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April Showers Bring May Veggies

The clouds grew dark and heavy this morning. Maybe the promised rain was coming after all. The weather folks said it would be here Thursday, moved it to Friday, and then assured us it was coming Saturday or maybe Sunday mid-morning – but hey, this is Texas. I’d about given up hope when I heard the distant roll of thunder. Maybe?

The short version is I didn’t get but a two-minute light sprinkle on the westside, but the farm was soaked by a fifteen-minute downpour. I won’t have another day of hand-watering ahead of me. Let me explain…

The drainplug on our pump shot out of my hand on Friday and rolled into the river rendering the pump useless until I can get the part Monday. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but we just planted three hundred new additional tomato and pepper plants; all of which need to be watered in. Saturday afternoon found me hauling water from the Trinity River up the levee (two five-gallon buckets at a time) and watering the plants one at a time. I’ll do what needs to be done but I’m especially grateful for the shower today…

Opal’s Farm was at the Cowtown Farmers Market for the first time this year. The forecasted rain stayed away and the sun made our first Saturday back even more spectacular. We had sugar snap carrots, and radishes available and were sold out by 1030 AM. We saw several old friends and met many more new ones. We’re always grateful for our regular customers. We missed you guys over the last three months. We’re also grateful to all the new folks we met Saturday and hope to see each of one of you every week. Better yet, come by the farm and give us a hand or take a tour.

The potatoes and onions love the rain

I need to give as shout out to our volunteers this week. We couldn’t have gone to market without your help. Our volunteers are amazing! The number of volunteer hours has skyrocketed in the last three weeks. I hope you can come out and join us!

Tomatoes, Jalapenos, and Anaheim Chili Peppers are in. We were able to get Spaghetti Squash and Cucumbers in as well. Everything else is going great guns and it looks to be an excellent Spring for Opal’s Farm.

Just a word to our friends and customers at Cowtown Farmers Market:

We want you to know how much you are appreciated. So many of you have wanted to support Opal’s vision. Every purchase you make and the donations you give bring fresh produce to the people who need it the most – neighborhoods that have been forgotten by the big grocery store chains, neighborhoods that suffer disproportionate health problems because their only food choices are highly processed canned and junk food full of empty calories. Your dollars not only provide you with the best in locally grown, nutritious fruits and vegetables, but your neighbors as well.

Thank you for being a part of Opal’s Farm! We love you all and hope to see you next week!

Please go to http://www.unityunlimited.org to donate or sign up to volunteer
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#CovidCantStopGOOD

Down On the Farm

Saturday turned into a washout for the farm. We started off strong (thanks Chuck, Haileigh, Kierstin, and Ryan!) and still managed to get a lot done. Even when it became apparent that the rain was not a quick Spring shower, everyone kept right on working! Talk about dedication! Fortunately, the rain was a blessing for the new plants.

Sunday saw slightly warmer temperatures and an opportunity to get some tractor work done (Thanks Zimmerer Kubota – we love you guys!!!).

Chuck and Diane were out today to lay more fabric down for the new tomato beds. Trellis poles went up and they put the guide ropes up. The tomatoes already have new growth after a only a couple of days. We were able to finish off rebuilding several new beds, but we still have a ton of work to do. You got to love Spring.

Rain is supposed to come again later in the week. We’re hurrying along as fast as we can. If you’re bored and tired of sitting at home, you can come on down and join with us as we make the push to get as much in as possible before the next precipitation event (thanks Thesaurus…).

We still need to:

Get the remaining tomato beds covered with weed fabric and ready for planting

Spread compost and organic fertilizer

Weeding (as always) – Kierstin, we’re saving the flame weeder for you. We know how much you like to burn things…

Planting squash beds

Hill the potato beds again

If you’re singing the COVID-19 blues and want to do good deeds for others, we’d love to have you come out this week. You can sign up at www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm. We have over an acre to help maintain social distancing and Opal’s Farm is a great way to get out of the house. You can’t get more essential than growing healthy, fresh produce to get us through this mess.

#CovidCantStopGOOD

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Maybe the “New Normal” is Not so New After All…

Thoughts From the Porch…

The rain returned to North Texas along with cooler weather for the day. Fortunately, it’s a brief visit and the weather looks clear until late in the week. The Prairie Verbena is casting purples all around Opal’s Farm. It’s almost April and the highways and byways are bursting in color. The Bluebonnets came early this year, but now the blues are accompanied by the oranges and yellows that make even rush-hour pleasurable.

Of course, there isn’t much of a rush hour these days. We’re well into the “shelter in place” order as the coronavirus lurks about Fort Worth searching for a host to devour. I’ve been unable to hug my kids and grandkids for a couple of weeks now. I’m starting to feel a bit weak…

My heart goes out to everyone during these trying times. I have the privilege or the misfortune, depending on how you view it, of being an “essential business” so I’m not stuck at home unless it rains. Everyone still needs food, especially healthy, fresh food, so I’m glad I can do something to contribute, even if it’s only a small part.

(By the way – the Cowtown Farmers Market is still open every Saturday morning from 8AM until Noon. Thank you to all the folks at Cowtown, both farmers and customers, who follow CDC guidelines and provide fresh, local produce during this crisis.)

Fortunately, the farm is a place folks can eliminate some of the boredom of “shelter in place” and help others at the same time. Social distancing isn’t an issue with well over an acre and there’s plenty to do. I’m just throwing that out for you all in case you’re wondering. I think I’ve seen more people on the adjacent Trinity Trails this weekend than I’ve seen in the past year.

I have a dear friend who had a serious surgery last week. The coronavirus situation has kept me from visiting the hospital and I can only receive updates from his wife. I shouldn’t complain. They’ve even prevented her from being there. She sat in the parking lot all day while her husband was in surgery. I can’t even imagine what that would be like if it were my wife. Sometimes it seems that prayers are not enough. COVID-19 has stolen so much more than physical health.

The pundits talk about our “new normal”. This is not normal. It may be what we do to take care of each other and ourselves, but it’s far from normal. However, there are some things from all of this I hope become the “new” normal. A friend told me of seeing his son playing catch with his grandson in the backyard. Sounds normal, right? Then he told me that his grandson was nine years old and had never done that before. They did other things together – his son’s a great parent – but they’d never simply thrown a ball back and forth. Maybe the “new normal” will see more of the “old normal. Maybe we’ll have less screen time and more play.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is father-son-playing-catch-throwing-260nw-337724105.jpg

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the rest of the story about my friend in the hospital. Many of use prayed throughout the day. That’s what friends do for one another. During the surgery one of the nurses called her every hour, on the hour, to let her know how her husband was doing. Those phone calls made the long wait somewhat bearable. Above and beyond is what so many of our healthcare folks do for us each day, virus or know virus. Please take time to say a prayer, make a phone call, or just say thank you. Maybe that kind of “new normal” isn’t so bad…  

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Hurry Before It's Too Late…

Down On the Farm:

Today’s post is a bit of “Down on the Farm” and “Thoughts From the Porch”. It’s been raining for the last nine days. I’ve had more time on the porch and less time at the farm as a result.

This much rain is a mixed blessing

Even when I can’t be busy planting, weeding, and prepping beds I tend to spend time thinking about each of those things and how to make Opal’s Farm bigger and better. More people can be served and maybe, just maybe, the farm makes life better for all of us.

During down times such as these I get to post on social media and keep everyone updated. My hope in doing so is that you all will want to donate and/or volunteer at Opal’s Farm. We desperately need the donations and we’re able to get so much more accomplished with our volunteers.

The infographic offers some great reasons to volunteer at Opal’s Farm. The events of the last week have caused me to pause and reflection on the importance of Opal’s Farm right now. Opal’s Farm has become an essential business. It was before – farming, growing food, is essential any time – but even more so now.

The last few days have seen rapid and monumental changes in our daily routines due to the COVID-19 crisis. It was working from home if possible and no gatherings of more than 250 people just a few days ago. Now it’s multiple business closures and no gatherings, either inside or outside, of more than ten people. Sunday evening, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced a “shelter in place” order for everyone residing in Dallas County. Other North Texas counties probably aren’t far behind.

If a “shelter in place” order is issued for Tarrant County volunteer opportunities may not be available. I will continue to work as Farm Manager and an employee of Unity Unlimited, Inc. but I’m unclear as to volunteers at the farm. We’ll keep you updated. I hope that anyone who’s having a bit of cabin fever will come down and spend some time with us while you still can.

To sign up or donate go to www.unityunlimited.org

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Spring Has Sprung

Down On the Farm: It started raining in the pre-dawn hours last Friday. It’s been off and on rain, heavy at times, but without the severe thunderstorms that are so frequent in North Texas this time of year. The above-average temperatures we’ve had often contribute more damaging weather.  I may not be able to work at the farm, but I can enjoy the morning a tad longer from the porch.

All around Fort Worth, Dogwoods, Bradford Pears, and Texas Redbuds are bursting with pinks, whites, and reds and emerald greens dots shine throughout the woods. Bluebonnets dot the roadsides. All the other Spring wildflowers are close behind. The vernal equinox may be a few days away, but the flora announces Spring is already here.

Photo by nagaraju gajula on Pexels.com

Down on the farm the green peas are coming along nicely and almost ready to pick. The sugar snap peas aren’t far behind. The carrots need to be thinned and weeds are always an issue no matter what time of year it is. Thanks, Kiersten for all your help weeding!

The early Spring planting is completed. The turnips, beets, spinach, and green onions went in the ground and the rain is a welcome guest. There’s something about heaven sent rain that makes everything grow better. Jamison the Farm Dog is hard at work protecting our new crops from pests!

Jameson hard at work

We added an herb garden this year. We set aside a couple of smaller beds for tarragon, cilantro, and sage so far. The rest – basil, oregano, parsley, and thyme – will go in later this month.

We’ll also be preparing to expand into our second acre. A huge thanks goes out to J. Davis Tree Care Solutions for all the wood chips they’ve dropped off. We’ve been mulching our walkways and furrows. Brandon Hendrickson at Zimmerer Kubota, is delivering a tractor after this rain clears out. We’ll be able to plow and cover the new acre with a thick layer of wood chips and cover crops (thanks to Jay Schmigdall!). It will hold down some of the weeds and provide excellent compost and nourishment for new planting.

We also need to give a huge shoutout to Lauren Hickman at the Tarrant Area Food Bank. She provided us with two flats of celebrity tomatoes they raised at their Learning Garden. She’s also been a wonderful help with arranging composting and a great source of wisdom for Opal’s Farm.

The rain meant rescheduling some of our volunteers. Farming, whether urban or rural, is dependent on the weather. Thanks to all for being so understanding. We’re looking forward to seeing you soon.

For those of you who haven’t been out or would like to volunteer at Opal’s Farm please sign up at www.unityunlimited.org. Go to the Opal’s Farm page and click on the sign-up button. Feel free to find a time that works best for you and come join us!