The (Sometimes) Ugly Truth

I had written at the start of the season that I wanted to post something twice a month here. I haven’t done that at all. The truth is that the season has been brutal for countless reasons. Most people wouldn’t even begin to suspect that was the case, and that is largely my fault. On Facebook and Instagram, I try to post the most lovely photos of my flowers and the fields. The reasons are honest enough. I’m in my second year of starting this business, and I am trying to attract bouquet members so that I can actually keep running the business. I also don’t want to depress anyone with the uglier aspects of farming. I want people to feel happy. But in focusing on these two goals, I invariably create the impression that flower farming is an idyllic way to spend one’s days.

There are moments, to be sure, that are transformative or restorative. I still can’t get over the fact that I can drop a speck of what appears to be dust onto some damp soil and actually expect a plant to grow that will produce beautiful flowers. So honestly, when I see the first buds forming, I feel downright giddy…every time. And then there are moments when the farm is so silent it feels as if Zoey and I are the only creatures on the planet, and a deep sense of peace overtakes me. Or I hand a bouquet of flowers over to someone and see her face light up, and I feel like I’m doing something really worthwhile. But like any career, there are some rough moments.

I would say this season has been all about fretting. I have worried the entire time. First the cold weather lingered and the rain wouldn’t let up and my plants just sat in the fields doing nothing. So I worried about ever having flowers. Then when things started kicking into gear, a baby dear wandered across four of my rows and trampled everything in his path. The pressure of his footsteps snapped some of my support netting, rendering it useless. Then the Japanese beetles came, and they came like a veritable plague this year. They devoured countless flowers, dahlias seemingly their particular favorites. Then there was the freak thunderstorm that ripped through the fields and knocked down the equivalent of a whole row of flowers. Then the cosmos developed a disease. Then the zinnias. Then the sunflowers. Later I discovered that I was, in fact, allergic to one row of plants. I’ve been avoiding them all summer and trying to figure out how to remove them. It may require a gas mask. And I was stung three times by wasps, once on my face, thus rendering me like a Janus, one side of my face looking like my own, and the other like Winston Churchill’s.

And now we have arrived at the monumental drought. I know that areas all around me have been getting rain. We haven’t had one drop for 3 1/2 weeks now. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the intense, unrelenting heat is making it incredibly difficult to water the fields. I believe we have only had two days in the 80s for over a month. The rest have been in the 90s with the heat index as high as 98. I have been consistently running the drip irrigation, but I discovered this morning as I attempted to plant some new seedlings that the ground is like cement. I can’t really see these things very well, as I use weed barrier and plant into holes that I burn into it. Even with all of my mulching and watering, the ground is like hardpan. I nearly had to get out the pick-axe. For the first time ever, I am at risk of having to declare that I don’t have enough flowers to fill orders.

And so I worry. It has been a back-breaking year, and I am limping to the finish line (which isn’t really a finish line because I have nearly 2,000 seedlings growing along, awaiting the moment I can fall plant for next spring’s crops, which I will worry about all winter).

But even with all of the heat, the worry, the failures, the disappointments, the never-ending list of things to get done, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. The joys really do far outweigh the difficulties. I just wanted to be sure I was honest with you about those difficulties, though. And if you have ever attempted to garden and ran into difficulties of your own, just know that you are part of a very large community of people who know exactly what that’s like. Keep going.

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