Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


Leave a comment

Farmer Field Trip: Stratford Ecological Center

I’m not traveling as I’d hoped this summer, but the time is flying by. A few weekends ago, I took advantage of an invitation from OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) to spend the day at Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware. If you haven’t been, you need to go. If you have, you probably need to go back.

Stratford was instrumental in my development as a farmer. I first learned about it when our older kids attended farm camp there, about 15 years ago. Despite its increasing popularity, the littlest was able to follow more recently. The drive up from Columbus isn’t short, about 30 minutes, but pleasant. About as closer to “a quick trip to the country” as you can get in Central Ohio without getting on the interstate. It used to be more quaint, but development has really changed to landscape between here and there over the past decade. In a way, all that building makes Stratford more special – 236 acres set aside to preserve nature and teach children (and their teachers and families) where food and fiber come from.

When you arrive, you enter through Stratford State Nature Preserve: 60-some-odd acres of woodland set aside to do what it will. Cruising through the narrow, winding road, you feel hugged by the trees and your blood pressure drops. After a few minutes, you emerge on the farm fields under big open sky. Depending on the year and the season, might be planted with hay, sunflowers, and other tall large field crops.

Walking around, you’ll meet the flock of chickens who live amidst the apple trees, pass through the high tunnel (the first I’d ever seen and still one of the prettiest) tasting greens, and pet sheep, llamas, pigs, and other mammalian livestock. Also on display are an edible rain garden, straw bale building, and . In the winter, the sugar shack is humming, converting countless gallons of sap into maple syrup.

The purpose of my visit this summer was to tour the farm with Jeff Dickinson, Farmscaper at Stratford since its founding in 1990, learn about the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) – a marker bill designed to get Congress thinking more about the connections between farming and climate, and help participants digest the lessons we learned through some creative activities leading up to contacting our legislators asking them to support the ARA.

“The Agriculture Resilience Act will expand resources for sustainable farmers working hard to build healthy soils and fight climate change, building on six key focus areas: increasing investment in agricultural research, improving soil health, supporting the transition to pasture-based livestock, ensuring farmland preservation and viability, promoting on-farm renewable energy production, and reducing food waste.” (OEFFA, April 22, 2022)

I learned a lot during the legislative briefing and participated in good conversations that got me energized to make some phone calls, send postcards to my representatives, and educate others about how sustainable farming can help mitigate climate change. I’ll post again with more specifics there. In the meantime, read up on the bill through the link above and consider picking an issue that resonates with you. Contact your legislator, talk to your neighbors about it, and write to your local newspaper editors.


Leave a comment

Farmer Field Trip: Wild Hare Prairie Native Nursery

When you love to grow things and see a new sign pop up in your neighborhood like this, you stop and take notice.

Christy Harris started Wild Hare Prairie Native Nursery as a pandemic project at her home on E Beaumont Road in Beechwold (aka northern Clintonville). I didn’t get a chance to stop by last season but took advantage of a free hour Friday afternoon to hop on my bike and make visit. Not only was it Earth Day, but I was just a few days out from hearing an inspirational talk about re-wilding private lands by Doug Tallamy through Sustainable Upper Arlington and the UA Libraries. (Thanks as always for the tip, Bernadett!) In addition to all that, it’s peak spring ephemeral season here in Central Ohio so you could say I have native plants on my mind…

I hopped off my bike and starting checking out the dozen or so varieties of plants Christy had on display in the driveway. They looked healthy, and while some seemed familiar, there were plenty of new things too and Christy was ready to tell me ALL about them! Latin names, growing habits, and more. I was impressed.

I followed Christy through the privacy fence across the driveway into the back yard. I was speechless; seedlings as far as the eye could see. Countless cultivars, literally as I asked Christy if she was keeping track and the answer was something like “not yet.” Even more remarkable, Christy is learning everything by doing. She has no formal education in horitculture and is so humble about her knowledge. She told me, “It all started with milkweed for the monarchs… Now I just try to grow as many plants as I can.”

The backyard nursery was like no place I have ever been before, and I’m no stranger to garden tours. In addition to thousands of seedlings (including some that she’s been nursing for three years – Hello, Compass Plant!) there were established beds in sun, shade, part shade and even a wetland habitat with blooming marsh marigold. I can’t wait to visit again later in the season. As I told Christy, I intend to spend a lot of money at her house this year as I work on diversifying what’s growing at our place.

Christy is a local plant shero and neighborhood treasure. Visit her throughout the season – her inventory will change as things mature – and tell her I sent you!

Wild Hare Prairie Native Nursery is open from “sign up to sign down.” You can also find Christy at farmer’s markets all over Central Ohio this season, including Bexley, Franklin Park, and Worthington where she’ll be May 7th, as well as Facebook and Instagram.


Leave a comment

Farmer Field Trip: A Garden of Hope

This is the first of a series of posts I’ll be sharing this season highlighting growers in central Ohio. If I’m lucky, I’ll venture beyond the borders of the Buckeye state once or twice before the fall frost comes back around. I’m looking forward to taking the season off from our CSA in order to learn about what others are doing and contemplate new directions for our operation in the years to come. Hope you’ll join me on these adventures. – Jodi

This time of year, I spend a lot of time in the basement taking care of seedlings. It’s quiet, methodical work – sowing, watering, monitoring, thinning, transplanting – that seems perfectly suited for wintertime. But as soon as the sun starts shinning, and especially after the clocks spring forward and the temperature warms a little, I’m ready to get out.

As I’m taking it easy this year in observance of shmita, I have a few visits to other Columbus growing operations planned. Recently, I got to swing by the Howlett Greenhouses at OSU (along with longtime friend and photographer of the farm Julian Halliday) to check out how Amy Barr is getting ready for the season as garden coordinator for the James Cancer Center’s Garden of Hope.

Amy showing off her seedlings including ginger, rosemary, and other woody herbs regenerated from previous harvests.

2022 will be Amy’s 5th year with the garden, promoting the concept of food as medicine. From June-October cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers are invited to spend time in and harvest from the garden as often as once a week. While there, they learn about the nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet, which studies suggest may help prevent the growth and spread or cancer. In addition to increasing patients’ familiarity, knowledge, and access to healthy foods, the program promotes time outdoors and supports the psychological benefits of social engagement, breathing fresh air, and getting soil under your fingernails.

Amy works in concert with a dietician to teach participants how to add more produce to their plates. A healthy goal, she suggested, is to fill half the plate with vegetables and plant-based proteins. While they emphasize produce, they do not push a vegan or vegetarian diet. By visiting the garden, she reports, people are more likely to try new things. Staff and dietetics students from the university provide easy recipes to get people inspired by what they bring home.

In the same way the garden inspires participants, it has been inspired by them. Over the years, staff has expanded what they grow to meet the cultural demands of those they serve. After it was requested on patient surveys, Okra, was added to the garden offerings. Bonus: It has a beautiful flower. Patients have also taught Amy and her colleagues new ways to use familiar plants – like sweet potato leaves.

Like the rest of us, Amy and her team had to pivot their operations during the pandemic. Rather than a volunteer system, they ran the garden more like a tradition CSA – participants drove up to the garden and received a weekly share. While this was limiting in many regards, they learned that people were more likely to try new things when given them in a pre-made bag than when they were picking for themselves. This year they plan to try offering a “featured item” that everyone receives alongside those they gather for themselves.

If you or someone you know have or are living with a cancer diagnosis and are interested in learning more about The Garden of Hope, sign-up for their orientation April 30th, click here. You don’t have to be a patient at The James to participate and your caregiver (up to two, who need to register individually) can come along.

I can’t wait to visit the garden again this summer when it’s in full bloom. (Though it did look beautiful in it’s winter slumber….)

The Garden of Hope on The Ohio State University’s Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Complex @ Kenny Road.


1 Comment

A Poem in Praise of Shmita

Snow

Erases all the messy bits of the city.

The broken sidewalks, the litter, the dirty piles of last week’s snow.

And it’s quiet.

Few cars on the street, shops closed early and

You wonder why more families aren’t out dancing in the snowy twilight.

Shabbat

Shmita

Focusing on rest and reconnection prepared you to take advantage of this moment. 

You gear up and head out.

What could be more important than living this one beautiful moment.


1 Comment

Hope is Flowers

Well, the entire 2021 season has come and gone and I haven’t posted anything in this space. That last offering was about flowers (see Cultivating a Love of Flowers) and those were one of the few things that did really well this year. Guess this proves the notion that you get what you give. I put energy towards flowers in the spring and we reaped the benefits. That said, and despite everything I wrote in the spring about developing an appreciation for flowers, you can’t eat them, at least not enough for a balanced diet.

As always, I felt inspired to write, there was plenty on my mind. I maintained our social media feeds so at least there is some record there of what transpired. But it was a hard year. Global weirding was in full effect and we saw long periods of super hot and dry weather alternating with lots of rain and spells of unseasonable cool. My energy and enthusiasm waned – I didn’t go out to work as much as I used to or organize CSA work sessions as regularly as in the past. More wild animals came to dine at our salad bar than ever, causing crop failure on multiple fronts. And we saw diseases, like tomato mosaic virus, I’d only read about before.

So, I can’t say I’m completely sad it’s October. We’re cleaning up and looking to the future. But this time I’m playing a long game. Last month, at the Jewish holiday of Rosh haShanah, an official shmita year began. Some readers will remember this is the seventh year biblical sabbatical called for in the Torah of Jews living in the land in Israel. I planned to take my own shmita year in the summer of 2019 as it was out 7th farm season (see: Embracing Persephone: My Shmita Year). That plan was derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and I see 2021-22 (5782 on the Jewish calendar) as a second chance to take a much needed break.

As I look back on the year gone by and start to imagine the next seven, I have a few things I’m genuinely thankful for. Blessings worth noting and planning to make a part of our work moving forward.

First, Thanks to all the people who sent messages and photos of how the farm impacted your lives! From produce you turned into hot sauces, cocktail mixers, and new sandwich toppers to the seedlings you took home, nurtured, and enjoyed I’m grateful for your new ideas and appreciations. It’s so great to know what happens to the bio-mass we put out into the world.

Second, thanks to everyone who hosted me for farm and garden visits this year. From old friends to new acquaintances, to strangers I didn’t get to meet, I’m inspired by your work in rural and urban spaces throughout Central Ohio and beyond. Here are a few of the highlights.

(clockwise from top left) Mezzacello, Olde Towne East; Ithaca Community Garden, NY; Highland Youth Garden, Hilltop; Sharing Garden, Beechwold; Gomer’s Garden, Clintonville

Thanks also to those who visited the farm and reminded me its not like everyone else’s backyard. Where I saw mess, you saw magic. Where I saw what could be, you saw what was. Thank you for coming to sit by the fire pit for a chat, thank you for leading yoga classes in the driveway, thank you for sending your children to us for camp, and thank you for following us on social media and letting us know what we are doing is helping you see possibilities in your own spaces.

And finally, we circle back to the flowers. Thank Gaia for the flowers. I didn’t count the number of bouquets I cut this season, but I know it was a lot. As our friend Julian recently suggested, each one was a love song of sorts – a collection sown, grown, and gathered with love. And as our friend and yoga instructor Emily suggested, flowers offer us an opportunity to pay attention, to cultivate our mindful presence as we work to navigate and co-create new normals. That’s something I hope to do a lot of between now and Fall 2022. You may or may not hear much from me between now and then but I’ll look forward to being with you on the other side.


1 Comment

Cultivating a Love of Flowers

I came to flowers later in my gardening life. I cut my teeth growing edibles. As a new gardener, I had a set of self-proclaimed black thumbs, little knowledge, a limited amount of resources, and couldn’t fathom why anyone would spend time cultivating plants that couldn’t be eaten. What was the point of flowers, really?

I soon learned how important flowers are to a healthy vegetable garden – and which ones can be eaten! As Lisa Mason Ziegler teaches, Vegetables Love Flowers. And so do bees and birds and other bugs that help our ecosystems thrive.

The year we started the farm, following a lesson on pollinators during the OSU Master Urban Farmer training program, I planted a bee highway in two beds that stretched across the farm east to west. Many of the plants were native perennials I purchased through the Worthington Gardening Club – Aster, Coneflower, Bee Balm, Sedum. Over time I added more; Yarrow and Columbine, Chives, Coreopsis and Black-Eyed Susan to name a few.  

When those plants outgrew themselves, I started dividing them and selling the offspring to generate additional funds for our work. At our first sale in 2017, I sold maybe 100 plants.

Fast forward five years and we have over 40 different types of seedlings for sale and have partnered with our fabulous friend Bernadett Szabo who grows mostly medicinal and culinary herbs. I’ve expanded my offerings beyond native and perennial flowering plants to annuals as well.

(Some of the flowers we’ll have for sale May 1st!)

Over my time on the farm I’ve come to realize flowers have lots of purposes. In addition to supporting pollinators and adding color to the landscape, people love to give and receive flowers. Flowers bring people joy. They make an occasion feel special. Our CSA members enjoy receiving bouquets alongside their edibles, and the community has supporting the farm and other nonprofits through additional sales.

At a sale I had last fall – “Buy the flowers before the frost kills them!” – a women who purchased a bouquet turned me onto Lisa Mason Ziegler’s work. In addition to her treatise on companion planting mentioned above, she has a ton of resources on extending the flower growing season. She even partnered with Johnny’s Seeds, like Eliot Coleman before her, to offer tutorials and recommendations on seeds and other supplies for growing Cool Flowers.

This season we’re trying some of Ziegler’s methods for jump-starting the flower season, and following some of her recommendations on varieties to grow. Some of these will be available at our 5th Annual Pollinator Lovers’ Plant Sale and Open House on May 1st.

I’m not ready to give up growing greens and tomatoes for flowers, but I have found found my love for them. And I look forward to sharing with you.


Leave a comment

Like a Perennial, We Rise

[Basement-born seedlings chilling in a cold frame, in the high tunnel. (left to right clockwise – chamomile, nigella, malva, poppy, calendula, larkspur, snapdragon, celery, blanket flower, bee balm).]

Late winter and early spring have been so much richer since I started growing seedlings a decade ago. Indoor seed starting gives me months more pleasure watching things germinate and tending to plant babies in the nursery. This year was no different. I started right around New Year’s and now the basement seeding station and high tunnel are packed with product for our 5th Annual Pollinator Lovers’ Plant Sale with Bernadett’s Farmacy and starts for our CSA.

I feel at once like the soundtrack for my life in this moment could be Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun’.” This time of year is really busy on the farm and it’s also a time of rising up from winter’s slumber. We’re savoring the last days of “soup season” and enjoying the bright fresh herbs and greens. I’m working on this idea of holding conflicting ideas in my head at once. It’s a theme that seems to keep popping up for me.

All that to say that I’m happy it’s spring. Very happy. And I’m finding it harder than usual to dust off the tools and get to work.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been out back every day since mid-February tinkering, seeding, propagating, turning, pruning, spraying, moving. I am so grateful, once again, to have the privilege to work the patch of land we are currently stewarding. And, I’m really starting to feel my age – physically and mentally. I move a little slower and with more creaks than when we got this started and I’m more hesitant to put my ideas out in the world. Not quite sure whom I want to commit to being at the moment.

We are all coming out of our Covid-chrysalides and figuring out who we will be now. It’s an incredible opportunity, and incredibly terrifying.

One thing that’s helping me build inspiration for the growing season is visiting friends’ farms. Last year was really isolating. Farming is already pretty isolating but I really missed farm visits. I didn’t realize how much.

Last week I got to visit Rachel Tayse at Harmonious Homestead and Bernadett Szabo at the new location of Bernadett’s Farmacy. It was so energizing. If you have the chance, go visit a local farm or gardening friend in the next few weeks. Share your plans, ask questions, just look. Here are a few of my highlights.

Where are you finding inspiration? I can always use more.


Leave a comment

Preserving Lessons from Our Semi-Wild Season

Fall on the farm is the time for preservation: collecting and saving seeds in the field, canning produce in the kitchen. This growing season has been like no other in our farm’s short history. We went from planning a sabbatical to planting a victory garden. We limited visitors on site while attempting to stay connected and relevant. We weathered another hot and dry summer as we tried a few new strategies for planting, tending, and letting things grow wild.

I’m sorry I didn’t share more. Not because I think I let readers down, but because this blog is my memory. For the last seven years it has served as a preservation space for my experiences and day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year observations. And I’m so glad I did the work to build that archive. I use it all the time.

A few weeks back, for example, our neighbor Leslie sent me this text:

Using the blog’s search function, I found a post from April 12, 2014 featuring a slide show of one of our first full work days on the farm. Included was this photo of Leslie and her son along with other neighbors and friends helping us plant four apple trees out front:

Here’s what our neighbor saw when she walked by last month:

Seeing these photos together is a gift. It’s amazing to see the change in the land that we created. Two of the four trees are loaded with fruit and the other two are offering us more than they ever have before. I’ve been excited to see this abundance appear this year as it aligns with the concept of shmita (sabbatical) as I intended to practice it. According to this ancient Jewish tradition, farmers are required to take every seventh season off to rest the land and themselves. We are allowed to eat wild and perennial crops and some Jewish farmers have suggested that it takes about seven years for such plants to get established. Our trees seem to prove that theory which has me excited about planning for year 14. Maybe by then I’ll be able to convince my mother-in-law, who lives in the farmhouse, to let me convert the rest of the front yard to edibles. (I know the resident deer herd would appreciate it!)

Which takes us to my first lesson from the wild season I want to preserve – living in harmony with our urban wildlife. This season we really embraced those living in our midst, even in the moments when they were destructive – to our bodies and our plants.

In the course of a few weeks, I shot this video of our passion fruit plants which have hosted an enormous collection of big fat beautiful bumble bees this year and then stuck my hand in a yellow jacket nest and suffered the consequences, as did the wasps.

We also tested an idea for keeping tomato thieves at bay, which worked reasonably well. The strategy came to me by way of Kate Hodges (Foraged & Sown). When weather is dry, animals go looking for water, as they should. When puddles and other sources are unavailable, they poke holes in tomatoes and suck out the liquid, leaving you with a perfectly good looking fruit, save for the hole. It’s a frustrating site for any grower but the past two years, as our local rat population has been displaced by road and sewer construction, we’ve seen a big rise on little farm. When Kate first proposed the idea I scoffed. Leaving water out for the very creatures who were robbing from me seemed like an invitation for further trouble. But, it seemed to work! I even caught one on the trail camera enjoying the oasis.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

(Photo note: Time stamp should read am, not pm.)

Determining to only grow seeds already in our possession–once we decided to grow anything–we realized we were living in abundance we weren’t fully aware of; enough to grow a farm full of food.

A surprisingly good producer were Roma tomatoes grown from seeds we got through a MidOhio Food Bank grant program 2 years ago. In reflection, I probably didn’t grown them because I was being a snob. They game from one of the big seed companies (Burpee or Livingston) and the picture on the packet looked pretty basic. Like the uniform plum tomatoes you find in the grocery store that are pink inside and have no flavor. Turns out, they grew an incredible amount of delicious fruit, perfect roasted for Pasta Puttenesca (now on regular rotation. Yes, we are spoiled). I wish I had weighed the output of a single one of these plants. Lesson learned. Don’t shun the hand that feeds you. (And still, I will support smaller-scale seed farmers…)

My daughter and I also found a “wild” tomato plant growing between the curb and street in our neighborhood. After visiting it over a few weeks among its neighbors–“weeds” who were bound to be pulled or poisoned–we carefully rescued, transplanted, and labeled it with the name, “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” Like any good healthy tomato seedling, its stem was covered in a billion tiny hairs (aka trichomes. Super cool. Look them up. After you finish reading this.). We enjoyed a few nice big slicers care of this adoptee.

Which leads to the final lesson I wanted to record, for memory and further contemplation, and action, I hope. I had set an intention for shmita of learning more about wild edibles. Towards this end we went for a bunch of hikes with foraging friends. On one we found morels, on another boletes but overall, the hot dry weather prohibited this activity. I did harvest a ton of chanterelles over two weeks spent in the mountains of Georgia. Which was awesome. And I learned that the purslane and poke weed in the yard is edible and highly nutritious.

All in all, it was a very good season. I shouldn’t complain. (Note, I could but I won’t).

Shanah tovah to all the Jewish Farmers out there.


Leave a comment

Finding time…

Sunshine for cloudy days

This isn’t nearly close to the first time I’ve sat down in front of this screen and realized it has been a l- o-n-g while since I shared an update. My last one was over 2 months ago. I’m not sure where the time went. Like the rest of the world, we’re over here in a holding pattern waiting. We’re waiting for rain, waiting for back-to-school plans, waiting for election day, waiting for an invitation to a party, waiting for a lead on a job, waiting for a vaccine. You’d think the farm would be booming and this blog would be filled with updates with all the time I’ve had on my hands.

Big bulbs, bright spot

But time does not equal action. Action requires motivation.

One great thing about cultivating plants for food is that they need you. And they tell you want they want. Water me. Prune me. Pick bugs off me. Eat me. And those kinds of finite tasks are great when you can’t see the end of the tunnel your traveling through. Washing dishes and walking the dog helped me write my dissertation without going insane. (Thank you Thich Nhat Hanh!)

Mystery Squash

Creative and academic friends share they’re also having trouble doing work – making art, writing articles, designing rituals, wrestling around with an idea for more than 10 minutes at a time. I know this feeling. I had big quarantine plans to attend a printmaking workshop a colleague was teaching (two-week artist residency, sign me up!), to work through old writing notes that have been littering my desk literally for years, and to read some of the old professional journals collecting dust on the bookcase. None of that has happened. But there’s still time, right? We’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

Summertime views

Cultivating vegetable plants offers us multiple times to start over throughout the year. As a Jewish farmer I appreciate how this echoes our traditions of seeding, fertilizing, and pruning our life goals. We have just begun the countdown to our New calendar year, a period of time marked by deep reflection, reconnection, and redirection as we review time gone by and plan for the next round of living. It’s nice how this coincides with the time to plant fall gardens.

Seed(ling) bed

This fall I hope to have a better showing of greens than I did in the spring. Greens are usually my point of pride. But the weather is forever messing with our plans. Cold/hot/cold spring followed by dry/hot/dry/dry/dry/hot summer. It didn’t used to be like this. The climate is changing.

The fact that it was so hard to grow food in Columbus, OH this year, a year I planned to take for shmita – to give the land a rest according to Jewish tradition, it’s hard not to think I am being punished for not following through on taking a break. When the quarantine was announced, I raced to plant seeds as a sign of hope and resilience. Gardening is so powerful for us today in part because it is something tangible. It’s a multi-sensory experience that gets us out from behind these screens.

Another one lost to the garden theives

But racing to action isn’t always the best way to go about things. We know this and I think shmita is supposed to remind us of it too. As Rabbi Joshua Heschel taught,

Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time… Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of the year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals…

I have come to regret not leaning into this Shabbat on steroids. But next year is an official shmita year when Jews around the world will rest. Maybe I wound up growing this year so I can take off on cycle with others.

And, there’s still time to lean into this period of unknowing we are in. To embrace the uncertainty and cultivate values. And plants.

There. I wrote something.


Leave a comment

Spring Challenges, Maybe

I started farming again this season rather than follow through on my planned sabbatical to give myself something to do that I could feel good about. To have something to work on. To have healthy food on hand to feed my family, friends, and extended community. Sadly, it’s been the hardest start to a season I can remember us ever having.

A late freeze killed dozens of tomato and tomatillo plants early on the morning of May 9th. This was just days after we donated plants to food access programs so we had minimal backups on hand. Last week we got 4.88 inches of rain in five days (May 18-22) followed by temperatures in the upper 80s, at least 10 degrees hotter than normal. This caused major crop failure in our spring greens, just as we were getting ready to distribute them. These are the crops I usually feel the most proud of, so their loss really hurt.

The day after the freeze I was texting with my friend Bernadett (Bernadett’s Farmacy). We’d been swapping weather forecasts and plans for protecting our seedlings for days leading up to the big chill. When I told her we lost a bunch of plants despite all my efforts, she sent me a link to the story of the Taoist farmer.

The story follows a farmer who suffers a series of what most people would deem unfortunate events ending with something most would consider a lucky break. Regardless, the farmer is always hesitant to label anything lucky or unlucky. “Maybe,” is his constant reply.

After sitting on this story for a few weeks, working through more and more of what I would consider bad luck, hunting for the silver linings, today things started to click.

I had grown only three types of tomato seedlings – following my revised sabbatical plans of using only the seed I happened to have in the basement, not allowing myself to buy anything new. Upon hearing we’d lost all our tomatoes, friends, including Bernadett, offered us extra seedlings they had. Now we have a much larger variety than originally planned. It makes me think a seedling swap could be fun in the future. Like a next level seed swap. So maybe things worked out in the end. At least for that chapter of the story.

The verdict’s still out on the others. I’ll be sure to report back as I find them.