Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


An early morning spider web, back-lit by the rising sun. Photo by Brian Harris
I'm tired. Everything feels like a grind. Small problems often appear greater than they need be. Everyone on the farm needs more sleep. We're all trying to make it through to a point in the season when things will slow down.

August tends to be like this on the farm. Regardless of how prepared we think we are, it always comes as a surprise.

At the end of July we can often look at the fields and be satisfied with the way things are going. Weeding is getting done and we're done most of the intensive seedings by that point. Winter transplants are in the ground and most crops are doing well.

When August arrives, it often coincides with a blast of summer heat. As the crops mature, they transition from manageable to out-of-control. We are finishing with raspberries and the blackberries and blueberries are coming on. Beans are ready early in the month and become a seemingly never-ending harvest project. Cucumbers and zucchini need to be harvested every second day.

Amidst the arrival of abundance and a frenetic pace, the days are getting noticeably shorter. The sun is no longer rising at 5 a.m.; by the end of the month, it's barely offering dawn at 6 a.m. I milk the goats in the dark. Meanwhile, a thick fog rolls in over the fields most mornings. Spiders weave webs, the goats prepare to breed and the leaves on some trees begin to show signs of changing colours.

The August morning dew highlights spider webs and grass seed heads. Photo by Brian Harris
Our own fatigue begins to show. We're all irritable at times and some days the weight of the season seems unbearable. Other days, the ecstasy of the harvest is a thing of beauty. For us, it's easy to understand why this is a time of year when farm accidents are most prone to happen; the rush of the harvest combined with fatigue can be dangerous.

I personally begin to long for quieter days when we'll be able to relax inside and enjoy the jars of preserves from the summer while we plan for the next season ahead. We begin to plan fall programs for our children and I look forward to being able to spend more time with them, and taking on a greater share of child-keeping responsibilities.

Nonetheless, a lot of work remains. At the end of August we say good-bye to two of our summer apprentices. This year, Kate returns to UBC to work on her Masters project. Sean will stay on the farm for a little while longer, but reduce his work to one day a week. We still have two months of farmers markets ahead of us, plus CSA boxes to harvest and pack. Onions and shallots need to be harvested, cured, cleaned and stored. Squash will need to be picked and stored. Greens are a weekly harvest job and the beans are unrelenting in their growth.

In ancient European Pagan calendars, the beginning of August marks the start of the harvest season and a transition toward autumn. Indeed, the beginning of August coincides with half-way between Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. Abundance of harvest is apparent and it's important to step back and enjoy the frenetic pace.

We hope you experience this abundance as you visit our farmers market stands or open your CSA boxes. It's an exciting time of year, but a time that also requires discipline, patience and perseverance to get the work done and to prepare for the winter months ahead. We're happy to hear how you're using the produce we grow and to get feedback about what you're looking forward to in the months ahead -- and even what you would like us to try growing in the future.

And tomorrow September begins. We'll have a smaller farm team, we'll begin work an hour later and move toward the 23rd when we'll have equal length of night and day. The season will begin to slow down and, hopefully, we'll begin to collect a few more hours of sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment