Third Time’s a Charm


The carrots give Mike a heart attack every year.

Carrots are slow to germinate, and when they do, they germinate spottily and over a long period of time. A few plants here,  a couple days later a few plants three feet away from the first, then one lone carrot at the very end of the row, and nothing in between.

Inevitably, eventually, they all come up, but the weeks of waiting are spent with Mike first panicking that we did something wrong and nothing will grow. (What is wrong with the carrots?? It’s been two weeks and not a single thing has come up! Maybe we didn’t keep the soil moist enough. It’s still really full of clay. Should we have amended more? Should we replant?) Then, when the first babies start poking their heads through, it’s worry about spotty germination. (There are only a few! What’s taking the others so long? Should we backfill the empty spaces? I’m not sure about this variety. Maybe it was a bad pick!) Finally, a month or so in, all the baby carrots are up, happy, healthy and in such numbers that they need to be thinned. Mike, with only a few new carrot-induced gray hairs is free to move on to worry about other things, like how to defeat the leaf miners that love our beet greens or whether or not the hornworms have gotten to the tomato plants yet.

The annual Carrot Germination Freak Out has simply become part of our yearly routine and now, three years in, we at least know enough that I’m able to remind Mike that he frets about the carrots every year, that despite his fretting they come up every year, and that we should probably just let them do their spotty, unpredictable thing and focus instead on the endless supply of grasshoppers set on destroying every last potato plant, or any of the other 3 million problems that could wipe out the garden.

Three years in. June 24th marks the opening day of our third market season and for once, for the first time, we’re actually ready. Every row of the garden is planted and the plantings are staggered, so when we start pulling the first crops, others will already be growing to take their place. The irrigation system is repaired and running, row cover is over the most bug-susceptible crops, and we’re placing bets on if we’ll be pulling 400+ garlic plants for the first market, or the second. Mike’s spreadsheet has the rest of the season’s succession plantings planned and he’s sketched out the table set-up for the booth. A newly built market cart is sitting in the garage, and if we timed our baby chicks right, we’ll start getting additional eggs in August, in time for a full two months of market season.

Unbelievably, impossibly, we’re ready, which, after the year we’ve had makes me want to pump my fist in the air and shout a very not subtle, “F–k, yes!” good manners and polite language be damned.

In October of last year, reeling from Mike’s diagnosis, struggling  with his daily health, and exhausted from trying to finish the previous market season with all of that plus a couple of day jobs, we were on the verge of completely closing down the homestead. Instead, we took a break and decided not to think about it for a few months. We chose to use the winter for what it was made for: a time of hibernation and rest and not making major life decisions.

We made it maybe two months into our self-imposed moratorium on talking about the future of the farm. Then the January seed catalogs came. I began finding them scattered around the house: in the kitchen by a cup of coffee, on the couch by the fireplace, in the reading material basket that anyone with any common sense keeps in their bathroom. Shortly thereafter, the magazines were joined by books. Books microbial activity in soil, the nutritional values of vegetable varieties, the benefits of fungi all came and went, in and out of the house as if they were the ones who had decided they belonged here. One evening Mike pulled the garden binder back out and said, “So if we have five rows of garlic and do weekly succession plantings of beets and carrots…” and we were right back where we’ve been every spring since we’ve been together, prepping for a busy spring in the garden.

And this year we – he – nailed it.

Third time’s a charm, they say. For us it is. We are fully banking on a busy market season, full of beautiful vegetables, lots of business, and hopefully even a little profit.  But with or without all of this, we can still already say we’ve made it. We’ve already had an amazingly successful season because I can stand here and look at a full spread of hard work laid out before me in the form of neatly spaced rows, happy vegetable seedlings, and a farmer-husband whose health has been on a six month upswing contentedly digging in the dirt. Despite bigger setbacks than we’ve ever had, we’re more prepared than we’ve ever been.

As far as we can figure, things only get better from here. So, here’s to the best market season.

The third time is a charm.

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