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