Farming in the far north takes a lot of…..trial and error. Just when you think you know the ways you can improve your crops, your yield, your soil, your organization and tools, the next year is so wildly different.
Take this year for example. Every single person you come in contact with in Alaska this summer will tell you this is the rainiest, nastiest, coldest, darkest summer we have had in a long ass time. Fireweed on most of our property still hasn’t even bloomed. By this time last year, we had picked strawberries, blueberries – high and low bush, crowberries, and raspberries were almost finished. Harvested and (eaten first) frozen in the full freezer. This year, the raspberries and Saskatoons haven’t even started to ripen, we harvested half of a quart jar of strawberries (that broke full of berries and we didn’t even get to enjoy any!) and the blueberries we have only pecked at the bushes – wondering if more will magically appear and sparing what little food the birds must be getting to eat. The cranes are honking outside my window now to leave and the bees have only barely enough honey to feed themselves one day.
Every year has its own story. Last summer it was an entire garden space that just would not produce. It was a bear and the devastation it caused to our flock. It was the porcupines and moose coming in and eating almost everything.
Who could have predicted that this year we would have had so much rain that we “should” have used every square inch of the high tunnel for food production? How could we have better equipped ourselves? What can be done to be more precise in so much uncertainty? With a season that is drastically shorter than the lower 48 it also makes finding information, tips and tricks, and tough ass fast growing crops so much more difficult to come by.
Sometime I feel, and I know my husband feels the same, like we are failing. We are failing at business, we are failing at organizing, we are failing at being successful, we are failing because we are not making much money, everything seems to be constantly in a state of disarray, and I cannot ever seem to think of a solution let alone implement one that is 50/50 to work.
But then we read the words and work of Wendell Berry. We are inspired. Filled with pride. ˆReminded . Reminded that what we are doing is a success. We don’t need to focus on our societies first impression of success : money. We are reminded we chose to not sell anything this year and work solely on our family’s food and infrastructure for our farm. We are reminded that we have a Family Farm, by Berrys definition (read his 1986 piece “In Defense of the Family Farm”) We are creating soil fertility naturally. Reminded that we are learning. How do we learn the answers to the questions I have just typed? We keep going. We learn the cycles through time, through experience, through dedication. The dedication of doing it over and over and over.
So here we are today. After feeling crummy last week. Feeling absolutely revived. Feeling purposeful. INSPIRED. This IS why we are doing it. Because it is the right thing to do. No other reason necessary.
And that is why we we were going to have Marlena’s name be _?_ Wendell _?_ Stark . Because I was also sure she was a boy.
“Love, it’s a sacrament and it’s probably some kind of a necessity, to take responsibility to be able to love somebody, and marriage is a way of acknowledging and accepting that responsibility.” -Wendell Berry on “Bill Moyers in Conversation podcast