September arrived as hot as August, but yesterday we woke to heavy fog. It clung to the valley below us until mid-morning and brought with it a welcome break in the heat. Although they aren't the best for the tomatoes, I love foggy mornings. In fact, when I married into the family in 1981 and moved to the farm, after my first heavy morning fog, I had a dream that has returned to me more than once, even when we lived for a winter in the high desert country of eastern Oregon.
The view from our "upper end" on a foggy morning. On a clear day we can see Mt. Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco.
In the dream I awaken here at Laurelwood to find that there has been some cataclysmic shift in the night and the ocean has surrounded Pine Mountain. Although the closest beach is about an hour from here, considering that this is earthquake country, that possibility isn't so far-fetched, though if it happened, being surrounded by the Pacific might not be the worst of our worries.
But at least this morning, the billowing white waves below weren't surf, just one of those heavy mists that touches everything with a wet gleam. The cool dampness was enough of an excuse to postpone work a bit and walk up to my mother-in-law's for coffee. Besides, the grape arbors are near her house. After coffee and conversation, we cut three large baskets of grapes. Figs came next – one of the trees is over 100 years old. My husband's grandfather climbed it as a small boy. Under the tree's swooping branches, there's always shade and often that's where we'll find the sheep when the temps climb into the 90s.
Here stands our little flock in front of our 100+ year old Mission fig tree (largest trunk). Immediately to the left is a much younger Adriatic fig tree.
This is a strange year on the farm. While all the fruit trees have produced abundantly, as have the cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers, long beans, tomatillos, and okra, other things have struggled. As I said in my last post, our tomatoes have suffered blossom-end rot, and some of the plants look scrappy and bedraggled, even though they usually last well into October. While the yellow crook neck and white scallops were prolific, the zuchinni, which has always been the top producer, was pretty meager. (I remember when we moved to Kansas for a time, people told us that in the summer, if we didn't like zuchinni, we should lock our car doors at church.) Now even the other squash plants are closing down.
Here are our squash plants in better days. In back is the chicken coop we converted to a greenhouse.
But overall, it has been a good year. Each Tuesday and Saturday we load up our truck and make our deliveries. Not only do the produce sales help pay for ranch expenses and taxes, but I have come to value the community that is coming into being with our customers. There is Emma, a young home-schooled pre-teen who just loves cherry tomatoes; Marian, another book lover who shares her latest reading finds; Jude, the hospice volunteer with the kind eyes and sweet smile; Rick, who always makes a fuss over our dog, Harold Hopper the wonder pup; Martha who posts great recipes on Facebook and is gracious enough to mention that the ingredients include our produce.
Our smaller pickup loaded for a Saturday delivery. While we have not used chemicals for more than 30 years, we are not certified organic. As we tell our customers, "Our produce is sustainably grown in the flavor zone."
When I was working more at my "outside" job, my farm time was much more limited. I only started helping Zack with deliveries last year. This year I've taken on weeding, more picking, most of the sorting, and half the phone calling. (We call each customer every week, 35 to 40 folks.) Most people know my name; quite a few even recognize my voice on the phone. I know who's been under the weather, whose grandkids are visiting, and who likes okra. We've shared recipes and books and family photos.
I've heard people who have 9 to 5 jobs talk about perks and benefits. Yes, vacations are certainly good for the body and soul, more money helps in these expensive times, and health care insurance relieves much worry and stress. But sometimes, when we're really lucky or perhaps somehow blessed, our work brings us benefits that can not be measured.