We’re gearing up for our 2014 CSA season! The CSA is a way for you to participate in the life of the farm and receive weekly shares of vegetables grown right here at Elderslie. You can read more about the CSA by going to the “Fruit and Vegetables” tab, select “Vegetables” then “CSA.”
Monday morning I spent as little time in the office as possible. I took care of the essential indoor work for the morning half of the day then gathered my measuring tools and headed for the field. I successfully marked the areas designated for the coming spring planting and laid the flags for our new driveway… I expected Tuesday to be full of tilling in anticipation of our first planting next week: onions sets! Well, Tuesday morning came with a chill. Well, perhaps the ‘polar vortex’ phrase that’s been thrown around lately is more appropriate. I was back to lighting a fire in the office and reading about grafting tomatoes.
Aside from seeing George, Ben, and Taylor’s vehicles parked at the shop when I arrive to work at 7:30 in the morning and the vehicles still there when I leave at 5:30 in the evenings, I haven’t seen much of the three of them this week. They’ve been working like mad and I suspect, although it is occasionally stressful, all three of them are loving the work. There’s nothing like pouring everything you’ve got into something you believe worthy of everything you’ve got. These three guys form a workhorse of a crew.
Every once in awhile during the week, George pops in to check his email or fill up his coffee mug. His desk has become a hazard. Today when I finally finished recording months of receipts that had littered the desk, I found a roll of toilet paper, multiple pairs of pliers, a teddy bear, and pink paper cutout hearts (I think leftover from our niece’s office visit and not an indication of an attempt on George’s part to escape the stressful work of the week). I saw him last at about 7:30 Friday morning… He was in better spirits than I but I attribute that to the fact that he was on his fourth cup of coffee while I had only just finished my first.
The CSA contracts are on their way to our 2014 members this coming week! This is certainly exciting news. We’re happy to announce that we’ll be collaborating with our flower farming neighbors at Chisholm Creek Flowers, Randy and Deb Jackson, to offer our members weekly flower shares as a part of their CSA share! I grew up picking peonies for the Jacksons and have learned a great deal from their gardening wisdom. I’m so honored to be able to offer their gorgeous blooms to our customers this year.
We’ll also be offering beef for sale at our farm stand this year from our friend Julie Bachman, JB Ranch! There’s lots to look forward to if things would just warm up a bit. Say warm!
Cold has settled on our state and we are all thankful for the persistent hum of the furnace or the crackle and pop of the wood stove. Outside the landscape is peaceful and waiting, much of life is waiting, but this is no time for lethargy. Much is being done here at Elderslie.
Winter has brought a steady flow of carpentry projects. First this year was a pulpit out of Black Walnut. The Pulpit is crafted to have a forward movement like the prow of a ship whence its name comes, and each side is carved with symbols recalling Christ’s life and roles. The front is adorned with a Celtic Cross. The cross bears the Chi Rho symbol in the center with quatrefoils recalling the four evangelists at each extremity. The halo around the cross is adorned with a woven string recalling eternity and human life, both of which find meaning and reality in Christ’s life.
The Right side is adorned with the reclining or sacrificial lamb holding signifying Christ’s coming willingly to die. Below this is a Rose with 5 blossoms signifying the wounds of Christ born for sin.
The Left side is adorned with the triumphant lamb having taken on the sins of the world but not been overcome by them. Below, a Thistle, which is a Scottish symbol recalling the agony of the cross. The Thistle is also a symbol for retributive justice evoking the last judgment where the triumphant Christ will judge.
We did eventually get Varnish on it and it is installed at Jubilee Presbyterian Church.
Soon after completing the pulpit we fulfilled a commission for a set of double doors in College Hill. They are arched with large panels and some quite substantial hardware. Manufacturing arched door components involves much care and some pretty serious tedium. We had a great time.
Constructing arched doors is only rivaled by installing them, which is an act of gentle and persistent care. All came to a good finish yesterday and they are now hung and awaiting trim.
The Vegetables are getting all kinds of organization as Alexis pushes through the difficult and tedious task of organizing each little detail and trying to prepare for the growing year. When she gets a minute she has been getting ready for re covering the hoop house, which now stands naked and shivering in the cold.
Lastly, there are moments in our work that offer perspective. I brought home a white oak log from near Cassoday, Kansas about 10 days ago where a farmer clearing a field edge for soybeans. The small outer layer of young wood on this tree was older than I am and the growth rings stretching towards the center take that tree through the dust bowl, WWI, and pretty near to passing the early settlers who came to Kansas. I am overjoyed to get to mill this tree, and humbled by how many years it has stood peaceful and waiting. Enjoy the winter!
We’re already well into the new year and glad to be settling into a more regular schedule following the hectic holiday season. Katharine has plenty of purple aprons to prove she wasn’t sitting on her laurels during December! The gift crates full of goodies featuring Elderslie Farm blackberries this year were beautiful. If you participated in our holiday season by ordering crates, thank you! We hope you enjoyed summertime’s bounty in her holiday dress!
The wood shop has been very busy during this cold season. George and Ben are currently working on a commission for some gorgeous walnut doors. The pieces spread out all over the shop will come together in the next few days to make the finished product.
As the walnut gets used up for these doors and various other commissions, there’ve been trailer loads rolling in from western Kansas. Around eight o’clock in the morning each day this week I’ve heard the sound of a diesel engine creeping up the drive, and upon peeking out the window… there’s the big golden dodge dually with a trailer load of walnut logs. The transformation of a these logs into fine and useful products is certainly an awesome creative process.
I like to think that George and I have similar jobs in taking nature’s raw materials and harnessing them so that they deliver something beautiful, useful, and good.
I’ve just returned from an agricultural conference in Mobile, AL where I sat and learned for many hours from more experienced growers than myself. The time spent was very enlightening! Intent listening usually has that effect. I was reminded that all we do as growers of food is harness nature to do what she’ll do anyway… perhaps she’ll choose different plants and orientations, but she’ll still grow. Our job is to organize this energy into something beautiful and productive… And it is fun!
So Monday morning after returning from the conference on Sunday evening, I headed out to till a small plot for some spring cover crops.
This particular field will raise Red Russian kale and Bright Lights Swiss Chard this year. Look at that dark soil! I hope that means less weeding.
I hope you are all enjoying what blessings this season brings us! I like making sure I watch the sunrise and set… I think the golden winter light draped over a field of rust and straw-colored bluestem grass is a delight in a sometimes seemingly bleak season.