Friday, October 2, 2015

summer/ long post.

I've been paralyzed. Trying to write about the summer, to sum it up for you. Package it, including all the nuances of this particular summer, it's weather, it's business, it's people. The things that made it different and notable; the new kids at saipua: Alex, Vanessa, Taryne, Maurine, the lambs.

The things that are always the same, the ice cream cones, my birthday, the vegetables and the storms.


The iris. My iris. The iris we grew -- and how big of a deal it was because it's why we farm, to have iris, not so many, but more every year and only the colors I want, and I can cut them just to fill our shitty kitchen with them. It felt like the most luxurious few weeks of my life.

The T Magazine piece. The best press we've ever had. It felt so good, and made me feel really proud. Shortly after it came out I visited my parents who, in typical parental dilligence had read the comments online, and pointed out one from a negative-nancy type who wrote something about me throwing tantrums because I couldn't have the flowers I wanted, when I wanted them. Which Eric and I now laugh about constantly, because IF ONLY she knew the sort of tantrums I throw. Always been a tantrum thrower. Like when I couldn't go to the mall and I threatened to slit my wrists (parents ignoring me over coffee on the porch...I think I've told you that one) or whenever I lost in the family game of rummy. There's a point in a tantrum of sudden clarity and self awareness, and edge of cliff sort of moment where you think -- am I really going to let this out, the moment before the runaway effect.

This is something I reserve almost exclusively for Eric.

The other side of love; the screaming circuitous arguments about who is working harder...I think probably such a common relationship snag. Even if you are in a relationship that doesn't include running a business and building a farm I bet you can relate to it. To say the farm has tested us would be an understatement. Mookie.

Labor day rolled around. My favorite holiday - the official clank to mark the beginning of fall. In his book The Vox, Nicholson Baker writes about a sexual encounter... 'the clank of a belt buckle indicating the start of something serious.' That's how I think of labor day. Coming up for air you look around and think this is happening... an all too hotly anticipated freefall from the singularity in early September, after which you can no longer wear white. It spirals out messily and then it's over too fast.

If we can go from a sexual autumnal metaphor to the topic of canning tomatoes, then lets.
For all the ways that the flower field failed this year (beaver migration, drought, irrigation failure) our kitchen garden has really over compensated (we irrigate it from our house well). We have more tomatoes than I can handle on my intermittent stays at the farm in between events in the city. I can them over a burn barrel in the yard (we still don't have a stove). The whole process is like Kinfolk meets Survivor.

After picking for a few hours (meditative!), it occurs to me that these five gallon buckets of tomatoes will be wasted unless I can them. So, late in the evening, I start a fire in a burn barrel and wait for a giant pot to boil. I sterilize some mason jars, cut up the tomatoes fighting off chickens and Nea (do other dogs like tomatoes?) and cook them down with a little salt. I add some basil leaves and a bit of citric acid to ensure the preservation. Then they boil for 45 minutes to seal the jars.

This process ended in a tantrum one night at around 10pm, hungry and exhausted with scortched forearms ... struggling with a fire and still waiting for a giant kettle to boil. I think I literally sort of jumped up and down yelling I'M SICK OF THIS HOMESTEADING SHIT to Eric, who had emerged calmly on cue from the shadows with a can of Genese cream ale and perfectly quaffed hair.

Suffice it to say, we overplanted. But when you're seeding those little fuckers in March in a freezing basement under grow lights, having not tasted a real tomato in months, 1 tray of seed blocks looks like insufficient funds.

Saipua in the city (or on the road) presents another sort of hectic mess, but one which I'm more familiar with and which results in less 3rd degree burns. May starts the foghorn of wedding season that just keeps on getting louder until you think it can't get any more intense and then it does. "HI!!" I'm shouting right now from the middle of the storm; wind gusts blowing scraps of paper and compost and peanuts all around us... "HOW ARE YOU??!"

Amidst all the travel and event making this summer, we hosted our first annual SAIPUA staff retreat at Worlds End. I planned activities each day. In some ways you realize you fill out your adult life with childhood fantasies unrealized. I was in charge! I got really into it and had to keep tempering my plans with reminders that 1. I am 35 years old and 2. games and races and scavenger hunts shouldn't result in tears.
Swimming and campfires ensued.
The last day we went to a water park. I practically held hands with my 11 year old self and braided her hair.

The sheep struggled with parasites all summer, despite Eric's valiant rotational grazing efforts. Mornings in July and August would be spent making a paste of garlic, mixing it into some corn and walking it up to feed the sheep. There were lots of apple cider vinegar drenches (the cure for everything!) When a sheep started to really succumb, we resorted to Ivermectin or Levamisol (chemical meds). You start off reading on the internet about holistic flock management and herbal remedies and in the end you're just flying down Route 20 in the mouse infested prius trying to get to Agway before they close to get the juice.

One day right before my birthday Eric found Maverick, one of the ram lambs dead as a doornail in field. He was right as rain the night before. We deduced it could have been 3 things: something poisonous in the pasture, internal injury from rams ramming each other, or Enterotoxemia (overeating disease); a bacterial infection that takes a sheep down in a matter of hours. This disease is preventable with CDT vaccine, an injection we chose not to give our flock this year. Each dead sheep provides valuable lessons. Maverick taught us how to skin a sheep (even though we couldn't eat him, we could harvest his pelt - a valuable and beautiful thing.)

Eric strung his body up in the tree in front of the house and with the help of a homemade youtube video by TEXASPREPPER2 we had his pelt off a little after dark. Eric cleaned up while I hauled his bloated skinned body to the edge of the property in the bucket of the tractor for the coyotes to have. It took them 3 days somehow to find it. Walking the dogs I'd sort of gently and hesitantly approach the spot we call the sheep graveyard, hoping to find cleaned bones so I could take his skull. Of course coyotes don't care about your talismans. They eventually dragged the whole thing off into the woods and we have never found it.

If I could tell you one thing that has changed for me lately its that I am more patient than I used to be; an ironic end to a post featuring several tantrum stories. I may be playing myself. But truth be told, I smiled at a miscellaneous group of children on the street the other day. Eating ice cream. They were reveling in their popsicular moments ... with no way of knowing all the things that will unfold in front of them. And not caring. 


Anonymous said...

I am sitting in Dublin (Ireland) on the most beautiful autumn day reading this.
You write so beautifully.
Thank you.

Sarah said...

When I read about your life on your farm, I feel myself consumed with envy. Even with all the tantrums, hard work, long days and sick sounds like a wonderful life. I love your perspective on all of it. Maybe I should be an intern....or build my own flower farm, that is why we just moved to the country after all, so I can have my very own flower farm.

So here's to October!! I do wish you'd write more here. :)

sk said...

You are a really fantastic writer. And those Iris are so so beautiful. (Peppermint-striped zinnias pretty amazing too.)

Erin said...

Girl, you can f-ing write! Absolutely beautiful post.

kassi said...

I truly enjoy your posts :)

Diane said...

This sings, Sarah- your writing is every beat as gorgeous as your flowers.

Unknown said...

Love your writing. Thanks for sharing your adventures and life.

Mlle Paradis said...

ok i'm not adding anything here but yes, wow. did the nytimes mention that you write insanely well too? you are an ah-MAZ-ing 35 year old. did your parents tell you that? congrats all around.

Cathy said...

Love this post. We have sheep too, and can totally relate to the apple cider vinegar to chemical drenches slippery slope. Best laid plans at the beginning, sliding down to a chemical cocktail. We've had lambs with ticks, we've had bloat, we've had it all. Besides that, farming life is wonderful and rewarding.

Annie said...

Lovely and thank you. Your honest posts are a joy to read. I so love September and the explosion of flowers and vegetables in my urban garden, (which I stuff with more flowers every year). The abundance makes my heart soar but also adds a bit of sadness with the knowledge that this is the end. Your writing captures that beautifully. And your descriptions so clear that my forearms feel burnt.

abpaulson said...

thank you for continuing to do what you do. your hard work is more inspirational than i think you'll ever know.

Unknown said...

God damn, Sarah, you write like a boss.

caitlin said...

beautiful and evocative as always. thank you for sharing.

Simple Living Los Angeles said...

I don't know if you know of the beautiful fall post flowering pods that appear on Jacaranda trees but my front yard is full of them. I'm going to email it to you, they reminded me of something you would use.

Robyn said...

First of all, you write so well your words are in color. I spent my childhood summers on my grandparents farm. Through your blog and Instagram I have a much more realistic idea of just how forward thinking and being they were. Thanks for all the lovliness!

Anca said...

Beautiful and inspirational post as always. And congratulations on being featured in T Magazine. You really deserve it.

trouble said...

i have to say this everytime i read one or two of your posts: you write so wonderfully and share so much of your fabulous life this way: where is the book deal??