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Farm Frenzy: Embracing the Chaos of Life on a Vibrant Local Farm

June 26, 2024

Table of Contents

Farm Frenzy: Embracing the Chaos of Life on a Vibrant Local Farm

Early Apple Pressing and Fond Memories

I’ll never forget the first time Mary and I went to visit her family’s home farm in Oregon. It was before they had upgraded to the really big farm-scale apple press, back when we were still using their old one. Mary’s dad, Kayla, and her sister Patty were there, bustling around the orchard like busy bees.

As we pressed apples that day, I couldn’t help but reminisce about Mary’s childhood. She’s told me stories over the years about how she used to ride her twelve-speed bike every day just to visit a particular horse, chatting with it for hours. And the long naps she and her sister would take under the apple trees during the hot summer months, escaping the heat in little outdoor forts and hidden spots around the property.

I can picture it so vividly – the old milking barn that had been converted to a chicken coop, the tangled thicket of blackberries they carved out a hobbit-like maze in, the simple pup tent they shared. And of course, the giant walnut tree that had been a fixture on the farm for as long as anyone could remember. That tree finally succumbed to disease just last year, much to our sorrow.

Bittersweet Memories and a Changing Landscape

When Mary and I first got together, we’d make weekly pilgrimages back to her parents’ place, loading up our car with apples, walnuts, and whatever else we could harvest. We’d come back to our little treehouse apartment and press the bounty in our small oil press, looking down at the neighboring trees and introducing ourselves to the neighbors, trading fruits and stories.

Those were such precious, carefree times. We didn’t fully appreciate how special it all was back then. Now, of course, Mary’s mom has passed away after a long battle with dementia, and it’s bittersweet revisiting those memories.

Just the other day, as we were driving back to Oregon with an atmospheric inversion storm on our heels, Mary told me a story about curling up with her childhood copies of the Little House on the Prairie books. There was one particular story that had always stuck with her – the one about the long, brutal winter where the characters ran out of food for the livestock and had to decide how much of their precious seed wheat to eat, rather than save for planting.

Navigating the Chaos of Winter Farming

That story resonates with us, because we know what it’s like to have long, harsh winters. Even after all these years of winter farming, we’re still learning – about the right temperatures for frost cloth, the delicate balance of harvesting enough to sell while preserving what we need to feed our crew all season.

We’re producing food in our four unheated high tunnels and six movable tunnels, trying to figure out how to keep everyone on the payroll through the cold months. Will the excess we’ve planned for find good homes, or will all our hard work in the fall go to waste? Are the coolers functioning properly? Are the systems we have in place for covering and venting the crops working as they should?

And in the midst of all this, can Mary and I actually slow down, read, write, and do the winter dreaming that we both crave? It’s a constant struggle, but we know you have our backs.

A Personal Note of Gratitude

I often think about Mary and her childhood, and how her early experiences shaped the scientist-farmer she is today. She has such an intense drive and focus, it’s almost hard to get her to sit still unless she’s reading or knitting.

I’m so proud to farm alongside her, and I’m grateful that you, our community, are here to support us through the chaos. Please, if you have a chance, send Mary a note on her birthday to let her know what you love about her. And know that whenever you come to the farm store, it’ll be completely, utterly loaded – we have a tremendous team this winter, and the coolers, both literally and metaphorically, are overflowing.

Weathering the Storm

I started this newsletter last week while perched on a 5-gallon bucket in our pasture, questioning my decision to have a beer from the Bitterroot Brewery. As delicious as it was, the cold temperatures before dusk had me bundled up tight in my patched-up down jacket. I was waiting, yearning for one last glimpse of the migratory snow geese before they head south for the winter.

It’s a bit ironic, because with our cold front and the inversion cooling the air even further, I should be hoping the birds have already made it to Utah or Arizona by now. But the birds and their movements have become a sort of metaphor for the project I’ve been working on. I’m hoping for one last chance to capture them on film, but I know the odds aren’t great.

Embracing the Chaos

Based on my experience over the past few days, I feel like I’m probably going to miss this final opportunity. That’s just how it goes sometimes in this life of ours. We managed to get everything out of the ground that we planted, and what we couldn’t, we protected with hoops and row cover. But then just yesterday, we discovered that two beds in a new tunnel didn’t make it – the salad was a total loss, even after we washed and bagged it up.

That’s farming for you – there’s always something. But we cringe a bit, knowing that we’re about to launch our 12-week winter CSA with signups opening just days before the first pickup. We’re asking a lot of you, our wonderful community, to jump right in with us. But the winter membership is so important, and we need to keep our amazing crew employed through the cold months.

Weathering the Storms, Together

There’s never a dull moment around here. Just in the past few weeks, we’ve had a few people on our team test positive for COVID (don’t worry, no exposure risk at the farm store!), we had to cancel a market due to freezing temps, and we had a major repair on one of our walk-in coolers. It’s never-ending, but we’re grateful to have your support.

Despite the chaos, we’re looking forward to feeding you through the winter with slow roasts, hearty soups, and all the fresh produce we can muster. Watch for details on winter CSA signups coming soon – we can’t wait to have you along for the ride.

Gratefully yours,
Noah and Mary

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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