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Sabbatical Year

“And that’s why I’m taking a year off” I dejectedly said to my neighbor who rescued me from yet another farming pickle I got myself into. Hey y’all! Your favorite (former?) farmer back in your inbox after a little hiatus. Although it still feels like winter out there, I can feel the warmth of the sun calling me out of my annual hibernation. However, this season I’m resisting that call! The (very long) entertaining (for you, not me!) story below is a microcosm of my farming experience the past couple years. 2020 was my fifth season running the farm on my own, which included the two driest seasons on record, as well as the wettest season on record. If mother nature has a sense of humor, this will be the most perfect growing season ever…though I don’t really see that as the direction we’re headed.

For a variety of reasons that I hope to expound on in future newsletters (labor, farm economics, and weather being the big three), I’ve been unable to make farming not fully life consuming. SO, I’ve decided to take a year off from intensive farming this season to spend more time with my girls…before they grow up way too fast. When parents of older kids almost universally tell you that it goes by in a blink of their (often teary) eye while watching my littles run free, I figure I should probably listen. I always assumed a young farmer would come along, become a partner in the farm, and lighten my load. That partner never materialized, and I can’t keep it going as is on my own anymore without missing these precious moments.

A big THANKS to y’all for all your dedication and support through the years! If you know me, you know I didn’t make this decision lightly. I’ve dedicated seven years of my life to this farm and its soil, and hope that it and I will be revitalized in the near future. Now back to the story!

“And that’s why I’m taking a year off” I dejectedly said to my neighbor who rescued me from yet another farming pickle I got myself into. He found me desperately clinging to the plastic covering my high tunnel that was wildly flapping around in the wind (that came out of nowhere!) It was getting toward mid-December, and I had been watching the weather for weeks to find the perfect day to remove the wind torn plastic.

Despite getting the top of the line model high tunnel named The Nor’easter, it was no match for real Nor’easters and the relentless west wind that rubbed holes on the peak where each arch touches the plastic. I crawled along the peak (not fun, nor safe) numerous times to try to patch the holes, but to no avail. Below the compromised layers of plastic were some still gorgeous greens that I hadn’t been able to give up on. But that day was the day I had been waiting for.

It had been a relatively still day, as far as those go on the top of this hill, but still too windy for working with (effectively) a 4,000 square foot sail. The wind was supposed to cease at 4pm, giving us an hour of so of daylight to get the job done. I arranged for reinforcements to arrive by 4, but the wind completely died down by 3 and I decided to get a head start. Since the plastic was only damaged along the peak, the plan was to cut it right down the middle so that I could reuse it for a smaller future tunnel. It felt weird to be undoing something I had spent a year planning, a second year executing said plan, and then far too much time and energy maintaining….and yet oddly satisfying as the work progressed quicker and easier than I thought possible. I even stopped to take a picture!

Only a few minutes after this picture, on an otherwise sunny day, a dark ominous cloud (perhaps the one pictured?) covered up the sun and the wind kicked up out of nowhere. All of a sudden, I was up in the rafters holding onto the wildly flapping plastic instead of peacefully cutting it. During a very brief lull, I swung to the middle of the cut to get more leverage and that’s when the wind REALLY picked up. I remember having the distinct thought of ‘well, this is fitting’ as I was holding on for dear life. After some serious rodeoing, I had a brief window of opportunity to call for help…but of course I had left my phone on some boards back where I stopped cutting the plastic. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I decided to go for it, swinging back and calling all the neighbors.

Fortunately my next door neighbor/landlord answered and happened to be at home (thanks COVID), and for once I had put my clamps (to pin down the plastic) back where they belonged. With my head above the plastic, I resisted yelling “RUN” as I watched him briskly walk to the garage to get the clamps. The rest was a blur as I swung from arch to arch, with him handing me clamps as I went. As I swung down, bloodied, bruised and aching all over, I muttered the “and that’s why I’m taking a year off” line knowing that my work that day was far from over. Having saved the day, and with skilled reinforcements arriving in a few minutes, I thanked my neighbor and sent him on his way.

Amazingly, the wind completely stopped blowing right at 4 as forecasted while the sun started setting. Like, zero wind – a very rare occurrence on the hill, which made an enormous project much easier. Still we needed every bit of light, plus an hour of headlamp light to finish up. And as you can see, we still had lots of greens left to harvest, which we pretty much accomplished with one monster harvest the next morning. I was thrilled to finally check ‘remove plastic’ off the list, but harvesting was MUCH colder without that top!

Thanks for reading y’all! Hopefully it warms up soon – in like a lion out like a lamb right? Whenever it does warm up, come on up and visit!


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