april 4th

April 4th— it snowed all day. In defiance I took the electric blanket off my bed. It is spring, damn it, I refuse to keep preheating sleep.

A cheerful spate of seedings was pencilled into the calendar for this week— the first spring greens— but that dirt is four inches under now. False spring is close to the feeling of heartbreak. I want to take it out on my old lovers— I knew warmth, last week, my body was bare to the sky— tonight the space heater breathes on my calves like a pet. I am not comforted by it. I want it to die.

Is it possible to turn thirty in New England and ever fully trust the sun? (I am asking, by extension, about love.) My friend— a Mainer— is in the midst of a hurt. It is an instance of her own golden rule overlapping only partly with the golden rule of someone to whom she is vulnerable. We walk in the park and she tells me she wishes she could have seen it coming. And isn't that our constant refrain, with the peas just up and now snow? With the seedlings shivering in the greenhouse while the heater breathes weakly from the corner.

Actually I am learning exactly what I need in this business, which is to give up on augery. There are lots of hot days every year, and most of them happen when I think they are supposed to. But chaos is only increasing— Janis Joplin's advice comes to mind— "if you have it today you don't wear it tomorrow, man."


Today I had snow and so an hour at my desk. Tomorrow, maybe, some sun for the seedlings. Next week, if we're lucky, soft turned dirt.

-lbl

what's up our (many-layered, extra bundled) sleeves

It's fully winter in our little city, and this weekend my robot phone tells me it's supposed to dip well below zero while we're huddled in our beds. I don't feel too chilled - Laura and I have been sitting down for a few hours each week and parallel playing on our computers to tick away at our schemes for the upcoming season, and there's no part of my week that's more satisfying!

winter has had it's ups and downs already. the farm truck has been in the shop for more visits than we'd prefer. the roof to our coolbot blew off in a particularly aggressive snowstorm. it's been dark. but many muffins have been baked. we've vacationed and staycationed. Mabel is finally catching on to the idea of the morning snooze. we've made friends at the dog park. we've ordered all of our seeds from Fedco and Johnnys Seeds, and more from our friends at Small State Seeds. we inventoried the seed we managed to save from our plants this past season, and our bounty was encouraging. we engaged in a NOFA/RI sponsored mentorship w farmer and soil-health enthusiast, Derek of Brix Bounty Farm, and we came out of it with a very fully developed action plan to bring our soil nutrients up to their ideal levels. our practices are more and more reflecting our values as farmers and as stewards of the land, and that feels good.

we've made charts. we've made lists. we've set up meetings, and left many voicemails. we're zooming in on what makes sense for us, where we are in our evolution. winter is the time when Sidewalk Ends is more Business than Farm, and it's a funny hat for each of us to wear, but it pays off. we're adding an East Side pickup for our CSA at the Temple Beth-El this season. we're well on our way to getting our veggies into some new and new-to-us restaurants in Providence. we're dreaming of piglets. we're scheming with some Brown students to build chicken tractors for meat birds. we said goodbye to our old layers and are cleaning out the coop for new ladies in the spring. 

we're thinking hard about our labor force and what shapes it will take in each phase of the season. soliciting workshares for all sorts of tasks. welcoming friends with plans of being in our world for stretches of time. Laura has dreamed up a week long immersive farming camp for young women of Providence, and we're reaching into all the corners of our networks to try to make it happen (please let us know if you have experiences to share with organizing a camp/grant writing/logistical wizardry!). 

though the sentiments may be clichéd, we mean it when we say that we can't wait to grow vegetables for you this season. we're sincere in our expressions of gratitude for your support. it couldn't be more true that we love being your farmers.

stay toasty and well fed... spring is just around the corner.

-s 

for fay, on the eve of graduate school

Gratitude, Fay, for all you have put towards our mutual endeavors: in friendship and world building, working and thinking towards a city and self within which contentment is more possible. You were traversing this then-new city and plunging our first mutually owned tool into its soil when I was still trying to escape New York City. You did the initial soil building upon which I've constructed the fabric of my adult life. You are the first labor of our farm, and I will miss daily your diligence and strength. I have learned endurance and patience from you, Slow Precision, and keep a What Would Big Fay Do thought bubble above my head in many matters, from quality-control to diplomatic communication. Your new peers are about to have their hearts taken captive. You are my first non-biological older sister, and a most precious friend—who can I thank for over two decades of generous love from you? I am unspeakably grateful that your new path is geographically close, and eager to keep learning from and with you as you unlock new facets of your mind. Love Tess.


dearest fayby,
we have known each other for relatively few years inside this conglomeration of deep love between women, but for all of the years that i've been the thinking and feeling version of myself that i call Adult, you've been by my side. I often jest casually that you know me better than I know myself. faced with the imminent reality that you're embarking on a new path which I won't be on, I'm coming up against how very true it is, and how I've taken it for granted. you've taken every shape of supportive character for me in my life.. mother, sister, friend, confidant, boss, peer, coworker, roommate, travel companion, ally.. "lucky" seems like an impossibly inadequate label for how i feel to have found you and to have you in my life.
your critical mind is at once so deeply caring and carefully probing, and it shows in every part of how you run through the world. it's apparent in the intentional way that you prepare a meal. confiding in you is one hundred times more productive than confiding in any other friend, you know just what to say and how to say it to me, what to push on and what to let be. the perfect blend of optimistic and critical that you brought to our farm business has been palpably missed already this season, and it's absence will continue to be a gash that the three of us each try to fill in bits of. working our farm alongside you has taught me about persistence, about balance, about priorities.. inheriting your detailed spreadsheets of our business has only strengthened and solidified my passionate respect for you. I fear that I haven't yet admitted to myself what a hole your starting school will leave in me, and I'm sure that as you read this you'll already have known.
thank you for being you, and being there, all the time.
all my love,
sarah
 


Well, Fay, this is one hell of a conga line. It's been five years since you and Tess moved to Providence to start a farm with me, but my mom scrounged up some evidence that the three of us have been plunging head-on into the dark unknown together for at least three times that long:


When I first met you, I still had two tight braids behind me and thought this chick is fun + smart. We were studious in a 1st grade way, at play. (I recall filling an entire page with quick drawn stars, that was a competition we had.) It took me so long to realize that you were beautiful, for I'm very fond and admiring of your mind. Thank you for these years of collegial sweat, for your precision and aplomb and fine sense of attire. I'm jealous of whoever gets to sit across the proverbial row with you next. 
I guess now we get to go back to bowling and egg rolls. Heck yes.

Love, Lambs

herb tips

If you're in our CSA you might have noticed that we love to grow herbs! The big names are parsley, dill, basil, cilantro, chives, thyme, oregano, and sage. Herbs are PACKED with vitamins and flavor. Some of you might enjoy finding recipes that call for fresh herbs, but for those of you who are sometimes having trouble using up the herbs you get each week, here are some tips from us farmers.

Herb Tips

Chop them into your salad! Favorite salad herbs are parsley, dill, cilantro, and basil.

Or add them to a salad dressing (especially thyme!)

Chop them into a red sauce towards the end of the simmer (especially oregano)

Sprinkle them on pizza.

Make a pistou: finely mince any fresh herb and muddle it with olive oil and mashed garlic... drizzle over bread or anything!

Make herb butter / cream cheese: finely mince any fresh herb and mash it into some butter or cream cheese. Or yogurt (especially dill and chives!) 

When you are getting sick, munch on fresh parsley all the time like a rabbit. It has so much vitamin C in it!

If you still have leftover herbs, you can preserve them for the cold months. With herbs like thyme, oregano, and sage you can simply hang them upside-down by their rubber bands and let them dry, and then put them in a jar for winter. With wetter herbs like parsley, dill, and basil, you should blanch them for a second in boiling water, squeeze them out, chop them, and stuff them in an airtight ziplock and put them in the freezer. It's so great to get a taste of summer in a winter soup!

young farmer at RI Ag Day

June is upon us. Our CSA members ate their first salads this past week, our market tent aired out for the second time this season, and the peas demand a new trellis strand every few days. The energy of this moment in the season is fast and full. Our to do list is lengthy as we scramble to get our final full-season crops in the ground, kick off our market schedule, and weed, mulch, and fertilize the field as needed. We choose whether to pull out or mow down flowering weeds. We choose whether to hand-prep our final beds with the care we like to use, or borrow a tiller in order to get leggy starts into the ground right away. We are already reaping some of the gifts of our planning sowed in early spring; we lay down solarizing fabric to choke out a few rows of the persistent grass rhizome still strong in our second year away from the transition of our biggest plot from a hay field. Last week, we pulled it back to reveal the fallow topsoil, and by the end of the week, our tomatoes were beginning to reach their roots into the state of Massachusetts.

On May 28, I represented the Young Farmer Network at RI Ag Day. That morning we harvested for our very first market of the season (Thursdays 3:30-7 at Armory Park from now until don't worry about it!) and Sarah hustled to drop me off at 1:59 when I meant to be there by two. I was dirty and glad to be. Among various stakeholders in the RI food system—farmers, members of the state legislature, service providers, and people involved in food service, health care, land trusts, and other fields—I was overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude for the work being done in soup kitchens, state offices, community gardens, Narragansett Bay, and all over this state and region to make my work as a farmer and farm organizer possible.

I am so encouraged by efforts in recent years to make Rhode Island a more hospitable place to start a farm business. The Local Ag and Seafood Act Grants—the recipients of which were celebrated at Ag Day—is a prime example; lack of capital is a significant barrier to entry for young farmers, and Rhode Island has created innovative vehicles for creating opportunities for beginning farmers to access land and capital (e.g. LASA, Snake Den Farm, and the Lots of Hope Program). Young farmers notice this type of commitment to small agricultural businesses, innovative ideas and unorthodox models despite an “old boys club” reputation shared between both Rhode Island and traditional agriculture. As a first-generation, woman-identified farmer, and as a young business owner, there is a particular nature to the obstacles I have navigated entering spaces for the first time: the masonry aisle at home depot; the back doors of restaurant kitchens, and even the State House itself. Some are spaces are simply unknown, but others are openly hostile.

I am proud of the work RI is doing to attract and make space for beginning growers, but I am also cognizant that it is critically important to make sure the pathways opened are accessible to a diversity of people. I have been to city hall and the state house to argue my case for secure land tenure on our vacant lot farm on numerous occasions with my education, my command of language, and my skin color all corroborating my right to essentially squat on land. Over the past five years, we have poured hours and resources into transforming a blighted lot into a productive and beautiful growing space with the fundamental confidence afforded to us by our privilege underwriting our efforts and lubricating our success.

My experience starting a farm in the city has been one which has exposed me to my neighbors' wisdom sourced from different countries, neighborhoods, and landscapes across the world. We have to remember to think on both a microcosmic level—to ensure the viability of farms and healthy families within their specific landscapes and communities—and also holistically—with an inclusive, multi-ethnic, interclass food systems approach.

I am hopeful about the future of RI agriculture, thankful for the support extended to young farmers right now receive even as we insist the language of agriculture applies to 5000 square foot parcels, even as we build bizarre foam outbuildings to house our walk-in cooler robots, and come to Ag Day covered in dirt. We are eager to be agents in the construction of a livable future here.

It does not get old to receive a text message from a CSA member who just had her first 2015 salad. When people say our greens are fresh and beautiful and taste like they are from some other stock than the curly kale from supermarkets, I am immodestly pleased. It's our Seekonk soil. It's our Rhode Island rain. It's our teachers—human and plant alike—who have taught us to hone our instincts and refine our practices when we see yellow edged leaves or an over-abundance of pests in our rows. We are thankful for the needed rain, which drenched our soil more thoroughly than drip line ever will.

I am still astonished when I taste the first greens of spring. Still surprised at the security and joy it brings to look at rows of deep green filling out the formerly brown landscape, plants with blossoming future fruits, bean leaves soaking in the same light absorbed (to more painful ends) by my skin in order to alchemically produce my favorite vegetables. Even in damp weather, the opportunity to spend hours kneeling among plants that will feed my neighbors and friends feels like a great gift. I hope our region continues to develop its value for inclusivity in the production and consumption of good food, and a diversity of food cultures.