Friday, April 20, 2007

Why I farm.

19 April 2007

Farm Journal Entry

by Denise

Yesterday when a Tulsa World reporter asked what I liked best about what we do, I gave a good answer --but not a complete one. The in-depth answer for me comes now when I’m in the field weeding. It’s more philosophical and spiritual. Sitting in freshly tilled soil I can get to a lower and more basic level and even below the surface of why I love farming lavender.

During peak harvest of 2005 when the plants were lush with spikes and blooms, two large trees were blown down in the bottom section during high winds. Twenty-eight plants were crushed or covered as we continued to harvest in the short window of June. It would be fall and winter before the windfall could be tended to. Enough firewood for several winters was cut. The field survived, as did several of the crushed plants.

Fall of 2005 through Spring of 2006 brought one of the worst droughts in Oklahoma history. We were under burn bans for most of a twelve-month period. Neighbors had wells go dry and carted water in plastic gallons for drinking and washing. We were fortunate -- our well, though shallow, continued pumping. But without rain the irrigated fields suffered. We had a smaller harvest yield but the majority of plants survived and by late fall were healthy again. I learned a lot about farming in that time. I was amazed by the plant's ability to survive.

A few months ago we were hit by a severe ice storm. Plants were covered in an inch of ice for almost a week. We walked the fields and farm amazed as much by the devastation as by the beauty. And I wondered if the plants would survive.

By the first week of April the angustifolia cultivars were thick with new green growth and the beginnings of spikes were appearing. The intermedias were coming out of dormancy and it appeared that the coat of ice had done little damage.

Then two weeks ago - a late hard freeze. The temperature dropped into the teens. When we walked the fields my spirit dropped and I wondered if everything we had grown and tended for the last five years would die from this most recent blow. It emotionally set me back. We talked about what we would do if the plants didn’t survive, whether to replant or stop farming. We decided to wait.

I realized again how emotionally and spiritually I’m invested and entangled with this work -- digging and planting, tending and harvesting, creating what we can from the earth and our efforts.

Today I’m weeding plants that from a distance appear dead. I will spend countless hours with hoe in hand working in a field that has been dealt with by Nature. Yet -- time and again as I pull weeds and leaves from the bases of gray brittle plants I see three or five tiny green leaves of lavender. And I have hope.

Not just hope for our field, but hope for humanity. We too will survive if we reconnect with Nature.

Most of us have become so distant from the elemental aspects of our surroundings that we think we cannot exist without text messaging or cell phones. People go crazy thinking they must maintain control of their surroundings and receive instant gratification. But here in our lavender field I slow down and sit in the cool earth. I watch a lizard two inches long scuttle over a plant, hoppers flick and fly from leaf to leaf, the earliest bees hum and buzz and through this I learn about survival, growth and Nature herself. This is what I like best about farming.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hard April Freeze

Everything at the farm was looking so good -- our Munstead lavender in particular was off to such a promising Spring. Then a cold snap with temperatures in the teens killed much new growth on these plants. We think they will survive, but our harvest will be lesser and later than we'd hoped.

Here is a Munstead lavender showing new growth a week before the freeze.

...and here is a similar plant a week later after a night in the teens.

Oddly enough, the new growth seen above that was not whacked by the freeze is seen consistently on the west side of the Munstead plants -- almost all of them. The cold front came in from the west, yet the west side of the plants was spared.

We have fertilized and are hopeful there will still be a good harvest.

Here is a photo from a severe ice storm in January, 2007 which didn't do any damage to the plants.