Farming in an 80's teen movie.
So much of this year has been spent longing. Vast stretches of time were spent gazing at walls of rain, wordlessly drifting from cautious optimism to fatalistic gloom. I've sighed 1 fablillion times. I've patted Alex on the back (in what was intended as a reassuring gesture) so much I've worn even more holes into his already cheesecloth workshirts. Basically, I've really been working on my repertoire of woeful faces. I've even done the old "blow-the-hair-out-of-my-face-exhaustively-while-I-roll-my-eyes-to-the-heavens" look.
I had previously thought that move was reserved only for bad 80's movies where the lead girl has overprotective parents but a penchant for fun on the edge.
We've faced a lot of moments where we had no clue what to do to salvage our prospects (which seemed dismal) and didn't find any one of our options appealing. We've thrown our hands up countless times (and shook our fists just as many). For a shameless teacher's pet always eager to prove myself, this year has been humbling. For a calm and flexible rock-of-a-man like Alex, this year has proved endlessly trying.
The essential truth of farming we know; it's so, so hard, but damn fine & important work if you can get it, keep it and stand it. We've both maintained for the past 6 years that the difficulties of this path were never lost to us, but it hasn't been until this year that the question became whether we'll be able to match that harshness with a toughness of our own. I imagine that jury will still be out for years to come.
I'd love to think that eventually there will come a time when we say, "Ah. So this is it. We've figured it out. Turns out, farming's easy." It seems more likely that if we're lucky (and a little smarter each season), we'll learn to bend and sway so that we're easier, and we've simply figured out how to deal better with each challenge, dream, devastation.
I feel we're on that road now, but we're far from feeling confident that we know what we're doing. Summer has a way of beating the optimism out of you, for farmers all over the country (even in dreamy, lupine-tinted Vermont and Maine, I imagine). The heat, bugs and humidity here tend to cloud your sweat-covered brow solely with thoughts of how hard everything is. (Obviously. Just look at all the caterwauling I just got through writing.)
But wait, there's more.
I think the Bummers of 2015 had to happen. Over 60 inches of rain and consequential multiple seasons of shoddy harvest were more-than-adequate teachers of grit and perseverance in our 3rd year of farming for ourselves. We felt so accomplished after the growth we saw from our first to second year, and knew we were lucky for hitting the ground running with only the most manageable of blips (cucumber moths, low potato yields--who's worried?).
Before we even arrived in Galveston County, Alex and I divined that we'd have to give this dream at least 3 years before we'd have any idea of what we'd gotten ourselves into. It seemed realistic to think that at some point within those first three years we'd have good ups and downs--enough to suss out our patience, abilities and potential breaking points. We were eager to be as prepared as could be, and anxious to wrap our heads around it all and gain some answers. Oh, brother. And thus, right on time, we called down our own soggy fates in Year 3, ensuring we got the full gamut of experiences we anticipated.
Okay, come on.
Of course we didn't cast a spell that caused rainclouds to call the real estate above our farm a near-permanent home. That's life. I nor Alex know nothing beyond the veil and are no more sage-like than the next goob. Everyone knows that what comes up must come down, and most of the time we're just balancing it all to maintain the center. A gnarly, tough year was in the cards for us (dealt not by us, no way) and so we've... well, dealt. Sometimes well and sometimes not at all.
In fact, you could easily tell the story of this year the other way-round, and all my kvetching about incessant puddles and rotting kale stems are just the moanings of a sweaty girl who wants her way:
We received our first farm grant this year (thank you, Texas Dept. of Ag!), baby chickens arrived in boxes who then grew up to be adults who now spread manure, eat bugs and give us eggs, our local farmers market that I manage has done great work with awesome programs for SNAP and WIC customers, all kinds of folks and publications still think we're a-ok, we'll soon have a small house out at the farm which will allow us to have a year-round on-farm intern (that whole process will need it's own sitcom, I imagine), and we still, after almost 3 years, have incredible support from our community, from our dear friends, and from our family--who don't get to see us enough, yet do nothing but reinforce our choices with love and patience.
Life is good. Life is hard. But y'all, life is good.