I like to think I live with a glass-half-full kind of spirit. It’s served me well over the years and has kept me trucking along even during some pretty trying times. This spring however, Tumbleweed Farm has tested both me and Taylor more than we’ve ever been tested in our 8 years of farming. We thought last spring was rough when we were camping out in the fields because the deer were eating so many of our crops. We didn’t have the budget for a new deer fence so we did the cheapest thing possible….patrol the fields ourselves. We had a good attitude about it and knew that if we had a good farming season we could afford to put money away for a new fence. The good news is that the farming season was awesome (albeit some deer damage) and we could justify the investment. This winter Taylor built the entire thing with his own two hands. The fence is not only beautiful but it works!!! The deer haven’t been able to get in (we’ve even seen them try!) and if feels amazing to sleep in our bed instead of the cold damp fields.
Just as we were getting comfortable (and maybe a little too cocky about our newly protected farm) a whole slew of new problems have surfaced. Root maggots have killed off hundreds of our spring broccoli plants; an unexpected frost did some major damage on the first round of cucumbers (this resulted in a road trip to an organic farm 2 hours away to pick up a bulk order of starts to make up for the loss) and gophers have decimated over half of our potato planting which required an emergency bulk order of seed potatoes (they arrive tomorrow.) To sum it all up, it’s been a little bit of a rocky start to our 2016 season. We’ve had to take turns comforting each other because we can’t both be falling apart at the same time. Someone needs to stay level headed when the farm throws us unexpected challenges, expenses and overwhelming heartache.
If I’ve learned anything about farming it’s that it can be really easy to focus on the things that are going bad (this year it seems like a lot is happening at once). Taylor has reassured me that this is why we grow a diversity of crops. We’re facing 3 major crop devastations but we grow over 50 different varieties of vegetables so even with these losses, (which we’ll hopefully make up with some of the replacement plantings) our customers should receive plenty of sustenance throughout the season. It doesn’t make it any less frustrating but it’s good to know we’ll be alright with the crops that are thriving.
The bright side of this crazy and stressful time is the amazing emails (which have included gopher stew recipes!), text messages and notes from friends and strangers alike. We’re also going through this frustrating period with two of our closest farming neighbors who are dealing with the exact same issues. We’ve been emailing each other photos of our morning catches (the gopher traps are working well!) And as much as I hate to admit it, misery loves company. Of course we are super bummed that our friends are dealing with devastation too, but it feels comforting to know we’re not alone.
It may have been a rocky few weeks but there was something unexpected and wonderful that happened. Our strawberries are ripening two weeks early this year and we almost didn’t notice because we were so focused on everything that was going wrong. That first bite into a juicy berry gets me every time and is a great reminder that it’s still super early in the season. We’ll be damned if we let a few gophers and failed crops keep us down. Honestly, if we let these failures get to us we’d never be successful at farming. Each year there will be new challenges and inevitably more devastation. It’s these setbacks that make the things that go well that much sweeter. Besides, the season is just beginning and the summer is looking just as bright as our strawberry patch.
I hope wherever this post finds you that there is a sweet and juicy berry to sink your teeth into and that the sun finds a way to shine when you’re feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully a few beers with some good friends are on your agenda too. And hey, if you live near by we’ll be selling veggies at the Hood River Farmers market tomorrow (Saturday) from 9-1pm. Radishes, turnips, lettuce, kale, arugula, herbs, asian greens, eggs, leeks and spring garlic just to name a few of the tasty items on the harvest list. We hope to see you there! Happy weekend everyone.
Cheers from Tumbleweed Farm