4/23/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It was a bright blue morning for our first spring CSA packout. We harvest salad mix and spinach in the early morning before it got too hot in the greenhouses and then I was off to my Dad’s land to harvest wild ramps. This is my second year harvesting ramps with my Dad and I really enjoy our time together in the woods. He has the ultimate ramp spot where the hillsides are carpeted with bright green leaves. You can’t even walk these areas without stepping on ramps. We joke that we could dig ramps out there until we hated each other. My Dad is also the ultimate ramp digger, despite his multiple neck, back, and shoulder injuries. When I arrive out at the land, he already has 3 full crates dug and neatly stored in coolers. We head to the hillside and only dig for a short time before we have more than we need. As we drive the crates of ramps back up to my car on the four wheeler, I take in the fresh smell of spring onions and the beauty of the bold rock faces, budding maple trees, and bubbling spring. I thank my Dad for all of his hard work and allowing us to harvest here. Then I head to Kendall to visit my Grandma Miller and take her some eggs and greens from the farm. She has diabetes, so I always try to bring her what we have growing at the farm when I come her way. I just love her sweet smile and her incredibly funny stories. We visit for only a short time today because I have to get back to the farm to finish our packout. When I get back to Keewaydin, Rufus and I head to the watercress patch. As anticipated, we are both soaking wet in no time, and I barely make it out with my boots. For the second day in a row, my clothing is drenched, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know I say this frequently, but I am so very thankful that these were my Tuesday tasks and I am not sitting in some god forsaken stuffy office on this gorgeous day.  

~Joy

Photos by Yellow Peony
Photo by Yellow Peony

4/22/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today we celebrate our first harvest. Well, not exactly our first harvest, because we have been harvesting greens for our own salads for a couple weeks now, but it was our first harvest of the year to feed other people. Rufus and I slide into the familiar cadence of counting out ties, slicing at the base of bright green stems, and rinsing soil away to reveal delectable vegetables. The harvest moves along smoothly as Rufus and I banter back and forth. It is on harvest days that I am most thankful for weeding days. Our beds are far from weed free, but they are also far better than they were last year, which makes harvesting so much more enjoyable. After the morning harvest, we move into planting mode. Rufus tills up beds and works on direct seeding and I plant potatoes. We are experimenting with a new growing strategy with the potatoes this year, planting them on the surface of the soil and covering them with mulch, to make for easier digging. As I mulch the potatoes, already a messy job, thunder rolls in the distance and heavy rain begins to fall. Now the mulch is sticking all over my skin and clothing, but it is the end of the day and I am determined to finish the job. I press on to the end of the bed getting dirtier and itchier by the second. When I step into the foyer, I am more mulch than farmer and dripping wet. I feel like I shouldn’t even go into the house, but I have to get to the shower. Rufus laughs at my disheveled appearance and directs me straight to the bathroom, where I proceed to cover everything there in mulch and soil. It is almost impossible to keep the farmhouse floors clean this time of year. Even after a thorough hot shower, I brush some hay from my hair.

~Joy

4/21/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

On this Easter Sunday, Rufus and I move at a leisurely pace. We take some time off during the weekends, but we never truly come to a halt in the spring. Today we planted a beautiful hedge of red raspberries that Papa Rich brought back from his family in Plymouth. Ever since I started helping Rufus with the farm in 2017, I have been contributing to this hedge. Whenever I have an empty tray of transplants (or just a tray that didn’t make it to the field) I have dumped the potting soil from the trays into this hedge area. It is really a satisfying feeling to see the entire project come together. We added a bit more topsoil, layed down black plastic to give the bushes a head start against the weeds, and planted a neat curved hedge outside of greenhouse 3. After I started the drip line of water along the hedge, I stood back and smiled at another transformed space, an establishment of perennial life that will be there for years to come.

~Joy

4/20/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today we hosted a little Easter get together for our family. I had the pleasure of preparing a mostly farm raised lunch and sharing it with some of the company we love best. I was up at the crack of dawn opening greenhouses, collecting eggs, and chopping vegetables. When it all came together, we sat outside in the radiant sunshine on a rare calm day. I can barely believe the wind actually gave us a break today. We were even able to fly a kite reasonably well. Rufus and I colored and hid Easter eggs all over the farm for Aurora and her little cousin Aaliyah and it was a real treat to watch them on the egg hunt. I felt like a kid again. After lunch, we all walked down the road to check out our neighbor’s newborn lambs. Their bright white wool and frisky frollicking filled my heart with the lightness of springtime. On days like this, I swell with gratefulness for being at Keewaydin and being able to share all that this place provides with the ones I love.

~Joy

4/19/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

We spent our third day in a row working on the greenhouse 2 rebuild. G2 will be tomatoe land this year, and the tomato transplants are growing strong and putting the pressure on us to get their new home ready to go. There is nothing like time sensitive transplants to light a fire under a farmer. Each day I water the tomatoes, they are closer and closer to outgrowing their pots, and we know we don’t have much time before they need to get in the ground. It won’t be long now before we are putting the plastic on G2 and starting our indoor tomato jungle.

~Joy

4/18/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

We are close to finished with the front end wall of greenhouse two. Having the sawmill makes construction projects so much easier and less expensive. Today Rufus said, “This is awesome! If I run out of two by fours, I can just go make another one.” The Woodmizer LT40 has been a true game changer as far as moving projects along, and I am super grateful that my aunt and uncle have allowed us to use it for the time being. I enjoy working on construction projects, however, it is not my strong suit. Before coming to the farm in 2017, I had very little experience in construction, and I still have a lot to learn. I am not really comfortable wielding power tools and I am almost always worried about getting hurt due to my inherent clumsiness. Today Rufus trained me on the sawzall. This may be the most terrifying tool yet. I could not quite steady the tool and hold the wiggle wire track at the same time. I was pretty sure that I was going to slip and saw a gash into my thigh. Rufus was extremely gracious and helped me out. Maybe one day I will become comfortable with power tools, but for now, I proceed with extreme caution and ask for help…a real burn for a perfectionist, INTJ, Capricorn like myself.

~Joy

4/17/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today Rufus and I worked on repairing greenhouse two, which went through a tornado in 2006. We removed most of the plastic last fall and took down the end walls this winter. Today we replaced the bents that were severely bowed and started rebuilding the end walls. Climbing on a ladder that sinks deeper into the soft ground with each step was a bit disconcerting, but I found my balance and continued removing screws from the bents. Before long, however, we had to give up the project for the day. We hear an ominous rumble of thunder in the distance and it starts to sprinkle. Rufus and I scramble to pick up tools and make a run for the barn as it starts pouring. We barely made it. We move on to indoor projects and watch the rain and lightning from the shelter of the greenhouse where the dogs crowd into the doorway also seeking shelter from the storm. It’s really incredible to watch the changing sky from the ridge top and experience the ever changing weather.   

~Joy

4/16/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Although my legs are tired and my hamstrings feel tight enough to snap, I spend a good part of the day planting and weeding. I know that once I get a little further into the season, my body will take on a more grisly form and I won’t even feel the day’s labor. This is just springtime initiation, and I am happy to be planting outside after winter’s extension into spring. Just last week our gardens were covered in snow and ice and now the soil is soft and warm, ready to receive these cute little lettuce transplants.

~Joy

4/15/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I spent the majority of my day working the ground, weeding and planting. As it is the beginning of the season, my body is still adjusting to this unique type of physical work. Last week my body was so out of alignment that I finally broke down and went to the chiropractor on Friday. After he cracked me back into a human person, we talked about physical strategies for crawling around in the dirt all day. He suggested that the best approach is to change positions often and listen to your body. During my last year and a half of farming, I have used the “deep sumo squat” almost exclusively, which has done wonders for toning my legs and glutes, but turns out to be somewhat of a nightmare on my lower back. Rufus almost always works on his knees, scooting himself forward beside the bed as he works his way down the row. Today I incorporated what I call “the flying lead change”. This is one knee up, one knee down, very similar to the Roman Catholic genuflect. Once one side of the body tires or it is time to move along down the row, you switch legs. This seemed to be relatively comfortable and a nice way to bring variety into my stance. However, by the end of the day, all my legs could do was the well worn “deep sumo squat”. I would not even notice that I regressed into this position until I was finished weeding a row. After about seven hours negotiating my body close to the earth, my quad muscles were trembling. I came into the farmhouse, made a hearty dinner of spaghetti and cauliflower bake, washed it down with a few beers and promptly took my tired loins to bed. It was a rare night of sound sleep, and I treasured every minute of it. When I woke up, I realized that I had not even washed the dirt off my feet and there was a chicken feather stuck to my heel. Needless to say, I was disgusted with myself.    

~Joy

4/14/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today I am thankful to be back in the quiet peacefulness of Keewaydin, away from the madness of crowds and traffic which I experienced yesterday. I notice myself growing increasingly intolerant of city life/people and more and more comfortable on a dead end gravel road alone or with Rufus. Since studying social justice at Johns Hopkins masters program, I am hyper aware of all the things that are wrong with society, all the mistakes we make, all the damage we do, and all the widespread stupidity. I wrestle with the dichotomy of wanting to fight injustice and wanting to retreat from it all. I feel like I have a more steadfast connection with a basil plant, a cool breeze, or a group of clucking hens than most people I meet…and they make me happier, more at peace. I realize this is not the typical or even advantageous stance of an activist for change, and I have to deal with that somehow. Again Thoreau echoes in my mind.

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Song to Accompany Post: Tom Petty, Wildflowers

 

~Joy

4/13/2019

This Saturday we had a family day off the farm. Rufus’s sister, Jessica, bought Rufus, Aurora, and I tickets to the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison where we witnessed some pretty amazing stuff. Horse lovers from all over brought a stunning variety of equine life to the Alliant Energy Center. We saw breeds of horses I have never even heard of like the curly horses who have hair that looks more like a sheep or poodle. Some of our favorites were the Rocky Mountain, the Icelandic, the Norwegian Fjord, the Gypsy, the Clydesdale, and last but not least, the mini donkey. We walked around the stables, watched horse clinics, ate some extremely questionable food, drank a couple heinously overpriced beers, and meandered among a crowd of people which was a bit too large for my liking. The big event of the night was the Mustang show, an event which offers the chance to train a wild mustang in 90 days and give a presentation of their progress at the show. It is phenomenal to see the connection between man and beast, or in this case, young teenage girls and beasts. The winner of it all was an unlikely candidate, a short petite blonde girl who I believe was only 15 years old. She used no lead rope and was able to get her mustang to follow her lead, perform tricks, and even lay down, which is apparently a pretty big deal. Although the crowds were overwhelming, the animals and our ability as humans to connect so strongly with them captivated me.  

 ~Joy

4/12/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It was another unbelievable “spring day” this Friday, as the wind and snow blow horizontally across the farm. There is zero motivation at Keewaydin to go outside and be blown apart by the vicious biting wind which makes everyday farm tasks nearly impossible. The only one who seems not to mind it so much is Balio. He was born in mid January this winter while it was negative 30 degrees and spent his first few months of life entirely exposed to the elements. His double coat of thick fluffy fur keeps him relatively warm and dry. When I bring him into the house, he overheats relatively quickly and appears to be much more comfortable outdoors. I watch him sleep peacefully out the front window while the wind ferociously whips his fur in all directions and snow piles up on his back. He is undisturbed. With a cold tolerance like this, I am a bit worried about how he will fair in the dog days of summer.

~Joy

4/11/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Well, the weather this morning is brutal and blustery and all signs of spring have been whitewashed and wind whipped. It would only feign ignorance to act surprised. The weather in Wisconsin and around the world grows more and more chaotic as we increasingly see the effects of climate change. As farmers, we are at the mercy of the weather, and today we will not be going outside to work in the gardens, or even the greenhouses. I take pity on Giz and Balio and allow them to spend the day indoors. When I go out to do the morning chicken chores, I had barely turned the handle on the door and a powerful gust of wind almost ripped the door off the hinges and my arm out of socket. Needless to say, the chickens will be staying in the coop today. If they flapped their wings, even a little bit, in this wind, they are likely to land somewhere in Richland Center. Rufus is already restless and it is only 8:00 am. We are supposed to have this weather for two whole days. I am exceedingly glad that I decided not to plant the kohlrabi in field B. Last year we did an early outdoor planting and attempted to cover it with plastic to weather a snowy wind storm like this one. It did not go well. As Rufus and I wrestled with the 100 ft of plastic, it tossed us around like rag dolls. After multiple failed attempts to “drape” the plastic over the hoops, we abandoned the hoop idea, laid the plastic flat onto the plants, anchored it down with sandbags and went in the house with a serious case of what we at Keewaydin call “wind aggression”. Wind aggression is an emotional breakdown that strikes a normally happy person into pure frustrated madness. We hunkered down in the farmhouse, watching Mother Nature give our plants a proper beating and whispered curses under our breathe, as we knew it was out of our hands. Mother Nature always wins.

4/10/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This morning when Papa Rich showed up to work in the sugar bush, I spontaneously offered to give him a hand. I had been on the computer since early in the morning, and I just really wanted to get out in the woods. I have been listening to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and find myself increasingly captivated by the forest. Papa Rich and I spent the morning pulling taps, cleaning lines and…well shooting the shit. We talked about Thoreau’s Walden and Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. We seem to have gravitated toward the same authors in different decades, authors who have shaped who we became, which is probably one reason I love his son so much.   

~Joy

4/9/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Rufus was off the farm today helping his brother Jake, but I am never alone on the farm. Apart from the animals who wait for me at the door, I am surrounded by family and friends. Rufus’s stepmother Charna and I cross paths as she comes to work in her pottery studio on the farm. Rufus’s mother, Mary stops by to drop off her Australian Shepherd, Jodi, while she takes Rufus’s daughter, Aurora to an orthodontist appointment. Our friend Alyssa stops by to pick up her honey extractor, which is stored in the back of our barn, and this afternoon my cousin Beth arrived with her four child crew for a farm field trip. This was my favorite part of the day. We took the kids around to the gardens, greenhouses, chicken coop, compost trench, and pack shed and I taught them all about Keewaydin. The kids got to find their own eggs and pet some chickens in the chicken coop, check out a working pottery studio, get a tour of the greenhouses and gardens, play with Balio, Giz, and Carrot, climb a hay wagon, sit on a tractor, check out the saw mill, plant some seeds of their choice, transplant some lettuce into the ground, taste some fresh maple syrup, water the gardens, and see where the veggies are cleaned and packed up. I relished their curiosity and engagement and I definitely want to do more educational tours in the future to share what we do.

~Joy

 

4/8/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today Rufus and I repaired and improved the chicken run so we could let the chickens out on pasture. I have been wanting to get them outside for awhile, but our fencing was woefully inadequate. The weather today was just way too nice to keep the chickens in for one more day, so we wore out our hands tying and twisting a fence together. Chicken wire has an uncanny ability to rip up the tips of your fingers and palms of your hands and both of us were bleeding when all was said and done. However the sight of our happy chickens scratching in the fresh green grass and pulling up fresh juicy worms made the whole ordeal worthwhile.

~Joy

 

 

4/7/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It was another beautiful morning on the ridge. As I walked the dogs around their morning patrol, I stopped for a moment in the open field, closed my eyes, and took in the sunshine and sounds of a hundred song birds. The vast variety of calls, tweets, cheeps, and twittering come together in an orchestra that no man could conduct. I open my eyes and take in the glistening horizon of newly greening grass, still covered in the morning dew. The wind blows my hair sideways, and the words of Henry David Thoreau echo in my mind.

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

~Joy

4/6/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Springtime splendor was alive and well as the sun came up over the horizon during my morning chores. Each morning I greet Balio and Gizmo, try to peacefully feed them both, and walk Balio around the farmstead perimeter that he is learning to patrol. First we wind around the outside of the gardens. He is still learning to stay out of the gardens, but doing relatively well for a curious puppy. When I scold him for getting into the garden or greenhouse beds, he barks at me playfully, lays down at the edge of the bed, and scoots his big paws right across the line he is not supposed to cross. He’s a typical toddler, pushing the limits and my buttons as I try to get the weeding done.

~Joy

4/5/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This day swept by me. Between pulling weeds, redirecting the puppy, and watering our baby transplants, I lost the rest of the day. I have come to recognize that I spend a good portion of my day walking the property, from one destination to the next, but I love it. With each springtime jaunt, I take in the scenery, breathe in the fresh air, and keep my eyes open for new life on the farm…and I always find it.

~Joy

4/4/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It was a nice cool day for planting seedlings in greenhouse 3 and we have now filled a full row of tables with planted trays. The cool weather, however, enlivened Balio with an extra punch of spunk and mischief. We are kindred spirits as far as heat intolerance goes. As I stood planting at the table, I frequently had to put down the seeds and redirect his puppy curiosity from troublemaking. Each time I focused back on the seedlings, I would become distracted by a mischievous noise of Balio chewing on tomato clips, getting tangled up in plastic, harassing the cat, digging at the edge of the cucumber beds, clawing at the garbage, or just barking at himself. When I put him outside of the greenhouse, I thought perhaps he had finally dozed off, but I peeked around the door to find him chewing on an extension cord. I knew he was being too quiet. Finally, I took him up to Field B to hang out with Rufus, like taking a misbehaving child to their daddy so I could finish my work. When I finished planting and returned to Field B, indeed, Balio was finally napping tranquilly, like he had never disturbed the peace…typical.

~Joy

4/3/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This afternoon, I worked in greenhouse 3, transplanting and rearranging tables. Balio alternated between laying down in the greenhouse plastic bunched around the seedling tables and snuggling into the row covers at the end of the cucumber beds. I am surprised at how quickly he is learning to stay out of the garden beds, and I think it helps that it is a little too hot for him in the greenhouses. So far, he hasn’t shown any interest in going after the chickens, and the chickens seem to be getting more accustom to him sniffing about at their compost, and flopping down in their hay. His curiosity and playfulness have both Rufus and I smiling and laughing even more than usual.

4/2/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Transplanting seedlings is a particularly satisfying task for me. My task today was transplanting tomatoes and cucumbers into a more roomy situation. I love the sensation of extracting the small soil pod from its plastic enclosure, peering at the vitality in the roots, and placing the entire bundle into a new home where the baby vegetable can stretch out. Indeed, I am distracted as I go about my work this week, by the adorable, fluffy, curious, and ever present Balio. He has stolen my heart and my attention, and I count myself grateful that I have a job at which he can trot happily alongside me and nap within view. He is already patrolling our familiar route on his own, napping outside the greenhouses as we work inside, friendly toward the chickens, and making friends with Gizmo. It seems that everyone he meets falls involuntarily head over heels for him, and I am confident that he could win over the coldest of hearts.

4/1/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today Rufus and I bottled our first batch of beer together. We spent more time indoors than we typically like, but I think it will be worth it. This brewing project has combined two of our favorite things, growing in self sustainability, and beer. The first tastes of the brew were delicious and I can hardly wait for the two week carbonation process to be over, so we can crack open a rich Keewaydin IPA!

3/31/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It was a beautiful day for a maple syrup boil. Rufus and I headed down to the sugar bush with our 2 trusty dogs, Gizmo and Balio, who are adjusting well to each other thanks to their chill personalities. Balio is great at following the group and kept up like a champ on our many walks around the property today. Rufus and I collected syrup, started a fire, and soon the sweet smell of boiling sap and billows of white steam fill the crisp spring air. Rufus worked on building up the boiling area with some stone landscaping as I read from James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. In the evening we are joined by Papa Rich and Charna. We tell stories, laugh, and watch Balio explore his new world and nap in the shade.

3/30/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

We added another animal friend to Keewaydin’s cast of characters today, and this one is a doozy. We have been talking for awhile about bringing a livestock guardian dog to the farm to protect the chickens, gardens, and coming soon cows and sheep. We went about our search in typical fashion, through Craigslist. We found some Great Pyrenese puppies for sale in Illinois and contacted the family. We visited the puppies on our way to Colorado and went back today to meet the parents and see how they interacted with other animals on their farm. When we arrived, we found a colorful array of free range chickens and goats accompanied by a number of other dogs and cats getting along nicely. It was clear that these puppies were well socialized with other animals, and we wouldn’t have to worry about him chasing chickens. Rufus, Aurora, and I were all pretty well smitten with the entire scene. I asked Rufus if he had any questions for the owners and he said, “I’ve seen enough”. It was clear he had been broken down. With that, we brought our new puppy, Balio home to Keewaydin, not without a couple puking episodes on the 3 hour car ride home. Balio is Basque for valor: great courage in the face of danger. As an adult he will make an excellent guardian, weighing in at up to 160 pounds and standing 32 inches tall, but right now he is the cutest little fluff ball I have ever seen. I struggle to remind myself that he is a working dog…a full time outside dog. Wrestling with the idea of little Balio sleeping alone outside, Aurora and I pitched a tent and opted to spend a brisk night outdoors with our new outdoor dog.

~Joy

3/29/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This Friday was a day of beating back the eager weeds and revealing neat rows of tiny vegetable sprouts. I find the first round of weeding to be the one that requires the most meticulous care, but is also the most important. In the sprouting stages of life, many vegetables and weeds look quite similar, especially to a rookie like me who hasn’t weeded in a while. I move methodically down the row, squatting, standing, and kneeling as my legs work their way back into summer shape. I examine each row of plants and pluck out the weeds that don’t belong. Before long, my eyes adjust to a higher level of plant identification and I more easily determine what needs to be pulled up. At the end of each row, I look up at the plants, satisfied in my unique Capricorn way with the beauty of the bed.

~Joy

3/28/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

What a beautiful day to dive back into farming! The sun was shining, and it was downright hot in the greenhouses. I was not in greenhouse 1 for more than 5 minutes before I was barefoot and in a T shirt. My hands and feet, which had been squeaky clean on vacation, tucked away in warm mittens or floating along for a hot springs soak, were once again returned to their dirty selves. It felt so good to put my hands and feet in the soil that I just couldn’t help myself. As I transplanted chard, joi choi, and lettuce into the greenhouse beds, I watched slithering earthworms, shiny beatles, and quick moving spiders scatter in a display of renewed life in the soil. While I weeded beds in greenhouse 3, I listened to the chirping and twittering of an array of new songbirds. Robins pick at the mulch in the gardens and poke at the worms in the yard. Rufus and I walk to the house this evening and  I am enveloped by a rush of new life, and I fall in love with this farm, farming, and farmer, all over again.

~Joy

3/27/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Well, we made it back from an epic ski vacation, and to our great surprise, our plants are doing well. Rufus and I are always a little nervous leaving the farm in the hands of others, but thankfully we came home to some awesome looking plants. I think this is one of my favorite stages in plant life, when they are popping out of the trays in beautiful uniformity with no weeds. The chickens have improved as well while we were gone. Their feathers are growing back and they are putting on weight. The snow is melted, green sprigs of grass are coming to life, and we feel as refreshed as the spring morning air, ready to dive into the season. It is good to be back on the farm. During our road trip out to Colorado, we saw so many disgusting CAFOs and ungodly amounts of corn that infuriate me and break my farmer heart at the same time. I return to Keewaydin with a renewed sense of the importance of what we do: farming without pesticides, supporting biodiversity, setting aside land for bird and animal habitat, raising animals with care, and farming as a family. We had a blast, but it sure is good to be home.

~Joy

3/15/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I can’t find my rubber boots, a crucial piece of farm gear at this time of year. I’m sure that I discarded them somewhere on the farmstead last summer/fall, when my feet got too hot. My love for being barefoot may have overcome my sense for keeping track of gear.  I hope they will be unveiled by the springtime melt. Right now I am settling for a pair of Rufus’s old rubber boots that have a major crack in the heel side of the right boot, about an inch and a half up the boot, which means they work great until you step into a puddle…or something else deeper than that. I actually enjoy sloshing around in the muck, if I have the right gear. It physically reminds me of the sliding of the seasons and uncertainty of groundedness.

~Joy

3/14/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Wow! Today really felt like spring. It got up to 54 degrees and everything is melting so fast that the farm is sloppy and the valleys are flooding. I drove to Cashton to pick up organic potting soil and there was water over the roads in parts of La Farge. There was an ice jam in Ontario and 9 roads in Vernon county were closed. People have not even finished rebuilding from the August 2018 flooding and everyone looks nervous. As I ran errands to the farm supply store, hardware store, grocery store, and gas station, the community was buzzing with apprehension. The cashier at the Viola gas station wouldn’t even crack a smile. They only recently opened back up since August and don’t even has siding on the building yet. I think these flooding valleys will continue to worsen with climate change, and as I drive home, I peek over the edges of bridges at rising rushing water and wonder how many more times this community can rebuild. I don’t know, but I’m grateful to be on the ridge.

~Joy

3/13/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This afternoon, Rufus and I worked on repairing the door on greenhouse three. Last year Rufus built a really nice looking pair of wooden swinging doors for G3. They look great, but the problem is…they didn’t quite function as doors should for long. The shifting of the wood and weather has rendered these doors dysfunctional. They no longer line up with the frame or each other, so since last fall, we have been closing them as far as we could and sliding a large planter in front of the door to hold it shut…less than ideal. It did work well enough that I accidently locked Giz in there overnight last weekend though, so that’s something. Today we took the door off the hinges, shaved a bit off the inside and bottom, added a front piece to seal the doors together and rehung our new and improved door. Hopefully it will at least make it through the season as a functioning door.

~Joy

3/12/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This morning I taped a radio show with Paul and Paula Grenier called The Heart of Wellness on WDRT 91.9FM. It will air 3/19 @ 9:00am. Today I am recording a follow up segment on my community based research project with Johns Hopkins University on socially responsible food and ethical food consumerism. For my graduate thesis, I conducted research on social values concerning local farming and food. I talked about how the Driftless community has revitalized farming and food through going organic and cooperative, how capitalism is destroying our food system, and how we need to restore social values and world concern in our society. This afternoon, I beat myself up for all the things I should have said or didn’t explain well. I feel apprehension about speaking from inexperience as a new farmer and recent graduate, but at the end of the day, I am glad that my farmer/activist voice was heard and maybe I influenced someone to think more deeply about farming, food, and change. The major highlight of my day is when Paula compared me to Wendell Berry, poet, author, activist, and farmer. I learned about him and read his work during graduate school and he has been an incredible inspiration, so those were extremely humbling accolades. I give honor with one of his poems.

~Joy

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,vacation with pay.

Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

 

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

 

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

 

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion – put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

 

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie down in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.

 

~Wendell Berry

3/11/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Well, we decided to give Craigslist chickens another shot. In the wake of the tragic raccoon episode, I have been missing my chickens and eggs and we need to replenish the flock. I’m happy to report that this experience went remarkably better than the last Craigslist chicken fiasco (See post from 1/11/2019), but was still not ideal. For starters, we were dealing with farmers, not trailer trash. A traditional looking farmer’s wife, with an ankle length skirt and a bun in her hair met us in the driveway and led us back to the chicken coop. The ten red hens are lively and look better than the barred rock chickens when we got them, but they still possess some haggard characteristics. Some of them have chicken shit on their backs like they roosted below other birds and one is missing a devastating amount of feathers around its neck. Its hideous. You can totally see a full 360 of pale chicken skin on this thing. It’s pretty hard to take. I read that neck pecking occurs due to stress, boredom, or protein deficiency, so hopefully we can right whatever was wrong and they will grow back…because it’s pretty gross. Once we got the new girls into the coop, we were surprised to find that the barred rocks were not aggressive toward them. They all seemed to acclimate really well. The first order of business for the newbies was to get straight into major sawdust bathing. They were totally on top of getting that chicken shit off their backs. My barred rocks have come a long way at Keewaydin. They really do look like show chickens compared to these ladies.

~Joy

3/10/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This morning we had the Haucke family over for breakfast. Rufus and I wanted to try making eggs benedict with our farm fresh eggs, although, we were a little short on eggs since the raccoon incident, but Jessica (Rufus’s sister) and Papa Rich brought some really nice eggs to contribute and we ended up with more than we needed. I know I write this a lot, but I find such deep enjoyment and value in coming together over an amazing home cooked meal, especially when you have raised or grown the food on the farm. We make profound connections through food. Each one of us is connected to the energy from the earth and sun through the foods we eat. As farmers, we harvest and share that energy in all of its wonderful forms from apples to zucchinis, and I find it to be an incredibly beautiful process. Our current food system has drained a lot of the beauty out of farming and food and that needs to change. I experience the winsomeness of small organic farming here juxtaposed by an inner cringe at what agribusiness has become. I wish we could go back to pre-industrialized food and farming, to a time when it was wholesome, genuine, and grown with care, not glyphosate. I fear for the future of food and small farming. I fear that the loveliness I take in here is not valued, therefore it may not grow or even continue as a livelihood.    

~Joy

 

3/9/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Rufus and I hiked down to the sugar bush again this morning and repaired a bit of line and secured the tanks for the coming snowstorm. The hike back up to the farmstead proved to be a bit trying for my calf muscles. Making this hike for 3 days in a row finally caught up to me. The snowy trail is slippery and you have to keep your eyes on the trail or a misplaced step will send you tumbling into the snow. Hiking with your head down in a white washed wonderland has a disorienting effect on one’s sense of place and balance. Once we made our way out of the woods, I made a trip to the food co op to pick up some beautiful ingredients for our pizza party tonight. I have really come to enjoy our winter pizza parties. Everyone brings some ingredients, we try out new combinations, bake way more pizzas then we should eat, and wash them down with a nice craft beer. It beats any restaurant or delivery pizza experience hands down.

~Joy

3/8/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Maple syrup season is upon us and there is a race against time and temperature to get all the trees tapped. Due to the heavy snowfalls, the only way down to the sugar bush is on foot, so Jessica, Troy, Rufus, and I hiked down. Jessica and Troy built a fire, boiled snow and washed out the tanks and pans while Rufus and I worked our way up the lines, clearing tubing, readjusting and mending lines, and tapping trees. About halfway through, we all sat down and had a sandwich and a beer by the fire. It was an awesome way to spend a Friday afternoon. By the end of the day, all the trees were tapped and only minor adjustments need to be made before we are ready for the first run.

~Joy

3/7/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I’m not really sure where to start with this day, so I will just start with the morning. I spent a pleasant morning in the kitchen prepping homemade lasagna for a family dinner tonight. My sister had her baby last Friday and my dad, my brother, Rufus, and I are all going to visit the baby for the first time. I love being able to prepare a great meal for my family and enjoyed all the chopping, shredding, and layering as the house filled with a wholesome Italian aroma. Next Rufus and I had our first big planting day of the season. Rufus planted spinach, turnips, radishes, and salad mix in the ground in G4 and I planted cucumbers and basil in the trays in G3 where we are running space heaters under a second layer of plastic. We didn’t quite get to water everything though because our hoses were frozen. After planting, my dad and brother arrived at the farm and we all hiked down to the sugar bush to prepare for tapping trees. My dad is interested in tapping his trees and wants to learn about the process. My brother was just along as a hostage. It was really fun to show my brother around the farm, as it was his first time at Keewaydin. He seemed like he was genuinely interested in what we are doing. I don’t think, however, that he was prepared to hike two miles in two feet of snow. I have to give them credit for keeping up. It was a formidable hike and visibly evident that they were both struggling, resting with their hands on their knees, breathing heavily, laying down in the snow. It did make me smirk a little since these guys have always thought they were tougher than me. I mean my brother is 6’6’’ 250 lbs, and was a college heavyweight wrestling champion, so I did have to rib him a little bit. Everyone made it back to the homestead and soon we were off to visit my new nephew. It was an amazing time with family which made me wish we all got together more often. Our hearts and bellies were full when we arrived back at the farm and I went to check the chickens…then I wanted to throw up. It was dark and I went without a light to the coop. I was just planning on feeling across their roost to make sure they were all there. I didn’t really think it through any further than that. As I reached out across the roost, I didn’t feel any chickens until I got to the wall where I only felt 2. I started to panic and looked around the coop. I saw what I thought was 2 more chickens up on top of the laying box, which I thought was odd. I reached my hand out to feel for the chickens when the dark figure moved and I instantly knew it was a raccoon. Everyone scattered, including me! I screamed, “RUFUS! Get the gun! Coon’s in the coop!” He came running and we frantically tried to figure out what the hell was going on. With no working flashlight, we were down to using the light on the cordless drill to access the crime scene. Rufus pointing the 22, me pointing the cordless drill…really effective. 3 chickens had their heads bitten off and one appeared to be injured below the roost. The raccoon had ripped his way through a weak point in the rafters and retreated there again. We had to regroup. Rufus layered up, found a functional headlamp and went back out. I waited inside. Within a few minutes Rufus was back saying, “I got him.” This gave me some relief, but not much compared to knowing I was down to 3 chickens and I had a blood bath to clean up the next day. Thankfully Rufus did the dirty work of getting rid of the 4 carcasses. Waves of life and death often crash into each other on the farm, making for rollercoaster days like today.

3/6/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Another day of greenhouse prep brought us another step closer to making tomorrow’s planting plans happen. We have designated Thursdays our planting days and so far we are two weeks behind waiting for the ground to thaw. Most of the soil was workable, but we will have to relocate a few of the bed plans because the far end of the greenhouse is very wet and frozen. It burns my Capricorn a little bit to have to constantly reset plans for less than ideal conditions. However, I am learning to be more flexible because it seems like much of the time in farming, it’s really not up to you. Raccoon update: Rufus watched the coop with 22 at the ready, but there was no sign of that asshole tonight.

~Joy

3/5/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Well, today was supposed to be a celebratory post to the journal…and now I have to report a death. It felt like we turned a corner toward the coming of spring because we broke ground in greenhouse 4. I managed to wrestle the black plastic up from the soil with a good amount of ice chipping with a hammer and a bit more ripping of the plastic than I would have liked. I measured out the beds, hammered in the post markers, and broad forked all but a few sections of the greenhouse. As I turned over the partially frozen soil, I revealed tiny blue crystals that shimmered like bright glitter against the dark soil. When Rufus returned home, we shared our excitement at being one step closer to planting, taking pictures and marveling at another transformation of space. Over the fall and winter, greenhouse 4 had become a hayloft/rabbit haven, but it was finally starting to look like a greenhouse again. We walked to the house feeling quite satisfied with the day’s work and headed to town for a meeting at the Kickapoo Woods Cooperative to learn about managing our woods and milling lumber. When we returned home, I wanted to check on the chickens and see if they had laid any more eggs. I had already found 4 eggs in the morning, but I was curious to find out if they had laid any eggs in the afternoon/evening. Although it was dark, I quickly noticed that there were only six chickens on the roost. I counted again…“1,2,3,4,5,6…Rufus! There are only 6 chickens here!” We searched around the coop and found that one of the windows had been knocked out. Knowing that this was not going to be good, we searched around the outside of the coop with a barely functional flashlight that flickered on and off. We turned the corner to find a murdered chicken, a frozen pile of blood and feathers. Immediately enraged by the break in and loss of one of my sweet hens, I launched into formulating plans of a revenge murder. This foul creature of the night (most likely the raccoon Rufus spotted a few days ago) WILL PAY! The 22 is loaded and ready at the door. To be continued…

3/4/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

When will Wisconsin thaw out?! I feel like I have never been so anxious for spring. Even when I lived in Fairbanks, in the deep darkness and cruel cold, I did not pine for spring as I do now as a farmer. The daily check ins of the ground temperature, self soothing acknowledgments of the returning sunlight, and the continued dismay at having to put planting off for just a little while longer seem to slow the coming of spring even more. I’m learning this is the nature of working with nature. We make our plans and Mother Nature has no qualms about altering them. However, these early spring days are brightened by the trays of lettuce and swiss chard popping in our bedroom window, the batches of kimche and home brewed beer fermenting in the corner, and the fact that the chickens are finally laying fresh eggs everyday. This evening, Rufus and I visit the Symons Recreation Center in Richland Center to thaw ourselves out in the sauna and soak away the cold in the hot tub. Hopefully next winter we will have the Keewaydin sauna up and running to help us make it through these brutal winter months.  

3/3/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

We had so much fun cross country skiing yesterday, we decided to do it again today. Our muscles are a bit sore, but the kind of sore which lets one know the body is alive and well, just a bit out of practice. We meet up with our friends Kya and Morgan and hit the trails. It is a bit colder than yesterday, but still enjoyable. It is another sunny day and the snow is in just the perfect condition for skiing. We put a couple beers in the backpack to keep us warm and away we go. We had a couple equipment malfunctions, but we didn’t let that stop us. The bottom of my boots separated from the rest of the boot, so I had to go back and switch out and Morgan fell down and snapped one of her skis, so she took them back and continued on foot. There were a few more falls than yesterday, but a good time was had by all.  

3/2/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Since almost everything on the farm is “on hold”, Rufus and I decided to head to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve this afternoon to try out some cross country skiing. It is pretty amazing to have such a beautiful place to recreate so close to the farm. KVR has definitely been a favorite destination for the last couple years. In the summertime, we kayak the river at least a couple times a week. In the winter, we enjoy their hiking trails, ice caves, and now cross country skiing. The skis were donated, so people can borrow them for free. As farmers, free outdoor recreation is right up our alley. It was such a beautiful sunny day and so heartwarming to see the familiar smiling faces of fellow valley folks. This was only my second time on cross country skis and I felt pretty awkward at first, but before long I got into a rhythm and was gliding along with ease, and I only fell down once.

3/1/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today was another day of checking the greenhouses for signs of spring thaw in vain. The doors on G1 were frozen to the ground again and once we chipped our way in, we found the soil to be frozen solid as well. G4 was a bit better, but since Sunday is supposed to be -17 degrees, we decided to hold off on planting for a little while longer. At this point, Rufus and I are both chomping at the bit to get planting, but we have to abide by what Mother Nature puts in front of us, and right now that is ice and snow, but the light is returning slowly but surely and we will be up to our knees in weeds before we know it. Until then we make every preparation we can so that when Mother Nature gives us the green light, we will be ready. Tools, check, planting string, check, hoops and row covers, check, black plastic, check, seeds, check, heaters, check, 2 super impatient farmers…double check.

 

2/28/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

So, since today is another slow winter day at Keewaydin, I want to take this entry to discuss my transition this winter from academia to farm mania. In December, I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with my Master’s degree in liberal arts (with straight A’s). I have a lifetime love affair with learning, and this stint of academia was no exception. I dove head first into every book and assignment with vigor and discussed my fresh knowledge and opinions with anyone who would listen, mostly Rufus. Academics have been a cornerstone of my identity and enjoyment since I learned how to read, and I have always had difficulty transitioning to what comes next. I studied for six years during my undergraduate degree (usually a four year undertaking) until the financial aid office finally rejected my application because I had too many credits and should have graduated already. I submitted an appeal and graduated that semester, but I still didn’t know what to do other than go to graduate school. I wasn’t accepted to the schools I applied for, so then I really didn’t know what to do, so I moved to Alaska…nothing short of foodhardy and impulsive. My completion of graduate school was surrounded by a similar angst. Since my degree was done online, the completion was rather anti climatic and the path forward even more unclear. Part of me was set on earning a big salary and having an important job, but a more significant and vibrant part of me wanted to buck the entire system. With each job posting I looked at, I sunk further into uneasiness, disgust, and fear. I had tasted the life and freedom of farming for ourselves, and I think that ruined me for domesticated employment. The thought of sitting at a desk for 40 hours was pretty hard to take. It made me cringe. The thought of being held hostage by a boss I didn’t agree with, making small talk with a bunch of people I didn’t like, in a stuffy office cubicle with no window, while nature went about its business of being beautiful, started to wear me down. I had fully thrown myself into the world of job searching, applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews…until about the third week of January, at which point, I snapped. My frustrations welled and my independent spirit rose up to deny all world sense. I came to the conclusion that none of these jobs could offer me the satisfaction and joy I experienced while farming. No amount of money could pay for my captivity and I would not build someone else’s empire for a measly salary. So I quit my job search and committed to farming this year. Pursuing academics has never been primarily about money for me. Rather, it has shaped my way of thinking, opened my mind, broadened my perspective, built my character, and created a better version of who I am, and that has led me to farming. Most people would probably say that my transition from graduate school has not been unlike my transition from undergraduate school…foodhardy and impulsive. However, there is no way that some CEO is going to close me in a stanchion and milk my worth. I’m going to milk my own cow and grow my own worth.  

~Joy

2/27/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Another day of outdoor winter projects brings us a few steps closer to being organized and ready for spring. We got the pack shed back in order (mostly) and moved on to greenhouse one. Unfortunately both doors were frozen solid to the ground. After chipping and shoveling away at the door, we were able to open it wide enough so that we could squeeze in sideways. Once inside, we did not feel the  normal warmth of the greenhouse because the heavy snow has blocked the sunshine from working its magic. We knock the snow off the plastic with a rake and watch it slide down the side of the greenhouse walls, allowing the sun to shine in. Then we give the soil a preliminary poke with the broadfork to find out if we can begin prepping the beds for planting…frozen solid. As I jumped on the broadfork (which usually sinks into the soil with my body weight), the tool doesn’t budge. Bed prep and planting are still on hold. I drag some large sheets of black plastic into G1 to cover the beds, in hopes that they will thaw a bit more quickly. Then we move on to the woodshop area where we clean and organize discarded blocks of wood from past project which have been thrown haphazardly into a corner. Finally we head indoors to brew our first batch of beer. I should say attempt to brew our first batch of beer because I think we may have done something wrong with the yeast (which is a pretty important step) but time will tell if we have 5 gallons of IPA or a failed science experiment.  

~Joy

2/26/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

The snow and wind continue to whip across the ridge here at Keewaydin. As I do my morning chicken chores, I find my fingers frozen and the hens huddles in the hay. Today was our first 3 egg day, so we are really getting into production now! Since our normal Monday routine was a bit displaced, we spend our day in the office, fingering away at our laptops, improving the website, updating flyers, writing work agreements, organizing volunteers, updating farm logs, uploading pictures, and mostly getting e-commerce set up. Up to this point, we have received CSA money through check or cash…the antiquated forms of money at this point. Moving forward, we will be able to accept online payments, which are the way of the world now. Rufus and I are very excited about this and hope that our hours of office time pay off in CSA sign ups. Here’s to Hoping,

~Joy   

2/25/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

As I chop vegetables this evening in preparation for dinner, I find myself wondering why more people do not take the time to prepare meals from scratch (but they will spend countless hours consuming media). I understand most people opt for convenience because of their “busy lives”, but I just don’t think it is worth the trade off. In the past, I bought a lot of pre-packaged, ready-made foods and didn’t think anything of it. However, now that I have been living and cooking on the farm, I just can’t see the sense in it. In general, I believe we spend less money for higher quality foods and put the time in together to turn basic ingredients into delectable dishes. Most of the foods we eat come from the farm or the produce section of the co-op. We strive to eat real organic foods, ones that people can recognize and pronounce. Sure, we spend more time in the kitchen than most families and we find ourselves cleaning the kitchen three times a day, but I am confident that our time there is well spent. It carries a portion of the life of our relationship. We enjoy putting the time in, chopping, boiling, sauteing, baking, mixing, and frying. Savory smells and Tom Petty tunes fill the house as we each do our part. We have our own little expertise and tasks that we like to do. One of my favorites is slicing mushrooms. I love the feel of the texture as I make quick downward motions with one of our not-so-sharp knives. Breakfast and dinner are pretty big productions around here. Lunch is often skipped or filled with a quick wrap as we run out the door to our next farming task, but we take our time twice a day to slow down and enjoy. The thought of trading that for the convenience of a frozen pizza seems pitiful. We get so much more out of mealtime than a full belly. We fill our lives and home with genuine loving connection and care.    

~Joy

2/24/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It down poured last night and the wind was whipping something fierce today, blowing clouds and drifts of snow across the farmstead. It was not a day for outdoor work, but since I was inside all day yesterday, I had to get out for a little bit. Rufus and I made our way to greenhouse 4 with squinted eyes and pinched faces as the glaring sun, wind, and cold battered our eyeballs. Once inside the greenhouse, it was not so bad. The sun had warmed the space and the wind was blocked. The only real nuisance was the noisy flapping of the plastic as the wind beat it against the frame. We walked the rows and removed the staples from the plastic so we can move it to G2 and plant without plastic in G4. The ground is beginning to thaw, but we still need a little more time and sunshine.

~Joy

2/23/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today was a lazy Saturday. The weather was too nasty to work outside so we cuddled on the couch, stoked the fire, cooked breakfast, and watched Netflix. The only farming task I did today was take care of the chickens. We are up to our 6th egg now. In the afternoon, Rufus and I went out to the coop to check them out. We watched them for a few minutes, commenting about their behaviors, guessing which hen or hens are laying the eggs, and wondering why “Peck Neck” is getting picked on. One of the chickens, who I call “Peck Neck” is missing the feathers around her neck area like the other chickens are beating her up a little. I’m not sure what is going on there. The other chickens I sort of have names for, I know by their behaviors. “Fatty Bo Baddie” is the chicken that jumps up onto the grit pale near the grain and clucks excessively while I clean up the coop until I put the grain down. “Amelia Bedelia” is the friendly chicken who always approaches me and checks me out. She will eat ice off of my gloves or boots sometimes. You know it was a slow Saturday if the highlight of your day was watching the chickens.

~Joy

2/22/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Rufus and I finished deconstructing the end walls on G2 today. While we have been enjoying a lot of building projects, demolition work is fun too. Swinging a big hammer, wielding a large crowbar, and not having to be quite so precise made the project lively and entertaining. When we were finished, only the framing bends were left standing over a pile of ruble. Next we need to remove some of the framing that was bent in a tornado with something a little more sturdy. Then we will have a nice base structure so we can put on new plastic. This season, G2 will be the tomato greenhouse, my favorite! After we finished G2, we took a midday break for a few preliminary runs on the first part of the luge. 

~Joy

2/21/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This bright and sunny Thursday is our first scheduled spring planting date, and per Mother Nature, we already need to make adjustments. G4 is still frozen and needs soil adjustments before we can proceed with in ground planting. G3 is technically ready, but Rufus and I decided that it would be much easier to keep 4 trays of transplants in the house, as opposed to running electricity, water, and plastic covering into G3. So today I planted 2 trays of leaf lettuce and 2 trays of rainbow chard, which find their temporary home under our sunny bedroom window. I bring our little babies up to the bedroom and liken it to how new parents bring their newborns in bassinets to their bedside. The world and elements out there are just too harsh for such fragile infants. I think back to when my Fairbanks friends started transplants in their windows for spring. I always thought they were so incredible and wished that I could do the same, but I never had anywhere to go with the transplants, living in apartments. Now I am excited to see these babies pop up in my bedroom. I’m not worried about the little bit of dirt and water they will bring in because I am more excited about the new green life they will bring to our home and farm.

This afternoon we started to deconstruct the end walls of G2. We climbed, unscrewed, pry barred, hammered, and cut away at the shell of a greenhouse which we call G2. I have said this before, but it is worth repeating. I am amazed at our ability to transform space. Rufus and I make an incredible team, and the longer we work together, the better we get. I find myself anticipating what he needs, and I am right there to help. I feel that he foresees and solves my newby struggles and steps in to help, right on time as well. There is never a dull moment when we work together. Today on the jobsite, we were graced with the presence of the patriarch and matriarch of Keewaydin Farms. Papa Rich (PR) had just finished plowing the driveway (He helps us out so much that I don’t really know where to begin…he deserves his own post) and Mother Mary (MM) was doing her daily farm walk. They both decided to take a few runs on the sled while they were here. Rufus took video as I continued work on the greenhouse and I thought…what an incredible, fun loving, sort of wacko family I have here. They bring me joy (mostly) and that is something to be grateful for.

~Joy

2/20/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It was a blustery day on our ridgetop farm. Our plowed pathways disappeared under piles of snow in motion. We spend our morning working side by side in the office, checking off tasks and continuing to build our plan for the 2019 season. I love the thrill and momentum we have when we toss ideas back and forth and build on each other’s concepts and strategies. It is fun to share our excitement for the coming of spring and new opportunities to grow. As the afternoon wore on and the wind and snow slowed down, we just couldn’t stay indoors any longer. We headed to the chicken coop to find our third egg! Then we moved onto a winter farm project of the utmost importance, building the luge. This sledding extravaganza begins near the barn atop an impressive pile of snow. Yesterday we began clearing the path which will shoot the sledder down into the valley. At this point, there are a few safety concerns, so we must continue to build the base and eliminate the debris. With any luck, we will be sliding long distance at top speed by this weekend.

~Joy

2/20/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Farming is dangerous work.  There have been numerous situations over the years which, upon reflection, make me cringe: near misses, runaway tractors, spinning gears, flying branches, crushed fingers…..the list goes on.  As I get older, I think about these calamities more. I find myself taking a bit more time than I have in the past to get set up properly. For instance when I am working in the forest cutting wood, I take the time to make sure my chain is sharp. I wear a loggers helmet with a face guard and chaps.  These little safety steps take five minutes to put in place and are there to save you hours of pain or worse. Instead of perching precariously on a rickety ladder, we spend a couple minutes setting up scaffolding. Not only does it feel a whole lot better, it makes the work a whole lot easier. I’ve been reflecting on the dangerous nature of our work a fair amount lately as Joy and I take on the tasks we need to take on in our daily life.  I think sometimes part of the issue we all face is the incurable need to get stuff done, get it done right now! When we feel this urge welling up inside of us, it’s probably the exact same time we need to remind ourselves to slow down. The other day when we were working on the door in our new shop space, I had to wind up a bracket attached to a spring. As I wind up this bracket (which is right next to my face) the spring builds up more and more tension until I have reached to proper amount of rotations.  Now, said bracket is a charged bracket, ready to spring back at me with all the force it needs to hurt me bad and I’m the only thing stopping it from doing so. The tension is scary and my muscles are fatigued. Now I need to attached said bracket to the wall. I can’t do this alone. Thankfully, Joy is right there quick with the screw gun, ready with screw, and with a couple lightning quick zips, we have the bracket attached and I can finally relax. I step away from the door and suck air. I’m momentarily exhausted from the excursion of holding back all that force.  I imagine myself in an early life trying to do this job alone. How would I have done it? Could I have done it? This is just one example in an endless list and it’s just one of the infinite number of reasons we need to give ourselves time and space to figure out the best/safest way to tackle a task. Joy has told me several times how much she appreciates me taking the time to explain a project to her, even if it takes a couple times, and I appreciate she take the time to ask. We need to give each other the time and space to understand the project at hand and the risks involved and we should never feel dumb attempting to clarify what is the right next move.  Let’s all stay safe out there and enjoy a long adventurous life because at the end of the day, despite the dangers this life, our work should be more about the beautiful sunsets, the tired but content body, the abundance of color, the delicious food and the explosion of life!

~Rufus

2/19/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I think that abounding numbers of people underestimate the value of a simple life. As I have distanced myself from city life, the drone-like rhythm of a regular work week, social media, screen time, and consumerism, I have found that my level of happiness and satisfaction have been significantly elevated. I feel more each day that unplugged time is more satisfying than being on my phone or computer. I feel that outdoor time is more enjoyable than indoor time. I experience my connection with plants, animals, landscapes, and people as more compelling than consuming media or goods. I am learning to really enjoy the value of a simple life. I revel in the way the sunlight hits the snowflakes. I savor the flavor of each bite of homegrown vegetables or homemade dishes. Today we collected firewood, an age old task. I feel that this action connects me to my ancestors because we know for a fact that those who came before us had to collect wood to survive, to stay warm, to cook and boil water. I feel genuine. I sense my connection to nature and the past. I embrace the ambiance of collective work and wonder what my ancestors would do now. . . We also brought a sled with us on our wood collecting mission today. We broke trail on a worthy run and laughed as we picked up speed. Gizmo chased me and nipped at my arm as I steered away from obstacles and giggled in the childlike enjoyment of playtime.  We slid down the hill smiling, thanking the universe that we were not in an office, and feeling the life blood of our lifestyle.

~Joy

2/18/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

When I worked a regular job, I dreaded the end of the weekend. I always found myself wishing that I could keep the drudgery of Monday realities at bay somehow…a long holiday weekend, a paid day off, a scheduled appointment, inclement weather, “calling in sick”, anything to stall going back to the 9 to 5 grind with scheduled, supervised hours, stuck indoors, with people I didn’t like. Now that I have left all of that behind and committed to a full time farm life, Mondays feel fresh and new. I look forward to our morning office time when we check in with each other about all things farm. I anticipate going over our different goals and tasks, and especially relish marking the checkboxes of our progress (a true and deep Capricorn pleasure). I enjoy taking on assignments and sharing this invigorating journey of farming and friendship. I wake up energized and eager to ask or answer the question, “What are we going to do today, honey?” We have found ourselves in the comfortable grove of a morning routine, one that slides by easily with no hang ups to my happiness. And as the morning marches on, I feel our profound connection, as we both become anxious to get outside at about the same time. I bounce my leg under the desk. Rufus starts to fidget and lose concentration, and suddenly as if both of our synchronized internal alarms went off, our eyes meet, and we know that it is time to go outside… and we do.

~Joy

2/17/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

We have our first egg! After about six weeks at Keewaydin, our hens are thriving and the first egg is beautiful. I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t the one to discover the first egg, but I was excited all the same. I asked Rufus to take out the chicken scraps since he already had his boots on, and he came back with an egg! I had a feeling that something was brewing this morning as I did the morning chicken chores. One hen was hopping in and out of the laying boxes and doing a lot of clucking around. She would shape up one of the nests, hop out, and move onto the next nest to see if that one suited her better. Of course, after I put the grain down, all of the nest building was put on hold. When I finish the chores, I always hang out and watch them for a little while. It is fascinating to me to see how they interact, to learn their behaviors, and to witness how they communicate and function in their little hierarchy. I’m definitely looking forward to more eggs and being able to get the girls out on the grass this spring.

~Joy

2/16/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

This afternoon we slid the front door onto G4 and headed to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve for a snowy hike shimmered by the afternoon sunlight. We tromped through millions of fluffy snowflakes and enjoyed our unique companionship, surrounded by beauty, giving our minds and bodies the thrill of outdoor goodness. I find myself wondering why people don’t want a life like this…disconnected from tech, spending time outside, connecting with nature, going on adventures, witnessing  the miracles of each season, stargazing, listening for the quiet peppered with songbird tweets…the ones that you won’t find on the internet.

~Joy

2/15/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Rufus and I are really rockin’ on G4 (greenhouse 4). We were in door mode today, and nearly built 2 full sliding greenhouse doors in an afternoon. We were only halted by our cordless drill which finally ran out of juice. The drill, Rufus, and I all seemed to notice at the same moment, as the sun was moving across a pivotal point in the sky, that it was Friday, it was nearing 5:00pm, and it was time for a well earned beer.  It is a satisfying feeling, walking in with the one you love from a purposeful and productive day’s work, especially when the work is tangible, and your efforts are visible in the farmscape. It connects me further and ties me in tighter to this place. When I look around and I see the changes we have made together in my short time here, it moves my curiosity to explore what is possible.

~Joy

2/14/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I had an incredible Valentine’s Day. It was certainly not what most girls would fancy, but for me, it was perfect. First, I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with the person I love. Now, most of my days are spent with Rufus, but today I reflect on how special that really is. So many couples spend most of their time apart, working at a job, taking care of kids, or busy with separate tasks. I have heard many women say that if they spent all day, every day with their husband or boyfriend they would get sick of them and quarreling would surely ensue. They enjoy their time apart. I have certainly felt that way about people in the past, but things are different with Rufus. He really is my best friend, and I know that sounds cliché and sappy, but it happens to be true. When we are apart, ideas, funny anecdotes, and wandering thoughts pop into my head that I wish I could share with him. When we are together, we banter back and forth, laugh at each other’s jokes and impressions, and talk about our future plans. It doesn’t take long for me to start missing him, but today we were together. We shared a beautiful morning. Rufus prepared a delicious breakfast and we stared out into the morning sunshine that warmed up the homestead. In the afternoon, we headed out to greenhouse 4 to finish putting plastic on the end walls. We marveled that we got the perfect day for greenhouse work. There was no wind and it was warm enough to work without gloves (which is crucial for putting up wiggle wire). We worked alongside each other, scaled up ladders, passed each other tools, and stretched out plastic as we listened to music. We took an afternoon break for salad, chili, and a super satisfying cup of coffee. We headed back out to work and finished the end walls just before the wind picked up and the sun set. Our mirth was only interrupted by an opossum hiding in the hay bales (who soon met his maker) and a scuffle between the dog and cat over a mouse (Gizmo frequently steals Carrot’s hard earned kills).   As we examined our new end walls and walked to the house, I thought about how our day was filled with love, and that love is building with someone…building relationship, home, business, family, and a future together, and I love building here with Rufus.

~Joy

2/13/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Rufus and I made momentous progress today. We successfully mounted the door on the new shop and have all but the last few adjustments to make before it will be running smoothly. I continued work in greenhouse number three and it is pretty much ready for production. I fortified all of the greenhouse tables so that the seed trays will lay flat (instead of sagging in the middle and pooling water). I employed my new skill of using the chop saw to cut pieces to finish out the tables. With the tables set in their new positions and fully fortified, I had the pleasure of sweeping up, what I assume to be cat shit and other dirt and plant matter. I shoveled the snow around the door and pathway, brought up a wheelbarrow, and removed the debris and three crates of shallots that had a rough winter of neglect. I carry a pile of saw horses to the back of the barn through the deep snow (thank goodness Rufus plowed everything out today). As the sun began to set, Rufus and I surveyed our day’s work. We admire our ability to transform spaces, and head in as the sun sets to enjoy some beautiful food and a cold beer.  

~Joy

2/12/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

The highlight of my day was a borderline miraculous move of physical agility and luck. Rufus and I had been clambering around with greenhouse tables, attempting to rearrange the pattern of the greenhouse so that half can be planted with in ground beds. Every time we attempted to move or even adjust the tables, they were falling apart. The support beams in the middle just fell to the ground, tables twisted, screws broke, saw horses bent out of shape and fell over. I suddenly remembered that we had put these beams in place and said we would come back later to screw them in…but never did. It was not going well, but moral was still high. Suddenly, next to the last table of the day, we lifted up a table, the saw horse was down, and somehow, I kicked it into the exact location it needed to stand, in a balanced and semi level upright position. Rufus and I looked at each other like, “Did that really just happen?” I was glad he was there to witness it because no one would have ever believed me.

~Joy

2/11/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

A day in the woods with my favorite men and my dog is a day well spent. Today Rufus, Papa Rich, Gizmo and I headed to the woods to gather firewood. There is a big snowstorm coming and our wood supply was alarmingly low. As Gizmo is still recovering from our Stevens Point absence, he was extremely pumped to head out to the woods with us. It is common for him to jump and spin mid air in excitement, but today I think I actually witnessed him do a full 360 degree turn without letting his paws hit the ground. We headed down to the maple sugar bush and beyond to cut wood before the storm. Giz has become so loyally attached to me at this point that he is under foot more than I would like. I nearly step on him at least a handful of times each day. I have come to realize that the true loyalty of a dog cannot be challenged or trumped. This dog has attached himself to my hip and is at my every beck and call (whether I want him to be or not). I do not reward him with treats or baby him like many modern pets. He is just my loyal companion. As we dip into the evergreens to allow Rufus’s tractor and Rich’s truck to pass us by, Gizmo playfully jukes and weaves in and out of the pines. His playfulness makes me smile, laugh, and pause for a moment of gratefulness… to have such a loyal and fun loving friend.

~Joy

2/10/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today we leave the busy city streets behind us and roll into our old familiar dead end gravel road. There is a wave of comfort that accompanies coming home, a feeling of belonging that is nestled in the heart which leaps a little when you pull in the driveway. Gizmo leaps and twists much further into the air as he reunites with his pals (who he was sure had really abandoned him this time). The chickens make their happy chicken noises as I enter their coop and have our familiar conversation. Rufus builds a fire and warmth slowly returns to each room. I whip up some wraps for lunch and we both agree that eating out was fun, but our food is just better. Rufus continues reading to me from Daring Democracy by Frances Moore Lappe and Adam Eichen, a book we have been reading together which was given to me by Theresa Marquez (Organic Valley executive) when I interviewed her about socially responsible food and ethical food consumerism. For me, the book stirs deep feelings of betrayal, strong urges toward activism and endless questions about how we can make a difference. We let the afternoon pass in peace and just enjoy being home.    

~Joy

2/9/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today was an incredible day filled with my three favorite things, farming, beer, and local food! This morning we went to a class on fruit trees. We learned all about planting, pruning, and grafting apple trees. Rufus and I have been talking about adding more permaculture to Keewaydin, and this class was a great catalyst for moving forward. When we order our seeds next week, we want to also order some dwarf apple trees, quince trees, strawberries, and raspberries. I am excited to bring more diversity to the farm and grow our own fresh fruit. Next we went to Oso’s Brewery where we enjoyed several deliciously potent beers (Grandpa’s Got A Gun was my favorite at 13.5%) and took a brewery tour. Rufus and I have also talked about brewing our own beer since it is a staple here on the farm. We have all of the supplies. Now we just need to order some ingredients, and away we go. This is all part of our plan to become as self sustainable as possible. Finally, we attended a local food event where we sampled produce from a wide variety of local venders. They had everything from A2 yogurt smoothies to locally distilled whiskey. It was fun and energizing to be around folks who we connect with in one way or another through the local food movement.

~Joy

2/8/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Spending time away from the farm really provides an opportune moment for reflection. Being in Stevens Point with Jessica and Troy (sister and brother in law) in their cozy home, with its soft bed, automatic heat, and close proximity to shopping and events feels like a strange luxury. Rufus and I relish in the steaming hot water and turbo pressure in the shower. I find myself surprised at the rapid flushing toilet and the warmer than usual night temperatures. At one point, I woke up to stoke the fire and quickly remembered that we don’t have to do that here. As we bantered about the differences of farm and city life, I realized that I have grown accustomed to the quirks and less than ideal functioning of our plumbing and heating systems. They become part of your life, and the squealing of the shower head seems to eventually be drowned out…or at least less annoying. When I’m happy and satisfied with my life experiences, the material environment does not matter so much. Yes, I want the basics covered, but some of those basics for me are love, kindness, laughter, and beautiful work.

~Joy

2/7/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I sit in a comfy chair on the second floor of the UW Stevens Point Library staring out the big bay windows as the snow flies.  Across from me sharing this narrow table sits Joy. This is our second year coming up here for a little working vacation. My sister and her husband live in Point and so we are escaping the isolation of the winter farm life.  I really enjoy this time in the library, the warmth and comfort of the sacred learning space. We are using this time to go over our budget and build our new website. Neither project are what one would consider fun though I am enjoying both about as much as one can.  The budget is a story we are telling ourselves about the year to come, can we actually make a living do this crazy work? Do we even want to? What can we do to improve our financial situation? Where does all the money go? I like thinking about these questions especially when Joy is involved. I keep telling her that 4 eyes are better than 2 or something to that degree, probably to the point of fault.  But I feel as if this is my montra, repeating a philosophy of together we will succeed. The webpage building has been another interesting process, frustrating at first but increasingly enjoyable as we near the ending. Today I uploaded a bunch of pictures, going back in my photographic archives to find some real gems. I’m feeling nostalgic, for my younger children, my younger self, past adventures, projects completed, time past I can never have back.  I see my younger self and wonder at all the things I tried, all the failures I endured and relationships which have come and gone. This work and life are so wrapped up in one another, so intertwined it’s hard to see where they seperate, and in fact they often do not. But perhaps that is a sign of a life well lived, if you so enjoy what you do and where you live. How can I not? When I look over these pictures, I see food, glorious, glorious food. I see smiling people and green grass. I see love, fruits of labor, ample sky, and cups filled to the brim with libations.  So why not do this another decade? Soon the snow will melt and another growing season will be upon us. Onward!

~Rufus

2/7/2018

Dear Farm Journal,

Holy Shit! Rufus and I actually made it through an entire farm budget meeting without fighting or even getting cross with each other. This is a first. Somehow, by doing less, we can make more…addition by subtraction. We have decided to let go of our Minneapolis market and focus the business more locally with the CSA and Madison wholesale. The Minneapolis market had us spread too thin and we were just not making enough money there to make up for all the hassle. I was doubtful about shrinking the business when Rufus first brought it up, and I could not see how we could make it. He proved me wrong though. When we ran all the numbers, this makes the most sense. Sometimes farming does not make logical sense. Of course all of the budget numbers are projections based on last year, and there are a lot of moving parts, so we will see how everything actually shakes out. Right now, I am just happy that we can look at the farm budget with no hard feelings.

~Joy

2/6/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

There is something so satisfying about watching a project come together. It was just warm enough today to work outside without being in physical pain, and Rufus and I made progress on framing in our new shop area. I am starting to get the hang of this construction thing, and it is pretty amazing what two people can accomplish when they work together toward a common goal. Just a few weeks ago, this area had been a shell of a building that was basically “cold storage”. Now it is only one day’s worth of work away from being a heated shop. We used materials that we had in the back of the barn, lumber that we milled from dead fallen trees, and united gumption to get this project rolling. We removed a large rolling door from greenhouse 2 and repurposed it to close in our shop. Soon, we will have a nice warm area where we can do more work more comfortably. It makes me wonder what else is possible for us here at Keewaydin, as we continue to build our own little empire. This is truly a special place, and I can’t wait to see what we build together.

~Joy

2/5/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

My plan for bringing a cow to Keewaydin has fully launched. As Rufus suggested, I began talking with Papa Rich. After a few conversations, he is ALL IN, and he is exactly the mentor I need to teach me about dairy cows. As a former dairy farmer of a registered herd of holsteins, he is extremely knowledgeable about what makes a good cow, and I am grateful for that. I am told he kept exceptional herds of cows and was always very invested in maintaining quality bloodlines.  Apart from spending time at my best friend’s dairy farm as a kid and helping out with barn chores, I have no experience. Papa Rich basically has a PHD in dairy cows. After a conversation with him yesterday, I had to ask Rufus to fill me in on some of the terminology like, “springer” and “freshen”. I have to admit that I am fascinated in learning about this animal that has been so important to our state. We have decided to look into Jersey cows and today Rich contacted the American Jersey Cattle Association and spoke with someone at length about where we can find the perfect Jersey cow. He is not going to let us get “some piece of shit cow” and he is willing to make up the difference in price so that we can have the best, a pedigreed, top 10%, A2 quality tested milk, masterpiece of a cow. He was given contact information for the farms that would have this upper echelon type Jersey, and we are going to go see some of these beautiful bovines. I am pumped! We started out talking about one cow. Today the number thrown around was four.  

~Joy

2/4/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I love that Rufus pushes me to learn skills that I am initially inexperienced in and uncomfortable with. Today we built some sketchy scaffolding which I hesitantly made my way up to remove some hardware from a shop entryway. I was extremely uneasy and thought about how much my elbow still hurt from a few days ago when I hopped off the kitchen counter and my wool socks slipped on the wood floor, sending my elbow and head slamming to a stop at an alarming speed. Now I was much … much higher off the ground and operating a hammer, massive crow bar, and electric drill. I proceeded with extreme caution. I felt better when we properly secured the scaffolding. I was surprised at how my confidence slowly grew and I achieved the task in less time than I expected. Within minutes I was on the ground and operating a circular saw for the first time, a tool I have managed to avoid up until this point. My natural clumsiness, spacial unawareness, and high probability for error and accident have lead me believe that I should not operate power tools beyond the electric drill. However, Rufus gave me a sexy pair of safety goggles, instructed and encouraged me, and after a few cuts, I wasn’t sure what I had been so afraid of. I appreciate that he treats me as a true partner, not designated to any social norm or bull shit weakness appointed to the female gender, but a true equal.

~Joy

2/3/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

For so many Sundays of my life, Sundays have been a time of putting life back in order so that we can start again. The week before is completely laid to rest. The weekend is waning, and everything is in need of tidying up. This Sunday was an extraordinary reset. Rufus and I both enjoy the comfortable environment of a clean, organized, and minimal clutter house. Farm houses can be challenging to keep that way, but today we tackled the project of putting life back together. There is something extremely gratifying about sharing and enjoying that reset with the person you love. Even though you are cleaning, which most find a bore, you are listening to Tom Petty, dancing as you sweep, sharing amusing exchanges, and at the end of it all…enjoying your beautiful masterpiece of a home.

~Joy

2/2/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today was a very satisfying Saturday. I felt antique and accountable as I purchased food. My thesis on socially responsible food and ethical food consumerism continues to play in my head and bring up the significance of how we buy groceries. On this sunny Saturday morning, we buy produce from our neighbors. We do not venture far from the farm and we have personal relationships with those who we make exchanges with. There is very little plastic used, very little fossil fuel burned, very few carbon emissions released, no pesticides or GMOs used, and so much community built. This is how food should be.

~Joy

 

2/1/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I lost a few days between the end of January and the beginning of February. They were cold dark days that I will not miss. We made it through January. Welcome February.

~Joy

1/30/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today my phone read -27 degrees (without the wind chill) when I ventured out on a 45 minute hike around the farm. I bundled up and headed out with my super enthusiastic companion Gizmo, who follows me everywhere. The wind chill was inflicting some pain on my face walking down the driveway, but once I got out of the wind and into the sun, and my muscles started to warm up under all my layers, it was not too bad. It felt good to get outside in the sunshine and move my sedentary winter body. Compared the the rigor of summer, my body is in a coma right now. I hiked down to the hunting cabin for a bit of exhilaration…and…well, to be honest, we had a bottle of wine in the house and no corkscrew. I knew, definitively, that there was a corkscrew in the cabin, and, in the dead of winter, when vehicles will not start, and regular trips to town can not be made, and the alcohol supply is alarmingly low, you do what you have to do.

~Joy

1/29/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I find myself asking…What day is it? I know it is a school day because they called off school today and tomorrow for “extreme weather”. After living in Fairbanks, Alaska for 6 years, nothing here really seems like extreme weather. When I was a substitute teacher, I went to work when it was -50 degrees. I plugged in my car, had a steaming hot cup of coffee, chipped the thick layer of ice off my car, shoveled myself out, and drove my ass to school in complete and utter darkness…then did the same thing on the way home. It was extremely rare for school to be called off. They had snow chains on the school buses. Here, they call off school for two days when it is barely in the negative double digits. Wow, have we as a society, lost our ability to face even the slightest adversity? Did people forget how to go outside, and now they are frightened to expose themselves to the elements? And, don’t even get me (or Rufus) started on how annoyed we are with all the social media posts about the winter weather. I mean, if I see one more meme about cold temperatures, snow, ice, or Wisconsin weather, I am deleting my Facebook account. I mean, just give it a rest! It is called winter! If you don’t like it, move to a place where you can stop bitching. Anyways, here at Keewaydin, it is not so much the cold temperatures or snow, but the limited outdoor activity and burgeoning cabin fever that I suffer from. This time of year, the farm is pretty much shut down and working outside for long periods of time is difficult. We still work outside. I still go out to the chicken coop multiple times a day to keep their coop, food, and water in order. We continue to work on organizing and sawing lumber when we can, but shit is seriously limited compared to the fast pace of summer. I feel an increasing sense of boredom in the house that pushes me outdoors, even when it is unpleasant. Today, however was filled with the domestic tasks of dishes, laundry, sweeping, and cooking an awesome ass pot of venison chili. So good on days like this! I am still uneasy with being inside and inactive. I search for tasks and try to go up and down the stairs as much as possible, and maybe throw in a random set of push ups here and there.

~Joy

1/25/2019 2:30am

Dear Farm Journal,

It is the middle of the night and I can’t sleep. There is something decidedly unsettling about being awake when everyone else is asleep. I, myself, can’t stomach being awake in these early hours without the comfort of a book or some other distraction. How do people occupy their minds at night? Gaze at the stars? Talk to the dog? We all do things to console ourselves and ease the darkness.

~Joy

1/24/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today I rotate from outside, to fire, to dishes, to laundry, to chickens, to the stupid cat that refuses to run away from the attacks of our neighbor dog (Mother Mary’s dog, Jodi) because… well we think he likes the punishment. Yes, he says, put my head in your mouth. I know that I am perfectly capable of running away or defacing you with my claws,  but….. Carrot the cat does what he wants. He is a farm cat/ barn cat who rarely has the privilege of coming inside. No, Carrot is a killer, and he prefers to catch his dinner live and warm. He often scoffs at dog food when I offer it to him… if the hunt has gone well. However, in these skinny times, he meows at the door for that lowly dog food that he scoffed at earlier. He hurries in, scarfs down some cheap dog food, and cuddles on top of one of the jackets or scarves that so conveniently fell onto the floor for him. I let him hang out and enjoy the shelter from the cold for awhile. I return to let him back outside, and …Oh…and he shit on Rufus’s shoe.

~Joy

1/23/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

My chickens…I mean…the chickens are really thriving in their new home. I have gotten into the habit of saying “my chickens” because I have been getting attached to them as I have taken care of them over the last couple weeks. I wouldn’t say that I am attached to them like a dog or cat. I still can’t really tell them apart and I don’t really want to pick them up or pet them. I may even be a little afraid of them still.  I am more interested in taking good care of them, helping them thrive so they can start laying eggs, and learning about the process of taking care of animals. Today Papa Rich, Mother Mary, and Rufus all came into the chicken coop to see how the chickens were coming along. They were all well aware of the sad state the hens were in before they came to Keewaydin. They said that the chickens looked remarkably improved from just a couple weeks ago. They are putting on weight, are very alert and active, and their feathers, waddles, and feet look much healthier. I have been pretty diligent in keeping the coop clean and lined in 3 sections with sawdust, hay, and lime.I make sure they have fresh thawed water, plenty of grain, food scraps from our kitchen, and just today I gave them some grit, which they seemed to really like. I have their laying box all set up with hay and a cover which keeps them from shitting in there at night. Rufus jokes around with me, saying that I am raising “show chickens”. I deny that I am raising “show chickens” and laugh, but I’m happy that they are doing so well. Now I just have to wait patiently for eggs, just as I wait patiently for spring.    

~Joy

1/22/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Rufus and I spent the morning indoors in our upstairs office. We worked away at the computerized tasks of life and farming as I watched the wind sweep across the snowy garden. My mind wanders…thinking about how in this moment, I huddle shivering over the little space heater under my desk. I long for the return of spring warmth and green grass. I experience the slow lapping wave of each winter day wash over me. Boredom creeps in and I wish to be busy outside in the garden. I stretch my imagination back to how I experienced summer days. Didn’t I then crave cooler weather and a slower pace? Wasn’t my body exhausted? Was I tired of tedious tasks? Why is it that we find ourselves yearning for a filtered memory? Sometimes we only remember the good….all the lovely parts of a season. Other times we selectively remember the bad. Today I remind myself that each season has its own extraordinary experience. Some of those experiences bring us joy, sunshine, and freshly picked sweetness. Some of those experiences bring us sore muscles, sunburns, and sordid feelings. So, instead of pining for a new season, I reflect on the wonderful parts of winter…sleeping in, snuggling in, freshly fallen snow, the bright flashes of cardinals and bluejays against the white backdrop of a snow covered farm, laughter on a sled, skiing trips to come, and having the luxury of slowing down, which so many never get to experience…not like this anyway. It’s not easy to slow down in a fast paced world, but I am learning to live with the seasons.

~Joy

1/21/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today is one of those cold, snowy, windy days when it seems like everything on the farm is asleep and I should be too. Apart from a little bit of planning for spring planting, which just made me long for spring all the more, I stayed tucked beneath two blankets, listened to an audiobook, napped, and stoked the fire in vain. Although the fire was burning, it was not bringing much warmth to our drafty old farmhouse. Finally in the slump of the afternoon, Rufus initiated some action and we took to the basement to spray foam some of the windier corners where our heat was escaping. I swept thick swaths of spider webs and dust from the edges of the cold walls and marked off the coldest areas with pencil. Rufus came behind me and spray foamed the shit out of the  identified holes. We did the best we could until we ran out of spray foam. Then, escaping upstairs, out of the chemical laden air, we had nothing left to do but polish off a 12 pack of Moon Man, make back straps for dinner, and snuggle on the couch.

~Joy

1/21/19

Dear Farm Journal,

Sometimes as I work through my day or reminisce with one of my parents about the farm, I become acutely aware of how fast time flies.  This last week I spent some time clearing trees and cleaning up around our sauna building that I started working on over ten years ago.  For some reason, we started this project but never finished it, and there it has sat untouched for the last decade. It is a bit embarrassing to think I couldn’t be bothered to finish this project, especially considering the incredible reward one gets from sitting in a hot ass room on a cold ass night.  But for some reason this project has continually been shoved down the to do list until last week. And this is the legacy of a family farm or a piece of property which has been in the family for a long time. You begin walking around and noticing the half done projects are all your half done projects, not some other recent owner.  It is I with my big ideas and lack of follow through which now populate this place. Each project is a reminder of how I couldn’t quite make it work or a reminder of how relationships have broken down, another way ideas die. Sometimes this is hard to take. Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. Sometimes in my darkest moments, it becomes the reason in my head for moving on, for heading someplace new where I can try again.  Usually these moments hit the hardest when I am broke monetarily or when the weather is uncomfortable and I’m dreaming of some sort of easy peasy inside job. In these moments, the idea of what I’m trying to accomplish in life becomes confusing, ridiculously idealistic, and wholly idiotic. It becomes a bit tiring living with this legacy and as I get older it seems fear has a slightly tighter grip over any new idea. I don’t want to look out upon another half done project, another failed vision.  So what can I do to combat this? Well for starters, I can finish the damn project, the sauna for one! This becomes the key, go back to those long dead projects and wrap them up. Enjoy the reminiscing with the folks and don’t let their half done projects frustrate, enjoy the story, listen to the story, learn from it. The truth is, Joy and I have made a lot of progress. She pushes me in a good way and brings her new energy and growing capacity to see herself in this place. For her she doesn’t carry the baggage of two generations of big dreams.  Hopefully this energy continues to grow in her. She has that unique intensity in her which I believe to be so important when deciding to take on this lifestyle. A good mix of tenacity and need for organization. And it isn’t as if the full burden of checking these projects off the list should be placed upon her shoulders because she should have her own list, but a team is always better than one, and one good team is infinitely better than almost anything else. A team working together can check off the list quicker and begin moving on to the new, feeling a confidence gained from doing good work on the projects at hand.  

~Rufus

1/19/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

On this chilly Saturday morning, we did not work outside. Instead, I sat on the couch between Rufus and Aurora and researched farm animals. I started with Jersey cows, as this is the breed of dairy cow we have been talking about bringing onto the farm. I have continued to get mixed advice about this decision. At croquet last night, Kenny Workowski doled out stern yet sound consultation against the idea. He said things like, “you are going to be married to that cow” and “all you do is shovel it in one end and out the other” and “it’s not worth it”. His wife Shel interjected that I should not let Kenny talk me out of it, if I really wanted a cow. Our friend Teague, overhearing the conversation, urged us to “go ahead and do it”. I have taken all of this in and still find myself on the infamous Craigslist search in the farm and garden category looking at all sorts of farm animals. As Aurora and I looked at different animals, we digressed from cows to chickens, horses, goats, pigs, sheep, buffalos, yaks, llamas, and our favorite, the mini donkey. We bantered back and forth about how cute a baby mini donkey is and how adorable it would be to have him pull a little cart around or greet visitors to Keewaydin. Of course, Rufus is not so dazzled by the idea of bringing animals to the farm that do not provide some sort of trade. The chickens give eggs. The cow gives milk. What would a mini donkey do other than eat and shit? Um…be adorable. We laughed as we read the entertaining ads that were posted on craigslist. It is hilarious how animal owners write about their animals when attempting to sell them. They use terms and phrases like, “lively”, “spirited”. Rufus quickly informs us that this means the animal is an asshole, will kick the shit out of you, and basically the owner wants the animal out of his sight…thus it is on deck for  “rehoming”. I don’t know that we would actually make another Craigslist animal purchase after our chicken experience, but it was certainly fun to look.

~Joy

1/18/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Recently I have been reflecting on how lucky I am, that I get to eat meals with the people I love. Food is such a cornerstone of our daily lives that we often don’t fully appreciate it, like we don’t appreciate each passing breath of oxygen. At Keewaydin, we love producing fresh organic vegetables, but eating them together is the real gift. In the dead of winter, we are only producing a dwindling crop of spinach and some greens and pulling garlic and onions from storage, but there is always enough to whip up a delicious farm breakfast. We boil coffee, crack eggs, shred and fry up potatoes, and apply generous amounts of butter and cheese. As we sit down at the table each morning, we watch the birds flutter to the feeder pressed against the kitchen window and look far across the valley to the pines and hunting hawks. We discuss the day’s plans in an unhurried cadence and I feel grateful. I imagine all the people who hurry off to work, eating a cold bowl of cereal alone, grabbing a granola bar, or kissing their loved ones goodbye with a cup of coffee and car keys in hand. I’m so incredibly thankful that my mornings are made up of chopping onions, shredding cheese, and laughing with the one I love.

~Joy

1/17/2018

Dear Farm Journal,

I have been off the farm for a couple days house sitting for some friends. I enjoyed a hot bath in their oversized copper bathtub and sat by their mesmerizing masonry stove that kept the little house at a nice cozy temperature. However, as I returned to Keewaydin this morning, I was warmed by the enveloping comfort of coming home. I walked on familiar ground and was welcomed by Rufus’s bright smile. Sure, our old farmhouse is drafty, and no one would ever want to soak in our tub, but the love and beauty here are becoming mine. Rufus has encouraged me from early on in our relationship to think of this place as ours, and to take ownership of it. I have struggled with this concept because I am still relatively new to the farm and he has spent most of his life working here. From dairy farming as a child with his parents, to moving back from Colorado to make it his own, he has put in so much. I still can’t quite wrap my head around this amazing place being “mine”, but I do feel that each day of work I put in, I belong here more and more. I walk through the farmhouse and I see the merging of my belongings. I walk the property and see the projects we have accomplished in the last year, and I am proud of the life we are creating here.  

~Joy

1/16/19

Dear Farm Journal,

For the past couple of days we have had foggy cold conditions on Keewaydin Mountain.  A thick blanket of atmosphere hung close to the ground blocking out our expansive views and coating trees and shrubbery with the most beautiful coat of Hoar Frost….or perhaps Rime Ice.  To be honest I have heard the term Hoar Frost bantered about in our little circles of friends or family when similar events like this have occurred, but Rime Ice is new to me. The first time I heard this term was a couple weeks ago on the old croquet court.  My friend Teague brought it up wondering if the frosty conditions at that time were Hoar Frost or Rime Ice. Seems like what we had the last couple days was Rime Ice because as I have learned from the internets, Rime Ice forms when water changes from liquid to solid, Hoar Frost happens when water changes from gas to solid.  Well you learn something new every day. Or at least you should because why not. Learning something every day is another way to challenge old beliefs. We should never stop learning whether formally or on our own. Also, however we term it one can’t help but admire the beauty. Our landscape becomes a ghostly mysterious one, each tree branch outlined as if to highlight the expansive bony structure and bring rigidity to what is otherwise a chaotic mess.  Then just as quickly as it forms, the sun comes out and it’s gone, onward and upward it has moved, our frozen air replace by still cold but not quite frozen water vapor. The ghostly grey replaced by the dancing of a billion water crystals still blanketing the ground. The sun beacons me, come outside and play, and so I will answer the call.

~Rufus

1/13/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

As mentioned in other journal entries, farm record keeping has not historically been our strong suit at Keewaydin. Last spring we started out pretty strong, but as the season grew busier with each planting, the journal got progressively harder to keep track of. Today I worked on building a Google Sheets document that I hope will help. It needs some work, but, I must say that my Capricorn brain likes to see the organizational layout of all the greenhouses, gardens, seedings, and plantings. Of course, I had to go color coded as well. We tried an application called Tend last spring, but it proved to be too complicated and time consuming to manage. The thing is, for us to keep up with a system, it has to be nearly kindergarten simple, streamlined, and familiar. I hope this document will be functional for us, but we will see what it looks like in June.

In chicken news, the girls are looking better. I got the egg laying boxes moved into the coop and some of the hens look like they are starting to build nests, but they are on the ground, not in the boxes. I checked on them after dark and 2 of them have started roosting up on the plank, which means they can definitely fly up into the laying boxes. For some reason, my father thinks that the hens need some type of handicap ramp up into the nesting area. While he visited, I was fixing up the laying box, putting a new roof on it to stabilize the boxes. Instead of holding the roof while I nailed it down, like I asked, he took it upon himself to fashion a handicap chicken ramp. I reiterated that this was not the plan. After we got the roof secure, my dad, (unhappy with the rampless set up) moved a wood block over to the edge of the coop. This is apparently supposed to function as a makeshift step for the chickens….who can fly.  

~Joy

1/13/19

Dear Farm Journal,

I love the unscheduled nature of winter.  After the holidays passed, Joy and I found ourselves wondering out loud what day it was.  This is a rather common occurrence during the deep winter when schedules consist of a few outside chores and a little running around but mostly are a whatever you want to do kind of thing.  There are of course tasks which need to be taken care of, garden planning, growing meetings, building projects, and we tackle these tasks as they come, but we also do sleep in, or go to sleep late.  I especially like sleeping in, or rather laying in bed staring out the window as the sun slowly creeps into the morning sky. I feel as if both the sun and I take the similar path of a slow riser. Oh sure, we will get there, just five more minutes.  But you know what I think this is what winter is all about. We bust our ass all spring, summer and fall and dammit we deserve these peaceful moments of no demands. Frankly, I believe we all deserve these moments. I know I said it before but it bares repeating. This life of living with the seasons agrees with me.  I came the closest I have ever come to reimagine my life and going out into the world to get that real job, but I just can’t do it yet. Despite being monetarily poor, I just can’t give up this life of living by the seasons. I can’t imagine having to adhere to some human imposed schedule day after day after day. I feel like I would lose track of days all the same because each day would look not unlike the day before but I would also lose track of myself.  I would become this drone living out the same damn day. So I hold onto the idea that one of these years I will truly figure it out, I will figure out not only how I can live my most ideal life but that I will also make money doing it. I don’t know if this is an illusion, but I do feel like this could be the year we really turn the corner. For one thing, at least for this season I feel like I will have a real true partner. Having someone like Joy on my side and fully invested in this season already makes it feel different. Having someone taking care of greenhouse prep, leaves me to take care of greenhouse maintenance and building. In this mathematical equation 1 + 1 = more than two.  Plus she takes my wishy washy Cancer flow wherever the current of my mind takes me down about 20%. On top of it all, she just loves being organized. Can someone pinch me? Am I still slumbering in my bed? Nope this is our life or at least 2019, we will give it our best college try. We will do our damndest to keep those real world jobs with their morning meetings, corporate rules, excessive desk times, and more of the same far away. Maybe someday we will have to face the music. We will have to fall into step…..just not yet! There is too much to do right here, there are too many sunrises to witness from the comfy confines of the blanket cocoon.

~Rufus

1/12/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Not unexpectedly, but unfortunately, Poofy walked on last night, succumbing to the cruelties of her former owner. I found myself awakened early by a nudging concern for the sick chicken. I braced myself, walked somberly to the coop, and as expected, found her dead. I find myself surprisingly touched by the loss of this animal who was in my care for less than 24 hours. I know her death was not my fault and I most likely could not have prevented it. However, I still console myself with the thoughts and words that, “we did everything we could”. As Rufus says, sick and dying animals are part of farming life. He is a veteran farmer and certainly has seen many an animal succumb to sickness or injury, even since childhood. He has developed thick skin, and I suppose with time, I will too. However, this morning, I feel a tinge of loss and defeat, and although I know growing a thick skin is part of farming, I think I may always feel compassion for suffering, and that is significant as well.

~Joy

1/11/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Well, we got our chickens, and it was far from the quintessential experience I imagined. First, Rufus found these chickens on Craigslist, which is always a semi-frightening gamble. The ad was for 13 Barred Rock hens that were about one year old. When he called the guy this morning, it was down to 9. By the time we were on the road, it was down to 8. Once I saw the state these chickens were in, I was convinced that they were not being sold, but dying. Rufus’s description of the phone exchanges he had with the guy definitely threw up some red flags in my head.

#1 As mentioned above, rapidly decreasing chicken numbers

#2 He was supposed to meet us at a bait shop, but could not get his truck started, so we had to go to his place

#3 He had no address

#4 His voice sounded like he smoked two packs a day

#5 We were to look for a blue trailer

Now this was not the worst of it. As we approached, we were already making an exit strategy. There was a trashy trailer with a yard full of unidentifiable junk. This guy did not have his shit together, to say the least. We could not pull into the driveway because of a chain barrier, so we pulled up to the end of the driveway where he met us with a rubbermaid tote, like it was some kind of live chicken drive through. This piece of shit human being handed us the tote, Rufus put them in the van, we gave him $40 cash and got the hell out of there. I was a little concerned that we did not even look at the chickens before leaving. I could smell something was off before I really saw them. They had clearly been wallowing in their own shit and wreaked to high heaven. The van has never smelled that great, but I don’t think it can come back from this stench. As I surveyed our 8 new birds, it was evident that at least one of them was not long for this world. Her feathers were all poofed out and she never moved. The other girls pecked around like they were absolutely ravenous. A couple of them desperately pecked at a chip of ice that made it clear they were also very dehydrated. I am not sure when the last time they had food or water was or if they were being permanently housed in this rubbermaid tote with two air holes knifed out of the top. It was clear to both of us that this was more of a rescue than a purchase and neither one of us could wait to get them home to give them some proper care. Once we got them into the coop, they pecked at the grain so aggressively that we were certain they were starving. Poofy, the poofed out chicken was very unstable, but did eat a little bit. We could not get her to drink water and had to search the farm for a syringe or eye dropper to get some water in her. We quarantined her off from the other birds and hoped for the best. We both suspect she will be dead by morning, but at least we could show her a bit of kindness before she left this cruel world, and that is worth more than the five dollars we paid for her.

~Joy

 

1/10/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today I continued my animal inquisitions. I called my father and my grandmother to get their advice on acquiring some laying chickens and dairy cows. Both have past farming experience, and I knew they would give it to me straight. Not surprisingly, both of their warnings had to do with dairy cows getting out. They mostly passed over the chicken conversation, saying they were relatively easy, but to be diligent about protecting them from predators and keeping them out of the gardens. As for cows, my father’s remark was that good fences make good neighbors and that the first time the cows get out and I have to chase them all over the countryside, I will rue the day I thought a dairy cow was a good idea. My grandmother cautioned not to even think about dairy cows until we had fool proof fencing. Our current fencing is foolish at best and laughable at most points. My grandmother has related many hysterical tales of chasing cows for weeks, losing shoes in the mud, having her dress ripped off by a fence post, clobbering cows over the head in frustration, and keeping her children out of school for days to help get the cows back in. These stories are incredibly entertaining, but she assured me that no one was laughing at the time. So maybe what I should be researching is fencing.

~Joy

1/9/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today was an off farm day. Rufus had deliveries in Madison and asked me to come along. I changed my mind at least three times throughout the morning. At one point, Rufus asked me, “When was the last time you left the farm?”. I searched my memory and was hard pressed to think of any meaningful off farm excursion. It is true that the longer I live on this dead end gravel road, the less inclined I am to venture into the throngs of urban society. Besides my daily runs to the La Farge Zip Stop for beer, I prefer to stay on the farm. I find myself increasingly annoyed by crowds, traffic, billboard advertisements, and even buildings that are too close together for my liking. Today’s trip into Madison was no different. As I looked around at the city where I attended my first two years of college, I felt like a complete alien. So much has changed, and when I look around at this commercialized city, I no longer see the uniqueness or personality of the campus. I could be dropped into almost any city of a similar size and not mark much of a difference. Students walk around staring at their phones or blocking out the world with their ear buds, only checking in with their outside surroundings enough to avoid careening over some inattentive driver’s hood (who is probably also on their phone). While we drove, ate, and shopped, I felt a bit discombobulated, out of place, and…if I am being honest, I couldn’t wait to be back at the homestead.  

~Joy

1/8/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I am somewhat hesitant in approaching the idea of bringing some livestock onto the farm. Now that I have decided that I do not have much interest in getting a “real job”, I may be getting a little over zealous about how much of a farmer I really am. I have talked to Rufus for awhile about getting some laying chickens and a couple dairy cows. When I look at our grocery bill, I come to the conclusion that we could be very nearly self sustainable if we could provide our own eggs and dairy. Today I visited some of our fellow farmer friends who will be going out of town next week. They need a house sitter and someone to take care of their chickens while they are away. These chickens are beautiful and she emphasized how easy they are to take care of. As I picked up three fresh eggs, I felt like I needed this in my life. We eat eggs almost everyday, and I would love for us to be able to provide these for ourselves and our CSA members. It looked pretty simple, but I am sure that I am underestimating the work that goes into it. Now, bringing in a couple cows is a different story. Almost every person I talk to has warned me about how much work, time, and commitment it takes. I mean, I don’t want a herd of cows, just a couple to provide dairy for our small family. Rufus has advised me to talk to Papa Rich about this matter. I am sure this will be a lively and long conversation…which will inevitably digress into beer drinking and at least one heated oration on capitalism or Ronald Reagan.

~Joy

1/8/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I am a Sawyer!  For the last couple of years I have been dreaming of a sawmill.  Something which would convert our acres of woodlot into planks and boards, building material of all kinds for the multitude of projects which dance around my oversized head.  Well, ask the universe enough and you will be rewarded. It may not happen as you imagine but it has happened enough in my life that I can’t help but believe. So this summer I went along with Joy on a CSA delivery to her Aunt and Uncle’s and what to my wandering eyes might appear but an aging rust covered sawmill, a Woodmizer LT40 to be precise.  Wow, I exclaimed…..maybe in my head…..maybe not. What is the story? Usually I’m kind of Midwestern shy when it comes to asking other people about their stuff but I couldn’t help ask what the plan was. Turns out it was available for just someone like me who wanted to get the old beast running again. Fast forward to now, I’m about 20 logs deep into my sawing career and I am in love.  The aroma of freshly cut timber, the beauty of making lumber out of a log just laying out behind the barn. A whole world of possibilities present themselves and on top if it all, now our woods becomes another aspect of the farm we need and should consider when thinking about our little micro environment. How do we best utilize this resource, preserve it, improve it, promote its health, not only for us but for the creatures which call it home?   

~Rufus

1\7/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

I have often heard Rufus say that much of farming consists of moving things from one place to another, and today we did just that. As it is winter, we have been chipping away at farm organization. I say chipping away because the back of the barn is a Capricorn nightmare. There are generations of ….well everything, and many items are unidentifiable to me. Today we began organizing and restacking the building supplies for a kiln. This consists mostly of a ton of bricks of different shapes, sizes, and weights. Apparently this kiln was a Craigslist purchase made by Papa Rich and Charna five years ago. Rufus informs me that this is at least the third or fourth time that the bricks have been moved, and at this point, a jumble of other “materials” have begun to pile up on top and around these pallets of bricks. To kick off this project, our dog Gizmo saunters over to the pallet and takes a big shit right where we were intending to begin. A quick scan of the area reveals that this is a common occurrence. This was the first of many shit encounters during this task. Evidently all kinds of mammals have found this area to be quite an acceptable shitting ground. I find myself squinting my eyes, holding my breath, and wishing my gloves were a little thicker. When I need to scratch an itch on my nose or sweep the hair out of my face, I struggle to think of how I can make that happen without puking in my hand. I watch Rufus cringe in hesitation as he disassembles the piles. He says he is just bracing himself because he knows that something is going to jump out at him at some point. We silently restack the haphazardly stored supplies, brick by brick. One day, this will be my cow area…so then it will be full of cow shit. Farming….lots of moving things…lots of shit.  

~Joy

1\6/2019

I am back in greenhouse one again today. After much organizing and cleaning up one empty bed yesterday, I called it a day and wondered where it went. This morning, I take on the kale. I meticulously pull weeds, careful not to pull up the small kale plants. As I move down the row, I chop the tops down to an inch of stem life that stands at attention, ready to sprout new life when the warmth of the sun returns. I can see this bed has been terribly neglected and Rufus confirms that, in fact, today was the first time the kale (which was planted in the fall) has ever been weeded. Most people find weeding to be a drudging task, but I find hints of enjoyment as I pinch the plant life between my fingers and pull the roots from the soil. I feel like I am freeing the kale from an invasion of thieves that have come to steal their nutrients and choke them out. I relish zooming into the mini world where soil and plant life fuse while my mind wanders in wondering. When I finish, I cast a smiling glance on a perfectly tidy row that resembles bright green notebook lines. That is tangible satisfaction.

~Joy

1\5/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Today I moved on to cleaning up greenhouse one. It appears that the fall season ended suddenly and the farmers left the farm. Row covers were ripped and strewn all over. Tools were laying in the middle of rows. Seeders, broad forks, and beer cans were scattered throughout. The front door was frozen shut and the back door was completely off the hinges, laying in the snow, plastic blown out. Beds of spinach, kale, salad mix, and mostly weeds, clung to life with enduring tenacity. I popped a few leaves of spinach in my mouth and thought, among so much chaos on the farm, I am always amidst beauty and goodness that never fails to surprise me.

~Joy

1/4/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

Well, rage ripping the greenhouse yesterday, manifested as me ripping my shoulder muscles to the point of immobility this morning. So today, I took down and spooled twine from the tomato greenhouse. Untangling incomprehensible knots is a tedious yet somehow profoundly important task. It takes patience, diligence, and sheer belief that the next task of this twine will be better….

~Joy

1/3/2019

Dear Farm Journal,

It has been 5 months since the brutal August heat sent me reeling out of the greenhouses, and now it is winter…my favorite time to work in the greenhouses.Today I rage ripped greenhouse number 3. Let me explain. Rufus and I have our most infamous fights over farm budget conversations, and I usually take a few days to recover. Now, when I say fight, I mean we go over the budget, he remains annoyingly optimistic and calm, and I freak out and shut down. This is because we barely break even after busting our asses. First, this upsets my injustice radar as well as infuriates my sense of security. It is absolutely ridiculously unjust that the two of us work so hard at trying to make a wholesome living and provide incredible food for less than minimum wage. Secondly, I do not understand Rufus’s serene demeanor while looking at budget numbers that spell disaster.  So, my underdeveloped coping mechanism is to shut down, drink copious amounts of beer, sleep on the couch, wake up and take my frustration out on hours of hard labor, aka, rage ripping a greenhouse down. There was so much giant ragweed in greenhouse 3 that anyone with allergies would have died upon their first inhalation of the air inside. Secondly, I crawled through at least 4 identifiable types of shit while ripping weeds and debris out from under the planting tables; rabbit, dog, cat, and mouse. This made me question my entire career in farming. I mean, I just graduated with a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, and I am choosing to crawl around in shit. The paradox of farming is complicated.

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

The greenhouses are on their own. There is no way in holy hell, which is the actual temperature of the greenhouses, that I am going in there. My obituary would read: Joy Miller died unexpectedly at Keewaydin Farms from extreme heat exhaustion, dehydration, sun sickness, sunstroke, heat stroke, heat cramps, heat fainting, heat rash, high temperature coma.

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

I found the other farm journal. I didn’t even want to record this, but… it was in my underwear drawer the entire time. Didn’t I put on clean underwear from that drawer every day? While I was burning up my brain trying to remember where I left the journal, I probably grazed it with my fingers as I plucked out my hot pink lace thong. How could I have missed that? I guess I will chalk it up to all the things I miss when I am thinking in a hurry, which is probably about 75% of the time. We miss so many precious details when we are in a rush, and I wish I could operate at a normal speed more than 25% of the time. However, now we are over a week behind on the other journal, which we must promptly update with our guess and stare method, and then get out the door to make more records.  

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

This is bad. I think I lost the other farm journal, the one that really matters, the one with all the records of what we do on the farm from planting to harvesting, the one we need for organic certification. Since Rufus is a Cancer, and I am a Capricorn, I am the obvious choice for accurate and timely record keeping. Logging activity does not come naturally to most farmers. Of course this journal is only written and not recorded on any computer or backed up anywhere, including either one of our brains. It is impossible to remember exactly how many pounds of asparagus we picked, how many trays of okra I planted, or which greenhouse I harvested head lettuce from. By the next day, all of those details are a blur, left behind in the wake of veggie debris on the way to the compost trench. And at that point, all you can really do is guess…stare at each other, grasping for memory recall…glance upward into middle distance, as if the answers are out there in the ether somewhere, and finally write down the best guess that everyone can agree upon. Well, the other journal has been gone for over a week now. Shit.

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal

Today I was wrapped into a 45 minute farm rant from Rich. As an ex dairy farmer, he has a lot to say about how food policy is “unbelievable” and “outrageous”, especially after he has had a few “Sneaky Petes”. I learned about “Sneaky Petes” when I came to the farm, a diabolical, probably chemically unsound concoction of Mickeys fine malt liquor and the cheapest vodka that the Zip Stop sells. The design of the Mickeys bottle has a convenient re screwable cap, perfect for adding vodka and then carrying it around the farm. After a few pulls from this poison, Rich recalls all that is wrong with the world of agriculture, and it always stems back to Ronald Reagan and milk parity. “That’s when I started drinking more”, he will say, cursing the legislative decisions that put so many dairy farmers out of business in this area. I know that he is right. I know that the decisions that built today’s food system were not made on behalf of farmers, and I know that we have to do something, but I don’t know what. The sick irony of being a farmer with the heart of an activist is that you run out of time, money, and energy to make a difference off the farm, hence the “Sneaky Petes”.

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

I twisted my ankle in the hole in the back of the barn again. Why is there a hole directly where you step into the barn to retrieve a tool? And why can’t I remember this hole, as I have twisted my ankle in it probably a dozen times in the last year? Other ankles have suffered as well. And why has no one taken the time to fill in this hole? I guess it is because we always lack time on the farm. We run from one task to the next without properly completing anything, and at the end of the day, everyone has forgotten about the hole, except the person who forgot to step over it that day. And who wants to fill in a hole with a twisted ankle? I’ll try to remember to step over it next time.

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

I have never worked so hard and been so broke! There is something seriously wrong with a food system that does not financially reward the people who produce food! Why are we so obsessed with cheap food? Cheap food means starving farmers, and even suicidal farmers. I mean, I’m not to that point, but it is becoming way too common. I just read that the suicide rate of farmers is now double that of veterans, and I can see why. It is beyond being overworked and underpaid. As a farmer, you give your entire life, your time, your home, your family, your energy, your passion, and your bottom dollar. You keep working when you are tired, sick, hurt, lonely, fed up, and weary. You work when it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy, too windy, and too dark. People look sideways at your dirty hands and feet, your disheveled hair, your worn out clothes, and your broke down van. You can’t afford Christmas presents or fresh vegetables in the winter time. Every month is a stretch and a scrape to make the farm payment and keep the lights on. The deer, the flea beetles, the rabbits, and the mice eat your hard work up overnight. Equipment is constantly breaking down. Your body is slowly breaking down, and it really feels like no one appreciates a goddamn thing you do. They don’t appreciate what you went through to produce this beautiful organic head of lettuce. They don’t know you fought the the wind and hail in April to keep it alive, while there was little in your own kitchen. They just want cheap food, so here we stand, exhausted, and broke.

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

On this bright spring afternoon, the bumble bees are buzzing high in the pine trees. Our driveway is lined with impressive old pines, and suddenly these giants are alive with the high pitch rumble of busy bumble bees. It is an audible reminder of the miracles of springtime, nature, and nectarous goodness.  

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

Moving to the country has made me realize that everything I enjoyed about the city was actually something from the country. I used to love that La Crosse is on the Mississippi River. I would go down to the river, everyday if I had the chance, to watch the water roll by and think. I used to love visiting the parks in and around La Crosse. Sometimes I would visit three or four of them in one day. I would just walk around, appreciate the grass, the flowers, the trees, the smells, and the somewhat quieter air around me. Now that I live in the Driftless, I feel like the city’s attempts at natural beauty were a ruse. For me, to experience natural beauty, I have to leave the city blocks and city lights behind me. I want to be immersed in a reality that is something like 90% nature and only 10% civilized. I mean, I have lived without running water, and I don’t really want to go back. So I do take comfort in a stable home with running water, electricity, Wifi, and such. I have also come to live in a way here that most of my experiences happen outside these walls, off screen, using the running water to give my baby plants a drink, as we attempt to draw life from the natural world around us, to feed…well, in all honesty, probably to feed over an privileged white population. So…how noble and wholesome is that?  

~Joy

 

Dear Farm Journal,

I am relishing the sounds of all the songbirds this time of year. Each morning we awaken to the sweetest, happiest sounds of chirping and twittering outside our window. They awaken thoughts of falling in love. These tweets of bird banter make me smile, except for the mourning dove. Those incessant, repetitive, 3 notes remind me of a love that faded to indifference and sadness.

~Joy

Dear Farm Journal,

I have never fallen in love three times at once…until I met a farmer, who made me fall in love with him, his farm, and farming in less than a full season. What have I gotten myself into? I was just a normal woman, living in the city where I attended college, working a less than satisfying job. I was in a holding pattern until I finished my graduate degree, or so I thought. Then I met a farmer, but not just any farmer. Most farmers look kind of crusty and run down. Rufus (I love his old timey name) looks like one of those models who dress up as a farmer for a calendar photo shoot, but actually lives in L.A. He is handsome, like Roman handsome, aquiline nose, majorly tan, well defined biceps, shaggy strawberry blonde hair. MY GOD! If his god looks, I mean good looks didn’t sweep me off my feet (which they totally did), he had the most magnetic and original personality of any man I had ever met. I chalk it up to the character built by years of farming, his many hours spent alone in nature listening to the birds and watching the weather patterns circle in the sky instead of staring at a screen, and the enduring sense of humor required to press on through the ridiculousness of farming challenges. Needless to say, I was immediately smitten. When I met Rufus, I had not been single for very long, and I was determined not to just go flipping my heels over my head for any old reason. Well, even if I could have resisted his good looks and his charming personality (which I totally could not), I still would have had to resist the enchanting beauty of his farm and the pull of a country life at the end of a dead end gravel road, doing wholesome and noble work producing beautiful organic vegetables. You mean…I could be surrounded by this beauty everyday? I wouldn’t have to clock in with some company that I don’t really care about? I could just wake up, walk barefoot out to the garden and start planting and harvesting? Where do I sign up? No, seriously, you don’t have to ask me twice. How do I get in on this? I would like to state for the record that falling in love really does have a stupefying effect on the brain, and the reality of farming was not even a blip on my radar. I was just like, this is the life, let’s do this. So I quit my job, broke my lease, thanked the Universe that I could take my online classes anywhere with Wifi, and moved my totally love struck naive ass to the country; breaking all the promises I had made to myself, breaking down all the fortresses to protect myself, and defying all sense that I had once made to myself, I fell in love with a farmer, a farm, and farming. ~Joy