I cannot believe it has been an entire year since I added a post to this blog. I graduated from the Farm Academy last fall and in January, 2017 I stated my urban flower farm in West Sacramento. A dream come true and wonderful, but an unbelievable amount of work to the point that between trying to manage the farm and juggling all my other jobs, I have had to temporarily put aside my quest to get my novel published. Now with this late fall breathing space, I am working on getting ready to make simultaneous submissions to different agents.
Here is Flourish Farm on June 1st, 2017 after beginning to plant in late April. I had half of the 1/4 acre plot, sharing the other side with another farmer. All of my warm season flowers were started from seed.
This photo shows the same area with all the flowers blooming in mid July. At this point I was awash in flowers, and it proved much more difficult to harvest and sell them than I had imagined. Fortunately, Center for Land Based Learning helped me plan/promote two U-Pick events for mid August. Unfortunately, various first year farming learning curve things were happening at the same time. For example, I didn’t realize that all the flowers were at their peak throughout July and would start the process of declining in August. I also didn’t realize that after our late June heat wave (temperatures for days on end in the 107 degree range) that all the plants were increasing in volume so fast that by the end of July it was becoming impossible to even walk through the furrows from one side of the site to the other. This issue was going to make it hard for the U-Pickers to access the flowers in August.
To offset some of these difficulties, I was fortunate to have Karen Swan from Center for Land Based Learning bring her high school student group from the City of West Sacramento’s Future Ready Internship Program to help one morning in early August. Here is part of the group cutting back zinnias and working on the process of taking down the huge amaranth plants.
Now here is where my Lit-Farm idea comes in. To back up a little, the whole time I am starting this farm I am wondering how it could ever provide an opportunity for anyone to talk about literature. As might be expected, all conversations on the site had been primarily focused on agriculture. So imagine my surprise when during an educational activity with this group later in the morning, a common book on high school English reading lists comes up: William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. And why it comes up is that the students were supposed to be making something out of a pile of amaranth stalks left over from the take down of this bed of plants. Many had grown to over 10 feet high and the long straight stalks looked like some sort of primitive building material. I had suggested a garden trellis as an idea, but handed them string and told them to make whatever they wanted. Within a few minutes, the group in the photo below had started making bows and arrows out of the amaranth stalks. When they proved too weak, breaking like celery stalks, they began cutting branches off the mulberry tree overhead in search of a better product. At this point I commented that the scene reminded me of the boys on the island in Lord of the Flies, and one of the students started talking with me about the novels he had read the previous year in English. Even though it was a small conversation, I was excited because this was exactly the opportunity I had hoped for.
While we were taking about books, the other group was making a stretcher. Amazingly, this later turned out to be sturdy enough to hold the weight of a student carried for a short distance.
Although there was no additional discussion of Lord of the Flies, another interesting thing happened. One of the students in the bow and arrow group objected to the others making weapons and promoting violence. She asked them to stop and make something else, but they refused. She then left her group and went off by herself to make a fan. This made me think about the conflicts of the boys on the island in the book, and the hunter-gatherer instincts we rarely see so graphically illustrated in our everyday lives. It was great. All very serendipitous.
But that was August and now it is late fall. I am tilling in flower beds and planting winter crops of sweet peas, lupine and stock. I still have a few flowers left to remind me of summer. Here are bells of Ireland, ‘Ruby Eclipse’ sunflowers, and ‘Summer Solstice’ zinnias still going strong on November 2nd. I hope to be farming the whole site in 2018 since the other farmer decided not to return. The U-Pick events were a success, and I would like to focus on having the farm open for that several days a week next summer. And who knows…. I might get to talk about literature with a few people.