Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The end to a long summer

These days I go to parties where people sit around and play music, eat food we've made with our own hands, and talk about what a horrible summer it's been for tomatoes. I've never been much of the party-going type, but this I can handle. After working all day outside moving fences and doing chores, it's hard to make ourselves get in the truck and drive the 30+ minutes it takes to get anywhere our good friends live, but it does help.

Farming sometimes feels very lonely and isolating. We have neighbors that live fairly close, but we don't see them much and even if we did, we'd still feel isolated. They don't farm. The isolation we experience is of a particular kind. It's the kind where until we make an effort to check in with someone else who is doing what we're doing, we feel like we're the only ones having struggles or going through tough times.

We went to an annual party held by a friend of ours on Sunday. It's a party that marks the end of summer, and for some of us, the end of the farmers market season. It's a good chance each year to catch up with some friends after the busy market season, when it's hard to get together with anyone. Naturally, the conversations turn to what kind of year it's been, and if the conversations on Sunday are any indication, it's been a rough year for farming. The usual playful feel of this party was replaced with a fatigue that was palpable. We were in the truck headed home well before the sun was completely out of the sky....and we weren't the first to leave.

In spite of the struggles, we've had a decent year. It's our first year at this location, and Lisa and the interns did an amazing job of eeking out some good veggies from soil so nutrient-depleted from years of laying fallow that it's hard to imagine much of anything good growing from it. In another couple of years, with lots of good compost and proper cover crop planting, we'll be in good shape. The animals that have managed to fight off the barber pole worm look healthy and well-fed. The dinners have been amazing, and have helped us introduce our farm to new people.

But it's been hard too. The heat has been outrageous, burning up plants and beating up anyone who dares stay out in it very long. It's taken a toll on some of the weaker animals, leaving them susceptible to the barber pole worm which thrives in hot, humid conditions. We've lost two or three lambs already, including Lily, and have two near death. We were able to save two or three that have been infected by the worm, but this worm is wicked and very hard to treat. Worst of all, the anthelmintics that are available to farmers now are growing increasingly ineffective. The worms are developing a resistance to them, leaving us with management of the sheep and goat's grazing as the main option for prevention and protection.

We're not alone. Others are facing the same problem. For some, it may mean not having any lambs left to sell when the time comes. If the cooler weather shows up soon and we see an end to the high temps during the day, we will be fine, but it's hard to lose animals.

At one point during the conversation on Sunday, someone asked if we thought the winter would be mild. No one responded. Another asked if we'd looked in the Farmers Almanac. No one had had the courage. I pray it's mild, well at least not as harsh as last winter. I know a lot of people who could use the break.

1 comment:

Katherine E. said...

Your perspective there is so different from this city life I lead. Kind of romantic, really -- a return to the earth, to what's real and true. A hard life, but grounded in work that's authentic, not shrouded by office politics and competition. I wish you and Lisa well, Linda. Hope the winter is kinder than the summer has been.