Obviously I do not have a lot of time these days to sit down and write, which is unfortunate, because I have so much to share. The past few months have been a time of change, adventure, learning, and the occasional hurdle. Alas, I am forced to try and fit many weeks of stories into a handful of entries 🙂 In an attempt to get things rolling I will start with a little bullet point action.
Things I have learned, in no particular order:
– radish seed pods are tasty when they are fresh
– it is next to impossible to get a student loan forbearance without excessive amounts of paperwork, some determination, and A LOT of patience. This also applies for food stamps (now called SNAP benefits). In the end, I got them both. YEAHYA.
– rutabaga and turnips look almost identical to the untrained eye (and yes, I sold “baby turnips” to some chefs without any of us knowing any better.)
– chickens LOVE melons
– sharp knives ARE more dangerous than dull ones when applied to your finger. So, when you are hosting a baby shower and the mother-to-be is taking a pre-party nap, do not try to cut tomatoes with freshly sharpened knives, because you will cut your finger to the bone and end up at an urgent care. See picture from last post.
-my dog will fetch random over-sized vegetables and toss them into the air and sometimes hitting herself, which in turn makes the field workers laugh
– tomatoes exposed to irregular watering will lose calcium and develop blossom end rot.
– the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo books are addictive. I am on the last one and I would read it while driving, showering, eating, and working if possible.
– the amount of edible flowers and “weeds” is unreal
– part of my endless stomach problems have been caused by stomach ulcers (after an endoscopy and colonscopy).
– anesthesia from said procedure made me laugh uncontrollably as I was going under and apparently I grabbed a nurses arm while he was trying to put the oxygen tube in my nose and said ” Isn’t this HILARIOUS?”. I mean, why are there not more comedies centered around colonoscopy and endoscopy? Apparently they are a hoot 🙂
– cutting a goat’s hoof is not as scary as I thought, but still very intimidating
– there is a dwarf pig that is not potbelly but something with a mohawk (they have them at Legare Farm… and I want one
– no one works harder than a farmer. Seriously. My boss is up at dawn and awake till midnight. He drives to Columbia, Asheville, and Savannah every week to sell his produce while also working six local markets. Pick, prep, pack, load, unload, sell, re-load, unload, maintenance, planting, and repeat. Six days a week.
So thats is just a brief list to cover a few points. A lot of people have been checking in with me lately because I have once again started to disappear. The reality is, the program I am in only pays me enough to cover a minimal part of my bills, so I spend a lot of my time working other jobs. I garden, I babysit, and I build things. The program also has me in a class called FastTrack for first time entrepreneurs, which is phenomenal, but the homework is yet another responsibility that I find myself juggling. While I am learning something new almost everyday, I feel like I have learned very little about actual plants and farm animals, so moving forward I am going to actively seek resources to learn about cultivation. I have been making contact with a number of people that I want to learn from and so far, so good. Hopefully in the near future I will be learning more about chicken manure, propagation, grafting, soil treatment, pest control, indicators, and even sheering sheep.
As far as my “plan for the future”, well, that is a work in progress. The other day, I sat at lunch with two of my favorite ladies, as we discussed the complexities of life in your late twenties. All three of us are hard working, driven, well educated women with the ambition to take over world, but all of us find that we are simply lacking the opportunity. The same conversation has taken place amongst a few of my other friends that also find themselves working themselves to the bone for meager wages and no job security. Are we all victim to a bad economy? Is it self inflicted? Is our inability to settle causing us more harm than good? What is the “right” choice, job, or city? And in the end… who the hell keeps getting the jobs I want?
When faced with growing debt, I ultimately have to make decisions that are financially sound but I know myself well enough to know that I will never settle for a well paying job I hate. My currently temporary solutions for the near future include being a nanny, building farm buildings, and working farmers markets. So these are not exactly resume goldmines but for my personal health, sanity, and bank account, they are the best options at this point. In the meantime I will celebrate the wealth that I have in my family, boyfriend, and friends while enjoying the ride 🙂
What the? Where did the last month go? Its all a blur of strawberries, beans, onions, and dirt. Needless to say, we are not growing computers with wireless internet, so I have not exactly had a lot of access to upload my thoughts and pics.
So what the heck have I been doing?
When I work with the field workers, I pick first thing in the morning then wash and pack the produce for one of seven markets and dozens of clients. Half of my thoughts are lost on how to translate my conversation into Spanish and the other half are focused on mastering the art of quick picking. What exactly am I picking, you wonder? Well, what is in season of course 🙂 Right now that is peas, strawberries, all kinds of greens, turnips, carrots, onions, and broccoli.
As the weeks progress I find myself harvesting specialty items on my own…quietly working my way down the field listening to the sounds of the farm. Last week I found myself surrounded with rows of English peas, cheering on ladybugs as they hunted aphids…the glory of organic farming!
When I am not picking, I am shadowing the rest of the crew in various jobs. So far I have: planted potatoes, weeded, helped lay plastic and irrigation line (tractor attachment to the right), shelled peas, learned a little arc welding, built a play table for the goats, painted some signs, worked the farmers markets, gone on deliveries, and given quick tutorials on the farming equipment. Everyday is different from the previous, which makes my weeks pass quickly.
The one constant in my days is the animals. Since I was gravitating towards them every morning anyways, I have inherited critter duty. I could spend all day feeding peas to the chicks, scratching behind the ears of my favorite three-legged goat(left), and trying to convince the lone friendly rooster “Roy” to let me pick him up.
Last week, I opened the door only to have one fly straight at my head and escape. I slammed the coop door before the rest followed and with no defense, I had no choice but to run. Yes, I ran…all the way to the house. And that little punk chased me (they are really fast by the way) all the while I was screaming for Joseph like a five year old yells for her father. I stopped running when I heard the sound of chickens fighting and turned to see Roy, my friendly rooster, defending my honor! I was so proud of my little voice-cracking, outcast, little bird friend. He continued to protect me while Joseph and his wife corralled the nasty one back into the coop. Since then, I have not attempted to re-enter the coop… I will leave that to Joseph. Instead I spoil Roy, the chicks, and my lovely goats.
Today marks the first week of my working in the program and so far we have focused on paperwork, getting to know each other, and figuring out the program. Here is the daily breakdown for the past few days:
Monday: Johns Island for Field’s Farm tour in the AM and Rosebank Farm tour in the PM
Tuesday: Beaufort for Habbersham’s Community Farm tour
Wednesday: Mcclellandville for Our Local Foods/Thornhill farm tour
Thursday: West Ashley and Charleston to meet with all seven restaurants including: Med Bistro, Al Di La, Glass Onion, McGrady’s, Fig, Monza, and Fish.
Here are some pics from Wednesday at Our Local Foods:
Everyday we also take time to talk about logistics, funding, and schedules since this truly is a pilot program. It is really interesting coming into a new program in which you are able and expected to be a part of the decision making and development team. I am one of three apprentices- all of which have very different backgrounds. My last few months has been spent running a program, case working, and starting a garden. Matt graduated from CofC last spring with an English degree, decided to stay around and work in restaurants while working in his garden. Josh had been working as an Engineer in Orlando, FL but wanted an opportunity to get into organic farming, so he quit his job and moved here. Needless to say, we all have something different to the table.
We will all live with each other at some point in the house on Johns Island but there is always one apprentice living on the farm in McClellandville. Regardless, we will see each other every Thursday when we bring all of our produce together to sort and deliver. In addition to the apprentices, there is also Elizabeth who is running the Sustainable Ag program and Julie who is helping her specifically with the pilot. We have been spending our days squished together in cars at at tables for the last week and it seems as though our personalities weave together quite nicely.
From this point, we still have one site visit to do tomorrow at the Limehouse distribution facility to see how a program like ours operates on a large scale, which should be facinating. Then Monday, we all go to our farms! I start at Fields Farms for the first two months, transition to Rosebanks for two more, take classes during August, and then head to McClellandville for three months. Let the farming begin!
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