I can finally write, with almost certainty, that we did it. We made it through a whole calendar year. It feels like we passed a really difficult test that we had to retake every single day, except I have yet to see a gold star. It's not that the work ever ends, but it slows. It feels like we're finally able to each take a deep breath and maybe sleep in on a weekday. Seven days a week of work -- like, out-in-the-elements-farm-work or running-around-like-crazy-and-oh-we-have-five-minutes-left-to-build-this-huge-installation-wedding-work -- really wears on a body, even if there is an end in sight. This season dragged on, and the end just didn't seem to get closer. And no amount of peanut butter sandwiches and juice boxes that I packed in our lunches made up for the fact that there's more work to do. We wanted have the gardens ready for the winter by Thanksgiving; everything planted and covered and tilled and built. But we're still spreading compost and cutting down dead flowers, and surprisingly finding things from the summer that have begun to rebloom.
It doesn't help that Andrew and I are seduced by the things we could grow. By packets of tiny, dust-like seeds of poppies that cost more than a car payment. By the possibility of flowers blooming in March. By ordering more dahlia tubers than we have space to put them. By all the things I want to trial, even when we don't have the land. I'm convinced that we'll figure it out when the time comes; that maybe we'll play and win the lottery and can finally buy that tiny, over-priced piece of property for which no bank will give us a loan. It holds so much potential that it physically hurts me to see it used for dumping trash and old tires.
But really, that's what farming is. It's dreaming about the potential, but then working really hard to make it happen. A few months in the winter of dreams and ideas and planning. Ordering seed packets and imagining long rows of flowers dancing in the breeze. It's romantic and optimistic, and if nature doesn't throw you a curve ball, usually the flowers grow like they should. And then you spend so much time once they bloom fretting over when to harvest and will there be enough and how do we get this iris to open just in time for a wedding this weekend but not too early that it melts.
We definitely had a "fake it 'til you make it" approach to everything we did this year, and so much learning, so much of everything, was done on the fly. But in the end, that has to be the best way to learn. To just throw yourself into it and figure it out.
We're still not ready for winter to hit. I keep checking the 10-day forecasts, wondering when it will get below 50 degrees. Andrew loves it, in a weird masochistic way, because it means he can stay outside, digging trenches and shoveling compost and God knows what else. I can't complain, I certainly couldn't do it all on my own, and I probably wouldn't even know where to start. We keep making more work for ourselves, dreaming up projects that cost more money than we should be spending and take so much more time that we anticipate. It's all going to pay off, especially next March when I'm tanning myself in our high tunnel (you can be jealous, it's fine), but I can't lie when I say I'm ready for the cold. I've been ready for it since mid-October, despite the beautiful last gasps of the gardens.
Fall-bordering-on-winter has to be my favorite time of year. There's something truly spectacular about not knowing if the temperatures will drop too low, about the flowers throwing out the most incredibly rich colors before the frost hits. It's everything ending and the possibility of starting all over again that really resonates with me. I don't mind the crisp mornings, or even the early darkness so much.
All photos by Neal Santos, to whom Andrew and I are forever grateful, and most likely indebted.