It has now been three weeks since I packed up my clothes&books, sublet my precious attic room in an 8 person Brooklyn collective, and moved to a 2 acre organic farm on Block Island, Rhode Island with my boyfriend, John.
I haven’t heard a car alarm in three weeks. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard a car horn either– except that one accidental honk in a parking lot as a result of John pushing the lock button twice. It startled the little old lady who owns the island “health store” as she was carrying a stack of puzzles from the basement up to the puzzle section.
Replacing the sounds of the city, and doing a mighty fine job of it, are the birds.
Birds and birds and birds.
From the meow-like call of the gray catbird to the beautifully mesmerizing coo of the mourning dove, it’s a never-ending symphony that Brooklyn moms only wish their bird sound noise machines came anywhere close to mimicking. If you walk past a wetland area at night you’ll hear the peeper tree frogs belting out their impressively loud cricket-like chorus. And if you listen carefully, or actually if you have any ears at all, you’ll hear the confident doodledoo of the cocky rooster about 300 times a day at random intervals.
We work 40 hours a week, with Sundays and Mondays off, and live in an adorable little cabin with no running water and an electric burner, toaster oven and mini fridge. We have full access to their spare bathroom, which is about 50 yards away, and use the sink in the basement to wash dishes and whatnot.
The farmer’s market and CSA starts the second week of June, and until then we have a lot of pre-season work to do. In these past three weeks we have completely transformed the hoop house from a dry, empty, box of weeds to a lush, tomato/pepper/eggplant/lettuce-inhabiting box of life. We’ve also fertilized and added compost to almost 2 acres worth of land, and my back is remarkably stronger as a result. We’ve seeded directly into the soil beets, radishes, carrots, arugula, millet (to use as a cut flower, not a grain), and turnips, and we’ve transplanted into the ground seedlings that were started in the greenhouse- lettuce, fennel, snap peas, raspberries, strawberries, eggplant, peppers, and a long list of others to get in the ground as soon as possible.
Flowers are a big selling point here, and some of the many many varieties grown on the farm are dahlias, daffodils, lilies, sweet peas, tulips, and lily of the valley, which only blooms about two weeks of the year.
They smell incredible. Incredible enough to inspire a bike adventure to a house on the island with a big patch that we sought out to admire. I totally understand why Princess Kate’s bouquet was comprised mostly of these beauties.
The variety of crops grown here is impressively diverse for such a small farm, and Suzanne, the woman who runs the show, really does a great job of utilizing of every morsel of space to the fullest.
Looking out at the field, it may seem like vast brown emptiness is the majority of what you see, but just beneath and just above the soil is an abundance of life, just waiting for a few warm and sunny days to flourish.
As we wait patiently for the fruits of our labor, the luxury of eating off the land, we make do with what we have, and spice it up with a little creativity and a lot of love for food. We’re living mostly on grains and beans we stocked up on in NYC before we left, with help from an amazingly generous care package from John’s mom, Amy (thanks again!). We supplement the overpriced and no-where-near-the-quality-of-the-brooklyn-food-coop produce from the two small grocery stores with the findings of our foraging excursions. Example: dandelion greens salad, dandelion flower pancakes.
This past week we got the first taste of farm produce with a bit of pea greens (delicious) that were harvested for the fanciest restaurant on the island, and some green garlic that came out mostly unintentionally as we were weeding the overwintered madness of the perennial area.
This coming week we’ll be transplanting, transplanting, weeding. These little cuties are getting too big for their cells.And to end this quite long post, I leave you with this. The hungry hungry fluff ball giant caterpillar chomping on a blade of grass–you could actually hear the chomping if you listened closely.