Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Time Marches On

Maple leaves are just starting to emerge in Hot Springs. You gotta look for 'em, and look real close, but you can see them when the sun's just right and you hold your head the right way. There's a willow on the outside of the curve that comes down around Bluff that's pushing it's leaves out, too. Funny that it's out so early - it's down there in the holler and can't get very much sunlight.
I've got the upper field plowed, and if it stays dry another day or two, I just may disk it. A bit early, maybe, but it got good and cold for a night or two after I turned it, and I want to get a jump on things before they operate on my shoulder.
H* across the creek turned his tobacco fields today. They're neat as a pin and in perfectly straight lines. When I get to be 70, I might be as good as H*, but I doubt it.
A friend came up from Alabama for the afternoon. Actually, was heading back from somewhere in Tennessee and stopped here on the way home. She had plenty of stories of the farm life back home, and they were all too familiar: bugs, drought, hard-pan, chefs, customers, cotton, soy-bean, and worst of all, marketing co-operatives. We spent some tome fantasizing about being artists, instead (that's how we'd make more money!) and then decided it's best to invest in real estate.
J*'s a good egg, though, drought and marketing co-operatives not withstanding. She's moved onto her great-aunt's farm, a hundred plus acres smack dab in the middle of the Black Belt, and is determined to make something of it. Flowers and herbs seems to be the path, with maybe some pastured poultry. One way or another, she's going to keep the land in agriculture. It's a noble calling, I suppose. I sometimes look back and wonder where I went wrong. I could be in a soup line, or asleep under a bridge somewhere, instead of doing this. Or investing in real estate. But, no, I took a wrong turn somewhere and find myself growing food for people. I forget where I was going with all this. Something about J* being on ancestral land, something about land use changing, but about some people determined to keep it from changing. I was going so say something about Spring arriving and leaves budding about, as to underscore times relentless march forward, but it repetitiveness. It was going to represent something about change that we welcome, while there is other change that we resist. I got sidetracked by marketing co-operatives and bugs, though. That happens to me a lot.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I Probably Shouldn't Have Done That

The chestnut tree is finally out of the front field. I trimmed - or more properly: bucked, though this was a tiny little tree, the branches down so I have just a trunk, for what use I know not, as yet, and I tossed all the branches onto the brush pile. That was all very well and good. The problem was starting the chain saw. That hurt. I mean, that really hurt.
S* cut the chestnut tree down with a skilsaw back in September. It all started when we had to get a piano out of the front room of the house. Or, really, it all started when we had to back a truck up to the front porch, to recieve said piano. We needed maybe another four inches of clearance. The tree had to go.
The tree had to go, in fact, many years ago, when I first arrived here. I just didn't have the heart to cut a tree down. So I left it. Along with the ten other volunteer chestnut trees that had grown up in the front yard during the time that the farm was abandoned. They'd gotten quite stately by the time I arrived - ten feet tall, most of them, and certain to scatter toe stabbing chestnut husks hither and yon. They've grown even more, during the years that I've been here, shading out any possibility of grass in front of the house and rubbing their upper branches against the roof. But I haven't cut them. They're trees, after all.
There's a clothes line between two of them, a bird feeder on another, and little paths all around the rest, where you have to walk if you want to get anywhere from the front door. The "yard" was a sight when I first got here: Smack dap in the middle of the fields they put this house, and then put a chain link fence around it. (They, of course, painted the chain link fence white.) A chustnut had been planted in one corner, and then it proceeded to have babies. They put a little community of daylilies in another corner, two apple trees in the front yard and another in the back, and a plum tree in a back corner. A chinese snowball was planted next to the chestnut (the original,) and on both sides of the gates: roses. Someone clearly had a plan, or, as I more often envision it, someone ordered something like a "perpetual bloom combo" out of a catalog. The daylilies come on first, followed by the Chinese snowball and then the roses. There's color in the front yard right up 'til late summer. Then the chestnuts start to fall and you can't go out there anymore.
But, like I say, someone had a plan.
One of the baby chestnuts died a few years ago, and another came down in a storm. This was the third to go. We dragged it out to the front field and left it there. We had a piano to move. The fuel line on my chainsaw was broken at the time, so I ignored the tree. I got myself a new fuel line about a month later, but for some reason never got around to cutting up the tree. That was this afternoon. It is neatly and tidyly disposed of, thank you, and the front field is ready for a plow. It's just that my shoulder is swollen, and I'm thinking that using the chainsaw wasn't such a good idea. It wasn't the actual using of it that hurt, it was the starting. I felt that, alright, right down in the bone.

Next installmant: A description of various outbuildings, and their gradual dismemberment and/or refurbishment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I Just Want The Whole World To Be More Like a Bag of Tortillas

I've been a bit down lately, due mostly to a series of recent events that suggests to me that the world is swirling down the ol' crapper.
I do not know what has become of my usual cheerful self. I've felt nothing but doom and gloom recently. I've kind of felt like reaching up and pulling the cord that makes the little bell go dingy dingy, and getting off the bus. Only, there's no getting off this bus. It's the only one we have.
The Forest Service has a plan afoot to sell off outlieing parcels of land. Like, the one up the hill from my place, and the one across the creek that you see when you stand next to the barn. The National Forest always seemed timeless to me - like its always been there and it always will be there. But no, it's going to be a subdivision. Oak Tree and Brown Bear Lane, they'll call it, after they cut down all the oak trees and kill all the brown bears.
Then I learned of a law that will require me to put a microchip embedded dog collar on all of my chickens. All of them. Even the black one that roosts up in the pine tree. The one we can't ever catch. She'll be forcing us to break the law. I'm going to end up in Gauntanamo Bay with Marines threatening me with unnatural sex acts, all because we can't ever catch the black chicken. The other ones, we can catch them when they go into the coop at night. But the black one. She'll be the ruin of us all.
I face daily frustration caused by the medical/insurance complex, and I'm not even going to start in on that. Rest assured that (for the hundredth time) I think I have it resolved and will have good news tomorrow.
My collarbone aches most of the time, and there's very little around here that I can actually do. I can think up all kinds of things to do, but, I can't really do them.
I recieve phone calls from homeless waifs needing assistance. I know I have no business offering assistance to homeless waifs, but, nonetheless, I always end up taking in homeless waifs and will probably do the same for this one. I never learn.
The last straw in this little camel-back pile-up happened the Sunday afternoon before last. I had I* for the day, a cold snowy day with nothing to do but play inside. I* decided he wanted to fingerpaint, and since it is my opinion that there's no such thing as too much fingerpainting, we decided to go at it.
I spread newspaper all over the floor, across the couch, up the walls, over the cats, and on the kitchen counters. Then, and only then, did I open the paints and put some construction paper on the floor. We were having a good ol' time, putting a dab of blue here, and a pinky of red there. A smear of yellow offset with a purple handprint. A bit of brown on the edge, with a stripe of pink. Then one of the newspaper articles caught my eye. It was the story of a soldier who had a leg amputated in Iraq. It was a complete story: his mid-west hometown football days, his enlistment, his injury, his surgery. His next surgery. His next surgery. Thay gave his complete story, with a very clear underlieing message: this same thing is happening to hundreds more. Right now. They're lieing in hospital beds right now, without legs and arms and hands and eyes. I broke down and starting crying right there.
That's the world. With their wars and their chicken collars and their forest destruction and their maimed young soldiers. You can't get away from them. You can't even fingerpaint without being reminded of their war. You can't relax with a child on a snow day without their war being in your face.
I've been walking around numb and depressed ever since. I try to cheer myself up, but it feels phony and forced. I had to take a few minutes this morning and try to think up some stuff that's made me happy, lately. The strawberries and the spinach fit the bill.
I didn't think the October spinach had made it. I seeded it and then went to Texas and got back and it hadn't come up. Win some, lose some. But it's up now, and is the most delightful and cheerful shade of green you've ever seen. The soil around it is getting close to Spring soil - that post-Groundhog Day / pre-Equinox soil, where it changes from tight winter soil that holds everything in and changes to spring soil that lets go and expands. All of the fields are starting to feel that way. You walk across them and they don't go squoosh squoosh like winter soil, they're starting to go bounce bounce like spring soil. The strawberries feel more cheerful, too. They look exactly like they looked a month ago, it's just that they feel more cheerful. More of that post-Groundhog day expansiveness, that look up to the sky and the sun sort of thing, rather than that hunker down and draw into ourselves cold soil thing. Strawberries and spinach cheer me up.
But the thing that has cheered me up the most, lately, has been a bag of tortillas I bought at Ingles. Like, this flimsy plastic bag that you tear the top off then there's this zip lock thing there that never works. It has a Mexican flag as part of its logo. But it's not a real Mexican flag, with the eagle trying to kill the little snake. No, it's a cheerful Mexican flag. The eagle/snake motif has been replaced with a few bunches of wheat stalks.
Right there, in the middle of the flag - some food that someone grew. That's what I want my flag to be.
I've finally found something to feel proud of, and it's on a bag of tortillas I bought at Ingles. There amid the fields of white and green and red, which stand for, like, white Catholic piety and red martyr's blood and some other stuff, are stalks of wheat. Harvested and ready to eat.
Go halfway around the world and kill people, if you want to. I'll be in my front yard, saluting a bag of tortillas I bought at Ingles.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Everybody is making love
Or else expecting rain
And the good samaritan, he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight
On desolation row.
-Bob Dylan

Went to another baby shower yesterday. It seems sometimes that a person could do nothing but go to baby showers in this neck of the woods and still have a very full social calendar. Fear not, though. I am well-armed with packages of baby booties and fleeces and onesies and blankets and mittens and plastic things. I never attend a baby shower empty handed.
The conversation centered on, well, babies. And birthing. And lactating.
On occasion, it turned to farming, and hovered there for just a moment or two and then returned to birthing.
Greenhouses were the favorite topic, as they should be this time of year. Everyone present recited lists of what has been started and what still needs to be. People exchanged heating tips and cooling tips. We talked of potting soil and plastic containers. J* has a house full of flower blossoms - stuff she's forced in the greenhouse. It looks like Venus. Or a jungle in someplace like Brazil.
A* has a home. A* is the wandering, homeless farmer. She finds a place, grows the most beautiful garden you've ever seen in your life, then moves on. Then starts over, spends another year loading gorgeous vegetables on her table week after week, and then moves on. Land prices are high in these parts, and they're only going to get higher. A* has never been able to afford her own place, and if anyone deserves a place of her own, it's A*.
Some farms are expanding their operations. Some are shrinking. Some are making a valiant economic stand, some are losing money. Most just drift along, subsidized by a "farmer's" other insome sources.
P* is joining our market this year. P*'s another youngster with a star next to his name. He grows really good-looking food and piles it on his table every week. It's going to be fun setting up next to him every week. He's on rented land, too, so his fortunes, like A*'s, are tied to the moods of rich landlords.
No one said it would be easy.
A few of the CSA are expanding - an extra ten members or so. (They're hopelessly old-fashioned, as you all know. We here at Let It Grow have seen the future.)
We found a meat vendor for our Saturday market. I find that to be exciting, because it follows my idea of having all food groups represented at the market, and of having every possible recipe ingredient available, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. They're new, and untested, but I hope they do okay.
Our last meat vendor suffered the whims and changing moods of rich landlords.
The honey guy will still be there. Stable, is a good word for him.
B* will be there, with a mountain of food. Stable, too.
And the fish will be coming up twice a week. (Stay tuned to this space for more fish adventures. In fact, I might start a fish oriented sister blog. Help me with a title.)
Speaking of fish, I may be heading down to the coast soon to save some endangered woodpeckers. Depends upon when my surgery gets scheduled for. It'll have to be soon, though (the surgery and the woodpecker trip,) my greenhouse is getting full.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

We Seem To Be Up and Rolling

Watch now as I accentuate the positive and relay all sorts of good thoughts about my greenhouse, instead of ranting and raving about the medical/insurance complex, which is what I want to do:

There's dirt in little trays. Sounds pretty simple, I know, but it's the way things start every year. Put a little bit a dirt in a tray, then put some seeds in there somewhere, pour a little bit of water over the whole deal, and wait. It's simple, and, if I may add, not altogether attractive: trays full of dirt, and more trays full of dirt. But it excites me and makes me happy and makes me want to run around and jump up and down and stick my head through the door of the greenhouse and shout Whitman: Smile, O voluptuous cool-breathed earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
I know, enough of that.
But it's so much fun! Stacks of old plastic pots everywhere, heavy bags of potting soil that have to be dragged places, little packets of seeds that never seem to be where I left them! I've started enough kale to choke a moose, and enough lettuce to feed Peoria. I've leeks to reach to the moon and half-way back, and nevermind how much broccoli. Groundhog day has come and gone, which means we're on the downhill side of our journey toward the equinox. The plants will start to grow again! They want to grow again! The earth is tilting back to where the sun will just yank them out of their seeds and pull them up from the soil!
It's slow and incremental, this journey towards greenhood. I've just a few sprout heads poking above the soil. Next week, there'll be more. And then more. Now, it's just the greens. Soon, they'll be joined by tomatoes and peppers and squash. The little spots of green, barely visible in the trays, will take over the greenhouse and nothing brown, no soil nor tabletops nor bare earth in walkways, will be visible.
That's it and that's where we are. We're up and rolling again.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cheeseburger in Paradise

You can spend money on the Creek again.
Jimmy Moore, the pastor of a church in Fines Creek and a lifetime tire man, closed up his shop last July. His was the last business on the Madison County side of Betsy's Gap, and the last business on Hwy 209. It was a general store years ago. Jimmy's Mom opened it up some time after the Second World War. (Jimmy's dad died in Normandy, and his momma had a family to raise.) Years and years later, as the general stores in this part of the county faded away, Jimmy turned into a tire shop and small engine repair. And there he sold tires and repaired small engines for many years. It was a gathering spot, or course. You could spend a few hours there and learn about everyone's tobacco, who needed surgery, and who needed new tires. And when Jimmy closed, he closed the last business operating on Spring Creek.
A few weeks ago the Creekside deli opened, about a mile up the creek and just down the drive from RM's old place. They sell cheeseburgers and grilled cheese and pizzas and soda pop and potato chips. And Vienna sausages and chewing tobacco. While this may not be an appealing menu for some folks, I for one and happy that there's a business open again on the Creek. It means that people are out and about and getting hungry. It means there is enough of a community around to support a little place like that, and, someone willing to take a risk and serve that community. There's a place to loiter in the parking lot, catching up with the news of the valley.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My Retirement, Under a Seat, On a Handrail, Stuck in an Esophogus for Seven Years

It was one of those impulse buy items at the checkout in a supermarket.
Except that this was an Asian supermarket.
I saw hanging from a rack, while I was buying some coconut milk or something, a long string of something that had Thomas the Tank Engine pictures all over it. And Japanese writing.
Small little packages of something strung together with pictures of Thomas, Gordon, Percy, the whole gang.
Needless to say, it was too much to pass up for the little shaver.
$2.28 later I was the proud owner of some strange string of something that had Thomas the Tank Engine pictures all over it and Japanese writing.
Candy, I assumed. The packages looked like Sweet-Tarts.
Somewhere between the supermarket and home, I envisioned myself, twenty years hence, at a show of Thomas memorabilia. I envisioned people proudly displaying their model trains, lunch-boxes, and various obnoxious battery-powered sing-along shit. I'd just smile. I'd casually whip out my string of candy with Japanese writing and let the bidding begin.
It all went awry when the little tyke saw the Thomas pictures as I was unpacking the groceries. I tried to stay firm, but he wore me down and I relented. I watched my fortune disappear as he tore open all six packages and devoured every single stick of gum wrapped up inside.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


I went out for a walk in the snow this morning and found myself up on the cemetery hill behind the farm - a cache of Ledfords who all died from yellow fever or something in 1912. I could look across the fields and down toward J*'s house, with little I* running around in the front yard.
I couldn't shake the vision from my head. I kept thinking about it all day, including all afternoon when I was in my house.
My house lies right in the middle, between the cemetery hill and I*. Between the long dead and the newly born, you'll find me.
With nothing better to do on a snowy afternoon, I decided to make much more of this than any rational person should.
Thus, the thought I am left with is that that is what one does with one's life: think too much while some slumber and others play.
This was driven home all the moreso when I went out to the greenhouse for a little tidying activity. There I was, working and thinking about how to pay the bills, while some slumbered and some played. Is that what one does in between? It seems so. At least, that's what I did today.
I got a little cheered up a little later on, though, when it occurred to me that I wouldn't want to change places with either other party.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pushing the Envelope, Once Again

We continue to explore the boundaries of organic farming here at Let It Grow, and are pleased to announce one more giant leap forward.
Today we proudly announce VirtualCSA.com, the cyber farming branch of Let It Grow Organic Gardens.
With VirtualCSA.com, we take organic farming on a giant leap forward, and reinforce our primary goal of providing our customers with the best service possible. Virtual farming promises to occupy a larger and larger share of the organic farming market in years to come, and Let It Grow once again demonstrates itself to be a leader in the field.
Whatever your organic produce needs, please look to Let It Grow Organic Gardens for unparalled innovation and customer satisfaction, and please click on VirtualCSA.com.

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