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Gratitude

Each night, after we finish supper (whether it’s at our dining room table or staring like a zombie at the television) we have taught Lincoln that he has to ask to be excused and he has to thank each of us for dinner.

This seems crazy and I by no means am shouting from the rooftop about  what a wonderful parent I am. But I am trying really hard to teach our son empathy and compassion. Yes, it’s obviously my job to feed my kid. But I want my kid to know that we work really hard to keep a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and our bodies warm. We are lucky because we are healthy and have an obnoxious work ethic. And for all this, we should be thankful each and everyday.

I was telling Chris the other day how shocked I am that people pay us to do their wedding flowers and when we show up on their wedding day they are so grateful for our hard work. “But they’re paying me, it’s my job,” I told him. His response? “We work with really kind and genuine people.”

So, let me tell you, I am forever grateful for people who reach out and connect with us, for people who have followed us all along, for those who listen to us, and for new friends who have just joined this crazy party. I am grateful to everyone who believes in this dream. Thank you.

P.S. Calendars are still for sale!

Fall Update

I’m sitting here at about 4:30 p.m. on this first day without daylight savings, peeking out the window mournfully as I know that darkness will soon be here.  The increased darkness this time of year is a good sign that it’s time to slow down a little, hunker down, and enjoy the harvests of our efforts.  Things have definitely slowed down around the farm, but we still have a lot to accomplish before winter truly arrives.

Our field production is almost completely done, except for one last bed of lettuce that is growing frustratingly slow with the cooler temps and limited daylight.  I’m hoping it will provide us more good harvest before a hard frost takes it out.  We have ripped out the majority of our fields at this point, but a handful of beds still need our efforts.  Inside, our micro green production is starting to expand.  We continue to deliver weekly to Green Top Grocery, and we’re starting to do some restaurant business as well.

Yesterday our sunflower shoots were used in the “Cure Series” at Kemp’s Upper Tap in Lexington, just a few miles from our farm.  For years, Audra and I have kept mental lists of our “Top 5 Meals.”  Usually the meals were special occasions or memorable meals from past vacations.  The meal yesterday is most definitely now on my Top 5 list, made even sweeter by the fact that we had a teeny tiny contribution to its deliciousness.  The vast collection of craft beers on tap didn’t hurt, either.

In addition to the micro mixes and sun/pea shoots, I’ve also started experimenting with micro herbs and am excited to add those to our list of products soon.  

While there is always a lot going on around here, we are definitely taking the hint and slowing down a little.  We took a weekend trip to Iowa a few weekends ago to visit Seed Savers Exchange Farm and enjoy the fall colors, and there’s been a decent amount of Netflix watching after dark in the past month.  As the holiday season approaches with astonishing speed, we’re once again compelled to reflect on how blessed we continue to be to be able to chase this crazy dream.

Our fields are going dormant for a while, but you can still enjoy the beauty of the farm with our 2018 calendar.  These are available now on our website; they make great gifts or really beautiful scratch paper.  

Full Circle

Last night, I removed all of the scattered items from the dining room table. I wiped it off, got out my supplies, and set up the ironing board. I got my glass of water and placed it on the side table, realizing the sacred act I just performed was one my mother did hundreds of times growing up.

Throughout my childhood, I’d watch her cut out patterns, sew curtains, design costumes, doodle, and help with school projects all at the dining room table. All family life circled around that wood slab.

I listened to an episode of the Levar Burton Reads podcast recently and in it Levar talked about a formative time in his life. When he was in the third grade, his teacher would leave him in charge of the class by having him read a book while she went to go fix herself her afternoon cup of tea. It helped him understand the responsibility of telling a good story and later in his life he realized this teacher saw something in him that he didn’t quite understand at the time. This formed who he is today.

It’s interesting to think about the formative moments and people that guide and mentor you to your passions and bring our your talents.

I cleaned off our dining room table to work on my family’s themed halloween costumes. I’ve rummaged through the supplies of many failed hobbies over the past years to create our costumes. But are they really failed hobbies? The watercolor supplies, the quilting phase, the embroidery floss, the ginormous scrapbooking tote: these are all pretty important pieces in my creative tapestry that have helped build the business that we have today and the person I am today.

But the most important thread in my creativity is my mom.  During my formative years, she gave me a safe space to create and experiment. She let me use her sewing machine to create clothes for our cats, she thought it was great when I wanted to knock a little patch of sod out of the yard to try to grow a few pumpkins one year, and she sat through countless hours of my homemade movies. I was lucky that I got to grow up where there were no boundaries to stretch my creativity.

I think about this as I watch my own child develop his interests and creativity. I see him hook up toy tractors to toy wagons with ribbons, yell at imaginary pets to jump on pretend trucks, and make lego sets all on his own. I go through sad phases as I don’t think he’ll ever take an interest in art or music or really anything that doesn’t have wheels, I worry he’ll be into heavy machinery for all eternity, which I understand isn’t a bad thing. We need people to be into heavy machinery…otherwise how are things built? Last month at his annual dr.’s check-up, the nurse asked if he could draw a person, I told them sadly no, he was still too young. But what I really wanted to say is, “no I’ve tried to create an environment where he can explore all creativity and interests but he won’t because FARMS. AND TRACTORS. Will I ever get to turn him into the kid that is genuinely curious about all things in life?”

The nurse simply smiled and said, “Let’s see if he can,” and handed him a pen and told him to draw mommy. He scratched out a rugged circle, an upside down U representing hair dangling over the circle, and two dots for eyes. I stared in awe at a primitive portrait of myself. Is this how my mom felt when she saw there was more potential in me when all I wanted was just volleyball for all eternity and did she ever wonder if I’d ever be curious about all things in life?

Levar Burton said in his podcast that the teacher who asked him to occupy the class by reading was “an early example of someone who saw me. Who saw my value, something I was good at, a talent, and employed it.” I see values in my son that will take him awhile to understand. My mom saw things in me that took me awhile to understand.

But sometimes it takes the act of doing a task you’ve seen done so many times before to realize these values have been in you all along and you should thank the people who have seen these values from the beginning.

So thanks, mom, it goes with my bathing suit.

The Art of Being Weird

Almost three years ago, we started our farm and put a lot of our lives out there for you to see. Like a lot.

This formula of “watch us do a thing online” isn’t a new formula and I think most people walk this line of “how much do I share?” and “Whoa, I just shared too much.” (See: me most days on our Instagram stories)

There’s one part of this formula that we don’t talk about enough: talking about yourself authentically and honestly requires vulnerability. And being vulnerable is weird, awkward, and most times uncomfortable. But as my homegirl Brene Brown has said, “I’ve never achieved a single thing in my career or life comfortably.” (Seriously, if I ever get to meet Brene Brown, we’re hugging it out.)

Even though we have a farm, we are no different than you – guy who is eating a bowl of ice cream in sweat pants that his mom bought him 15 years ago or lady who just said that weird thing to the cashier about bandaids.

The deal is, we’re weird and I don’t really want it any other way. We started this blog to track our journey as we plowed through what it takes to run a farm, work hard, be the world’s okayest parents and spouses. And as we keep taking each step, I’m finding the more that we are ourselves, rather than putting out  the version of ourselves we think people would like to see, the sweeter this whole thing gets. (Did that make sense? There were a lot of layers there. Like a really good church basement funeral pot-luck seven layer dip, you know, the kind with refried beans, lettuce, and peas.)

We’ve got some pivots we’re taking next year. They are not what we thought they would be when we started. But I think it’s foolish to go down paths that don’t lead anywhere and try some paths that might go somewhere. But we plan to keep it honest, authentic, and weird. So buckle up people, we’re not going anywhere. Or should I have said, “get a cup of tea, damnit, because we are still us”? No. Hmm. Goal for 2018: work on cooler catchphrases.

“That’s what you get when you use old seed!”

Still no. I’ll work on it.

Our BCS Tractor

After months of research, this past winter we finally made up our mind and bought a BCS two-wheel tractor.  Though the expression is overused, we will still say that this tool has been a “game changer”.  When we talk to people about our new tractor, we often get some raised eyebrows, especially since we’re in corn and soybean country and when we say “tractor” that conjures up images of much bigger vehicles.  So, here’s the skinny with our BCS.

These Italian-made, two-wheel tractors have been popular in Europe for decades.  With the resurgence of small-scale farming in the U.S. the past few years, they are becoming standard fare for little farms like ours.  Our BCS looks like a tiller, but it is actually a whole heckuva lot more.  The tractor is entirely gear driven, so no belts to break.  It’s built as sturdy as a full-size tractor, but in a much smaller package.  It has a PTO that allows the user to attach all sorts of implements to the unit.

We have just three implements so far:

Harrow Plow–This is similar to a rototiller, but instead of inverting the soil layers (thus destroying soil structure and bringing up a new crop of weed seeds) this stirs the soil.  It is much gentler on the soil, keeps weed seeds from coming to the surface, and prepares an ideal bed for seeding and germination.

Flail Mower–This little mower is a beast.  It can chop up brush up to the size of small trees.  It is especially useful for us when we are trying to turn over a bed for the next crop.  This chops up residue into tiny pieces, and prepares the bed to be tilled with the harrow plow.  Before, I would use a pickaxe to, one by one, dig out sunflower stems and roots.  It would take me well over an hour to do one of our 50 foot beds, and was absolutely dreadful work.  Now the same job takes less than five minutes.  

Bed Shaper–This tool simply plows the soil into 30” raised beds and creates pathways in between each bed.  Before, we would hand dig each bed with a shovel, and then till everything up in the fall so that we can to start all over again.  Last year we dug over 50 fifty foot long pathways, and we vowed that we just couldn’t do it again.  Though it takes some time to dial this in and figure out how to do it best, this tool makes the job much quicker and much less strenuous on our thirty-something bodies.  We have found that using a raised bed system has a few advantages:  We rarely have to step on our planting areas, so they don’t get unnecessarily compacted.  The beds warm up sooner in the spring, and water drains from them more quickly.  We can also only add soil amendments to our planting areas and not waste money and resources on the areas where we just walk.  And now that we have BCS implements made for the exact width of our beds, we can have at least semi-permanent raised beds that don’t require us to start over every year.

There are more than 30 implements that we can add to our BCS, so as we continue to evaluate our needs, we will most likely add to its usefulness.  This tool has been our largest single investment up to this point in our farming adventures, but at this point we’re convinced that we made the right choice.  

For the home gardener, there are BCS models that are cheaper that suit your needs well.  We recommend Earth Tools in Kentucky.  They are the largest BCS dealer in the country, and their YouTube videos are about all things BCS and have been absolutely invaluable to our steep learning curve with this machine.  

Stewart and Kevin

We had the awesome opportunity to be a part of Stewart and Kevin’s special day. They love the outdoors and wanted to bring them in. And when some outdoor kids ask another set of outdoor kids to come out and a play, we run screaming “yes”.