Blessed with work.

After stumbling into the house from the falling dark of dusk and describing to my wife my night and the work yet to do she dropped that little proverb.  Blessed with work.  Indeed.

I’ve always thought so.  There are certainly times when the work can seem less like a blessing than a curse.  But the truth of the matter is that there are few things that would fulfill me as much as the work and care that goes into the production of real food for my family and my customers.

Over the past week and weekend that work has included moving my mobile hoop houses, which occurs twice each year, spring and fall.  Here is a link to Part 1 of a series of videos I shot in the fall of 2012 showing the moving.  You can find the other 4 videos on youtube as well.  I do it a bit differently now with an easier system but the general idea is the same.  Below is a picture of the garden where the houses sat all winter.


Fall, winter and spring growth!

Fall, winter and spring growth!

Not a very tidy site.  But it’s difficult to clean up after three seasons of growth when there is a hoop house over it.  That’s one of the many great advantages to the mobile hoop house system I’ve adopted here at the farm.  As you can see below, I am able to completely prep a bed before moving a hoop house onto it.  This not only gives me a fresh start, a clean slate if you will, but also allows me to go and tidy up a bit where the hoop houses were during the winter.  I can now swing my scythe freely without worrying about puncturing plastic or slicing an anchor rope.

A blank canvas with a hoop house suddenly over it!

A blank canvas with a hoop house suddenly over it!

I spent this evening putting tomato plants into the very ground pictured above.  This time of year routinely finds me filling the valuable real estate of a summer hoop house with tomato and cucumber plants.  I started at about 7:15 pm and in just under two hours I had planted 90 healthy, happy tomato plants into their new home.  It was quite dark by the time I finished and I had to make the last of my variety labels by the light of a small pen light I keep with me.  But luckily, I was able to snap a photo of the other hoop houses to show you what the next step looks like.

After digging the walking paths, composting and planting - the tomatoes are off and running.

After digging the walking paths, composting and planting – the tomatoes are off and running.

The next steps include running the drip-tape irrigation lines, mulching the entire house to prevent weed germination and retain moisture and then comes the work of trellising.  After that I’ll have to prune and train the plants every two weeks throughout the growing season, not to mention harvesting when that time finally arrives.  While most of the valuable space in the hoop houses is taken up by tomato plants I also use the space inside our seedling house after seedling season is over to get in a couple rows of trellised cucumbers.  Here I am in the middle of the transition.   A difficult time when it’s critical to start getting the plants into the ground but I still have a lot of plants on trays that need protection.  The seedling house is stationary (currently) and therefore involves much more physical labor in that I have to move the composting manure (which I use for the heat to germinate my seeds) by hand.  Blessed with work…

Seedlings out - must make room for the summer residents!

Seedlings out – must make room for the summer residents!

As if there weren’t enough on the spring farmer’s plate I also have to work quickly to ‘sticker’ the lumber I had milled out after a winter’s worth of forestry work.  Our sawyer has just completed the pile and now I have to move the lumber to our home to air dry. This involves layering the pieces so air can travel freely around each one.  Considering I had most of the heavy pine milled into timbers for a timber frame I’m building at our new farm…this involves a lot of heavy lifting.

I don’t want to give the impression I’m the only one working at the farm.  Our animals do a lot for us.  The chickens, for instance love to move the lawn and find pesky little bugs and their larvae and dispose of them.  The result is the most wonderful egg you can imagine.  Dark yellow yolks that stand at attention when dropped into a pan and taste delicious.

Memorial Day 008


Things are going crazy now that we’re getting a little bit of heat and all this rain.  When the sun comes out it will be difficult to keep up.  The garlic patch is a good indicator of how the rest of the garden is doing.  Just a couple weeks ago some of these shoot hadn’t even burst through their mulch.  Now they’re knee high.  Excellent!

Go Garlic Go!!!

Go Garlic Go!!!

Until next time I’ll keep slogging away, blessed as I am and hopefully you’ll be out at  your local market or opening your CSA bag with the marked anticipation that comes from knowing you’re about to engage in one of the most rewarding activities available to us, the preparation and enjoyment of real food, fresh from the Earth.  Until then, Local Food.  Eat well – be well.


Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.