Lentils, Wheat, Barley Up

The lentils, wheat, and barley I seeded in the field are up. As Court and I were driving down the road, we noticed nice neat rows of green. I had to get out and stomp through the mud to take a look and sure enough, 10 days after planting, my grains have popped through the soil.

Though the recent weather has prevented us from getting to a lot of things in the field, it's been pretty perfect for the things we already have seeded. We had moisture, heat, and now more moisture. Heat is sure to come. Then we get to watch everything explode (including the weeds).

Red Chief lentils.

Sonora wheat.

Playing Catch-up

I'm once again playing catch-up, on farm work, on blog posts, on sleep, on just about everything. If I play catch-up long enough, I'll get further and further behind until I loop back to the beginning and I'm caught up. Besides, I think playing catch-up is the new caught up.

So, catching you all up, here are some images of our recent activities.

A couple weekends ago, we had multiple visitors (Byron and Steph on Friday; Tim, Sarah, and Asa on Saturday; and Rick on Sunday). With their help we knocked a lot of work out, in particular transplanting the onions and leeks. I forgot my camera some of those days. Here's Saturday:

Tim, Sarah, and Asa help transplant billions of onion seedlings.

Tim stood on the drill while I seeded the one acre of lentils. Since that's not much seed, it's helpful to have somebody filling the cups in the drill while somebody else drives the tractor. It would make sense if you saw it.

Asa "drove" the combine cutting wheat. The wheat happens to be Court and Sarah. Cutting the wheat! Cutting the wheat!

The turkeys are nearly one month old and showing off how high they can fly.

The plants wondering when they can get outside.

My tired, pregnant wife.

Turkeys, Wind, Row Covers, and Seed Cleaners

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. As is their usual, the turkeys arrived amidst a snow storm and a power outage. They've wasted no time in stressing us out. They sure are cute and easy to forgive, though. That won't last long as they get uglier every day.


With the snow came very strong winds. It did things like blow an entire roll of row cover into the big field. I'd even weighted the roll down, but a strong wind laughs at those sorts of efforts.

This is our vegetable field at the beginning of May. At the beginning of May, I said. Or did I take that photo in January? I'm not sure anymore. You'll see my lovely pregnant wife in the middle of the photo cinching down the row cover over our seedlings.

The field in May. I think.

This little guy is kale. If it can shake off the snow and grow tall, we'll know just how super kale is.

Kale and snow.

Besides blowing a roll of row cover into the field, it also whipped around the stuff we had covering our seeded beds. I'm guessing the constant back and forth action rubbed the surface of the bed, filling in our rows of germinated radishes. All I can hope for is those plants to find their way to the surface again.

Radish wondering where everybody else went.

Despite major delays in seeding the big field (I did get the green manure winter peas in before all this), the upshot is, we've had time to knock out some of the indoor work that usually gets put off in the mad dash of the spring onslaught.

One such task was getting the seed cleaner up and running to clean the milk thistle and heritage wheat we grew last year. Our scale is too small for any custom cleaner to bother with, so we have to clean it ourselves. I've accumulated a couple of cleaners that don't work yet, but I also borrowed one that I finally got going. Here it is in action yesterday. I can't even express how excited I am by this. So, I'll just leave it at this: I am so excited.

The cleaner.

Milk thistle seed bouncing across the screen.

Chaff being blown out the back.

Clean seed!

O Pioneers! and Grounding to Ground

Note: I posted this piece last year about this time and as spring comes to the farm again, I am reading O Pioneers! to celebrate. I thought it fitting then, to repost this. Now, after a year behind us, we're a little wiser, yes, but also perhaps a little more harried. So, I'm hoping to find solace again in the words of Willa Cather as I did last year. And, especially as our conversations move forward with our landlords, these thoughts are good for grounding us to, well, the ground -- leased, owned or otherwise.

A few years ago, my friend Brooke, with whom I share a deep love for literature and empty spaces in which to read it, told me I must read Willa Cather's O Pioneers!, but to do so in the spring.

"It's a delightful book for spring," she said -- or something to that effect. Brooke sometimes speaks like the heroine in one of the novels she's devoured. It's one of the many reasons I love her.

So, this week, I happened to find O Pioneers! in the one box of books I've brought in from the garage.

I read it fervently and tonight finished the final chapter, the beauty of which I always forget. It was, as it is every spring, gorgeous and complex.

But this year, now that we're farming, I brought an entirely new perspective to the book. And because of that, one passage in particular sang for me.

Last fall, when Jacob and I first started talking to David about leasing his land, he had a surprisingly unsentimental take on the future of the place. I don't mean dispassionate. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. It was just a sense of practicality and no-nonsense. I can't remember exactly how he put it, but what he said had something to do with him not being the first one on the land, nor the last one. No one really owns their land in the first place, he said.

It's not a novel notion – but it is one I've heard mostly from the mouths of academics or environmentalists. Try it on a farmer who's been on his land for 50 years and his family for three generations and it's not going to fly. That's why coming from a farmer -- especially one staring down the reality of handing his land over to someone else – the idea held a tremendous weight.

I know a thing or two about the more sentimental approach to land ownership. For the better part of six years, I've cried every time we flash past my childhood farm on the interstate. The thought of another family there, of another farmer's plow in those fields … somehow, I felt robbed. Something that was mine was no longer.

David's place is 15 minutes from that farm. I now pass the old place at least twice a week. When I remember, I glance over at the profile of the homestead – to see if the trees are still growing on the edges, if that depression near the turnoff is still sinking. But, I don't cry anymore.

Maybe it's that the old farm is no longer “the farm.” Now, “the farm” is our farm, Jacob's and my farm. Or, maybe I am just finally able to intellectualize that the farm was never really mine to begin with, that what I was mourning was a childhood, innocence and an unscathed family, not a piece of ground.

Or, maybe I just knew it would be a waste of moisture – so very precious in this eastern front wind – if I had to cry every time we passed the farm.

Regardless, now that I'm digging in our dirt, which is actually owned by David, but technically still owned by the bank, and before that, owned by his parents and before that by someone whose name I don't even know, I see what David was talking about: It's about being able to see farther back than yourself or even your parents or grandparents and farther forward than your children or even their children.

Or, in more eloquent terms, it's about what Alexandra Bergson explains to Carl Lindstrum in that final chapter of O Pioneers!:

"Suppose I do will my land to their children, what difference will that make? The land belongs to the future, Carl; that's the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk's plat will there be in fifty years? I might as well will the sunset over there to my brother's children. We come and go, the land is always here And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it -- for a little while."
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