News From the Farm | Week of June 3, 2013

This past month of May 2013 has disappeared into a place of memory and reflection, with notable events that are valuable to share with you. The Beet works to chronicle the many things that shape our farming existence, and sharing these things with you helps to bring wider understanding of our farm into your kitchen. The importance of information sharing was evident on Saturday when some 75 or so folks came out to our farm day. The tour allowed Hallie, my eldest daughter, to enthusiastically talk tomatoes, point out Magoon our new calf, and welcome our farm supporters, charging them with her love for the work and business of Full Belly. At the same time I was allowed a stage to be long-winded about soil, crops, microbes, carbon or ongoing experiments. We hope that sampling strawberries, dipping toes into Cache Creek, wandering the fields or being exposed to our farm philosophy bridged a gap about the image of a farm and its reality. Thank you to those who took the time to come up. We met some very new subscribers, non-CSA small farm supporters, lots of healthy kids as budding tractor drivers, and the long time friends of the farm who have been coming for years, offering a perspective about its growth and maturation.

This past month we lost one of our dearest and longest-term farm supporters. Lois Rivers, Dru’s very energetic 85-year old mother, passed away suddenly. Originally a Vermonter, she was an independent and principled person who was, for many of our Palo Alto Farmers Market customers, a symbol of the farm and a friend to many. Lois helped to establish this farm in many important ways. She was an early investor in our ability to purchase this land when it came up for sale in 1989 by loaning us some capital; she was supportive – or not too skeptical – of her daughter marrying a farmer; and she embraced the farming reality by spending 6 hours each weekend for the last 30 years at either the Palo Alto Farmers market or at our winter community supported agriculture drop at Flea Street Cafe in Menlo Park. There she remembered the names of our customers as friends and became involved in their growing families as their seasonal fruit and vegetable counselor.

Most folks thought the farm was Lois’ and that we worked for her – fitting, because she loved to talk about Full Belly with a wry wit while tallying simultaneously the totals for a couple of customers and extolling the virtues of the Cherokee tomato. She loved to relate how she ate nearly all farm produce, made jam when there were too many strawberries or peaches, and would read and review the Beet weekly. She was both thrifty and yet was wonderfully generous. She was once given a citation in Palo Alto for peddling vegetables without a license at an impromptu stand that we had set up so that folks could both pick up their CSA boxes and buy a bit of extra from a table. I went to court with her where she pleaded guilty to selling healthy organic vegetables and then took the fall for the farm. Thereafter, she liked to point to her ‘criminal’ past as proof of her unwavering devotion to the farm. She remains a wonderful example to all of us of a spunky, smart, frugal and loving mother and friend. There is an ache in the hearts of the many who knew and loved her.

Our longtime farm top dog, Mister, developed a serious ailment and passed away. Mister was this farm’s best ambassador and probably its highest life form. There are few creatures on this planet with a better life than a farm dog, sleeping in the shade during the heat of the day, adopting visitors and soaking up all affection with time enough to be scratched, petted, admired and slipped treats. Mister was at his best when there was a farm tour, leaping onto a moving tour trailer, taking his position as sentry in frontmost corner of the moving wagon, and then leaping off with daring to chase a rabbit or squirrel. He loved rafting and swimming with any who ventured into the river and then shaking off on those who had chosen not to swim. He was exceedingly good natured and trusting, once jumping onto a passing river raft and traveling not only two miles downstream but then 40 miles to Woodland where he lived a suburban life and was settling right into a new family until he was found and returned to the farm after a week or so. When campers showed up, he would leave the house to be their dog for their stay at the farm, offering to shield them from danger and re- distributing clothing or shoes so that their things were spread about the farm. He was our golden distributor, laid to rest in the shade of a black walnut tree. He will be missed, with dog responsibilities to be assumed by Nellie, Milo or Baboo.


Lest this sounds like a typical country song where the passing of a mother is related with the same reverence as the passing of a favorite dog, we mark these events as part of the larger cycle of change and memory that structure our lives here. This year will also be remembered as the first year of June 1st-ready melons, earlier by a month or more than most years. We planted some early melon transplants in March. The unusually warm weather has pushed them along and we had our first this morning. I hope that you will see them in your boxes soon for a full transition to summertime. We have finished many of the winter greens and lettuces as the temperatures have climbed to over 100°. Last year we picked lettuce until the end of June. This year it is done and will re-appear in September. Sweet Corn and Tomatoes are close – also the earliest ever, and we you will see them as the summer cranks up.

We celebrate the seasons and the movement of birth, growth, maturation, flowering, fruiting, decline, death and decay. We celebrate the flower and its brightness – attracting all to share in its visual and sensual delight and leaving its seed as evidence of its fullness. Life time is a gift received with grace and gratitude, an effort that enriches, enhances and enables new life. We each have the power of creators, best realized through being fully present and tending the work in our gardens. Thank you for supporting and sharing our journey and memories. We are made richer by our mutual association and with the honor of being present at your table.

–Paul Muller