Let The Bounty Begin –

Yes, the season is in earnest taking a shift to harvest mode. How nice to cradle green goodies in my arms as I come home. The last grocery store stop was last week; it’s solely the soul of Homeward Bounty harvest from now on. Just as rewarding, if not more, sharing with those I love. Some of the members of this year’s CSA have known me before I could eat uncooked carrots. They are family and having the privilege to provide food for their households makes me speechless. I was grinning from ear to ear, around my head and back (proceeded by another grin), when distributing the first CSA share to south Siskiyou County on Monday.

And well, you can’t have a CSA with out the quintessential CSA basket. I had been brainstorming for a while on which route to take when my sis asked if I would have use for wire baskets. Her boyfriend’s family has been farmers in Yuba City for many generations. For a while they were harvesting hundreds of acres of millet and these baskets were part of the process, now they’re just hanging out in the barn. A little doctoring up, a cloth liner to keep things clean and cool a sign (just incase you forget why a basket of food has arrived at your door) and voila – beautiful, bountiful, basket bearing buku bunches of bright ….vegetables.

It was quite the crafting process. Ahh, the marriage of crafts and farming, it can’t be paralleled by many other matches.

There will be more flirtation between craft and farm as the season continues. A project I’m very excited to develop is the seed facet of this year’s farming endeavors. I have a packet design in mind and am overjoyed to collaborate with a very very talented and dear friend Ashely Mersereau. Her sketches are like none other and will be stunning as illustrations on seed packets. Ashely visited Siskiyou on her way home to Oregon from a creative traveling adventure on the California coast. She was the inspiration for Homeward Bounty the blog, as she keeps her own blog that allowes her to share her journey with nears and dears. A recient post on her blog describes her travels to Homeward Bounty, it is accompanied by energy capturing photographs.                www.rootsandwingsjewelry.wordpress.com

We’ve always been ones to share those venerable dreams with each other and here we are manifesting and expressing. She has also migrated back to the geography that raised her and is transitioning into being a small business owner herself with her hand crafted jewelry, photographs and pen and ink drawings. Her are some moments that she captured –

Aunts in the garden

The farm feels as if it is transforming daily. The longer days are fully taking hold of reaching green leaves and encouraging them to stretch and settle in for the many days of growth ahead.

With the warm days and lengthening sun, the starts in the green house have started to glow, buzz and create somewhat of a commotion. With roots ready to reach beyond their plastic square homes and upgrade to more spacious lodging; a movement akin to Occupy was rumored to take hold. They were ready, in mass, to take over the fields. I knew the weather would be a bit dicy, but with a busy schedule you can’t always accommodate to precision timing. If time and good weather presents itself and plants are begging to go in, then you just have to do it. Monday was a big planting day, half of the tomatoes went into the ground at 60 plants, some peppers and eggplant too. They were given love, water, a blanket of frost cloth, a gesture of prayer flags and wished the best of luck for the somewhat chilly nights ahead…like Firday, when we were ‘graced’ with snow. As slyly as rumored, Siskiyou County weather tossed in a wicked curve ball. I think the local Spring saying goes as such; in like a lamb, out like the abominable snowman.

Although the weather outside was frightful, those sun-soakers hunkered down and pulled through! Yahoo! At present the frost cloth is off and hopes are being cast for amiable lows that don’t dip below 50. A girl can dream and dream I will.

With non-stop work on the daily docket and the dockets of days yet to come, additional hands, smiles and company out in the fields is a blessing. I’ve already expressed how the journey of this land and project has filled it’s significance and reward, just with the people and relationships it has cultivated. Homeward Bounty has seen and will see a lot of special visitors, but this week might take the cake, or the lamb chop, as would be appropriately coveted by the O’Brien family. Memorial weekend brought the whole clan to Lake Shastina. All five of my Dad’s brothers and sisters and their partners, my sister, cousin Ben and Kelly all made the trip for one fun-filled and incredibly loud weekend. Now the weekend couldn’t be all play and no work. That would have been horrible, right!? While the guys when out golfing all the ladies rolled up their sleeves and set out to work on the farm. It meant the world to me to show them all the land and work that’s been invested into it. They were great out there, planting tomatoes like professionals. What a blast! Talk about hard workers. They even folded up the frost cloth like fine linen.

Not Romantic, but Yummy

I can officially say that I’ve indulged in the fruits of my labor. Sown from seed, cared for in the green house, planted out in the field with encouraging thoughts of Napa Cabbage grandeur. Allas, those chinese cabbages are truly fickle things when it comes to day length and heat. I knew that the cold nights and random 80 degree spikes of a few weeks ago would trigger its primal response, “if we don’t go to flower now and produce seeds then our whole gene pool will be lost. We’re not going to be able to survive these long hot days.” Plants interpret many different conditions as stressful; longer days, shorter days, extreme heat, extreme cold, too much water and not enough. These stresses can trigger premature bolting in some plant species. I’ve always found it extremely fascinating that that response is truly imbedded in their tissues and plant memory. What a drive. I wonder if it’s a individual battle of making sure that YOUR seeds are out there in the world or a collective consciousness, where each plant is responsible to invest their best for the greater good of the species. Regardless, up they went! When life gives you lemons, we all know what to do with them. So when mother nature gave me bolting (the term for plants flowering and going to seed) Napa cabbage I harvested the leaves and made a lovely saute with garlic and onions. The perfect green for a summer time burger! Not the most romantic of first harvest’s on my new land, but it had to be something. The bed is already cleared and a new crop has already taken it’s place. Live and learn.

Getting Rooted

I don’t think I’m going to call it working late, beyond the hours of sun, a solid day of work setting out of view with more coming on the shadows of the moon. I’m just going to think of my late night task extravaganzas as dates with the green house. Ah yes, I put on my comfy work cloths best, pour a (generious) glass of wine and get the tunes rolling. We always agree to see each other again after such nice nights, and thank goodness too, because there’s much to be done!

Things are looking very positive. Thanks to a very determined, strong, hardworking and skilled work crew a nice stretch of fence has been put up. Five 3′ holes were dug to sink railroad ties. From the posts we set H braces and then ran out hog wire and a line of barbed wire. It made for a long and rewarding day. Bob Copeland was gracious in providing his knowledge and expertise. He joked at one point that among neighbors in the area he’s known as the Minister of D-fence. That one had me giggling for a while, Bob is a Pastor. I’ve been able to enjoy a nice jump start by planting potatoes, onions, cool weather crops and greens in an already fenced side garden. The vision however, is to get the 1/2 acre plot fenced and in production for the bulk of the season’s seed crops and CSA vegetables. It is just a matter of a few days and the rest of the length will be up, the field will be fully amended with manure and tilled to fluffy perfection.

It’s Grow Time

It has been quite the week. A week of rain and 80 degree sun shining down, manure hauling and spreading, weed pulling and bed making, planting, planting, planting and watering, watering, watering. The box of work cloths are out for the 2012 season. The smells of a new season too: sunscreen, freshly tilled soil, manure, aromatic starts like basil and tomatoes fill the greenhouse and don’t forget B.O! It’s all accounted for now it’s time to dig farming feet and hands deep, find that core passion and strength to give this season all my will, focus, positive energy and to not for get to smile!

There was The Great Weed Pull – 2012! It think the event has the potential to be a popular annual fare!?

The House is always Greener on the other side. For these little starts the greenhouse truly was the lap of luxury. They’re on their own now (with loving oversight). I’m sure they’ll soon be convienced that their new home, with room to spread their roots and grow big, is far superior! I can imagine it was a little traumatizing however, form some starts to see their friends mowed down by very crafty and bad cows! There’s a farming saying that goes as follows: “One for the deer, one for the crow, one to die and one to grow.” I wonder who’s plant the cow took? Hopefully not the one who’s role is to grow!

As for me, I’m learning how to struggling having the little babes so far away. I know it will get easier with time, that I’ll grow more confident, to be able to drive away, knowing they’ll be fine. As it currently stands, I wish I had a monitor where I could listen in on them and find reassurance in their cooing photosynthetic growth. On cool nights I’ve been tucking them in under frost cloth (More for my own peace of mind. So I know they’re not going to up root and disappear, rather than protect them from the ‘cool’ April nights.) This wave of warm weather has forced me to let go even more. I’ve been leaving them uncovered at night, truly out in the elements on their own, my nerves bare as well. I’m sure there will be a time as I sit in front of my salad, vegetable lasagna, or box of glowing CSA goods and I think, “I remember when I didn’t sleep, because I was worried this moment wouldn’t come.” It’s not as infanticidal as it seems, I think.