Moon Dog Farms

A Certified Naturally Grown fruit orchard and vegetable farm.

MoonDog Farms is dedicated to stewardship of the land, reinforcing a healthy community and producing great food.  

Mud that stinks and a tough reality: A story of hope

Many a wreck has been the result of taking the family to the country, and afterwards having part or all of it become thoroughly dissatisfied. There are so many rough realities in a life of this kind that it takes the poetry out of the visions of joy, peace, contentment and success that arise in the minds of many.
— H.W. Wiley, 'The Lure of the Land'

It's been a rough go these days.

We've drawn eye-to-eye with the kind of deflating experience we hoped might skip us  but innately knew (because, how could we avoid it?) would eventually hurdle us as beginning farmers.

This time last year, we felt on top of the world, like we were really doing this thing-- and doing it well. Sure, tons of stuff was messy and so much was still to be figured out, but we were making smart choices, growing sustainably and seeing success. 

We arranged to double our Spring production, the most profitable season of the year, into over 2  acres of crops. We were gonna rock in 2015. 

Instead, what we've done is find ourselves poring over a grimness that's left both Alex and I bewildered, and without answers. The murky, smelly grimness reflected in the standing water covering most of our farm  has left us feeling stagnant and stuck along with the soil.

 What do we do when everything is soaked through, for months on end? What do we do, when it's not just plan after plan that is delayed then dashed, but also our hopes for making enough money to keep it going? Our farm library nor our intuition had a compass that gave us solace.  Every instance where we thought we'd devised a creative solution to a problem or advised patience and faith to one another, another 10 inches registered in our rain gauge. 

www.moondogfarms.com

And so. There's been some gnashing. In fact, a lot of gnashing--turns out I can be quite the jaw grinder when stress dreams abound--and there's been some heads held in hands. I've cried, Alex has scowled. Then we switched. 

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You may have noticed, a blog post has been conspicuously absent here for weeks. Self-absorption and concentration on stanching damage aren't the only reasons, but they're high up there. I didn't want to share nothing but despair here. I started this blog to increase awareness of our farm, help myself process our beginning years and discuss both triumphs and travails. But it just didn't sit right with me to speak only of how discouraged we felt, and it also felt disingenuous to speak around how discouraged we felt. 

So, let's be clear. We're still grappling with discouragement. Although we know our situation could be so much worse, in endless amounts of ways, it hurts to feel that our rug was pulled from underneath us and we could only watch it float away. 

I have always confessed to having that teacher's pet problem, you know. 

But here's why I can write about this now and feel at ease: when the rains started back in October and we saw flooding in our fields, we said, "Not good.  But we still have the rest of fall. There's time." And essentially, we haven't stopped saying that, about each new field that needs tilling and prepping, each new crop and every thwarted plan. "We still have the rest of fall/winter/spring."

But it hasn't dried out, and time has run short. And I don't think you'll ever hear a Texas farmer say, "Well, there's always summer."

So now, we just deal.   

www.moondogfarms.com

We don't have to push hopes further on down the road, crossing fingers for more sun or a really, really large straw. 2015 hasn't gone the way we wanted. At all. We ended up planting most of our summer one crops on an empty orchard bed, 10 feet wide and a quarter-mile long, which makes us felt like absolute nincompoops.  I've read selections from 5 Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management that made me feel like I've been prancing around in high-heels expecting money to bud out on the pear trees and earthworms to answer my call, all the while leading my future to ruin. (Okay book, but 'tough love' is putting it lightly.)  We've wondered what will become of us, if this is how it's to be from now on.

We've  worried that our bad agricultural luck might be a harbinger of environmental tides and inevitable trends to come. Maybe. 

But what's more likely is that it's a clap in the face and the biggest reminder to date that what we're trying to do is so much more than throwing seeds in the ground and smiling at Sunday markets. We've got to take these past 6 months and figure out how to shape ourselves around it. What does Moon Dog Farms do when nothing goes our way? That's our task for the rest of this year, as far as I'm concerned. So much has gone in our favor, and we won't fall apart now.

Well, to be fair, we'll fall apart in private (a little bit, very tastefully) and then get back to rubbing sticks together until we make fire.

www.moondogfarms.com

It's still hard to walk out in our fields right now and look out at thick, smelly mud and yellowing leaves. I don't like that this same week last year we had over 40 bouquets to sell, and this year all the flowers are no higher than 5 inches tall. We're now tasked with researching and creating better drainage for our fields, reorganizing the farm layout, revising  growing techniques and undertaking reconsideration of a whole lot of things. 

But that means we're growing. And people still support us--even the ones not related to us! (thank you, thank you, thank you). We can move forward, and I know we can still find the poetry in this life of 'rough realities.'

Besides, there's always summer. 

www.moondogfarms.com

Oranges, Machetes and Grant Applications.

I get that it's fairly lame for me to just share a poem and call it a day.  "What kind of blog entry is that?" you exclaim, filled with well-deserved indignation. 

But here's the thing. 

On my desk, there has been a mountain of paperwork like never before, and more tabs open on my computer than I dare give away. It's grant-application season. All I want to do is eat carrots and cuddle our farm cat who's FINALLY deigned to be the affectionate cuddle bunny I've wanted all along, but I can't. Grants need a lot of attention.

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And if you know about this, then...well, you know. And if you don't, then you're like me. And you're in for a gnarly surprise.  Tackling multiple grants for both our farm and our farmers' market has proved quite the task, and so today, I want to share a poem that makes me happy.

This poem has been a favorite of mine since I first read it in 6th grade, and it still resonates with me today. Incidentally, our Nicaraguan friend Oscar and his family have been with us much of this past week, and the man cannot stop eating oranges. He peels them with his machete.

Yeah, it's as cool as it looks.  Not only that, but his family is beautiful and his children love fresh vegetables. As in, they stuff them in their mouths.  As we walked through the farm during a break, both Bella and Celeste helped themselves to the Winter buffet (as well as the last few stragglers still fighting the good fight in the summer fields).  It made me so happy. Words don't do these kids justice, so you'll just have to see some photos of them as well. :) 

Enjoy, and may this winter poem give you the same warm pleasure it does for me. And I hope you get to eat citrus afterward. 

Oranges

by Gary Soto

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted -
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickle in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickle from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
About.

Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

www.moondogfarms.com
www.moondogfarms.com


How Things Can Be.

To complain of an excess of something when that something is a precious resource is typically a no-no. It's considered even poorer taste when the something is historically in scant supply for lots of the people you know (and, perhaps, maybe, your whole state). 

Which is why I haven't mentioned the rain. 

Well, until now. 

One of the fields to be planted for Spring crops. It'll have to wait a while.

Oh, the rain. It feels like it hasn't stopped, since before Thanksgiving.  It's funny actually, how Alex and I have been settled here for just over 2 years, yet we'd already formed notions of "the way things are" at this time of year. Of course, I don't see why we wouldn't, considering our status as 10th generation farmers born and raised on these coastal prairies, emerging from the womb with a pelican and pitchfork in each hand. However, our notion about Winter didn't include incessant precipitation. Because, it like totally didn't rain like this last year. But it totally has this year.

I guess it was time for Mother Nature to mix it up. And time for us to deal.

  It rained cats and dogs like this when we first arrived in 2013,--that I'm sure of,  because I complained about it then in one of our early blogs. But this Winter's rainfall has aimed to beat the band. And perhaps, McFarmer's spirit. 

Now, of course my dear partner's spirit hasn't been broken. He's stronger than that, and far too level-headed. He has, however, had quite a few choice words with puddles and stormclouds in the back of the orchard, safe from listening ears. We'll just say it hasn't been visitor-friendly. 

The problem is, when it rains every week and rains several inches every week ( sometimes upwards of 6 inches at a time), your field doesn't have time to dry out in between downpours. Add to this Winter's habitual grey skies and cutback on sunshine hours and you've got a very, very wet situation. 

www.moondogfarms.com

On our farm, plans for direct seeding most of the Spring crops were pushed further and further back, either because we can't get into the fields (does you no good to seed in the driving rain) or if we did, the damage we'd do to our soil quality would be too great. It's lucky we made the beds during the last semi-dry spell, but that's only done so much good as we haven't dared to work in them.

Major rivers impede our movement in the aisles, and no seed appreciates a new home of mud. The poor beets, scallions, radishes, peas and many more have just had to sit tight. 

Meanwhile, the plants already established back in the Fall have braved weeks of holding their own as their beds become less and less rows in a field and more and more islands in a mired gulf laden with funk and crawfish. There's been at least 3 inches of water in every aisle for 2 months. Cabbage leaves yellow from saturation and the lettuce's growth is stunted to the point of paralysis. I've found myself more than once in the peculiar situation of harvesting kale only to find that while busy and my back turned, my tub of harvested leaves has floated 15 feet away from me down our canal of an aisle. Woof. 

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It's a bummer of a time, to be sure. But also, it's impossible to see it as anything but a timely reminder that we, as ever, are not in control. The sun will return for good eventually, and our fields will dry. In the meantime, we might lose several hundred feet of crops and miss a few planting windows that will hurt down the line. But we've also learned so much already. 

Now we know what its like when it rains heavily for 3 months at Moon Dog Farms.  It's a painful lesson, but a lesson nonetheless. When everything seems amiss, there's always something else to consider. I'm incredibly thankful that during all this rain, we had working greenhouses to protect the thousands of plantbabies on whose petals and cotyledons now shoulder even more value. We've had better germination than ever in our greenhouses this season, even with the more tetchy flower varieties we're trying out for the first time. Compared to January 2013, when all we had was an old door and a shipping box, things are looking good. 

We've had secret talk of building a bio-dome-esque structure to shield us from all unwanted weather, but we'll probably settle on rebuilding the drainage ditches leading to the back canal, work to create even better flow and drainage of water in the aisles and investigate the use of high tunnels and higher beds.

And we'll make a note of "how things can be" during the Winter season.  Of course, that means it'll probably never happen like this again, but we'll have some other unexpected phenom to adapt to.  

We'll give it our best.

Plus, there's always the back of the orchard for our less mature moments. 

A Noble Pair, a Huge Radish.

I don't find the farming life necessarily noble.

There are farmers who are noble, yes. And there are also farmers who are not noble.  Noble plumbers and dental hygienists abound as well.  Possibly the virtue lies in the person, not the profession.  

Yet it seems that most of the articles and internet blurbs that enter my awareness lately tout this nobility of the farmer--lauding their sacred duty and whispering of their monk-like reverence to land and beast. The more skeptical potshots I've read take this view too, only adding more italicized irony. Providing the good public with club-sized daikon radishes--although organic! and fresh!--might not be the preferred face of nobility.

So I just gotta say, "Y'all, farming isn't noble."

I mean, yes--of course it can be noble. But there's more to it than that. 

There are lots of ways to grow food, own land and breed animals that fly in the face of goodness, decency and integrity. There's close to a bajillion documentaries that can tell you so, and besides--have you ever heard of every single person within a global profession doing things exactly the same, in the same blameless manner?

I worry that because young liberal-arts grads (ahem) are entering agriculture (good thing) armed with a penchant for starry-eyed writing ( double ahem) and a desire to change our food culture (still a good thing), we might be dusting farming with a bit more mensch-dust than is good for it (a debatable thing). 

What I do believe to be true is that many of the folks whose attraction to said ideas of integrity and goodness are the same ones who find them working outside, raising animals and planning harvests. Whether they do it on 3 acres or 3,000 these people usually have at least that in common.  

That, and the same sun-in-your-eyes squint.

Our farm happens to fall in the 3 acres category (although this year we clock-in at around 9, thank-you-very-much) and we believe in growing without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, growing diversified crops and in being a farm that aims for more than just reaping a successful crop. Although I really, really want that.

Do any of those beliefs make me more noble than another farmer, or more so than a teacher, truck driver or real-estate agent? Nah. Does it make me more noble than a farmer who doesn't hold to those same beliefs? I don't think so--it means we value different things, and see different ends. 

However, farming does take balls.

For farmers of all beliefs, geographies and genders, it takes balls. It takes wells of courage, for when your fields are flooded or your ewes are ill. Or worse, when the harvests fail, your plans go horribly wonky and the sky won't take your calls. 

For me, I'll admit-- I do need that belief in the noble. Most of the time, my work instills it for me.  Some days it's all spreadsheets and cursing, but other days I'm given a sideways glance into the positive impact our farm truly does have on others and our environment. We hold dearly to those days when we've done our job most right and see the goodness we're always after.  I believe it is good to grow food in tandem with nature as much as I can, and to work to provide real foods to people in my community.

It isn't noble to farm, but I do think it's the perfect goal.

So go on, have the balls to try that giant daikon radish--it could just be the noblest thing you do all day.

Happy New Year! Let's NOT make it the best ever.

“Don't be the best in town. Just be the best till the best comes around.”

                    -Buddy Guy

Happy New Year, everyone!

On this very last day of the year before we roll into all the newness, I'd like to share the above thought from a nationally-renowned musician. You know, as is the normal tradition.

Tonight, when Moon Dog Farms tilts a champagne flute at midnight and pretends to know the words to "Auld Lang Syne," we'll be toasting to a year of new adventure, gratitude for all we have, and this little gem of an idea.

The sentiment rings particularly interesting when uttered by one of the most prodigious blues legends to walk the earth, but that's exactly what I find so absolutely glorious about it. The story goes that young Buddy's parents gave him this advice when he informed them he'd be pursuing a career as a musician. They then told him in no uncertain terms that there would be someone better than him. He should work hard, sure---he should be the best. But he should go forward knowing he'll never be able to do it all, be everything, and that 'the best' would always be someone who came after him.

In my opinion, this is one of the most freeing ideas one could ever embrace. Do your best, man. Work hard, woman, and work to be the best you can be. Try to up your numbers from last year and double your potato yields. Teach more people, feed more people, reach more people. But—and this is the wise, zen-like part I find so intoxicating—you'll be happier if you remember that this world's too big and great for there to be one best.

Dubbing something or someone the best is ephemeral, just like everything else in this world. Not only is there room enough for new ideas, new leaders and new heroes all the time, we need them. Your day will be so much better if you embrace that you're all working to do good work—you can even ask for their help and learn from their experience. Innovation and inspiration are driven by trying to do things better. There is no different or better without the new blues man who waltzes into town with his own way to string a guitar. And thank the gods for that.

Perhaps this philosophy sounds like setting low expectations in order to avoid disappointment, all at the expense of achieving newer and greater heights. So I won't claim that Buddy Guy's folks had it right for everyone. But in 2015, I think it's right for us.

We will work so damn hard, we will play (easy, not hard) and we will triumph as well as fail. We won't try to be the best farm in town, on instagram or in North America—we'll leave that to someone else, and we wouldn't get anywhere worth getting trying to do it anyway. Successful farming requires too much humility in the face of bigger forces (stinkbugs, blizzards, federal law) to worry too much about winning national adoration.

Instead, we'll try to be the best Moon Dog Farms of 2015.

Better than we were in 2014. And in 2016, we'll try for the best that year. And as for the multitudes of other farms around, we'd rather be friends than competitors. Drinking that sunset beer at the end of a work day is so much better when it's shared.

I warm towards the idea of a New Year's resolution that lifts any self-imposed burdens common to the ever-reaching, tirelessly-martyring A+ student. What a bore.

As a recovering teacher's pet, I vow to cast aside—nay, rip to shreds—the how-to booklet for setting yourself up to feel like there's always more you could've done. Because it's true.

There's always more we can do, there's always someone who might do it better, and we'll never get it perfect. Oh, along the way we'll do marvelous, magical things. But it'll never be the best.

But you know why? That's because you and me—we're working smarter this year. 

We're working to be the best until the best comes around.  

 

*Colossal, ever-loving thanks to Buddy Guy's parents, the episode of Sonic Highways where we heard this quote, and to every single person who supports us in our endeavors. We're so lucky to be here, and to know so many loving, giving people. Keep up the good work in your own lives--we think you're the BEST! :)

Where does the time go?

Although it seems unlikely that the blogosphere or other more tangible spheres noticed my little dip into absentia these past few weeks, I was a bit shocked to see that I had in fact not attended to the blog since early November.

Egads, what will our 4 readers do with themselves? :)

McFarmer pulls up one of the oilseed radishes that make up our covercrop in the old summer field.  The are indeed frighteningly (and awesomely) huge.

The truth is, although this space is ostensibly for sharing our farm's triumphs and travails with others, what it's really become is a few quiet moments in which I have to reflect for myself.

I'm required to think on where the farm is, what we've done and where we'll be, how we feel. A collection of observations, memories and images---ladybug tucked into a pear blossom, sunset over the hayfields--become a semi-readable journal entry, a cataloged recollection of our farm's growth. 

It's pretty great. For me at least.

I know things must have been out-of-whack when I look back and see that either 1) I was too busy/manic to sit down at the computer and bang out that contemplative goodness I mentioned, or b) we were off-farm so much that writing the farm blog would be strange in its non-farminess.  In this case, it happens to be both. 

The days leading up to Thanksgiving were filled with cleaning in the orchard; trimming and weedeating to McFarmer's heart's content. We weeded new carrot beds that will sleep until January and February, began to clear the older summer fields of the detritus of a spent-season. T-posts were yanked out, trellis rolled and stored, drip-tapes removed and stored. 

As for these past two weeks, McFarmer and I were barely at the farm. Travel for Thanksgiving and then a lovely mini-trip to Colorado for more family, skiing and delicious, delicious relaxation meant crossing our fingers and being extra thankful for the currently-empty greenhouse. 

A little taste of the South while enjoying the winter wonderland.

But now we're back, it's wonderfully chilly and gray, and as of yesterday that empty greenhouse has almost 2,000 seeds tucked in, starting their journey towards Spring.

Things are very good--family is near, lettuce is bountiful, and ideas for the new year are already beginning to dance above our heads like sugarplums.

We wish you a lovely holiday season, filled with equal parts delicious relaxation and joyful, bustling work. 

Welcoming the Wild Geese.

I don't know what it is about the cold. It might be the way cold's stillness takes hold of everything...the atmosphere, your breath, your expectations. Focus becomes so sharply held when icy breath passes over your lips and you begin to see the truest signs that a change of season is here, all around.

The older summer butterflies have begun to die, we're seeing the baby leaves of carrots emerge from soil that is finally chilled to their liking and the goldenrods are no longer golden but spent and brown. I found a group of dead fritillaries, queen butterflies and painted moths just last week, piled together in a soft and beautiful grave under the tall red and pink canopy of zinnias, their favorite spot on the farm.

Thinning and weeding the baby carrots...

The way that coldness seems to suddenly appear around these parts--so little transition from warm months to cold ever happens--it's cause for surprise and a sudden scrambling for a Texan's winter wardrobe. I myself am always overdressed for winter. Flannel onesies, long johns, scarves, gloves, thick fuzzy hats and multiple coats. I consider it my winter fur, a putting-on of down and extra weight to carry me through--- for while I love the cold, I hate to be cold.

A spider feasts on a caterpillar, hiding expertly in the sage.

Of course, I'm not the only one in the animal kingdom who grandly prepares for winter. Since early October we've spotted the first groups of migrating Canada geese, but in recent days their far-away squawkings have settled in to become the cold-weather soundtrack of the morning, re-playing itself everyday. Only yesterday, a small group of them, 20 or so, circled round and round, finally settling for a brief spell in our neighboring hay field, directly in front of a cluster of beehives. I didn't get much work done in the 25 minutes before they took off again.

This year, I keep coming back to Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese," which I only learned earlier this year from my best friend. I'd not been familiar with Mary Oliver's work before, but I've happily welcomed this poem into my closet of favorites. 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

May you be safe, bundled and content as the wind continues to chill and winter works its way closer and closer.

 

No tricks, all treats. And some radishes, too.

We walk, we amble, we hustle, we rush. We move through our days and seasons with our eyes trained to the horizon. We rarely stand still, and when we do, there's often a last-minute bolt to the thing we almost forgot but we simply can't.  

With the easy fluidity of the modern human, we transition from deep appreciation of simple moments to finger-tingling anticipation of "what's next?"

So much of what we've learned since moving to Moon Dog Farms has to do with prioritizing tasks and arranging our day in a way that is sane, manageable and allows for minimal walks back and forth from the barns. Strangely enough, there's not as much running as one might think, even with all our scrambling. This probably has something to do with my flailing, injured gait resembling something like the run of a trussed-up chicken escaping the chopping block. It's a kindness, really, that Alex encourages me to avoid running.

Luckily, Fall is here in Texas-- in beautiful, sunny, 85 degree glory. My computer work is done on the porch, without fear of mosquito bombardment. The days of retreating into the cool swallow of air conditioning from noon to two are done; we now enjoy our lunch break at the farm, and gain a few more precious hours of work in a far more pleasant environment. And truly, the surest sign of Fall is how often I will talk about Fall (evident from the last couple newsletters) We will rejoice in naming all Fall pleasures until January, when we will dub a handful of cold weeks and the odd frost here and there as Winter, which will then quickly thaw into Spring by late February.

So you see, we don't have long to hold Fall between our fingers, so it's got to be sweet appreciation for every dang moment it's here. Every single one. 

Hauling off some of the rotten wood beams from the old roof near the washstand. 

If ever you want to volunteer with us, we'll make sure you get ample color in return!

As I mentioned briefly last week, some of the McFarmer family stopped by in the last week to help us with some of the larger projects on the "Fall To-Do" list. In exchange for hauling mulch, hoisting heavy lumber, weeding perennials and transplanting lettuces, we tried to provide color. Edible color to fill coolers and refrigerators, and sunset colors strewn across the sky. I wish we could say we treated everyone to the beer and dinner that accompanied said sunset, but just as we could never take credit for that awesome pink sky, McFarmer's family never fails to provide us with unending generosity and it is us who are treated, everytime. 

The idea of 'treats' accurately sums up the current atmosphere of the farm. Chilly breezes sweep through our coastal prairie on warm middays, enough to cool the sweat on our brows. We harvested our first batch of radishes for the season, hot-pink and clean white. Plucking those French Breakfasts makes me deliriously happy, everytime. The magic trick of pulling food from the ground---now you see it, then you didn't--simply doesn't get old. And while we'll need additional help in washing the hordes of radishes, carrots and beets soon enough, our first harvest was low-key and thrilling, increasingly one of my favorite combinations.

To that end, the relaxed glimpses of our farm insects amid the fall plants have shed the frenetic and in-your-face quality of the bugs of summer. While there is still the occasional tete a tete with pony-sized grasshoppers in the okra beds, our insect friends have largely begun to move slower, using their energy for end-of-season needs like nectar-gathering or the tending of maturing eggs and larvae.  Bees, wasps and any number of winged little beasties whose names I don't know buffet on the goldenrods and native ageratum. Ladybugs sleep in the tiny little spaces between folds of leaves or the petrified gills of old wood.  The torpedo storms of dragon and damselflies have already begun to wane, their numbers beginning to slow.

IMG_1665.jpg

And only 2 days ago, on the day we pulled those first radish bunches of Fall, we spotted a large tortoise outside the farm gate, headed our way.

A treat indeed, and right in-line with our favorite autumn flavor--low-key and thrilling.

The trencher, the lost dog, the teenagers and happy, happy farmers.

It finally happened.

The nail-biting, hair-pulling, brow-rubbing and thumb-twitching days of wondering when 

 we'd finally get a break in the rain, 

 to finally let the soil dry out,

and finally be able to run the tractor through,

and finally walk the tiller and hill the beds,

to finally move the young brassicas, lettuces and fennels out of the greenhouses,

that would finally find homes in their new field....

well, those days are over. For this year, anyway.

Not only did the clouds part and allow for this no-small glory and an end to McFarmer's bad case of tractorfinger, a slew of other  exciting events have happened as well.

We rented a trencher and created a trench for over 1,000 ft of irrigation and got all said irrigation laid out and working. Now the field with the young Fall crops have accessible water. And we didn't have to dig a foot of it with a shovel.

Sometimes we try out that "work smarter, not harder" thing.

A sweet young pup showed up at the farm, and while her appearance is by no means an extraordinary occurrence for our property, she did show up within a few days of the anniversary of our most recent pet's death.

Last year on the first Sunday of October, our original moon dog Saxton passed away, after we'd enjoyed his presence as travel companion and farm co-conspirator for many years. And while we're not sure we're quite ready to take on another being in our household just yet, this little tail wag from the beyond came at a time when I sure was missing our buddy.  (Don't worry, we're in the process of finding this little gal the perfect home!)

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Not one but two high school groups came out to volunteer their time and energy at the farm over the past week. One was a group of all girls ages 14-17, and when Alex saw them pile out of their cars early Tuesday morning, he promptly turned to me and said,

"I'll be at the back of the orchard. Way back."

McFarmer doesn't speak teenage giggle very well. 

But let it not be said that the giggling in any way impeded their ability to weed the hell out of some overgrown strawberry patches. These girls did us a huge favor and transformed work that would last me several hours into a 60 minute fiesta. Big thanks to Teresa Fernan, Debbie and Pasadena Memorial High School for their marvelous attitudes and support. (Plus all their bulging biceps!)

A few days later, a troupe of high-school culinary students stopped by for a full-day visit in which around 15 teenagers got mud all over their shoes, learned how to use gentle hands on tiny seedlings, identified a king snake (and did not freak out) and helped us turn an empty field into one filled with future food. I think my personal favorite moment came in finding myself describing the wrong method of transplanting a young cauliflower as using "doodoo hands." It's truly a good thing there were some adult chaperones around. 

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This was one of our first larger volunteer groups, and I'd call it a grand success. Alex and I still have a lot to learn when it comes to delegating tasks and figuring the right work for the right personalities, but I am deeply grateful not only for their hands and efforts, but the fact that these schools--these teachers-- are interested in dipping toes into local agriculture. Enormous thanks to Felicia Juarez and Sam Rayburn High School for sharing time, labor (and their lunch!) with us .

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We are eager to share what we know, what we wonder, what we work for, and that only works when there are eager eyes, ears and brains on the other end. Having these groups out to our farm validates what we work hard for everyday--we are grateful for every ounce of interest and support.

There's so much more that seems to have squeezed itself into the past few weeks, and as the weather continues to cool and our propensity for taking on more laborious tasks increases, I know each week will bring even more. You should see the 'Fall Projects' list McFarmer and I made only this morning. Insert ghoulish, mad-scientist laughter here.

For starters, I'll just say that number one and number two out at the farm will soon be as easy as 1,2,3.  

We couldn't be happier. Life couldn't be sweeter. The days are a little bit shorter, forcing us to go home a bit earlier, get a bit more sleep.

The weeds have begun to grow a little slower, allowing us a bit more sanity. We treated ourselves to a fancy new seeder that seeds 400 ft of carrot seeds in a mere fraction of the time it used to take us, with barely a stooped back to be seen. We've harvested the last pears from the orchard with a bittersweet adieu,  but their farewell  heralds the coming of autumn's tender greens and the crunch of hearty cabbages and carrots.

I'll say it again,  life is sweet. Our farm is growing, the seasons are changing, and the air is clear. It might not be crisp quite yet, but it's clear. 

And that's quite all right with us. 

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