy and resources, and the normal bumps feel harder.
And, the reality is there are always bumps. And, as we expand the scope of our operation, we just increase the possibility of those bumps. Just in the last two weeks, we have had some doozies (mostly involving animals, of course):
Our awesome milk machine broke (our fault, preventable), which added significantly to our workload each day as we had to hand milk again until replacement parts arrived (a week and a half later). Our youngest calf died mysteriously — this was a huge irreplaceable loss. Given that there were no signs of anything, we were hard pressed to learn from the death. In the transition to get our growing chicks out of the brooder set-up and onto pasture, we’ve lost quite a few simply because the inverter and battery set-up we had to run heat lamps in their mobile house has continually failed to work all night long (still a mystery — we thought it was the inverter’s fault, but now we think it’s the batteries). When the light turns off, the chickens have a habit of “piling” on each other for warmth (and out of panic), usually leaving a few suffocated. Just this morning (Monday), we woke up to a cow with what we think is bloat (extreme, very dangerous gas), something we weren’t expecting because they’d been on the same pasture for days and days. But clearly the clover is growing, and fast growing clover is notorious for bloating cows. So, this morning we are addressing that situation.
These incidents are hard to take, and even harder to share because of how frustratingly preventable they feel that they should be. And, of course, as we know from our experience of farming that in future years we will foresee some of these situations, and our systems will be better established so that things like keeping a heat lamp on all night should theoretically be less challenging.
But, there are always bumps even with our tried and true systems and infrastructure too, leaving me feeling just plain humble. This week was full of those things too, which felt less significant but still had us running around “putting out fires” — the tractor ran out of diesel on the new land (it is bad to run out of diesel); our new truck has a flat tire; our oldest cooler unit froze over and stopped working on a hot day (with two hanging sheep carcasses in it — fortunately we caught it in time to move them); we messed up on a restaurant delivery; etc etc etc.
Again, aside from the very new animal type of bumps, none of this is new — we can expect little breakdowns and mistakes, just as we can expect less than pleasant weather. Over the years, we’ve learned (for the most part) how to stay cool in even big emergencies. The experience is just magnified by learning so many new things and adding so many new moving parts to the farm — we knew this would be a challenging season, so the experience is not entirely a surprise. But, one can “know” that something will be hard and still experience that challenge keenly in the moment. I can’t help once again think about my own upcoming labor with this second child; yes, I “know” it will be hard, but I will still have to go through it all the same! And, just as with labor, we have been in such moments before (starting the farm and building our house) — it’s just hard to remember to fullness of that pain in retrospect.
And, of course, there are always elements that we can’t anticipate. Our labor situation this year has been in constant flux for a million different reasons that are very personal to everyone involved — we definitely did not anticipate this variable in the year.
When we hit those momentary lows in this season (which fortunately do pass into beautiful high moments that remind us of everything good about our life and work), I’ve been reminding myself that 2012 is a Dragon year in the Chinese zodiac cycle. Dragon years are auspicious years, notoriously full of life-changing challenge. Given that the year still holds more surprises and challenges (not the least of which is the welcoming of our second child sometime in the next two months), I find it comforting to remember that this is just one year of our life, to think that this pain is simply the fire of the Dragon year having its influence on us.
And, it’s a year full of challenges that we joyfully embraced and (for the most part) are grateful to have. The opportunities that we have had this year astound me — managing 100 acres, caring for a diverse farm of plants and animals, working alongside talented joyful people, providing food for our community, parenting our beautiful child, growing another beautiful child … certainly these things come with big challenges along the way.
But I look forward to Thanksgiving, when we will hopefully be through the thick of this season of growth and newness (and even our child will be growing out of the newborn stage) — I trust that we will be once again counting our blessings and feeling rich in those ways that come with a life of hard work.
In the meantime, at the urging of some friends and CSA members, I did want to share some of the emotional challenges of the season so far. At times it is hard to share these things without making it sound like the farm is about the crash and burn — which is hardly the case. Our farm is quite resilient, and in the end, so are we. But certainly that resiliency takes something out of us on hard days (and yes, I have started seeing a few gray hairs in Casey’s beard this year). We’re certainly not the bright young things who started this farm back in 2006, but our life is so much fuller now.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
… and the rest of the farm crew!
Next week’s veggies (probably!):
New potatoes • Blueberries • Salad turnips • Kale • Bok choy • Lettuce • Cabbage • Summer squash • Green onions
Oakhill CSA member meetings coming up!
Our farm is headed in a direction to provide you more of your diet so that you too can experience some of the wonder of living the seasons through your food. I’ve written a bit about our future plans for a “full diet CSA” — now we’d like to provide an opportunity for you to learn more, in person, with us your farmers. We’re going to do two presentations with question and answer periods to help you understand how the CSA is going to evolve next year. At these meetings, we’d also like to hear from you about your needs, desires, hopes, fears, and limitations as a CSA member. We’ll be doing a session in Mac and in Newberg on different days, but they are not limited to membership in those communities. If the time and day in the other town works better for you, please attend that session. Here is what we have scheduled:
Thursday, July 19, 6 pm
First Baptist Church, Social Hall
125 SE Cowls St, McMinnville
Sunday, July 29, 3 pm
Impact Performance Training Gym
720 E 1st St, Newberg
Thanks to both places for hosting our meetings! I hope everyone can make it to at least one of these meetings. If you have questions or concerns, call (503-474-7661) or email (email@example.com).