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