Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Late last night, I finally watched the film Julie and Julia--the parallel story of Julia Child and here twenty-first century devotee and blogger, Julie Powell. Unsurprisingly, half way through the film I found myself guiltily reflecting on my lax blogging as of late while simultaneously chastising myself for the self-aggrandizing thought that anyone other than me had lost any sleep over this lapse. I sincerely hope not. But here I am, back, more in love than ever with butter (the taciturn third protagonist of the film), and ready to recommit.

I also have news of next year, which I am very excited to share! Having apparently learned nothing from the climatic disaster that was the past year in Massachusetts, I am sticking out another season in the frigid Northlands, this time in Barre, MA at Misty Brook Farm. Misty Brook is primarily a raw milk dairy, though they also raise veal, beef, pigs, chickens, hay, feed corn, several field crops, and two small children. As you can see, about the only agricultural thing they don't do is vegetables, which is where Andrew and I come in. Brendan and Katia (the farmers) want to create a Whole Farm CSA using their meat, eggs, and milk, so they have offered me an acre of their land on which to grow vegetables for the CSA and their farmstand. Andrew, who has wanted to learn about raw milk dairying for several years, will divide his time between the animals and the vegetables while I will remain a full-time vegetable grower. Rather than paying us a salary, they will allow us to use their equipment, to live in their house, and to keep all of the proceeds from the vegetables.

This is, quite possibly, the best deal I EVER could have imagined, short of someone saying, "Here are 50 acres of Class I, weedless soil, tractors, and a room full of hungry locavores. And next season will have perfect weather. Merry Christmas!"

Since I finished at Caretaker, we've been making periodic pilgrimages to Barre--to plant garlic, to hammer out the details of our arrangement, and most recently, to discuss the website Andrew and I have designed. As of yesterday, it launched! Interweb addict that I am, this is an extremely pleasing development to me.

The coming season will be what I make of it, and I have the whole winter to plan. I've been plotting yield numbers (hopefully conservative ones), laying field plans, researching greenhouses, selecting seed varieties, and accumulating tools. Along the way, I am reminded of how fortunate we farmers are in our seasonal rest. I have the time and the mental space to envision next year from start to finish, to design new efficiencies, to rethink old habits. As a natural list-maker, I eat this stuff up.

It seems appropriate to me that this is the season of Advent within the church. Advent is (at least in theory) a time of expectant waiting and preparation. Ecclesiastically speaking, these are the days to get your house in order, to prepare for the Christmas season and all of the new life that follows. True, winter has only begun to sink itself into my Massachusetts soil and will not relent on December 25th. A few days ago, I tried to dig up a frozen parsley plant for its root. I had read that you can "force" a parsley root to sprout as you would an endive, simply by bringing it inside and keeping it in a pot of moist sand. The prospect of fresh greenery sent me out into the cold, to stab at the rigid earth with an old trowel. I was rebuffed. The Advent of the earth is not yet over, nor will be for some time. Though I sometimes long for it, I am not yet ready for the imperative that is spring. Patience is a wintery virtue.

Now is the time to sleep deeply and dress warmly and to dream of the year to come.


E said...

a great planning tool:

MK said...

whoa. thanks for that, E. I had been compiling data from lots of different sources, but that site is delightfully comprehensive!

Anonymous said...

Hi MK, I've recently found your blog and I like your writing very much! I wish all the best for your future endeavours! I must say I easily admire anybody who raises their own chickens and slaughters them too. I wish that was possible for me as well.

Alexandra said...

So excited for your upcoming year. I am also hopeful for 2010, and its weather!, and perhaps I can finally make a mini trip up to Mass to visit!

Jason said...

Best of luck with your new venture. The web site looks great.