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"Turn, Turn, Turn..."

By Amanda Vogel, Farm Fellow

Farming is hard work. Change is hard work. This year, I am devoted to both.

I’d done some reasonably hard work before, both personal and professional. But here on this mountain, my experiences outpace my expectations, again and again. Which means—staying in the midst of those twin commitments, to farm and to change, is often harder than I knew. Than I could know.

I began to wonder if I was accomplishing much of either. What have I learned in the last 10+ weeks? Have I had the time and energy to listen, absorb, contemplate, and synthesize? No easy answers arose, so I started a list.

Some Things I’ve Learned:

How to prep a plant bed

How to lay drip tape

How to lay plastic mulch

How to lay organic mulch

A consternated skunk’s foot tamp

The purpose and placement of swales

Medicinal tea desiccation

Mushroom log inoculation

Hoop and row cover installation

The calming way to hold a chicken

Chickens’ favorite food scraps

Where the hens hide their eggs

Our utter reliance on grass species

How to trellis and weave tomatoes

How to prune suckers and shoots

How to water the greenhouse

How to shade the greenhouse

The look of a healthy pasture

How to herd ducks and cattle

That pollen is indigestible

Formic acid mite treatment

The tenacity of deer

Electric fence installation

Balanced compost cultivation

How to identify Asteraceae

How to say Asteraceae

How soon birds take the cherry crop

How to wash and pack produce

How to read a soil sample report

How to perfectly line dry my laundry

How to keep track of my work gloves

How to take regular breaks

When and how to harvest—

arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage,

carrots, chamomile, chard, chicken,

cucumbers, dill, eggs, fava beans,

garlic, garlic scapes, green beans, kale,

lady’s mantle, lavender, lemon balm, lettuce,

mint, oregano, peas, potatoes,

shiso, spinach, summer squash, and thyme.

Even this incomplete catalog of my time here is heartening.

Jonathan McRay, one of our workshop instructors, described farming as a “managed disruption of an ecosystem.” I’d like to borrow and warp that simple, beautiful construct.

I am also an ecosystem, managing the disruption of change through hard work and subtle learning. One afternoon, I’ll be watering the greenhouse, humming and sweating, and suddenly realize—all those little seeds have finally started to sprout.

“Don’t let this fading summer pass you by” - Neko Case

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