I’m tired of snow. I’m tired about talking about snow. And yet, here we are – talking about it. We’re weeks into spring and Boston is still spotted in a mottled, filthy layer of the stuff. I scan the forecast each day for a glimmer of hope. Sixty degrees please? Fifty-five? Sadly, the most imaginative meteorologists still put hope at least a 10-day forecast away.
Despite Nature testing our resolve to love her unconditionally, winter has otherwise been deeply restorative for Dina and me. Dina has mostly finished the book she was working on last summer (on shelves this summer!) and she’s now down to “only” one full-time job and part-time teaching. And I slowly eased back into photography last November after all the harvest bins were stacked away.
This ramp-down has freed up a luxurious amount of time for us to be a family and witness our son blossom into a little boy, full of vigor, curiosity and mischief. At the end of last season, his go-to words were “dirt” and “un-ga” (onions). Now he’s a continuous stream of unfiltered toddler excitement: “Pleassssse. Daddy. Go basement right now. Look at onions. Right now. Please. Good idea!” Before I had a kid, I didn’t find this type of chatter terribly miraculous. It was just normal toddler noise. But fatherhood continues to sensitize me to new kinds of awe.
As Wendell alluded to, all the alliums (onions family) are now seeded and growing happily in the basement under banks of high-efficiency florescent lights. This is a change from last year born of a serious dirth of greenhouse space currently on offer in the city.
And though we’d much rather be making use of the plentiful sunshine to start our plants, we’re pretty proud of our work-around so far. The top shelf alone of our 3-tiered, 10’ by 4’ growing rack (above) is home to 6,912 onions, leeks and scallions! The solar panels on our roof generate much of the energy that is pumped into the plants. And we soothe any lingering frustration by remembering we’re not burning 200 gallons of dead dinosaurs to heat our already-warm basement. It is all quite efficient, even if it looks suspiciously like a marijuana CSA from the street.
A few other things have changed for the upcoming year as well. To make the numbers add up, we were faced with two decisions: scale up (100 families +) or scale down. Both prospects are break-even scenarios. Scaling up involves big investments in machinery – the kind of machinery that doesn’t make financial sense unless we’re growing on 10-15 acres. Scaling down means less revenue and fewer investments but more time to supplement our income with photography (theoretically).
In the end, we decided 15-acre farming is not the direction we feel called. So we’ve scaled back this year’s membership as we continue to figure out how best to finance our family and this farm. Financing aside, we’re confident we can better care for our soil and feed a robust membership on less than 2 acres. We love farming with our hands in the dirt and getting to study each plant as we weed, water and harvest our way through the seasons.
All our memberships are sold out (thank you!) and as soon as the fields dry out and the soil warms up, it will be go time again. Wendell’s campaign to look at the seedlings in the basement only grows in intensity each day. And whenever I relent and take him to see the glowing racks of flats he always returns the favor, repeating in hushed tones, “So happy.”