Lost Tools

I’m certain that I write on this topic each year – lost tools. This is probably because I use this blog as my therapy where I ruminate out loud about my shortcomings and frustrations.

“Mar, have you seen the wheelhoe?”

“Well, I don’t know, where did you last use it?”

“Over by the lettuces we planted in the north field last week….I swear”

I tramp back to the same place I already looked, thinking it will now magically appear.  So I walk around the perimeter of the north field thinking that I would have left it at the end of the bed. Since we haven’t mowed around the garden, if it were there, I would be under grasses and weeds four-feet tall. No dice. 

After going through the packing shed, old high tunnel, barn, milkhouse, and the edge of the front field, I recruit my son, Will. “OK, I’ll walk along this side, you go along the other side of the field.” So, we walk the perimeters of the north field (again.  I’m sure it’s here!), front field, and the back field. Will didn’t find the wheelhoe, but Will came back with a cup, a pair of gloves, and my hand hoe. I also found my 5-lb hammer in the tomatoes. Partial successes.

wheel hoe by corn.jpg
Can you spot the wheel hoe?

I relieve Will of his duties. I’m now over 30 minutes into this goose chase and I give it one last push as I scour the out-of-the-way places. Visibly agitated, I mutter to myself as I stomp around by the winter greenhouse and kick around weeds growing in the backyard. This is when the voice of my dad comes in my mind, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I wish, dad. I tell myself that after this escapade, I’ll create this organization that will be the envy of the organic community…I’ll write books about my system and give workshops. Forget it, I give up. Mind you that the wheel hoe is 5-feet long and painted red. This place isn’t that big.

I go back to saving some herbs, pulling weeds by hand. Working 10 minutes, and, eureka, I know the location of the wheelhoe! 10 beds over, between a row of corn and onions, there is sits. Alleluia. I finally get down to business and attempt to clear out the bed for a couple hours. I go in for lunch and leave the wheelhoe where I last used it, destined to repeat the process in a couple days.

In the box:


Work and Rewards

Do you remember that first big item you bought with your own money when you were still a kid? For me, my first car comes to mind. After saving up something like $1,600, my friend Dusty and I searched classifieds until we found a white Ford Escort across town. It was a basic car, but, as I drove it home, I remember thinking that this was mine, not from the generosity of my parents, but because I had logged hours bagging groceries at Hugo’s to afford it myself. It was satisfying. Maybe even empowering.

Willem and his new kayak

In past years, we’ve corralled the kids to help us on individual projects or when we wanted to make a big push out in the fields. I’ve always felt that the kids should be paid for their efforts on the farm because, unlike work in the house, farmwork is a business and should pay. In the past, I would normally say, “How about you help me weed this carrot bed and I’ll pay you $10?” Weeks would go by and I’d ask how much I owed them and nobody seemed to remember all the times and amounts.

This year, however, we’ve created a more formal system. We’ve instituted a standard rate of five dollars an hour and the kids keep track of all their hours on a chart on the fridge. Will has been especially motivated because he has been so keen on buying a kayak to paddle around our pond. After a couple months work, he researched and purchased the kayak himself. Sylvia, on the other hand, is a really penny-pincher, and only looking to stockpile even more funds for some future purchase. Graham has very modest goals such as saving up for a new lego set. When he reaches his $8 goal, he promptly walks out of the field and wants to spend his earnings the day of. Well, we all have our own goals right?

Maree has yet to see any payment for all the hours she’s logged 🙂


In the box:

  • Italian Parsley
  • Zucchini 
  • Kohlrabi: Peel, slice, salt, and eat. Pretty simple.
  • Snap Peas 
  • Radishes
  • Kale: See recipe below
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Broccoli Shoots
  • Garlic Scapes: Mince and use where ever you would use garlic.

Kale Caesar Salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing


The Body and Farming

As I sit here this morning, I ache. My hands a bit sore. My neck kind of tense. I may chalk up the feeling to my getting older (I’m 42), but I remember feeling the exact same way at the end of June when I was a 26-year-old apprentice. Instead, I simply acknowledge that my body acclimating to the season, just as it’s done for 18 farm seasons.

Jon_Solinger_Photo_07581_August 29_ 2014-EditYou see, I’ve observed the same progression year after year. The spring is work, but of a different flavor than summer. Spring work is quite mental and preparatory as I worry about seeding schedules and planting times. Tilling the ground and popping in some seeds isn’t strenuous at all. Now, however, it gets physical. Starting in June, vegetable farming becomes all hoeing, hand weeding, and harvesting. Three to four of us invested eight hours yesterday doing nothing but weeding onions-the job is still incomplete-and that was after some recreational hoeing in the morning and before picking peas and setting up for the boxes.

I don’t write about my being tired and sore looking for sympathy. I write about this experience because, in my mind, I’m telling the story of most of human history. From the fertile crescent until this century, we shared this season of labor. This ramping up of physical work fits the flow of the calendar and the natural seasons of the year. The light and heat of summer confers the energy we need to give a big push of effort, which, for a lot of history, was necessary for survival. If you didn’t move in July to make hay, you literally starved in January.

Our bodies adjust. My own aches subside as I chug through July, and, by the end of August, I’m all wiry with a really strong grip. It feels good to get on the other side. It also feels good to relax on the deck in a cool October. For that season will come too.

In the box:

  • Snap Peas: Edible pods…just eat them, don’t shell them.
  • Broccoli
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Curly Westlander Kale: The bunch with a blue band.
  • Spinach: Big and green with a pink end. This is a full-sized savoy-type spinach.
  • Baby Arugula: The small oakleaf-shaped green. We grew this under a row cover, so I’m happy to report minimal holes in this crop from flea beetles (unlike in the mixed greens last week).
  • Garlic Scapes: These are shoots off of hardneck garlic which you can use in a recipe to replace garlic.