We planted all of the tulip bulbs in one go last fall. It’s hard work: First you dig a trench 6” deep the entire length of the bed. Then you squat inside the trench and lay the bulbs in a tight grid edge-to-edge. As the trench fills you have less and less room to navigate, boot toes bumping up against bulbs, hips and shoulders tired.
It’s satisfying work, too, the result a tidy ribbon of pale dots stretching across the field. After digging and planting, we shoveled the displaced dirt back on top. And then we waited all winter.
It’s amazing to me that although every bulb went underground on the same day (or near to it), they’re emerging and blooming in waves. It’s like each variety is on it’s own timetable, listening for it’s own cues. Some are tall with slender stems, others are short and stocky. And they come in every romantic shade: deep purples and blush pinks and creamy, pale yellows.
What makes a flower the way it is? Am I any different?
I came home on this afternoon with a headache. The wind had whipped all day and I was tired, chapped, and ready to change out of my dirty clothes.
But I made a promise to myself some time ago that I wouldn’t put off any more photographs. If I have an idea for a shot, I try to execute right away. So many times I’ve thought “Oh, I’ll get it later,” not wanting to take the time to set up my camera or look silly in front of other people or figure out a pose. But later never comes. I got tired of my own excuses.
Headache and wind, I set up the shot, and I’m glad I did.
Learning to keep promises to myself has helped my mental health a lot.
If only I had rotated the camera two feet to the left… you could see the ridiculous abundance that was all of our bouquet material last week. I’ll get it next time.
It felt like hundreds of bouquets. It was most definitely more than several dozen.
I’ve always loved the tangible work of farming—how you can look up at the end of a day and see the results of your work with your own eyes. (So different than the experience of disappearing into a computer vortex for 8 hours a day.)
It’s especially lovely when the results are a porch crowded with dozens of floral buckets ready for market, each one overflowing with color and smell. I go home satisfied every time.
Tulips are so sexy.
Mysterious, silky, plump… all those iridescent petals in shades of blush, beckoning and curling more open in the vase each day…
We’ve been pulling them from the fields green, since they store well out of the ground (we harvest them with the bulbs still attached). After bringing them into the workshop, I sift through the the stems on the table, desperately curious to know what colors they’ll reveal in the vase. I’m excited for the customer who gets to see each one unfold.
I took the ones with crooked stems home—even drooping, they fill the room with riotous color and perfume. I’ve been seduced!
For the last 10 years, I’ve been working on sourcing more and more of my food locally. I had the lucky advantage of living with a farmer friend the first year I moved to Pennsylvania, which helped me get to know the farming community here a lot faster. Before that, when I lived in Brooklyn and NYC, it was years of many small changes and attempts.
Sourcing my food from local farmers—most of them now friends—is rewarding on every level.
- The food is more beautiful and tastes better than what I find in the grocery store, which helps me enjoy cooking more.
- The food has traveled less distance, so it stays fresher longer (no more slimy salad greens!) and reduces the use of nonrenewable fuels.
- There are no middlemen, so disruptions in the food supply like we’ve seen with COVID-19 aren’t an issue. I know where my food comes from—I have seen the fields. That feels good.
- What feels really, really good is being friends with my farmers. I love cooking a roast and thanking Clara & Jeremy before we tuck in. I like tossing a salad and thinking of Emma and her crew washing the greens. Slicing through a dense loaf of bread is even lovelier knowing that our friend Natalie kneaded the dough.
Food is medicine. Life is relationship. Food from local farms = health + relationship. Yes, please.
Here are a few tips to help you if you’re getting started on the journey:
1. The easiest and most obvious: visit a farmer’s market. There is likely more than one in your area. Go, browse, enjoy, and *talk* to the farmers! Ask where they are located and if they sell their products outside of the farmer’s market location and hours (they probably do). Personally, I prefer the flexibility and fun of buying directly on farms (like picking up greens at the cute farmstand @pansforest or veggies @kneehighfarm). CSA is a fabulous option.
2. See if your area has a directory of local farms. In the Lehigh Valley, we are lucky to have @BFBLGLV (buylocalglv.org). Google “farm directory” and a USDA search engine comes up. Do a little searching.
3. Don’t stress about labels and certifications if you are buying directly from small, local farms. I encourage you to ask questions about a farm’s practices if you’re comfortable with that, but don’t stress about it. It’s a big step just to move from grocery store shopping to more direct sourcing from farms, so don’t fuss about the details initially. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Be patient. Sourcing and eating locally is a mindset shift more than anything else. I had to get used to shopping at less convenient times, planning ahead, cooking more at home, and other changes—all enjoyable and worthwhile, but changes. Changing takes time. I’m still learning. Enjoy the process and forgive yourself if you missed the weekly market or didn’t plan enough in advance to make the farm pick-up.
5. Make friends with farmers. They want to sell you their product and be in relationship with you. They want to support your health and your family. Talk to them; see if they want volunteers. Don’t be shy!