Another Loss

You win some, you lose some, and sometimes you move something from the win column to the lose column (don't count your chickens before they hatch).

Thursday morning I wandered out into the milk thistle to see if the ground was dry after the flood irrigation session the week before. About 15 students from the University of Montana's PEAS Farm program were coming for a visit and Farmer Josh had promised his students would put in a couple hours of work. I was dreaming of them swarming the milk thistle and weeding it clean. Turns out all the plants were dead.

Never ever ever flood irrigate milk thistle. They do not like standing water. Their roots will rot and they will die. I walked the entire 960 foot length of the field saying, "no no no no no no". I would have cried if I'd allowed myself to. Instead I lay face down in the grass at the end of the field and just mourned. It ate at me for days after and it wasn't until Sunday late in the day that I finally accepted it.

I was looking for the win in the situation and couldn't find it. So then I looked for the silver lining and all I could come up with was I won't have to harvest the seed which is labor intensive. So I won't have to worry about that anymore.

Today on my way to the milk thistle, I stopped by the spot I'd planted milk thistle two years ago where some volunteer plants had come up this spring. I weeded around them since they are my best hope for any seed and they actually look great. There are not a lot of plants, but some. Then, in this year's crop, I found that many of the plants that I thought were dead, may not be. They are very much set back and may not actually produce any seed. Their bottom leaves are brown, but there are some green leaves on top and some with a seed head (though probably from before the irrigation disaster).

Back to the students - we did not go out into the milk thistle. I didn't even tell them about it. Instead I set them on the onions which desperately needed weeding. After they'd clear out the beds in a matter of hours (what would have taken me days), the poor onions looked so sad and tiny and droopy, if they were there at all. Too little, too late. Another loss.

I have to admit I'm ready for winter. I was pretty optimistic this spring, especially after quitting my job and dedicating myself to my family and the farm. Now, I'm far less optimistic and I just want to start over. But one can't do that in farming. You have to fight it out until then end, like walking up a fast moving river.

There will be wins this year, and even some that I don't see right now. At least that's what I'm telling myself.


  1. Good work, no better yet, great work. Success follows closely!

  2. Thank you thank you, Rabbit. I needed that.

  3. The people actually eating your food are happy, Jacob. We could not be happier with our CSA. Last night, we had chard tacos (Rick Bayless has a recipe) and they were awesome! We love what you're doing.

  4. My latest mantra around my farm is "ruin is the road to transformation." Sometimes it helps, sometimes I just cry. This is the first year of starting our farm from scratch--what were we thinking? Then I read something like your blog and I remember we are not in this alone. Thank you for inspiring to go out to the garden and wage another vine borer war! :)

  5. You have enough water. That is good. But, can't win without prayer.


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