Settling Back In

We’re back from the Wild Goose Festival, simultaneously exhausted and rejuvenated.  Our talk went well, and was unexpectedly spirited.  Perhaps because of that lots of people came up to us over the weekend to continue the conversation, which is encouraging.

I’ve been trying to share some of the art and natural beauty from the weekend, but Word Press won’t allow me to upload photos this morning.

It’s been a wild few days for us.  Time now to get back to tending the farm.  We’ve got some catching up to do.

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day for the local food movement in our community.

Dorothy McAuliffe, the First Lady of Virginia, visited our farm, along with three groups of children from Danville, our closest city.  We had a hayride/farm tour and all seemed to enjoy it.







The visit has generated a lot of press coverage.  I’m pretty sure our little community has never had television crews in it before.

Mrs. McAuliffe has made promotion of local food and  the need to improve childhood nutrition the emphasis for her tenure.  We enjoyed meeting her.  She shares our passion for changing the food culture and is a warm and engaging person.  Virginia is fortunate to have her in this role.

For those interested, here are links to the story in our local paper and local television station:

I’ve been posting daily for over 6 year, rarely missing a day.  But we’re off to the Wild Goose Festival today for some much needed R&R (and another platform for promoting the food movement).  It’s the closest thing we get to a vacation.

So this is the last post until Monday.  Have a great weekend y’all.



The Real Work

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry

Busy in a good way

It’s been crazy busy around here as we prepare for this:

And this:

The gardens are cranking out goodness and counting on us to save them from deer, drought and weeds.  We’re doing our best.

Some random shots from yesterday.

It's a great time of year.

It’s a great time of year.

The "weeds" in our tomato garden are purslane, wild spinach and chickweed--all tasty and nutritious wild edibles.

The “weeds” in our tomato garden are purslane, wild spinach and chickweed–all tasty and nutritious wild edibles.

Do you see an enemy hiding on a tomato plant?

Do you see an enemy hiding on a tomato plant?

A closer view of the well-camouflaged pest.

A closer view of the well-camouflaged pest.

I’m loving the long days, which still don’t seem long enough.

My List

When I get a book recommendation or come across a reference to an interesting book, I add it to “my list.”  Lately I think I should title that list “Who Are You Kidding?”

It’s a long list. Some of the entries on it are so old that I’m no longer interested in the subject of the book.

I love reading.  It’s pretty much my only remaining hobby.  For many years I’ve probably read a book a week on average.  But these days I’m lucky to find a half hour a day for reading.  With over half of 2014 behind us now, I’ve only read 18 books this year and the pace is slowing.  I’ve only finished one book since May 16.

I’ll keep adding to the list and I expect that once winter rolls around I’ll be able to make a bit of a dent in it.  There are lots of great books remaining to be read.  I may never get around to reading most of them, but maybe I can take some comfort in knowing that they’re “on my list.”


I love my community.  It’s always been my home (even during the years I didn’t live here) and my family has been here a long time.

But I admit to being envious of our neighbors in Floyd County.  While the powers that be in our county continue to chase visions of an industrialized county economy, Floyd recognizes and embraces its agricultural strengths.  Our county has built numerous now-abandoned industrial parks, at taxpayer expense, in failed attempts to attract industry and the promise of jobs. Meanwhile we continue to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and nearly all of the farm labor here is done by seasonal workers from Mexico.

Floyd County has it right.  They’re working to become self-sustaining in energy and food.  They are promoting and encouraging traditional music, craftsmanship and folk art.  They have a vibe that is attractive, even if not to multinational corporations in search of cheap unskilled labor.

Floyd County promotes itself through an entity called SustainFloyd.  Here’s how it describes its mission:

SustainFloyd works to leverage and preserve Floyd County’s existing assets and traditional strengths in agriculture and craftsmanship to help build a resilient rural local economy.

We can’t support the growth of our community’s next generation alone, which is why we work closely with local and state governments and agencies, local businesses, like-minded non-profits and local citizens. Together we can find ways to develop the financial and ecological health of our community for the well-being of all citizens of Floyd County. But we also join with other communities throughout the region and around the globe to model new ways of living on, working in, and caring for the world around us.

Our project areas focus on efforts to:
Localize our economy
Enhance and protect natural and cultural resources
Advance issues related to energy independence, transportation, waste and recycling, and education

Generally speaking there is no significant movement here to localize our economy, or to preserve and promote our traditional strengths in agriculture.  There is no SustainPittsylvania.

But that doesn’t mean it will never happen.  Small farms like ours are starting to come to life again. There are an increasing number of people who make the effort to buy and eat locally grown food. Our Piedmont Sustainable Living group is going strong now, with a solid core of people who share our vision for this community.

One of our regular customers at the market yesterday was wearing a “Republic of Floyd” t-shirt. Could we ever have that spirit here?  I’m hoping so.

And I love watermelons.

Early yesterday morning as I was going to feed the chickens I glanced over at the watermelon garden.  What I saw literally made me feel sick.  Not long after planting that garden we had a torrential downpour that ruined a lot of it.  I went in and reseeded everything and repaired the damage.  Once the plants were established they starting growing rapidly and vining out.  Once it became impossible to cultivate with a tractor we weeded it entirely by hand, twice.  The plants responded beautifully.  The garden is planted with Crimson Sweet and with Yellow Fleshed Moon and Stars.  With a lot of love and attention we had a happy healthy watermelon garden.

Had.  We had a happy healthy watermelon garden.  But Thursday night deer decided to walk down the rows and eat the buds out of the plants.  They took the tips off of almost every vine.  Despite the fact that there is almost nothing growing on this farm that they won’t eat, and despite having hundreds of acres around here upon which to feast, they choose to ruin our watermelons.

I was furious when I saw what they’d done.  I’m still not over it, but I realize of course being angry at them doesn’t make any sense.

I’m mad at myself too.  I knew from last year’s experience that this was possible.  I had just taken down the fence that had been protecting the peas and could easily have set it up around the watermelons.  In fact, I did just that yesterday.   We’d had no problems until Thursday night, but it only takes one night.

Dealing with wildlife is part of growing food.  But the situation with deer around here is getting out of control.  One of my neighbors has been a vegetable farmer for decades until this year.  After being wiped out by deer last year he just called it quits.  The only way to grow food here now, he told me, is to grow it indoors.

We’ll have some watermelons.  Some of the plants were spared.  And maybe they’ll regenerate. Nature can be surprisingly resilient.  But it seems that the big harvest we were expecting in a few weeks won’t be happening.


But there is plenty of good news to celebrate here.  Our squash, zucchini and green beans are starting to come in.  The potatoes and onions are almost ready.  The blackberries are starting to arrive.  And yesterday I starting harvesting the garlic. It’s a great time of year, for us people as well as for the deer.