Wonders of the Natural World (on a small farm)

February 11, 2023 Yadira Ruiz

As you might imagine, farm life is a constant game of tug-o-war for one's attention and energy. It can easily turn into a game of ping-pong or a blindfolded egg toss if you aren't careful. I can't be sure, but I would guess that this particular dynamic is one of the reasons many first-time farmers don't make it past their first few years. It's easy to get caught up in the chaos and lose direction or spread yourself too thin and burn out. As unlikely as it may seem, the opportunities to tune in to a different frequency are also there. Enmeshed in the to do list are tiny spaces of sweet observance. They catch us off guard sometimes. We'll be tearing through a task with maniacal dedication and our eyes will catch a glimpse of tiny magnificence, an other worldly creature carrying out its lifecycle in the shadows of the plants or an inanimate object will remind us that we are just one component of the greater picture. Here's a few of those moments from 2022:

In a sea of bright green arugula, this plant's genetic expression resulted in variegation. The outer edges of half of the leaf were a creamy yellow. It was so gorgeous I had to pick it and put it in the washroom while I washed the arugula bunches. Just having it there to gaze at during the monotonous task of dunking bunched greens in and out of water served as a reminder that nature is abundant in adaptation and diversity.

While prepping a bed to transplant snap peas I came across a miniature version of ET (the fictional 1980's Extra Terrestrial). Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a slug inside of a fungus. This one stopped me dead in my tracks with delight. 

In the spring we removed old trellising material from summer 2021, a task that should have been done that fall but got deprioritized when the fall rains came early and we had to scramble and get other tasks done before it was too late. As I pushed down the lever on the t-post puller, a slight change in the grey-brown debris color palate shifted my gaze just enough to see a nest with tiny eggs in it.

A routine lettuce harvest turned into a quick photo session when moving the leaves around revealed that I was not alone. To avoid harming this tiny frog with lettuce colored pigmentation, I moved it to a safer spot. Moments like this are sweet but also a great reminder of why we triple wash all leafy greens before they get packed into orders.

Prepping a bed inside a greenhouse often means disturbing the first several inches of soil to remove weeds. As I was working with the scuffle hoe (also known as a hula hoe because of how it pivots back and forth), I hit a compacted section of soil. When I stepped back to see if there might be any clues about why the bed would be compacted in that particular spot, a flash of yellow stood out. While I can't make a direct connection between this organism (fungus? bacteria nodules?) and the compaction, I made a mental note to keep an eye on the eggplants that were destined to call that spot their home. (they did okay).

Sometimes the clouds remind you to stop and look up and crane your neck back to take it all in. Stretching breaks are crucial to our well-being. Seeing a sky like this makes want to stretch my limbs out, arch my back and move my neck in all directions. 

In the blanched hot summer landscape, a dark shadow stands out amongst the black plastic pots. If you've been to the farm, you know we don't do much in the way of "manicured landscaping" so there's plenty of spots for wildlife to take shelter. Sometimes we find them out in the open, stalking prey. In this case, it's a feral cat that we've dubbed Spooky, because he has a knack for blending in and hiding in plain sight.

One of my favorite routines of small farm life is the "walk about". Walking around and looking at how things are doing is a beautiful, meditative way of understanding how things are going. On these walk abouts, we mentally catalogue what needs to be done next, what might need a helping hand (insect netting to the left was the result of seeing that deer and aphids were destroying our collard seedlings) and how close we are to harvest for certain things. Here, the orach seeds in their ombre shades of pink, burgandy and green were striking against the early evening summer sky.


Nate harvesting the dried out Orach seed during the golden hour.

Cleaning up the sorrel bed is an annual winter duty. This year it revealed this mysterious, slightly gruesome, completely awesome organism. My guess is a fungus but at first I thought it was a clutch of eggs or larva.

If anything, these moments teach us to slow down and look again. What might at first appear as rotten garbage might actually be unveiled to reveal hidden beauty. I was scouting the farm for cooking mix ingredients when I came upon the cabbage patch. At first, it looked like trash but I decided to open up a melting head and was so glad I did. Surprises abound if you have the luxury of a stolen moment and the gift of curiosity.

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  • Yadira

    Feb 12, 2023

    Thank you all for your kind words!

  • Laura

    Feb 12, 2023

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful glimpses into life on the farm!

  • Barb Levine

    Feb 12, 2023

    Wonderful blog! I too love the “walk about” in my garden. Thanks for sharing all the tiny hidden miracles in yours.

  • Blanche

    Feb 12, 2023

    I appreciated the magical photos and moments on the farm.

  • Camille

    Feb 12, 2023

    Great photos! What a treat to see those scenes, especially the closeups!

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