The swelter this past week brought out the crazies at the farm. Woodchucks burrowed manically under fencing to trample and chomp through loose beds of kale, chickens lost their small minds and pecked incessantly at heirloom tomatoes, chipmunks tore heat-swollen plums from young trees in the orchard, mockingbirds stripped and gorged on ripe pearls red currant.
Weather extremes bring out the worst in all creatures, great and small.
Even a colony of mostly well-behaved Italian bees swarmed off in a cloud of thrumming wings to cooler pastures. They ended up moving into a hollow in my neighbor’s faux-corinthian columns (they are Italian bees after all – were they pining for the Pantheon’s columns in Rome?).
No one prepares you for the forces acting against your farm, from absurd weather to the persistent and insatiable pressure of critters who think you’ve set a Whole Foods just for them ; it’s empirical trial and terror.
I’ve had to learn from my optimistic folly, and the more I learn the more I want to warn. To that end, I have a half dozen eager farm volunteers coming to Stonegate throughout the season, from Italy, France, Germany, all primed to experience to agony and ecstasy of small scale organic farming. They’re coming through an organization called WOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and will apprentice and learn for room and board. Good for all.
Ideally, everyone should have some sense of what it means to grow food from seed (that may be a necessary survival skill once the petroleum food economy collapses), and have some rich organic dirt under their nails and the deep muscle memory of hoeing, tilling and weeding.
Farming builds strong, resourceful bodies, and feeds the spirit (I was once asked where I “worked out” and I said I didn’t, but I “worked, out” – meaning “outside” where the sweat and strain has meaning).
Organic farming is also an act of political conscience. If, as Sylvia Breeland said, “How you eat changes how the world is used,” then WOOFers are interested in political change, to reversing the half-century old plague of proceesed industrial food and the various scourges of GMOs and acres of monoculture dripping with pesticides.
By volunteering on small farms like mine and making organic farming viable, WOOFers are changing how the world is used, one weed at a time. –Mb