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Archive for March, 2010

As the morning sun was coming into view Saturday morning I was preparing for our first workshop of this season here on the farm. It takes a bit to get back into the flow of hosting these workshops and having people here on the farm especially during our busy spring planting time, and especially during a time when we are so far behind in our planting…thanks to our free-range chicken digging everything we planted up.  Over the course of the last couple of weeks I have been interviewing new potential farm crew employees for the season. This is a very important process for those that work here on the farm are truly the face of our farm and we want only folks that have the kind of love of organic farming, people and the relationship between them both that Mark and I have.  It is a hard, hot and can be a tedious job at times. Weeding, planting and watering can take a toll on anyone. The market days are fun and the events and workshops are the cream of the job, but there is another end to farm that is not for the faint of heart.  Mark and I split our crews into 2 his and mine (see marriage & farming post) with a couple of crew members working part time each during the height of the season so with so much to do here on the farm and so little hands to do it we work hard and we have to be very picky about who those folks may be. I had spent all last week running 3 person crews all new to the farm and all trying out for the job. After I hope  next week I should have a fairly good idea who my 2010 farm crew will consist of.

Organic Gardening Workshop

Peggy testing soil

Now back to the workshop; We had about 25 folks sign up for the organic gardening workshop.  Most of which are just beginning their gardens and want to learn more about how to grow their homegrown food without the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides. There was a good mix of folks in the class all eager to start growing.

Soil type

Most of the group were all new to the farm…only a couple have actually been to the farm during the season. Many were local some came as far as Louisville Ky. I was trying to get my head around around what it is that I myself would need to take away from the workshop if I was just starting out planting my first garden with little or now access to my own compost, or good topsoil and amends. Mark had spent all evening Friday repeatedly bashing me for not having any help scheduled for the workshop…he, I know thinking he was going to have to be my assist during the class…I kept telling him as I was roasting red bell peppers and chopping fresh basil and garlic preping the lunch menu for tomorrow workshop that I had asked everyone of the new crew if they could work on Saturday but they had other things scheduled already and with just coming into the training faze I didn’t want to push it. ” I am fine” I kept reassuring him. I have it taking care of …you don’t need to worry. Mika (farm crew) and I had cleaned the farmhouse kitchen from top to bottom on Friday daring both Lucca my seven year old, her brood of 3 young boys that were playing with Lucca on the huge dirt pile here on the farm no less and the big boys as in Mark and his farm crew to step one foot into house with muddy boots after mopping what seems like a football field of floors twice.  You have to make lunch for 25 people …do a 4 hour long workshop on organics and your fine! Mark said cutting me those…yea right eyes of his.  Yep..I said…you married up babe, get use to it! Of course now at 5am Saturday morning I am thinking holy cow… I need some help.  My mother, my sisters and myself all fall under the “Gone with the wind” attitude of Scarett O’Hara…”I will think about it tomorrow”. Today the sun is shining and whatever happens it’s going to all work out and be a wonderful day:) my side of the family just don’t spend a great deal

Soil testing for bed amendments

of time worrying. We are the get it done type…not the oh…I can’t or I don’t have or the it’s too much type. We are the seat of our pants, jump right in the deep end type…good, bad…not the sharpest tool in the shed attitudes…but we are there full force. Things tend to find their way of working themselves out…worrying…that never helps anyone but the drug companies.  I was in the middle of checking my list of topics for the class as the sun broke through the dawn mist. It was going to a lovely day here on the farm for the workshop. The menu for lunch was written on the chalkboard along with the days agenda. For lunch I had prepared a tortellini spinach and tomato salad to be served along side of the smoked cheese, pesto and roasted red pepper panini’s…these are like a grilled sandwich, warm and delicious.  The workshop would start around 10am so I decided at the last minute to throw some oatmeal raisin cookie dough (ready made) into the oven to kick start the morning with coffee and water as beverages during the hello and welcome speech that was at the top of my notes I had scribbled the night before.  As the attendees began to arrive and get signed in things began to settle in…riding a bike I thought…it was a familiar feeling having my farmhouse kitchen full of people and even old farmer Mark fell into a broad face grin and handshakes. We are a people farm here at Madison Creek Farms,  sharing the love of nature, good food and friends.

Layers of soil

Having folks here sharing that with us is what makes this place so special and thriving.

Workshop

Amending the beds and diggin’ in!

digging in

Digging out weeds

Amending the mix

Amending the mix

Living soil

talking compost...oldfarmermark

Lunch Time!

Ready for lunch after working hard

We would like to thank all of our workshop participates. Now get growing:)

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I’m a lover of spring time. Just the thought of spring brings a smile to my face. It seems as if the farm is washed clean in the early spring rains and brimming with new-born life and bursting with new hope and good wishes for the rest of year. There is a feeling in air like no other in the spring, this shedding of winter grays and binding coats and stale air. Windows long shut are open and front porches swept and welcoming once again. Yep…I am a lover of spring.

Baby Ducklings

Baby chick, baby duckling and baby goats …spring is the time for birth here on the farm and aren’t they darling:)

They love to climb on the hay rolls. And these little ones are so sweet…they will climb in your lap:)

Baby goats climbing on hay roll

A lot of work happening around here right now with planting, cleaning of beds and building the new chicken coop. The farm crew is great this spring and as you can see Mark’s crew is having too much fun!

coop crew

coop

John is our builder, buddy and farm crew member...

Yep…I love spring time!

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There is the notion, or I should say romanticism it seems when it comes to a family farm. It conjurers up all sort of Norman Rockwell images for people of this simple life where man and woman come together pitch fork in hand building a life on this picturesque rural plot of the American.  We have so many people that either come to farm, or want to work on the farm or want to start their own farm tell Mark and I we are living their dream. And it is true for there are times it very much feels dreamy and wonderful to be surrounded by all this life…this bounty if you will.  It’s true most of the months out of the year I can look out my kitchen window into sea of flowers with their blazing colors all swaying gently in the breeze of a mid-summer day.  I totally understand how when flipping though the latest copy of Country Living with all those nostalgic images of beautiful little farms and old farmhouses with lushly looking kitchen garden and loosely kept yard chickens…those pretty little girls with big bows in their hair collecting nested eggs for that back of the magazine section on farm fresh omelets.  Hey I subscribe…I love that magazine. I get all of that…and I live some of that. But there is another side to living, working and raising a family on a real working family farm and that is when those images we have in our head meet the dirt under our fingernails and sometimes they don’t play together very well.

When Mark and I first came to Madison Creek Farms 10 years ago we moved here from East Nashville were Mark and I first met as neighbors, Mark living just a few houses up from mine. We had this little block of houses there on McKennie Ave. where most of us that lived there were in the music business or some sort of creative line of work. Artists, restaurateurs, writers, most everyone doing something deemed hip at the time.  Mark and I were songwriters writing for the same publishing company Sony Tree as staff writers and I was recording for Warner Bros records at the time making music with my sister Patsy as the duo “The Lynns”.  I had grown up on a conventional farm where my dad grew mostly corn and soybeans and we raised cattle and horses as well.  So I had a fairly strong background in agriculture although during my youth I tried to ignore that..opting more for the artist side of me to emerge… Mark’s background was intercity Pittsburgh the child of a Italian family. His grandfather kept a small garden and made homemade wine, but that was as far as Mark came to farming or country living. He moved to Mt. Hope West Virgina in the fourth grade his father working in administration for the coal mining company there. A small town yes, but farming in the mountains of  Eastern Hills of West VA. not much other then a little garden here or there.  So in essences Mark and I were city meets country and country girl drags city boy home to the farm…not kicking and squealing mind you…but diffidently out of his element.

Even though we both embarked on this journey together we..as in mostly me.. had this euphoric sort of vision of a slower pace then our busy lifestyles in East Nashville again…those dang magazines…  A little farm, little kids, a little goat, pig, chickens a little farmhouse and a whole hell of a lot of work ahead of us. If we wouldn’t have had the money from the sell of my house and our writing/touring music careers to finance this lifestyle change we would have been in trouble right from the start.  A farm takes…eats…devourers and needs…capital…cold hard cash. And somebody if not both somebodies better hold on to that day job.  We both still held and to some extent still holding on to ours and we are going on 10…I repeat 10 years. Building the farm and all that goes with it takes money and it takes man power and a lot time. Most of this time is after working full time jobs that are feeding this euphoric vision of freshly washed sheets drying on the outdoors clothes line and homemade bread baking in the oven, or a weedless kitchen gardens full of vine ripe tomatoes.  What you never envision is broken waterlines, chickens pooping on the front porch or a garden full of Bermuda grass and backed up septic tanks. For a couple spending all their off time together working on the farm and spending most their income building a farm business it can be draining on the best of marriages. I compare it to an endless home remodeling project and you both are living in the construction zone as you working on it.  We had to build our farm from the ground up. There wasn’t much of an infrastructure for farming here when we came to Madison Creek. So we had to build everything starting from scratch including a place to live. The old farmhouse had been commended although it still stood we had to completely gutted and rebuilt. That was the most trying time of our marriage thus far.  Jasy my daughter was in high school at the time, I was pregnant with Lucca our 7 year old son and we were living in a trailer while working on the house and the farm.

Money was tight and getting tighter as each contractor came into the picture as well as the farm needing equipment and stuff…lots of stuff.  Added stress came from the fact this was a farm that my dad and mom had bought back in the early 60’s…the first home they ever owned. My dad gathering up the down payment from running moonshine from Kentucky and Washington. He and my mom had hand cut the big cedar posts that now line the porches from the property and dragged them together off the hill to use as beams in the old farmhouse. The crabapple stone that is on the house my parents laid themselves they got it from a rock mine 5 miles from where they grew up in Kentucky. It would have been easier to have started with nothing then to have started with this sense of responsibility for part of my own families legacy. Building a new house would have been in fact cheaper as well, but it would have meant having to tear this one down…don’t you just love city and county codes…but that would have also meant breaking my mom’s heart having a place she and my dad loved bulldozed over by their daughter. I couldn’t…wouldn’t and didn’t.  Mark never knowing a family home or roots like that had a hard time dealing with my need to protect and savage the old farmhouse and I lost a many of nights of sleep over how I was going to keep it and us together through it all. Mark would have been fine living back on McKennie. He would have never traveled this road so I felt totally responsible for putting us in this position the bad and the good of it.  He loves this farm as much as I do, but it is not his way to feel a loyalty to the land of his father or the roots of his past. To Mark we are merely passing though life…a place or thing means little to him. I wished I could feel just a bit of that…but I am different and I’ll not apologize for it.

Learning how to live and work together really 24 hours a day takes some serious give and take in a marriage. And when you are building a farm you are together or it won’t get done.  Spending that much time with a person, ya better like them plenty. I know several people that own business together or had owed businesses together. It is not for the faint of heart believe me. The business becomes the marriage and the marriage becomes the business and if you are not careful the couple becomes non-existent. Worker bees…all they do is work, work, work…too busy building a life and not living a life. Mark and I have to watch becoming worker bees all the time, and still we can slip into that role not even realizing it. Because you are working together, in a business you are building together, for a lifestyle you want to live together….you need to establish some rules of engagement… as I call them.  These are the boundaries in which you set up to protect the couple from the business. Mark and I have rules of engagement and roles in which each of us have defined for ourselves in our farm business…we try to stick to those roles and not cross over into the others responsibilities unless asked for help.  Sometimes it happens and when it does like all married people we will bicker and argue the really bad part to that is there is no escape from one another. Your work will suffer and your home life will suffer. There is no insulation, no place to go that this doesn’t effect.  My advise is to talk about the roles you play in the farm business and define the rules in which you want in your working relationship. If you happen to cross the line…forget it and leave in the field…don’t take it home and don’t take it to bed.  The farm only blooms and fruits with your love and steady devotion same as a marriage… and if that doesn’t work kick him in the tail with a good muddy muck boot…he’ll come around…oops…sorry slipped right out there…eeeh.

Because Mark and I came from very different backgrounds we bring different ideas and knowledge to the table. We are both very artistic and both have very strong type personalities. I am the more a visionary, big idea person, Mark is more the subtle in his approach to what he sees here on the farm.  I think this has more to do with this being my families farm and he wants to respect that. He like to work with the compost and mower, tractors and such. I like the planting, harvesting and dealing the people.  Mark though like the people aspect as well, most of the time. He really loves the school groups…the kids..they love old farmer mark now… Mark has his farm crew of 1 or 2 guys he likes to work with clearing beds and weed eating ect… So I don’t even try to take charge of his crew…even if I think they should be doing something different then they are.  I will asked Mark before I pull one of his guys off something he has them working on to do something I may need help on. Same goes for when we have the girls…unusually these are the interns that come during the summer to work on the farm. The girls work with me most of the time and Mark doesn’t get too involved with what we are doing.

I think the most important part of marriage and farming is respect. I also think that is the most part of marriage in general.

Secondly…forget what you see in those magazines although lovely….a real working farm…is just that..working…not perfection…there is nothing perfect on a farm…nothing…and that is what really makes it so dang interesting and captivating.

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The Female Farmer...composting

It was beautiful weather here on the farm for the past few days, so nice in fact I got to finally get out into the field and get some crops planted. This will be the first time in a decade that we haven’t gotten to plant early spring crops in the field during the month of February. What that could mean for us here on the farm is depending on the weather we may have a short spring growing season. Thus many crops we rely on like lettuce’s, spinach, radishes, broccoli and such may not have the long cool weather they need and bolt before they produce a good harvest. It also could mean a period of time during the early summer months we will be sitting here on the farm with nothing much in way of vegetables until the warm weather crops begin to produce.  But for the past few days we are planting, composting, amending beds and sowing seeds like crazy…everyone in the family has to pitch in. But that doesn’t mean ole farmer Mark and RH our farm crew extraordinaire can’t have a break for some tom foolery.

Lucca doesn't like farm work

I try and bribe him...doesn't look like he's buying

Mark & RH

Yep..a lot of working gonna on with these two:)

RH is heading off to France this summer to work on another farm...we'll miss him bunches.

Mark and I are also filling my honey do list…yes…I have to help out…it is my list after all…and one of the things I want to do is build another stack stone low wall down the length of the drive way into the farm. After 3 hours of carrying stones off the hillside we decided to raid the creek bed for a while…thank goodness old blue has a extra large bucket on it …good thinkin’ dad!

Mark fill the loader with stones


Almost complete, we still have about 30 feet to go and several more trips hunting stones to finish. But it will look nice and even though the wall isn’t anywhere close to being as old nor as tall as the one that runs the length of the farm it fits right in with the look of the place.

looks good

One of the advantages of our CSA program here on the farm is that during the late winter when we open up the program for folks to sign up we have an in flow of monies in a very short amount of time. This hunk of capital is used to buy the seeds and supplies we need to begin our season. We always use the first round of CSA monies to invest in the major and some minor improvements on the farm. Last week we had the farm’s market parking area graded and graveled. This will allow for parking close to the market pavilion as well as handicap access to the market. Looks great!

Building new parking area

grading it smooth

Our Organic gardening workshop is coming up March 27th. 10am. So for those of you that are thinking about starting your own gardens or just want to learn how to be better caretakers of the earth, come on and join in the fun. We will be serving lunch and playing in the dirt….can’t beat that:)

Order tickets online

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