Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 5-27

“The Spring Sprint”

I must have used the term three times in the past week before someone finally asked what I was talking about. So, I guess an explanation is in order. (and, now I wonder what else may need explaining…)

The Spring Sprint isn’t an actual thing. As a matter of fact, I invented the term. We used to refer to it as “sprint season”, you can read this old post.

It starts when the earth finally wakes from its long winter nap and it’s time to do all the things. The grass that was so brown and lifeless now looks like waves on a huge green ocean when the wind blows just right. You can almost watch the “corn pop up in rows” (thank you,  Tim McGraw)   Flowers bloom, birds sing.  New life surrounds us. The urge to get out there and do something/anything is overwhelming.

To those involved in Agriculture, this awakening is just the beginning of what can be a long, hard struggle to “make hay while the sun shines” (literally) as we attempt to get crops of all kinds to maturity. It is quite possible to feel like there are not enough hours in the day, and you will never be able to run fast enough or hard enough to get everything finished. The stress to be successful can overrun the appreciation and celebration that the new season should bring.

 stress-relieving view of home

In all reality, Spring Sprint is probably a misnomer…it is truly more a type of marathon. A test of endurance. But, there is something to be said for alliteration…

Spring Sprint is always complicated by the weather. And, this year has been no exception. First it was too cold. Then it was too wet. Then it was too hot. Then with the wet again… much of the fieldwork and planting is running behind last year, adding a new level of pressure to an already stressful time of year. All too often, you get one shot at a crop, and if things don’t go just right, it fails and you can’t try again until next year. I reckon that’s why they say farmers have more faith than anyone.

It’s all too easy to start running off in every direction trying to get everything done at once, particularly on a nice day. On the other hand, if you’re in this for the long haul, it’s better to just keep plugging away at your planned course. We need to keep in mind that in order to be sustainable, we also have to be able, remembering to care for our resources, and that means taking care of ourselves as well as our tools.

Once, in my haste…under the influence of the stresses of Spring Sprint, I tripped over the greenhouse hose. Now, before you dismiss this as just another of my klutzy moves (like I did) let me explain further.

As I pulled the hose out of the greenhouse in order to hang it up, it caught on something. So, I yanked a little harder. It gave way and tangled around me. In my attempt to step out of the hose, my bootlace caught on the big watering can. In trying to free myself, my foot landed IN the can. As I worked to extricate my foot, I lost my balance and went tumbling face first into the backyard. Extending my hand to catch myself, the hose sprayer hit my arm, squirting water in my face. As I face-planted, my foot finally came free and smashed the watering can into the back of my calf. I must have jerked my head back to keep from losing my glasses in the free-fall, because mercifully they stayed on. But, my neck paid the price. (Later, the doc said he thought it was a major case of whiplash) As I lay in the grass, I didn’t know if I should laugh (that must have looked like some crazy cartoon) or cry (everything, and I do mean everything, hurt).

I headed inside for a little break, figuring that 10 minutes and some ibuprofen would get me back on track. Spring Sprint was in full swing, I couldn’t give it any more time. There were far too many things vying for my attention to give into the pain.

That was TWO YEARS ago. (seriously…I marked the calendar...May 12, 2016)

And, every picking day since has been a pain in the neck. Anything and everything caused it to flare up again. Walking, working the sheep, picking anything, even computer work and holding grandbabies.

We spent hundreds of dollars on doctor visits and two different chiropractors. Tried a neck brace and exercises. Endured a weird interaction between pain prescription and my heart medication. Nothing granted any long-term solution. So, it was actually a relief when other health issues side-lined me late last summer.

Between health issues, surgery, recovery and then a 6-week battle with bronchitis, I spent the better part of six months doing nothing more than the bare minimum for survival. Basically, feeding the humans, the pets and sheep, and doing laundry. (But, I only missed one week of Market) The rest of the time I was sitting. I wasn’t working on the great American novel, or even keeping up with the bookwork. (and, the house was a wreck) I was just sitting. I watched a whole lot of Netflix and even took some naps. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t productive. But, in the long run, it was probably necessary.

Needless to say, the 2018 season didn’t start out with a bang. Without being able to work during the winter, there was no way we could have early Spring harvest. But, by that point, I looked and sounded healthy. No one could understand, and it was getting a little monotonous to attempt to explain the lack of greens (our signature product).

Despite the weird weather, a host of growing issues and an ongoing battle with the mouse population, there were finally enough greens to warrant a harvest.

When I headed out to the hoophouse for Friday’s harvest, it was with great trepidation. I really didn’t think I could endure another season of pain. But, we really need the income that the hoophouse crops generate and we hadn’t figure out any sort of back-up plan. And, I said I would do it.

So…off I went.
picking lettuce

I am a firm believer in “all things work together for good”. (although I must constantly remind myself of this) Even when you can’t see it at the time, things will eventually work out. Even when it seems hopeless. Even when it takes a LONG time. Things DO work out.

This time was no exception.

Market Stand 5-26

There was lettuce to pick…finally!

I was able to harvest it…without pain…finally!

The customers were happy to see our product…finally!

So, I guess some good came of those six months of “forced relaxation”. Not necessarily the way I would have chosen to resolve the issue, but it seems resolved nonetheless.

sunrise through the wisteria

But, maybe the whole idea of forcing ourselves to maintain the whole Spring Sprint mentality needs re-thinking. Maybe it’s time to re-visit Aesop’s Tortoise and the Hare and keep in mind that “slow and steady wins the race”. Certainly, something to think about when keeping up with the ongoing, routine farm jobs.

To that end, I’ve been trying to take time to slow down and notice what’s going on all around us. 

took a walk with Blondie and Blake
this is Creambrook Farm
just down the road

Watched K and G blow bubbles on the porch

Look around...

wonder WHY there is at least one egg in the feeder
every single day

even weeds can be beautiful
not a fan of tent caterpillars
but, it did look cool in the grass

check out the sunset

The fledgling wrens are just about ready to fly.
mama wren with supper

going to feed the babies

big babies

hungry babies

 There is a barn swallow nest in the rafters of the barn. 

And, we got a couple of planting jobs done ahead of the big rains associated with the first named tropical system of the year.
tidy hoophouse
winter squash

weeding in the hoophouse

 I made an effort to curtail any destruction by the marauding deer herd, so we might actually get some grapes.

baby grapes

deer protection

the wild blackberry crop looks prolific
let's hope the Mbrk bear doesn't find out!
The Boss got the potatoes tilled and hilled, the brassica garden looks a lot better after weeding.

hilling potatoes

garden after weeding

 It won’t be long before haymaking around the county gets into full swing. 

lush grass growth means good hay crop

there is an upside to grass pollen
it means the hay crop is nearly ready!

The sheep are scheduled to be shorn tomorrow. 
ewes graze at sunrise
Blondie and I have been spending Memorial Day shearing sheep for nearly 10 should read  this. It remains to be seen if this year's job will warrant its own post.

…and so it goes…

Gus and Karma are vying for the prettiest napping spot...who wears it better?


Thanks for stopping by to check in with us.

Have a Happy Sunday! 
thanks to Malcolm's Market Garden
beautiful strawberries
made YUMMY icecream!
Come back and “visit” again soon!

Click the link below and take a "virtual" tour of the Staunton Farmers' Market.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Farmers' Market!

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On this date, May 22, 1993, the Staunton Farmers' Market opened for the very first time.
The City and the six vendors were all taking a chance on the farmers' market phenomenon that was just starting to sweep the nation. 

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Staunton Market 2017

It didn't take long for the Market to become part of the downtown landscape, albeit for just a few hours each week. In a place where tourism rules, the Market has been the destination for travelers from around the globe.

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For twenty-five years, through dark of night, pouring rain, blazing heat and bitter cold, the Staunton Farmers' Market has been opened to serve the community. (Well, except that one week in 1996 when the Wharf was literally under water following Hurricane Fran)

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Not only is the Market a source of homegrown, home-made, LOCAL (all produced within 75 miles of Staunton), it's become a gathering spot on Saturday mornings.

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You just never know who you might see at the Market!

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sheer joy

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delicious food

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beautiful plants

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...and the music!
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The Steel Wheels have gone on to much larger audiences

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...gotta love the music!

It's a place where families can grow and learn and try out their business ideas.
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Having a good time while turning a profit...

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The Market offers a wide array of fruits and vegetables and even a few unique products...

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 The Market offers a unique atmosphere of community between producers and consumers, offering a chance to serve others and expand our horizons.

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Trinity lunch program gleans market leftovers
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with Allan Moye of the Findells
Personally, we've met some interesting, amazing, even famous people. We've learned a lot and have been privileged to be a part of the Market since 1998. More of our story can be found here.

Over the years, the Staunton Market has been used as an example for start-up Markets in a number of other locations. It has served as an incubator of sorts for some businesses that have gone on to bigger and better things. And, it has provided a livelihood for numerous family farms while supplying delicious, nutritious food to our customers.

So...HAPPY ANNIVERSARY Staunton Farmers' Market!  Here's to many more.
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Pretty flowers from Flower Fields

It was hard to choose just a few photos of the Market. If you'd like to see more, be sure to check out the Market website

 Or the Facebook page... 

Better yet, come visit us in person! We'll be open every Saturday, 7am to noon until Thanksgiving.

Thanks to T Leighton Womack Photography for the wonderful photos.