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Victory Lap...and Launch

April 23, 2023

The past three weeks have been such a whirlwind of activity, I’m tempted to wonder if June will be any calmer. June is never calm, but it’s not every spring we install a deer fence. Or train new staff. Or go weeks without rain. But we knew this spring would be intense, and we were prepared. Now that we've cleared the biggest hurdle—the fence is up!—we're ready to face June.

Four weeks ago, we still didn’t have an installation date for the fence. Our only assurance was that it would happen sometime in April. When the company called on March 31 and asked if April 3 worked for us, we said absolutely. Two flatbed trailers arrived at dawn on April 3, carrying dozens of 12’ posts, giant rolls of 8’ fencing, two ATVs, two skid steers, and the 5-person LB Fencing crew. After a quick walk around the farm, they got right to work, each person focused on his own specialized task. They quit at 4pm and were back by 7am the next day. By 4pm April 4, the crew was on its way home to Pennsylvania. No sooner had they left than Dan and I were busy setting up shop around the farm—clearing openings to New Pond Field, leveling the ground beneath the gates, determining how to store the irrigation lines that had been shifted to make way for the project.

And the fence itself? Beautiful! Once the job was complete, I was caught off-guard by how many people were both impressed—and relieved. Chain link, PVC, even orange snow fencing were among the materials folks told me they were expecting. I don’t know where they got those ideas, but rumors love a vacuum, and I guess I could have been clearer in my project pitch. Oh well...I had a lot going on. At any rate, the finished product speaks for itself, and Dan and I are thrilled beyond measure. To Marlin, Mel, and the LB Fencing team, we can't thank you enough!

Last Sunday, we gathered with family and friends to remember Farmer Steve. It was good to sit and eat and laugh with his brother Rich, his son Dave, and his nephew Anthony. Preparing for the party pushed me to give the Tin House bathroom its annual deep-clean, which always makes me think of Steve. Why? Because the first time I delegated CSA set-up to him, he was late getting the veggies on the tables, but the bathroom was so clean, you could eat off the floor! I doubt I'll ever clean the bathroom as well as Steve did, but once a year I'll give it my all, and think of him as I do.

And now for a big introduction: two weeks ago, our full-time field assistant, Mike Simpson, arrived for his first day of work, and he hasn't looked up since. Mike is a Californian from the Bay Area who moved to New York ten years ago in pursuit of art. To pay the bills, he bartended and worked as an architectural photography assistant. The pandemic—and his entry into fatherhood—inspired Mike’s shift towards agriculture. This is Mike’s first farm job, and Dan and I are excited to have him on board. We're confident that the skills he honed as both artist and bartender—drawing straight lines, working with many different people—will come in handy at Restoration Farm.

And what an introduction to farming the past two weeks have been. Planting. Mulching. Weeding. Seeding. More planting. Sorting irrigation lines. Setting up irrigation lines. Working with the bosses. Working with the crew. Working with volunteers. Working alone. Into his second week, he got a taste of how stressful farming can be when the weather doesn’t cooperate, which is often. Normally, we can count on plenty of springtime rain to get the plants off to a good start, but this April has been bone dry, upending many assumptions and systems. Row cover, for instance, is our best defense against flea beetles and leaf miner, pests that feed on brassicas, beets, and chard, but it also traps heat. That isn’t so bad if the soil is wet, but it can be devastating if the soil is dry. When I realized our brassica plants were at risk of overheating—indeed, some had already fried to a crisp—I called a hiatus on planting and redirected our attention to the plants already in the ground. We spent an entire day pulling back the row cover, replacing dead plants, and making sure everything got plenty of water. It’s always nerve-wracking to work among stressed plants, especially this early in the season, but after a full day of seedling TLC, I felt confident the babies would pull through. And fortunately for us, it rained buckets last night.

Last week was stressful because the dry weather caught us off-guard, but once we let go of our assumptions, we could pivot and do what needed to be done. What a change from last July, when we didn’t even know what to do about the deer. Now that the fence is up, I’m the most hopeful I’ve been in years, ready to launch into the 2023 season. That means bringing the fence project, including the fundraiser, to a close. Our goal is $50,000. As of today, we’ve raised $30,000. We're still awaiting word on the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District grant. To the 188 people who have already donated, we are so grateful! To the folks who've said they intend to donate, now is the time. If you can’t remember if you've donated, you can view a complete list here. And if you’re an anonymous donor who would like to keep your dollar amount private but see your name on the list, let me know! As I said to the Boy Scout pack that visited the farm today, Restoration Farm is a public farm, on public land, owned by the people of Nassau County. When Dan and I retire, whoever follows in our footsteps will have the advantage of healthy soil, a vibrant community, and a rock solid deer fence. They will have what they need to nourish the community as we have. We got the fence up, but we need help getting it paid for. Please help us achieve our goal, so we can get back to the fun part— farming!

Thanks for reading!


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