What’s with the birds?

I do love rainy days. This season especially I count on them to get caught up on some needed “correspondence” time. Responding to emails, communicating with share holders, and blogging are on the always to do list; the list that usually gets pushed to rainy days. However, I always forget that rainy days are also great days to nap, or bake muffins, or watch Netflix with the family, and suddenly my ambition is lost to a soft pillow, or numerous Wonder Years episodes. So today I’m trying my hardest to make this work. I’m sitting at my beautiful, antique desk, in a hard chair, next to a well lit window, with a cup of premium roast in my camping mug.

Let’s blog.

So we’ll start with Liz:



Liz is a canadian goose, lost, apparently. I spotted her and her partner Marv on the roof of the Standard Knitting Mill about a week and half ago. They were humorously out of place against the broken windows and industrial facade; perhaps they were resting on their way to West Knoxville, or Canada? But by the next day they had built their nest, and Liz hasn’t moved since. They will now belong in the archives of other “city birds” I’ve encountered since working on this project. City birds, I’ve found, are tough, curious, bold. They don’t fly away from crumbs when you walk by, they perch on steel cables above swift traffic. They never seem frantic or surprised, they have no where to be other than right there, peering sideways at you. The birds at the field, they’re no different. They walk behind me, picking worms as I dig holes for new plants, they may also be responsible for eating the cover crop seed that has yet to sprout on our fall field. But they do keep me company, and I’d miss the chatter if they weren’t around. Sweet Liz, stoic as a statue, unmoved by the wind and rain in her unlikely nesting place, on an open metal roof, above a dirty creek. Surely I would think this place could offer her some quiet corner, some peaceful shelter to raise her little family this spring, but I suppose she knows better than I on such matters.


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It has been a frantic last few weeks covering and uncovering plants, studiously studying the weather forecast to see how much longer old man winter would hang on. To quote a friend of mine: “March came in like a lion, and out like catholic guilt”. The cold did manage to nip a few of our young leafy greens, but most things have weathered well. A word of advice: if you ever need to feel really good about yourself as a gardener/farmer, just grow peas. Peas will make it through anything, they grow quickly, and make a beautiful back drop when trellised. Their taproot is great for breaking up compacted soils and they hardly ever need to be watered. Peas have seen me through some tough times.

Tom Thumb lettuce, my favorite to grow.

But, this weeks forecast looks AWESOME and so it is time to plant, plant, plant. I have a tremendous amount of root bound seedlings ready to be planted and an almost empty field waiting for some color. Potatoes will hopefully be planted this week as well, along with another succession of some direct seeded crops.IMG_20140330_151150_801

We’ve begun to seed a bunch of our summer crops. Our first batch of tomatoes acquired a few of their grown up leaves this weekend. So the greenhouse, literally, smells of summer.

East Tennessee is truly magical this time of year. Roadsides become beds of wildflowers and blue stem grasses, and the hills gleam with pink and red from newly formed buds. Daffodils grace every available urban-scape and even abandoned alley ways become enchanted with ivy and low lying branches. Soon enough the lighting bugs will find their place again along the creek and folks will be occupying their front porches for conversation and good times. You have to have winter to really feel like you’ve earned these walkabouts to spring, this year especially, they’ll be all the sweeter.



To conclude this blog post I’ll end with a poem a friend showed me a few years ago, when Abbey Fields was just another conversation on the front porch of aspirations. It is, of course, by the beloved Wendell Berry, and has been a source of inspiration for me along the way.


The Wild

In the empty lot
a place not natural but wild,
among the trash of human absence, the slough and shamble of the city’s seasons,
a few old locusts bloom.
A few wood birds fly and sing in the new foliage.
Warblers and tanagers
birds as wild as leaves.
In a million each one would be rare, new to the eyes.
A man cannot make a habit of such color, such flight and singing,
But they are the habit of this wasted place.
They are its remembrance
of what it is.





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