A Farmer in Soul
Two months ago I posted a piece entitled, “I’m a Farmer” (http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2016/05/im-farmer.html), an innocuous bit of fluff describing the miraculous recovery of my right shoulder from an earlier injury. The irony is that the shoulder began to get better the minute I started taxing it heavily by prepping the soil for planting last spring.
I might have thought rest and taking it easy would have had a more beneficial outcome, but having tried that for more than ten years, I guess a new direction was called for. When I wrote the first piece, my central focus was that what I did for a living was work the soil, so that made me a farmer.
Whereas that is certainly accurate, just as one who teaches is a teacher, there is more to the whole picture than just the physical components. Working the soil, blending in rice hulls and amendments, and planting are all part of the profession, but it is not until you start to weave in the mental and emotional elements that you transition from a farmer in name, to a farmer in soul.
In past years I have always had a kitchen garden, and in more recent times, I have grown the medicine I require to continue to manage my mood spectrum disorder. Now I have taken it to the next level, by assuming ownership of the West Forty, that part of HappyDay Farms which encompasses my back yard.
|This was taken in mid-June.|
I should explain that: Annie and I own all of the land that the farm is on, but that’s not the same thing as taking ownership.
Because we grow both cannabis and vegetables/fruits, along with flowers and other herbs, it is natural that we would integrate all into the terraces that run perpendicular to the gently-sloping, south-facing terrain of the farm. A single terrace in my back yard is likely to measure 75 feet in length by six feet in width.
As the summer proceeds, those crops planted amongst these four cannabis plants, will grow and be harvested. As space allows, the newly freed-up parts of the terrace will be replanted. As much space as still remains between any two given cannabis plants, will be replanted appropriately.
|Overgrown poplars block light.|
Throughout the summer and fall, these terraces will continuously produce cabbage (right now), greens, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, basil, and any number of floral contributions to be found amidst the splendor of it all. The only change is that the space will become more limited as the cannabis plants grow bigger.
Now I am orchestrating not only the four main plants in any given terrace, but all that resides within, so when tomato plants start disappearing-one by one-I get disconcerted. The number is up to six so far but I can find no evidence of gophers. There are no tell-tale mounds and thrusting rebar into the ground has yielded no tunnels.
Normally when a gopher pulls any plant down into the ground, it can’t do so without it being obvious. The soil is disturbed and remnants of the plant-napped victim remain. Such is not the case. I think maybe rabbits are the culprits or possibly the little ground squirrels.
These guys are noisy and obnoxious, and they drive the dogs nuts. I see them everywhere and they are pretty bold. They tag-team and steal food from the chickens, a fairly risky proposition if you ask me. Those chickens are savage.
Otherwise, I can’t figure out where the tomato plants are going and it weighs on my mind. I may have more than a hundred of the little beauties planted, but that does not detract from the importance of the loss of half-dozen.
|That's more like it.|
How many more are slated to be absconded with? Such is the life of the farmer.
On the reverse side there are perks, such as taking what was destined for the burn pile, and converting it into next spring’s soil foundation. I trimmed the poplars, which had swelled up to great dimensions by the inundation of holidays and superfluous lower growth. I had a prodigiously massive pile of cuttings.
Having just burned last season’s accumulation of similar deposits, I was not anxious to begin another one. For one thing the quail take refuge in them, along with other unwanted varmints. Yes, the quail are varmints because they can swoop through a newly planted segment of the farm, and feast on those seedlings.
So I stripped the leaves and saplings off of the bigger poplar branches, and started layering. I had driven my little pickup to where the compost got dumped, and loaded up about three-fourths of it, and I had gathered up a comparable amount of the manure compost from the chicken yard.
Now after mixing the two soils, I layered out a generous portion, covered it with a thick layer of poplar material and repeated the process until there was no more organic matter. Once I had finished, I got the hose and soaked the pile to kick-start the process of breaking it all down.
What I should have been doing is pounding fence posts into the ground to support the upcoming cannabis trellises, but once I begin that task, I will have no time for anything else for two months. I love the work but it is all-consuming. Therefore, if I am to dally around with “cool projects,” I have to do it lickety-split.
|Halfway through the process.|
So yes, the difference between working as a farmer and thinking as a farmer, is what I am talking about. Many are called but few are chosen, as the old adage goes.
Like being a teacher, being a farmer means you never really let it go. You are always running different scenarios through your mind, balancing, planning and assessing. If it isn’t disappearing tomatoes or building compost piles, it’s discovering timers with dead batteries, by noticing that the soil from which you are pulling weeds is just too dry. All in a day’s work.
But so is eating the outcome of it all. When I contemplate that we are only four weeks or so away from fresh tomatoes, I know that any doubts I had, will disappear as quickly as those half-dozen tomato plants.
And I won’t even have to set any doggoned traps.