I awoke, refreshed, to the sound of light rain against the bedroom’s window pane. The forecast was right this time, and I automatically shifted to ‘plan B’ for the day’s activities. My lifestyle is luxurious, allowing for self-directed changes that provide balance and promote well-being. Intentional breathing, qi-gong, focusing meditation, libation to God and Ancestors, nourishing breakfast, care for the animals, and, today, writing a blog post. I want to share a little of the wonder of Abanitu with the many who labor in the artificial world of ‘work’. Since this is my first post of the year, I’ll go back a little for context.
Last fall and winter were the wettest anyone could remember – even the old-timers said so. Every week or so we got 1-2 inches of rain, beginning in late October and continuing until early March. The fall planting of our major crops of garlic and strawberries was just completed when it began. The constant rain made it impossible to weed the crops however, and by spring the weeds had overwhelmed them, affecting their development and production. But when it did stop raining, the temperatures soared (hot for March), and the ground dried out quickly, leaving the clay hard and uncooperative. Even our permanent raised beds, built for the purpose of providing a planting option during wet springs, had become hard. I shifted, planting our earliest greens in the 3 hoop houses until we could till the designated beds for the greens.
We ordered seed in early January (mostly from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Charlottesville, Va., but also a few others), and had first seedlings of kale, chard, spinach, endive, and lettuce by late January. February is the month we prune our grape vines, fruiting trees / shrubs, and roses. We also inoculate logs for Shiitake mushrooms at this time (the logs are cut in January).
This year our plan was to plant the more cold sensitive chard and lettuce in the hoop houses by mid – February, and the more cold hardy kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and endive outside in the raised beds by mid–March. This is also the time to plant the sugar-snap peas along the trellis in the hoop houses, and two weeks later we plant them outside in the trellised raised beds on the north-side by the greenhouse nursery. In the same outside timeframe we would plant onions and ‘white’ potatoes down in the paddock field near the garlic.
The warm season crops – beans, squash, cantaloupes and watermelons would be direct seeded in the paddock field the first of May, while the tomatoes, flowers, and golden berries are started in the greenhouse in early March, and transplanted outside in the raised beds in early May. So it is a busy time of year, and weeding, tilling, mowing, and irrigating are also part of the duties. For the most part, making adjustments for weather and frosts, we achieved our early planting goals. Going forward we will plant more rotations of the warm- season crops, and include some late May plantings of ginger, turmeric and galangal (Thai ginger).
This has been a cool wet spring, and our greens have flourished. Since we focus on the kales, chard, cabbage, and spinach as healing foods, I’ve been pleased with our offerings at market. Our customers also seem pleased, often commenting that our greens are the best at market.
Markets Open in April
Our most important market, the Durham Farmers Market in downtown Durham, opened April 2, and the Person County Farmers Market in Roxboro opened April 23. I’m serving as President of the DFM this year, and it’s both an honor and real responsibility that requires time and focus. To maintain an assigned space in the market vendors must attend a minimum of 23 weeks out of a total of 34 for the market’s main season (April – November). Getting an early growing start to be at market is important. We met our goal of being at the opening market, and have not missed one so far. We also made a large CSA order in early May to our Charlotte AASI customers, with very good feedback from them.
Last Saturday we took our first offerings of sugar-snap peas from the hoop houses to market. Only one other farmer was offering them. We priced ours a little below theirs, because it seemed to us to be the fair price. Customers loved them, some biting into them right away in spite of our instructions to wash them first. They know we don’t use chemical sprays and other dangerous practices, so they were comfortable. Some even exclaimed loudly how good they tasted. There were smiles all around.
Helping people to understand the direct connections between their food choices and health outcomes is a major reason I chose to farm at this point in my life. I thank God for the privilege of my life and the opportunity to serve others in this important way. It is so critical for the children, especially.
Recently, at a local store, I witnessed a Mother buying ‘breakfast’ for her two small children – apparently before taking them off to school. Sweet cakes and sweet drinks and chips – the children were excited and happy. Both were already overweight. I smiled at them, silently thanking them for reminding me of my duties and why I do them.
My responsibility is to pass on the knowledge and understanding that has been shared with me during my life, so that the lives of others will be better. My work is not easy – sometimes it’s quite difficult – but I recognize that because of the diligence and sacrifice of others I live a privileged life filled with beauty and wonder.
I’m so grateful for another day in paradise…