Monday, November 26, 2012


First, I should really apologize for neglecting my blog.  I keep meaning to post every week, and I've had plenty of fodder, but no energy.  By the time I've had time to sit down and get focused on blogging, I'm dead tired.  Consequences of sea monkey I guess (31 days or so but who's counting?).  Anyway I had a group cancel this morning (f you could hear me talk you'd note the false cheeriness with which I say that last phrase.  They gave me 15 min notice, but they called, so it's better than what I have received before) and I'm feeling focused right now so here's November blog for your reading pleasure.

So I guess we ought to start with a season re-cap.  Overall the season was great.  We had nice weather for most of the time (other than the Superstorm Sandy episode, which I can't really complain about since I have a nice comfortable home to live in and electricity and heat while there are many who are still without that).  We had some new groups that were great and some returning groups that we enjoyed seeing again.  We learned some big lessons (it seems like every year we do, will we get to a point where it's all old hat or will we constantly be learning lessons?  I think it's the latter) about what we will and will not be doing again (apparently I assume a lot and am naive, two things which will be changing).  We're very excited about what 2013 has to bring and even though it's going to be a much different year than we've ever had (we are adding a newborn to the mix, sometimes I still question my sanity about that decision, especially after going through the corn maze 7 and 8 months pregnant) we're ready to see how things are going to come together for strawberries.

Proof that I can, in fact, drive a tractor - anyone
remember the potato planting blog of last spring
(Plan D)?  Flip to it for a laugh.

I want a giant pumpkin for next year!

Speaking of strawberries, we got them planted finally (a little later than originally planned).  We cut back on the amount we planted this year.  Last year it was craziness the amount of berries we picked (200+ flats per day most days!), and even though we had a market for all of them we could reasonably get to (huge thanks again to my capping crew!) it costs so much to get them picked and washed and capped and all that we decided to cut it down to a more reasonable amount and see what happens then.  If we're as busy as we were last spring there may be days we sell out (here's hoping).  I hate the idea of not having things to sell when I have customers who want to buy, but, I'd rather sell out any day than have flats and flats of berries to sell and not enough customers (supply, demand, you get the picture).

On a more personal note, this year I was nominated for Outstanding Woman of the Year in Agriculture.  When the group who nominated me first asked me, I thought, what could I possibly have done to deserve this?  I mean, I run a tiny agri-tourism operation and I most of the time I feel like I do that poorly.  That's it.  But what was I going to say?  No, don't nominate me.  In no way did I ever think I'd win.  Well last Monday night I did, and I found much to my chagrin that I had to give a small speech for winning which I was not at all prepared for in any way.  So ever since then I've been thinking about what I should have said, and since this is my blog I'm going to say it now (**note, if you see me on channel 10 or whatever the Wayne County channel is, please take a moment to laugh hilariously at what I did say on the fly, and note how awkward and red I was.  I do every time I replay it in my mind.)  First I need to thank all of you, our customers who come out season after season and support us.  Yes, we do this for our living, but you all are our top priority when we plan out the seasons.  We want to make sure you're getting what you pay for, whether that's a quality product or a quality experience on the farm.  No, we aren't a big operation and we don't have a lot of the amenities of other farms around (although we're adding several for this spring), but we do care and we want you to come to a farm, not an amusement park.  Second, I want to thank The Husband (if you tell him I said this I will lie) and my family and friends.  The Husband is there when I need help (which I needed a lot of this year), my family is always there for me to pawn The Boy off on, and my friends take me to dinner every now and then so I don't have to look at The Husband and hear him talk about the farm and soybeans and combines.

I'm not sure if I'll be blogging again before sea monkey arrives (I promise I'll post a picture of her on our Facebook page), but I'm hoping to have some more concrete CSA info for you guys by January including a registration form.  I'm thinking now it's probably going to be pretty much the same as last year.  We may cut the weeks a little or move it up more into April so we can finish before September, and I want to add delivery (for a small fee yet to be determined) or at least a couple drop off locations to make it more accessible to people in other parts of the county.  Stay tuned to Facebook for more information.

And as always if you have a comment or suggestion you want to let us know about, please do not hesitate to get in touch.  Give me a call, send me a message on Facebook or an e-mail, or just comment below.  We're going to be making serious changes to the farm this winter and every bit helps (good or bad!).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Epic Fail

Sometimes I think if it can possibly go wrong, it will go wrong to me.  I know that's super petty and pessimistic, but I swear, it honestly seems that way.  It doesn't really matter what we try to do, it never works out the way we envisioned in our head.  'Course, I guess it happens that way for everyone.  So if you're like me and are prone to epic failure, you'll really enjoy this next blog.

We weren't able to grow pumpkins on the farm this year (I still am super disappointed about this!).  I had in my mind this cute little patch were people could go and find the perfect pumpkin and take pictures.  I wanted to plant pink pumpkins and partner with some organization to donate some money to Relay or SMOC or some other great cancer organization.  Yeah well, that didn't work out.  At the time we needed to plant, it was 100 + degrees and we didn't get any (not a drop) of rain for three weeks.  So, needless to say, no pumpkin patch and no pink pumpkins (but I'm still carrying the torch that next year we WILL have both!)  Since we were unable to grow pumpkins, we have to purchase pumpkins. This means that usually twice a week we're headed to Raleigh to the Farmers Market to pick up a couple of bin boxes of pumpkins.

We sold out of pumpkins Sunday and I wanted to be open today since the kids are getting our of school early around here (last year I had some calls so I thought, what the heck, we'll try it), therefore we needed to make a pumpkin run.  Yesterday was the only day this week we were for sure we'd be able to go, so after my 30 week (only 10 more left!) appointment for Sea Monkey we took off.  We had to be back for Farm Bureau's annual meeting at 6.

Everything was awesome until we stopped to eat lunch.  When we went back to the truck it wouldn't crank.  We assumed it was the battery (the interior lights were on, since The Husbands door doesn't quite shut exactly right).  Luckily we had jumper cables and a nice guy at the restaurant jumped us off.  Then we stopped for diesel and it cut off again, which told The Husband the batter wasn't getting charged.  He assumed it was one of two things, the wires connecting the alternator and the battery or the alternator.  Now I'm not getting into the mechanics of how this stuff works.  He goes to explain and I zone out.  All I know is we're already pushing it for time and now we're delayed.  My frustration hits an all time high.

So we stop at the local auto parts store and the little guy comes and checks it out, sure enough, what is the problem?  The alternator.  It couldn't be some quick little wire, it has to be something we've actually got to take off the truck to fix, not to mention the expense.  So right there int he parking lot The Husband goes to taking off the part while I sit on the sidewalk (the cold hard concrete) and The Boy alternates between worrying me and worrying The Husband (bless his heart, he really wanted to help.  He kept standing there and pretending to do whatever it was The Husband was doing.  But he was anxious and kept running around and jumping and he got coordination from me so I knew it was a matter of time before he fell and scraped something [this wasn't that nice smooth concrete, it was the rough finish so yeah, it woulda really hurt] so I kept trying to get him to stop which led to greater frustration on my part.)  Eventually I give up and The Boy and I walk to Walgreens where I find nail polish 1/2 off.  Silver lining.
The Boy & The Giant Pumpkin

Cannonballs - great for chunkin'!

The Husband showing off his artistic ability
Finally, we get the old part off and the new part on and we can head out again.  Problem is we're beyond super late at this point.  The entire way there we're biting our nails that the pumpkin guy will even still be there.  Thank goodness he is, or else the entire trip would have been wasted and the Husband would have had to get up at the crack to come today to get them, therefore putting him in a bad mood which would have put me in a bad mood.  It's around five before we're ready to leave though, which means we'll be traveling home with a trailer full of pumpkins in rush hour traffic, and we'll miss the meeting which I was supposed to take a cake too.  Still, we're in one piece, my frustration has eased to humor, and no one's in a bad mood.  So I guess it's alls well that ends well on this one.  Plus a new color of polish.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cutting Up

This weekend we (being The Husband and Cousin Alvin, I can't officially take credit for this one, see reasons listed below) cut the maze.

They look way too excited to be doing this.
I've been on The Husband about getting this thing cut for a while, but to his credit somethings always kinda come up to prevent him having time to do it.  Finally today we got it lined up with Cousin Alvin and the cutting began.  

Most farms we hear about have someone come cut their maze.  There are these people that just go around the Eastern Seaboard cutting corn mazes.  I guess that would be awesome to have them come and cut out this super complicated maze for us, but it would also cost some money (and then what would I have to blog about?).  Now, I can't claim to know how much since we've never had it done (probably not enough to warrant the hassel of doing it yourself), but whatever it is, it's more than what we want to spend.  We like to keep our overhead lower so we don't have to charge as much.  That means when the labor needs doing, most of the time it's The Husband and I doing it.  Except cutting corn mazes has been put on the list of things I cannot do due to Sea Monkey (no complaint here.  Not having to stand int he middle of a hot humid corn field while the Husband shouts directions to me in the most backwards way imaginable and I attempt to cross the double planted corn tall as my head almost without face planting sounds like an awesome idea to me, plus, when the giant horseflies come around who do they choose to harass?  Me.  Always.  As soon as I hear them I go running and shrieking [see The Confession post] which is not a good idea due to my natural lack of coordination and the sea monkey making my already shaky equilibrium very dicey.  I end up stumbling around either knocking down corn or tripping over six inch long corn stalks cut in a fashion that would have made Vlad the Impaler happy...but I digress) so Cousin Alvin volunteered to help (thanks again!).  Charlie volunteered too Friday.  Bless his heart he was drafted today.

Gator Positioning System

This was before the giant horsefly found me.
These corn maze companies (and most people with sense) use GPS to map out the field and where the pathways should go.  Well, we don't do it that way (not sure what that says about us, that we lack sense or are glutton for punishment?).  We used an image copied onto graphing paper, two long pieces of pvc pipe with the tip painted orange, a super long tape measure thing on a wheel the size of a dinner plate (I'm sure it has a name, but it is escaping me at the moment), a white rope tied to the Gator (I was told we did have GPS, the Gator Positioning System) on one side of the field and the water truck on the other, and two fellows with machetes (real high tech I know).  Now in the past we've used bush hogs and bush axes.  Honestly I'm not really sure why machetes were the weapons of choice this year unless they're practicing for the Haunted Maze.  Nevertheless, when you're walking through this year, think about the fact that it was cut using machetes.
I came back 45 min later to bring drinks and
the giant horsefly found me again.  Of course.

Anyway I guess in the end it doesn't matter.  It's cut and it's a lot more complicated so get ready to get thoroughly lost this year (even they got lost and had to refer to the map to get out, but I guess that could have been operator error).  No ten or twenty minute run-through this year.  When we started planning this thing I told The Husband I wanted it to take at least twice as long and I think we might have done it.  Of course, I say that and some eight year old is going to barrel off the hayride and make it out in fifteen flat.  But hey, effort's worth something right?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Odyssey

Well, we just got back from the mountains.  The husband was asked by a friend to help him with some strawberries, and of course it couldn’t be a simple there and back trip.  When we got home last night we felt like we’d never been so happy to see Goldsboro, NC (in no small part to a sea monkey who seems to think my bladder makes an awesome trampoline).  Following is a highlight reel of the trip.  I apologize ahead of time for the length...then again, it's supposed to be an odyssey.

Book 1 – How Getting A Ticket Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Us.

So since we were going to be in the middle of nowhere (the nursery was on Scaly Mountain and we stayed in the small town of Dillard GA, we were 2 ½ hours NE of Atlanta and 1 ½ hours SSW of Asheville), and there were (far as we could tell from the internet) no farm supply stores or irrigation supply stores around, we had to haul the supplies we needed from here.  There was no super great way to do this.  The husband got a trailer and went Friday afternoon to get loaded up.  When he came home a deep sense of foreboding settled into my chest (why oh why didn't I take a picture of this!).  The whole thing was leaning slightly in all different directions, haphazardly strapped down with three straps (I made The Husband add more, three just didn't seem sufficient to me), and was so tall he couldn’t park it around the house for fear of hitting the trees (I could just imagine going up at 10% grade with that thing and it all sliding off the trailer and crashing and burning down a mountain slope, and/or we'd be that poor truck parked on the shoulder with the hood up).  None of that was the major issue though.  The major issue was we were overweight for the amount of weight the tags were registered for.  We attempted to get a permit to carry the load leagally, but in his infinite wisdom The Husband didn’t go get the stuff until around four, so by the time he got back it was after five and since we weren’t pre-registered we couldn’t obtain this permit online.  Our only alternative: go back roads all the way and cross our fingers we don’t get a ticket.  So, as you can tell from the title of this paragraph, we did.  We went Hwy 64W, for the most part after Asheboro a winding two lane road through some pretty country that makes for a long, long drive.  We made it all the way to the town of Lenior NC before we passed a highway patrolman, the one with the SUV’s that go around checking weight.  I almost burst into tears on the spot.  We’d been so careful to go back ways, I sat with a map most of the drive trying to make sure we wouldn’t go by a weigh station, and all of our planning and stressing was for nothing, because he would definitely give us a ticket if he didn’t stop us from going at all.  We were (according to him) 7000 lbs overweight.  He gave us a fine and sent us on our way.  All in all it was the best thing that could have happened, because since we’d already been ticketed we couldn’t be ticketed again, so we headed straight for 40 with smiles on our faces because the idea of going down 64 around Lake Lure and Chimney Rock was not appealing at all to us.

Oh any by the way, we never saw another cop of any kind, and the weigh station we passed in Asheville was closed.  Of course.

Book 2: We Never Knew There Were So Many Mexican Restaurants in BFE

The place we stayed, Dillard GA, was about the size of Pikeville.  The closest town of significance, Franklin NC was maybe the size of Clinton.  There were three restaurants in Dillard, one of which was a Mexican place.  There were three places in Franklin to sit down and order, one of which was a Mexican restaurant.  Along the road in between we passed two Mexican restaurants.  I counted five in a 20 minute vicinity.  Along the way back from Franklin we passed through Silva and Waynesville before hitting Asheville.  There was at least one if not two Mexican places in those towns that we could see from the road we were on.  Never in my life have I ever seen such a concentration of Mexican places.  It struck me as odd, maybe I just need to spend more time in the mountains.  When did we eat Mexican you ask?  We stopped at Moe’s (I know, I know, it’s not ‘real’ Mexican, but it’s super delicious to me) at Southpoint in Durham. 

Book 3: How They Do It Better In The West

From the crew leader who was managing the workers that plugged all these plants we learned it was apple picking season.  That excited me, because I’m always looking for something new and different and fresh for our CSA boxes.  We decided on the way home we’d stop at the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville.  Having a coastal plain point of view, we thought it’d be smaller and quainter (is that a word?).  We were sorely mistaken.  It was twice as big if not bigger and the produce we found was some of the best looking produce we’d seen all year.  We weren’t sure if it was the lack of intense heat (I know they’ve been hot too, but compared to our heat and humidity I don’t think it’s been as intense), or maybe more rain at crucial times, but the produce was amazing.  So instead of waiting until this morning to ride to Raleigh or see what we could find locally, we decided to go ahead and purchase our CSA vegetables while we were there.  So if you get a chance to go up to Asheville stop by and check it out.  It’s not as ‘nice’ maybe as the one in Raleigh, but there are twice if not three times the vendors and everyone is very nice.

Overall the trip was nice.  The weather was fantastic (I might just move up there until I have Sea Monkey, The Husband can just manage the Maze himself).  The scenery was amazingly beautiful (I don’t know how those people go to work everyday and get stuff done.  I guess they get used to it, but I think it’d take me a long time to get used to that).  I got to take a nap without feeling guilty about all the things I need to be doing other than sleeping.   The trip home was basically uneventful (except that I rode from Hickory home with tomatoes and squash at my feet because it started raining, needless to say when I got home last night I didn’t think my back would ever be the same).  So my advice on mountain trip:, make sure you leave enough time Fri. afternoon to get a permit, hope you like Mexican, and stop at the farmers market, you'll be glad you did!

These were in the console, tomatoes were under my  feet, cabbage, apples, and peppers were behind my seat.  By about Smithfield I could no longer feel either of my feet no matter where I found to put them.  If that's not dedication I don't know what is.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Making Ready

Well, my last blog was a bit dry. I’ll admit it (I felt the dryness as I was writing, so I broke bad and asked The Husbands opinion.  That should have been my first indication to give up.  This is a man who willingly watches Ag PhD and Successful Farming and Agribusiness This Week or really bad reality shows where you can't understand what they're talking about because every other word is bleeped out.  He shouldn't have been my judge for entertainment value).  It was kinda one of those things where I saw I hadn't blogged in a month, felt guilty for neglecting it, and wrote about the first thing I could think of to write about.  Sometimes you’re on fire, sometimes you just aren’t.  This week I have fodder for a much more entertaining blog, so hopefully I'll get more smiles than yawns. 

It’s August.  Less than two months ‘til corn maze D day (yikes!).  So of course the place looks like the surface of the moon, or an atomic bomb went off.  I’m sure any of you doing drive bys thinking about booking a group is thinking we’re crazy.  That’s okay.  I promise it will be ready.  If you look at our track record we’re actually getting started on this a whole lot earlier than last year.  That’s what The Husband’s been working on this week, disking up the existing rye grass (if you can call it that), leveling out the ground (again with the Gator and a chain-link fence), and planting new grass.  It’s a rather big area of grass, and my father-in-law had the idea that if The Husband sat on the front of our Gator (can you tell I’m a little obsessed with the Gator?  Forget diamonds, get me something like that I can ride on and I’m happy), he could get it done a lot quicker.  I’m all for efficiency, so I figured we’d try it.  Well, it was an epic fail.  Apparently the spreader requires pressure to do the spreading, and while attempting to hang on to the Gator The Husband didn’t have the force required.  So it was back to ole Pat & Charlie.
Gator power!
Forget Mars, they could have launched the rover at the farm.
Baby Maze
After grass planting, The Husband decided to go cut trees down.  I was not involved in this, since felling trees was taken off my list of duties while I’m in my current condition (granddaddy calls it an ‘ailment’, Frank H says I’m ‘in the family way’, I like either of those way better than the word pregnant.  I just hate the word, kind of like moist.  The only thing worse is pregnancy.  Ugh) and it was really humid and since the baby has decided to park itself (update on this to follow) right on my lungs and/or diaphragm humidity makes my already compromised respiratory system have to work that much harder.  We've been wanting to cut down a couple trees, most of them dead ones, to a) make the place look better, b) provide more room for bonfires/picnics, and c) make room for the fence for the animals we want to get next month.  The Husband comes in sometime around 4 and his hands resemble baseball mitts they are swollen so much.  Apparently while cutting down one of the already dead trees he disturbed some yellow jackets and was stung at least four times on his hand.  All the good stuff has to happen when I’m not around.  His hands are still swollen today (I told him he now had man paws).  The only thing funnier is that a tree almost fell on him (apparently he didn't account for the wind, or the fact that the tree is dead which supposedly makes the fall more difficult to aim).  Both of these were prime moments that I happened to miss.  The good news is he didn't get them all cut (due to the yellow jacket attack [is it weird I want to call them tracker jackers?  D*** you Hunger Games!]) so hopefully more shenanigans will ensue that I can photo/videograph.

As promised – baby update for all of you interested readers.  So last week we had our halfway point ultrasound, and I’m pleased to announce Sea Monkey is a GIRL!  I guess that solves the mystery of a nickname.  If we'd had another boy I'd hate to call him number two, for obvious reasons.  I think The Girl will suit just fine.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Price of Tea in China

Is anyone else ready for fall?  I feel like it will never get here.  July has been one long, hot month.  If this is an indication of the future of climate change (which I fully believe it is) we need to seriously re-think how we're using our resources (me included).  I really don't think I'll be able to live in a world where my air conditioning can't keep up with the temperature outside for three months in a row.

I haven't posted, because we haven't been doing anything particularly interesting.  We're keeping up with the CSA on Tuesdays, that's about it around here.  I have to say I am really glad we did that this year.  I enjoy getting the boxes together and seeing the members every week.  I feel like I've really gotten to know some great families and I hope we get them and more back next year.  Other than that we're planting soybeans (or as The Boy calls them, soilbeans.  I've repeatedly tried to explain to him it's soy, not soil, but he's an Odom.  There's not but so much I can do to counteract natural pigheadedness).

Soybeans aren't terribly interesting.  You plant them, you spray them, you fertilize them, you watch them grow, they die and dry out, you pick them.  'Course to hear The Husband talk they are just fascinating.  I hate it when he wants to take these family trips to check out how the crops are doing (but, when I went to report the crops it really helped since we had some field confusion and I was able to answer questions without making a phone call that likely won't be answered), because I know it's going to be a ride filled with soybean talk.  If it's not soybeans it's pigweed.  Weeds are smart little things.  Just like viruses become resistant to antibiotics, weeds can become resistant to chemicals, namely, roundup.  Sometimes it looks like if anything it fertilized the thing rather than killed it.  Sometimes the only way to get rid of them is to pull them.  On that note, do you know anyone who needs an attitude adjustment?  Have ungrateful lazy kids at home with a smart mouth?  Tried everything?  Have I got a solution for you!  Contact your local farmer and you can get free attitude adjustments.  'Cause if there's one thing that will make them appreciate what they have, it's pulling weeds.  I'm serious, let me know.  I'll be more than glad to set you up!  

Public Enemy #1 - Pigweed
The most interesting thing about soybeans is the price we're getting on the market for them.  For row crops (i.e corn, wheat, soybeans, corn) you sell to a company based on the market price.  Every day (several times a day) The Husband gets the market prices texted to his phone (he can only get, don't ask him to text back) and he comments on how much they've gone up and down (every. single. time.).  After you watch the market get to the price you want (it's a big gamble), you call the company you want to sell with (the one offering the best price) and book so many bushels with them at that price.  

All the news can talk about is the drought in the midwest, and don't get me wrong I'm glad they are.  Usually farmers get no press so this, even if it's bad press, is good.  But they're concentrating on how the short supply is going to push up food prices, which it will.  People see these prices and think that farmers are really making a killing.  We got that a lot last year with the high cotton prices.  What the general public doesn't realize is that everything else goes up too.  Seed prices, chemical prices, fertilizer prices, it all goes up.  Then we're getting hit at the grocery store too, and having to pay high fuel prices.  So while it looks like we're getting a huge boon, it's really more like a cost of living increase.  Don't get me wrong, no one's going to complain about $16+ a bushel soybeans, but when you compare gross profits vs. overhead, it's not always the picture the media wants to paint.

Anyway that's my soap box.  Didn't meant to bore you talking about soybeans and market prices and drought.  I guess I could have written a disclaimer advising you to skip over those last two paragraphs (I know I like to tune out the soybean talk in the car, mostly with music.  Music is a wonderful thing.).  There's just not a lot going on this time of year for us and honestly it's nice to have a break.  Especially since opening day of the corn maze is less than 2 months away.  We're going to get started out there in the next week or so, so hopefully I'll have a hilariously entertaining story about The Husband cutting down trees or something.  Or if there's something you're particularly interested about, crops or maze or berries or otherwise, let me know and I'll be glad to write about that.  Until then stay cool and think fall!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hits and Misses

Well, as if anyone needed a reminder with the 100 degree heat we're expecting this weekend, spring is over.  Today we officially ended strawberry season by The Husband spraying the strawberries to kill the plants.  If I could drink, I would toast them Irish Wake style.  It's been a good season, but I have to honestly say I am so glad it's over.  Last year we picked 6 - 7 weeks.  This year we picked 3 months.  Thanks La Nina!

As with anything, we definitely had some hits and misses.  Overall I'd say strawberries were a hit.  Even though for me it's not as fun as the Fall activities (it's a whole hell of a lot more work, and the spring isn't my favorite season since it's heating up and getting humid), I have really enjoyed seeing all our friends from last season and the fall and I have loved making new ones and meeting new families.  Thank you all so much for coming out to support us!  We've definitely had some interesting times, from being chased by the bees to flipping a picnic table over and pulling it across the yard on the Gator (alright so before you judge, these things are really heavy and very cumbersome to move.  It was me and two other girls trying to move it.  I'm pregnant and we had to move it clear across the farm.  There happened to be a chain in the back of the Gator...I figured why not.  My motto is there's more than one way to skin a cat) to dealing with two groups showing up out of the blue one Friday morning, we had plenty to laugh at around here.  I figure if you can't have fun while you're doing it what's the point?  

Below is a lovely gallery of the many uses of our Gator over this past season (John Deere, please feel free to compensate us for this free advertisement on your part).  The (very short) video is of us using it to pull out row covers.
Dragging the field, yes, he is pulling a section of a chain link fence. 

Pulling the table

Pulling the hay trailer

As for the misses...produce was an epic fail.  The CSA has been great.  I love doing it.  I love having the members come pick up their boxes and seeing their excitement as they pull out their sheets to see what's in their box this week and what recipe I've included (on a personal note, as mentioned I have a discriminating palate so I eat pretty much nothing we grow.  Trying to come up with recipes for foods I do not eat is not easy.  I choose them based on three things, a) how hard are they to make, how much time will they take, b) how many ingredients does it take and how exotic are they and c) how awful do they sound to me.  So far I think I've done pretty good, but I'm always open to suggestions).  It's something I definitely plan on continuing next year, hopefully on a larger level (delivery sound good to anyone?).  Selling produce at the stand however, not such a great idea.  We had a lot of calls for more produce, but as with anything else, people wanting things does not turn into people buying things.  It's discouraging to sit down at the Stand all day with only a few if any customers or to spend money advertising to see no result (this is another off-topic rant, but do you know it cost at least $20 more a week to advertise in the classifieds of the News Argus vs the News and Observer...there's just something not right about that!).  So we've cut back to basically just selling the sweet corn and later butter beans and peas.  Of course we'll keep providing for the CSA (don't worry!), but working so hard to be open down there every day (especially when the temps are above 95.  I don't take heat well, and with Sea Monkey becoming my own personal internal heater it's just worse and not looking any better until Dec.) just doesn't seem worth it at this point.

Still, we are looking forward to the fall.  Today we planned out the placement of the corn maze and pumpkin patch and punkin' chunker (I want 2 this year, and maybe, just maybe, a trebuchet) and other new additions we want to add to the farm this fall.  I am really, really excited for the fall (a - it'll be cooler and b - I'll be three months closer to meeting Sea Monkey in person) and corn maze season.  So mark your calenders, we'll be open September 29 for fall family fun on the farm!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I love Pintrest and  Always entertaining.

Alright.  It's confession time.  I got chased by the bees (I think I promised someone a blog about this).  

Anyone who's been on our Facebook or read this blog before probably knows I'm a little fascinated with the insects.  I just think they're amazing with their instincts and social structures and little dances.  With all the swarms and the proximity of the hives to the stand I've felt pretty proud of how brave I've gotten.  I'll walk right up to the hives to take pictures.  I see them in the field and think nothing of it.  Well, on the day of our last swarm, I got a little too close.

Usually I'm not there when they swarm.  This day, they started as I pulled up.  I was excited because I've been wanting to get pictures of this since the first swarm.  it was cool until they started coming close, then my and the girls at the stand ran for our cars.  Two of us climbed into mine and I held my phone to the window to get pictures.  It took a couple minutes for them to pass over us and when they did I started the search for where they went.  I heard them on the other side of the irrigation pond, so after a few minutes when they didn't seem to be flying so much, I decided to find where they pitched.  

The view from my car.  Yes, those black specks are all bees...and this wasn't our biggest swarm.
I could hear them buzzing loudly from at least fifty feet away, yet still I felt determined to get my picture.  I bravely (stupidly) continued stalking them down until I reached the tree on the edge of the pond they pitched on.  They weren't calm.  Some of them had landed, some of them were flying.  I slowly walked to them with a calm demeanor.  Usually, if you don't freak out, they won't attack.  Well.  This wasn't a normal day at the hive.  They were still worked up from swarming, and one (or more I really didn't take time to count) started bumping into me (kinda like sharks do before they eat you, or so the Discovery channel tells me).  Bees will run into you if they find you a threat, and this is a warning for you to leave now before they sting.  Well, my mama didn't raise a fool.  I took the warning and turned around and started walking away (disappointed, because I still didn't have a good picture of the pitch).  Apparently, I wasn't walking fast enough, because I could still hear the bee flying around me and still feel him bumping into me.  That's when reason and rationality left me, and I started hauling a** across our parking lot, shrieking and yelling, phone in one hand, pants in the other (I've been trending to looser pants, but that's another story).  I felt a little like Winnie the Pooh being chased by the swarm (except that there is absolutely no way I am jumping in our irrigation pond.  I shudder to think about what I might catch in there).  All of this is done much to the entertainment of my girls in the stand and the pickers, who happened to be in the field right there (I think I provide a lot of entertainment for them).  It's not until I get to the other side that I no longer hear the bee chasing me and I can stop, and then I stand there for fifteen minutes catching my breath and laughing at how dumb I just was.  Oh well...there's always one.  That day that one was me.  

I did go back later, when they were calm, and got my picture.  All it took was a little perseverance.

30,000 bees pitched on a tree.  At least they all didn't chase me!
So, about the looser pants.  Well, come about December 28th, there will be a new addition on the farm.  We're expecting our second baby!  I guess that means I'll have to come up with a new nickname.  Right now, since we don't know the gender, it's Sea Monkey (just add water and watch it grow!).  I have a feeling that just like The Boy for our son, it will end up sticking.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Highlight Reel

To say this season has been busy would be the understatement of the year.  Seeing all of y'all has been great.  We've met new customers and neighbors and got to catch up with old ones.  I love to see how children grow and families change and know I've been a small part of that.  The crop's been good too.  Our berries have produced triple what they ever had, we opened three weeks early and are looking to go to almost the end of May.  Here are some highlights of the season, since I really haven't had time to settle down enough to blog:

Every day we take the berries we aren't able to sell, or the ones who don't look the best, and cap them to freeze them and sell them to a dairy.  I took some today.  92 2.5 gallon bags went in the back of my father-in-law's truck and were then transported an hour and a half northwest to Hillsborough.  It doesn't matter how fast you go though, when you get there the bags are in various stages of melting.  So when you get finished not only are you covered in red strawberry juice, it looks like you've murdered someone in the back of the truck (the last time The Husband made a run a highway patrolman followed him for 10 miles.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But he drives like a grandma and I've never seen a highway patrolman who didn't speed so...maybe not).

I think I need a better way!
Saturday was mother's day and our annual treasure hunt.  It was an absolutely beautiful day to pick berries.  Around lunchtime I was out getting lunch for the employees (victims) and while I was gone the bees decided to swarm again.  I noticed they seemed to be 'acting' weird all week, coming out to pitch on the hive, not flying in their normal patterns.  Instead of swarming earlier in the day when we were not as busy or later even they decide to do it right at lunchtime while we have a family enjoying their lunch underneath the tree they decide to pitch on.  
Notice the thicker blobs in the middle of the picture, that is the latest swarm
We've had some really great groups out this year.  It's been another learning experience for me (my motto is to go with the flow, and we've done a lot of that this year!).  I'm used to speaking to older groups, schools and other groups of older children who have had experience sitting down and listening to someone talk.  This year I had a number of preschools/daycares, younger children who haven't had that much experience.  The first group that came baffled me completely.  Then I realized I had a great resource right there in my hands.  The NC Strawberry Association offers Strawberry Activity books and the first few pages explains how strawberries grow in preschool terms.  From then on I read the book until I memorized it (this I can remember but I wash my phone in the washing machine?).

Our CSA boxes started going out the end of April.  Again, it's a learning experience.  That first week The Husband called everyone (I'm much more of an e-mailer, facebooker, or texter.  He refuses to join the twenty-first century and this is THE one area where I appreciate it) to make sure they were happy with their boxes.  I'm hoping in the next few weeks we can add more variety and have more quantity too (there are only so many cabbage or radishes one can eat).  So far it's been great and I really love the idea that I go pull the onions that morning and someone's eating them that night.  It's great.

Week 2 Box
So, that's the season in a nutshell.  It's been great.  I hate strawberries officially until October now.  The smell was fantastic for week one, now it makes me sick.  Now we embark on our next adventure...produce!

Oh!  And I'm already planning my new punkin' chunker' 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Photo Shoot

One of my photography friends posted the other day that not everyone with a camera is a photographer.  This is a very, very true statement.  I've never been a big picture taker.  I used to like to do it when I was younger.  I think it had more to do with being old enough to have my own camera and all.  It lost it's appeal to me as I got older.  I was always too interested in the things I was doing to remember to take pictures.  Even now with The Boy, I see these moms constantly following their kid with the camera taking pictures or videos, you know the ones I mean, the ones with those really nice big professional looking cameras that take awesome pictures, the ones who have their kid pose every five seconds so they can photograph every second of whatever activity it is they're doing (now, if you're one of those moms please do not take offense.  One day you'll have all these memories to blackmail your kids with) and there I am with my Kodak or my phone only remembering to do it because they are.

However, now, I am chief photographer of the farm.  I take these pictures for three reasons.  One, if I was looking for a place such as mine to go, I would like to see pictures of said place before I arrived.  Haven't you ever pulled up to a place and it not been at all like what they described.  You think it's going to be completely awesome, and you pull up and the grass is knee high and there's some random dog hanging around and the building looks like it's falling apart and you swear you hear banjo music in the background.  I want people to be reassured that won't be the experience they'll have here (I did spend three hours cutting grass Wed. and we just built a new shelter and the only banjo you'll here is Mumford & Sons, but there might be a random dog.  Three outta four ain't bad right?).  

Two, education.  Most of the pictures I take never see the light of day except for my power points, which, incidentally never see the light of day either.  I try and take pictures of every stage of everything we do so I have it to demonstrate what I'm talking about with farm tours (The Husband teases me because I call it stock footage).  Sometimes the things we have to do are hard to describe, if you see a picture you understand better.  Plus I like for people to see what's going on here, maybe they'll learn something just by looking at the pictures.  It kind of ties in with reason number one.

Third, advertising.  I love taking pictures of ripe berries and putting them online.  I know when I'm looking at recipes on Pintrest or watching the Food Network I can be completely full and get hungry simply on the power of suggestion.  Even I can't look at a full flat of fresh ripe berries without my mouth watering a little, and I don't even like strawberries (Oh! The horror.  I know.  Sometimes having a discriminating palate really sucks).

Case in Point!

I have a new respect for wildlife photographers.
So in case you were wondering, yes, it's me taking those pictures, and yes, I'm doing it mostly with my Droid, and yes, I did follow that bee around from plant to plant for at least five minutes trying to get a good picture of her on a flower (so yes we now know our bees are working, or at least, that one was) and yes I have tons more.  At some point, hopefully in the near future, I'll have a projector so I can actually show these pictures to people when they come for tours.  And if you ever see one you have a question about please ask.  I would love nothing better than to explain it to you!  

Side note - we're opening Monday!!!  Finally!!!  I think if we don't The Husband will spontaneously combust.  So come by and pick a flat or might catch me taking a picture!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Well, strawberry season is fast approaching (thank you climate change).  In two weeks we will be picking berries.  After months of watching, waiting, plotting, and face planting daily in the field (I literally do it every time I go out there.  I don't understand why.  I watch my step.  I grew up jumping tobacco rows and walking down middles but it never fails.  The other day The Boy saw me do it and started face-planting for fun.  I guess it's pretty much hopeless for him.) they're finally getting ready.

Which means I'm about to explode with anxiety.  I was met with this in the field just a few minutes ago:
First one of the season!  Yikes!
The Boy said "  That's a red berry!"

There is so much to do.  I have to talk to my girls and get them lined up to work, order containers to put them in, make sure the signage is ready, start marketing, book groups to come pick, make sure I have coloring books, line up things with the dairy, order shirts, deal with The Manic Husband, update the website/facebook/ get the picture.  My mama always said that hindsight is 20/20 and I believe her.  If I'd have known I'd be responsible for all this, that I'd be running an agritourism farm, I'd have definitely gone to business school.  Ninety percent of the time I feel like we're the blind leading the blind.  And every year we add something new and different that we've never done before, like produce and the CSA, so we can't get comfortable and think, yeah, we've got this.  So while The Husbands running around like "Wow! We'll have strawberries in two weeks!" thinking about eating that first ripe one, I'm like "wow, we'll have strawberries in two weeks" thinking about all the things still on my to do list.

I am excited though don't get me wrong.  I'm ready to see people out here enjoying the strawberries and having kids come though the farm tours.  I'm excited about our open house and the recipe contest and possibilities there.  I'm ready to start packing CSA boxes and (hopefully) hearing about people enjoying our vegetables and seeing pictures of the awesome things they cooked with them.  I'm excited about that wonderfully fresh sweet scent that you can only get with real fresh local strawberries.

That being said I hope you're counting down the days like we're counting them.  Come out and see us in a couple weeks for those first ripe berries.  Bring your kids out to pick while you're on spring break and let them run off some energy with us.  We'll be glad to have you!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sleep Tight

So, things are really ramping up on the farm.  This warm winter is pushing everything up, including strawberries.  They've been blooming since December and it's already time to worry about frost protection.  This past weekend we had an arctic blast again, therefore it was time for either a) overhead irrigation or b) row covers.

See the black spot in the middle of the flower  - that's what the frost does to the berries.
Last year we did some overhead irrigation but it's not our preferred method of frost protection.  You have to put so much water on the field and everything becomes a sloppy mess.  Not to mention there are some diseases that are spread easier by the water running through the field (it touches one plant, and then runs down the plastic infecting every plant in it's path [like Outbreak for berry plants, did you have to watch that in hs biology?  I did.]).  So this year we got enough row covers to cover all of our berries, thanks to the helpful folks at the Soil and Water, and Saturday was our first time putting them on.

Saturday morning we had the help here pulling weeds out of the strawberries and off the plastic (there are some that grow up the sides of the plastic, eventually covering the berries.  You see the problem.  I have pics, but that's probably another blog for another time).  The Husband was running around as usual, and I was ditching the water that fell Friday out of the middles (there are places it's shin deep).  We should have been filling rock bags to hold down the row covers.  In the past we've used sandbags.  This year we have this roll of netting that we are supposed to cut to the appropriate size and fill with rock and tie both ends.  it sounds easy right?  Yeah, in theory it is.  In practice, that netting is cumbersome to stretch and difficult to tie.  I got the idea to use zip ties instead of tying them (it's that kind of plastic that it doesn't matter how tight you get it, the knot can slip out).  Still, me working alone was not producing enough bags.  After lunch we got everyone involved, and still it was not going smoothly (and it was driving me crazy).  That's when the Husband decides that we need to lay one out to see how many rock bags we need.

Alright, so remember how windy it was Saturday?  Well, these covers are the texture of that black landscape fabric you put down for weed control, just a little thicker, and they catch the wind like you wouldn't believe.  We load the roll of material like a spool on a contraption mounted on the end of a forklift, and The Husband and another worker grab the end and walk Santa-style to the end of the row.  Again, it's a lot harder than it sounds.  The rows are narrow-ish and uneven, not to mention the covers catch the wind like a sail on a boat, so not only are you hauling the weight of the covers (which are surprisingly heavy) but the weight of the wind blowing them around (alright confession time - I did fall in the mud.  I was holding one of the covers so one of the workers could hold it down for a shovel of dirt when the wind unexpectedly got in it and it dragged me down.  I had to laugh at my own self at that one.  Too bad I didn't have the camera out then).  When we got to the last row near the path, The Husband got the idea to tie the end of the cover to the gator so he could drag them out with it, it actually managed to work (despite me saying 'this is going to be bad' like a mantra and cringing).  Too bad we couldn't do that every time (I did get a short video, but I had to stop filming to make sure it didn't tangle, so it really wasn't worth posting).  Once we, they, get them out we have to spread them out to cover four rows.  At that point we realize it's going to take 40 - 60 rock bags per cover with this wind and we have 20.  The Husband comes up with the practical if not far-sighted idea (now we have holes about every foot or two, some of which are almost a foot deep, that we'll have to fill in somehow so you won't break your neck in the field) to use shovel fulls of dirt to hold them down.  It takes all afternoon, but we manage to get almost all of the rows covered.
There's more than one way to skin a cat

The Spool - Forklift contraption
It reminds me of snow...without all the mess.
Yesterday we took them off, but it looks like first of next week we'll be putting them on again.  It won't be as hard, just pulling them over the rows, but still I hate it.  Still, we have to do what we have to do, and yesterday The Husband found one of the first potential berries.  So get your mouth right, 'cause we'll have berries the first of April!

First berries :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Plan D

So, I believe I promised a post on the lovely potato planting experiment.  Let the hilarity ensue...

Thursday the Husband informs me that Saturday we're going to set out the first half of the potatoes we want to set.  This means that Friday, we had to cut up 10 50lb bags of potatoes so we could plant them.  With sweet potatoes, you just plant the entire potato in the ground (actually you kinda lay them on the ground tightly packed together) and cover them with plastic.  In a couple months, voila, you have plants you can transplant in the field.  With white potatoes, we have to cut the potatoes into pieces, making sure each piece has an 'eye'.  We started just before 9 am and he finished around 3 pm.  So my carport looked super lovely with pieces of seed potatoes spread out on tobacco sheets everywhere.  

Diligently Cutting
Saturday morning started out at 90 mph as usual.  We had people coming at 10 to help get them set and we had to get them sprayed with insecticide and loaded on the transplanter before they arrived.  The Husband had this grand idea to transplant the pieces just like you would a plant.  He even rigged up this PVC pipe thing to make sure the piece got down into the setter without the worker having to lean all down to do it.  Well, we got the potatoes loaded and the people on the transplanter, and we went about ten feet before the first one yelled that his piece was stuck.  For the next five feet I think we stopped every foot with someone getting stuck.  It was decided at that point, after much heartache and colorful language, that The Husbands lovely invention was a dud.  We jerked them out and the workers had to lean down and place the piece in the setter.  That worked for about ten more feet.  They didn't quite understand the object of what The Husband wanted to do, and the pieces kept getting stuck.  So when plan A and plan B failed, The Husband implemented the never-before-mentioned plan C and yelled for me to drive.

I've driven a tractor.  I drove the hayride some last year and will probably do so again this spring for our farm tours.  Driving a tractor is one thing, anyone can drive it in a straight line, it's like mowing grass.  Driving it with a trailer isn't difficult either, you just have to watch your turns.  Driving it while it's hooked up to a machine that is carrying eight people who are planting things in the ground is another.  Not only do you control the direction and speed, but this machine moves up and down to control the amount of dirt knocked off the row and implants potato pieces.  I already have two strikes against me: a) i'm not coordinated, just ask anyone who has ever seen me attempt any sport whatsoever except maybe skiing, and b) I have my irritated Husband attempting to explain this to me on the fly.  I do okay except for the raising/lowering the transplanter part.  Apparently there is this 'sweet spot' you have to hit between knocking too much dirt off the row and not enough, and amazingly I cannot determine where that spot is while The Husband shouts directions at me over the hum of the engine.  I'm either knocking so much dirt it's slowing the tractor down or I'm not knocking enough.  I don't want to give the poor folks on the transplanter motion sickness, but for some reason even though I'm being super easy every time I push or pull on the lever to raise/lower the machine it jerks up and down.  At any rate, I only drive for a row and a half, at which point The Husband decides he can't take another meltdown and since it's not working that well anyway he abandons the transplanting idea and breaks out the buckets.  I maintain that if I was properly schooled in the whole knocking off dirt thing it wouldn't be difficult to do.  The Husband maintains that I am banned from the transplanter. 

View from the Top
Sometimes you have to cut your losses
In the end, it was really quicker for us to do it manually i.e. plan D.  The Husband drove the tractor down the row knocking it off, the workers placed potato pieces, and he went back with a cultivator to cover them up.  Problem solved.  Potatoes planted.  Now in three weeks we get to repeat the process, hopefully without so many bumps in the road.

I really hate to know what plan E was...

Monday, February 13, 2012

A piece of the puzzle

Not all of my 'jobs' are glamorous like pulling weeds or thinking up new ways to chunk pumpkins. I'm also chief errand runner.  Today I had to go to Agri-Supply in Greenville (I could have gone to Garner, but I hate that store and I hate going to Garner) for plow parts.  I hate going to parts stores.  First off, you get there and the place never looks quite on the level.  There's never anywhere to park.  There's a minimum of two doors, neither of which are clearly marked.  Then you get in and the place has this smell.  It's difficult to describe, something between grease and oil and diesel fuel and mixed with thirty year old dirt and dust.  Every single one smells like that, regardless of you're going to pick up a starter or plow points.  Even the chains like Advance.  Inhale deep next time you walk in one.  You'll see what I mean.

Then comes the worst part of all.  You walk to a counter surrounded by men that you just know are looking at you like a complete idiot and attempt to tell them what you need.  I learned the hard way, I now request specific descriptions (this in itself is perilous for those of you who know The Husband.  He is the king of long, rambling stories that end up confusing more than informing.  Especially about something I know nothing about so I am completely dependent on his knowledge.  Yeah.  Scary.).  Still though, they never fail to ask a question I never anticipated and I end up saying words like 'thingy' or using phrases like, 'I think it's the thingy that goes on the end of the thing' and sounding like the exact stereotype I try to avoid.  

Finally, after at least two phone calls (because he never fails to not answer the first one) and a lot of blank looks on both our parts, I have the part and I'm praying it's right.  Today wasn't so bad.  I had a diagram to show the guy at the parts desk and he went exactly to the right place and loaded up my cart.  The place did smell like the grease-dust-oil combo, and there was perma-dirt on the floor, but everyone was very nice and helpful (much better than the one in Garner) and I think we were in and out of there in twenty minutes.  All in all it was one of my best part store experiences hands down.

So this is probably not one of the most illuminating blogs ever, but it does go to illustrate a point. A puzzle is made of many pieces, we needed the plow parts so the plow would work correctly and the ground would be right for the vegetables we're going to plant and grow for you to eat.  Getting the plow right was just a piece of that larger puzzle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Veggie Tales

This past spring was the first spring we had strawberries on our farm in a location that we could have you pick, and the most common question asked was "will you be having other vegetables".  In 2010, we had a landowner that raised other vegetables, and we had spring cabbage to offer along with our strawberries.  Last year it didn't work out that way, so all we had to offer were the strawberries.  We decided right then that 2012 was going to be a lot different.  We were idiots for not maximizing our potential.  People are coming, why not offer more?  Maybe if they were coming back for cabbage or potatoes or squash they'd buy more strawberries.  It works in theory anyway, right?

When we were at the ANA conference last year I heard about CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture).  It wasn't a term I was familiar with.  When I was growing up, everyone I knew had a garden.  My parents had one, my aunt and uncle had one, my grandparents on both sides had one.  If we had too much or if they had too much we'd give it away and share it amongst (not quite sure how to spell this, and spell checks not helping) ourselves.  The idea of going to a fruit stand wasn't even something I was familiar with then.  Why would you buy vegetables when you can grow your own?

But as Dylan says, the times they are a'changing, and this society we find ourselves living in is a lot different than the one we had twenty years ago.  Most people don't grow up on farms, they have a modest back yard that they use for recreation.  Even if they had room for a garden, who has the time?  They're always needing something...spraying or tilling or picking or something.  And when it comes time to pick it has to be done right then, regardless of the clothes that need washing or the kids that need to be taken to dance or baseball or that vacation you've planned.  It never fails, you plan to go to the beach and that's the week your corn will be ready.  Then there's the weather to deal with.  Last couple summer's it's been very hot and very dry.  This year is another La Nina year, which means it's probably going to be another very hot and very dry summer (hopefully not, forecasters are saying that right now it looks weaker than last year, but I like to plan for the worst).  So then you spent all that time getting your land right and planting and spraying for nothing, because nothing will grow if it doesn't have moisture, and not everyone has the money or water availability to irrigate.

However, people still want vegetables.  We need vegetables.  Most people like vegetables (I say that because I have a very discriminating palate, and do not enjoy the consistency of most vegetables).  And people are starting to realize that the ones they can buy from the farmer down the street are a lot better for you and taste abundantly better than the ones you get at Wal-Mart.  Sure, you can get a quart of berries for two dollars, but how are they going to taste?  And what is their nutritional quality if they aren't ripe when they're picked?  

Enter the CSA.  For a season long fee, you get a 30-40 lb box of vegetables every week (depending on the size of share you sign up for).  You don;t have to plant a garden, you don't have to weed or spray a garden, you don't have to pick anything.  All you do, is come to our farm and I'll load the box in your car and you get to go home and savor the deliciousness.  I first mentioned this as a good idea to The Husband then, but he comes from a row-crop tradition, and it wasn't until we seriously started talking about this this fall that I was able to talk him into trying it.  Hey, what's the worst that can happen?  If it's not successful we don't have to do it again.  But I hope that it is successful, because one of the things I enjoy most about this job I've found myself in is having happy customers, and seeing them over and over and getting to take part in in their lives too.

So if you're one of those people who want quality produce at a reasonable price and a chance to actually know where your food comes from (seriously, I'll take you to see the place it was picked even), check us out.  Even if you don't sign up for the CSA we'll have produce for sell every day out here.  Come see us!