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Spring is in Full Bloom

What a week it’s been. Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. Today is my son’s fortieth. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Adrian wasn’t sure which of us felt older – me or him. He was quite satisfied to let me feel the pain of aging. I mentioned that they say the sixties are the new forties. He promptly reminded me that only people in their sixties say that…

Spring has sprung in all it’s glory at the farm. The tomatoes and peppers are in with all their trellises in place. All the new seed is popping up. Cantaloupe planting started yesterday. The only thing left is the okra (our famous heirloom okra!). We also have test beds with Asian greens, bottle gourd, and bitter melon (South Asian diet staples) – testing new products for our South Asian community.

We’ve expanded to a second acre for this year. We had originally planned on adding only two thirds of an acre, but the move to tractor farming (made possible by the tractor provided by Zimmerer Kubota and the tiller from Blue Zones Project FW) has enabled us to expand more quickly.

The Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) provided us with the best news this year. Sometime within the next week the installation of our new pump will be complete. We can start on the new irrigation system that will free up more time to bring healthy, fresh produce to the neighborhood.

We are incredibly grateful for the Paschal High School Key Club and the Fort Worth Trailblazers Chapter of the National Charity League. The Paschal kids are there every Saturday morning and the Moms and daughters from the Trailblazers have had several workdays over the past few couple of months. We could not have kept to our Spring planting schedule without their help!

We have a couple of immediate needs on our wish list. The recent freeze set us back financially. Market sales have been low as there’s not that much to sell. We recovered quickly with replanting and moving forward, but it’s been difficult. Please consider a donation to Opal’s Farm to help us grow even bigger. You can donate at www.unityunlimited.org anytime. There’s no time like the present!

Roman hard at work

Communication, Community, Faith, Grace, Gratitude, Hope, Neighbors, Prayer, Recovery, Relationships, Serenity, Simplicity, Spirituality, Spring, Thoughts From the Porch, Tractors, Transformation, Writing

It’s hard to believe that we were seeing record cold temperatures only a month ago. The last couple of weeks have been in the seventies and even eighties. I sit on the porch at night in shorts and a t-shirt. In the early morning darkness I was greeted by the sound of the Mockingbird outside. The official start to Spring is only four days away. God is good…

The tree next door is in full bloom

I’ve taken to sitting at my desk in the mornings as opposed to the front porch. I am halfway through my fourth week of quitting smoking and the front porch is a bit of a trigger. The double wide patio door is just outside my office though so I still get the morning air when I open the sliding door. It makes for enjoyable quiet time.

Roman’s been hard at work!

I had no idea what I wanted to write about when I started this blog in 2017. Blogging experts said find a niche to write about. Center it around your niche and turn it into a money-making endeavor. I never could figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. How could I find a “niche”?

Most of my career was about doing the work I never intended to do. Trying to gain a father’s acceptance (which was already there regardless of what I did for a living) instead of pursuing one’s own passions have a way of doing that. The downward spiral of alcohol and addiction doesn’t help either.

Over the years I’ve been a Real Estate Investor and Broker, a Process Engineer, an Operations and HR Manager. I’ve drifted through professions. I’ve played rock and roll in the clubs, worked briefly in radio, and DJ’d at sketchy bars. I’ve worked as a bartender and a food server. I’ve worked in manufacturing and construction jobs. From 2006 to 2017 I had my own landscape and remodeling business. Employment options are limited for folks with felonies so starting my own business made perfect sense.

It was a good living, but I knew there was always a nagging feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else with my life. I spent many off and on years in business documentation – writing business plans, employee manuals, training manuals, etc. I had learned to speak “bureaucrat-ese” and proper business writing, using it often in my professional corporate work – and I got good at it. Maybe that was it…

I shut down the business, signed up for a couple of copywriting and marketing courses, and set off to be a writer full-time. I had a few jobs, and I even got paid for writing. I guess that qualified me as a “writer” (Like that makes a difference?).

Unfortunately, I discovered I’m not cut out for the whole copywriting thing, I don’t like trying to manipulate people with the whole marketing deal and I’m a bit of a dinosaur in the corporate world. I still believe in the whole “the customer isn’t always right, but they are always the customer” thing. Customers should be treated accordingly. That’s not always the case anymore.

That’s okay though, because it led to my relationship with Ms. Opal, Unity Unlimited, Inc., and becoming Farm Manager for Opal’s Farm. I’m blessed beyond measure. I get to wake up each morning and go the farm, work hard, and tell the Opal’s Farm story to anyone who’ll listen. I get to be around amazing people. I even get paid for doing what I love and serving others which is the antidote to addiction’s self-obsession – helping others helps me. I’ve found my center, my passion, and God’s direction for my life. If I’ve found a niche, it rests in the fact life is a story – a story about grace I surely don’t deserve and something I could never find on my own despite my best efforts.

The things I’ve learned to blog about over the last three-and-a-half years have little to do with “5 Ways to Success” or “How to Make a Million in a Month by Telling People What They Want to Hear”. They don’t have to do with the number of followers (except the one’s about Opal’s Farm!) or a great comments thread. They don’t require everyone’s approval to prove success. They have to do with the one person who, perhaps only by chance, reads something that helps them to help others. There’s not much money in that, but it’s the success I only dreamed of.

Be patient with others. Sometimes it takes fifty years to figure out what you want to do when you grow up…

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One Last Day to the Longest Short Month

Ah, the last day of February. Tomorrow is meteorological Spring. While it’s not the official (i.e. – the Vernal Solstice or Saturday March 20th) first day of Spring, it’s a reminder that warmer days are just around the corner.

It’s hard to believe that a mere two weeks ago we were huddled around a space heater with no water in a 30-degree house. I was out on the porch this morning for my meditation time. Shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops were all that was needed to be comfortable.

We were blessed to have a generator to power the space heater and a coffee pot. Others were not so lucky. There are still folks without water as I write this. Please pray for relief so the disaster recovery can begin.

Opal’s Farm took a beating. We may still be able to salvage some onions and spinach. I had to replant cilantro, beets, turnips, snow peas, and snap peas. I’m glad to have gotten them in before the rain this weekend. We have potatoes to plant when it dries up and more onions are coming to replace what was lost to the freeze.

They had just started putting out

It has been a busy week here at the farm – replanting, plowing, and irrigation repair. We lost a couple of hundred feet of PVC pipe to the cold. There’s much to catch up on so if you have a little free time and want some dirt therapy go email us at opalvolunteers@gmail.com or opalsfarm@unityunlimited.org. We’ll get you going!

We had our annual membership meeting for Cowtown Farmers Market yesterday. We are pleased to be a part of such a dynamic group of farmers and vendors that believe in bringing fresh, local food to our community. We will be continuing the SNAP and Double-Up Food Bucks through April 1st as well. Please come see us and enjoy the best fruits and vegetables in Fort Worth! We’d appreciate the support for our local farmers.

February, especially this year, was an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. The freeze was a major obstacle to a successful 2021. The produce we would normally take to market was lost, cutting our revenue for the next few weeks. This is a huge blow to our budget for this year. We are currently seeking assistance from a couple of disaster recovery resources, but so many farmers suffered losses this month that it may be months if we receive financial assistance.

We nearly doubled our yield over 2019 last year and we hope to do so again in 2021. Our soil health has drastically improved with the amendments we were able to have last year (Thank you Sliver Creek Materials and Microlife/San Jacinto Environmental!). We’ve expanded our production area by another acre. We are excited by the possibilities even with the hardship that came from the deep freeze.

We’re also aware of how blessed we are to be a part of the community and all our friends. While your thoughts, prayers, and volunteering are appreciated more than you know, we are asking for financial help to whether this setback. If you’re able to give, please go to www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm and click donate. You can also donate through Facebook, or even drop by the farm.

We have an exciting Spring and Summer planned and we’d love for you to be a part. Thank you for all each of you do. Thank you for being part of Opal’s Farm!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
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Can’t Wait Until Saturday

After a couple of fits and starts we finally have power here in our little neighborhood. We set the thermostat to 64 degrees to lower our demand. There are still many Texans huddling in the sub-freezing temperatures and the dark trying to make it until Saturday. Things are supposed to return to “normal” winter days – the sixties are coming…

My step kid brought it to my attention that Texans are the butt of jokes on her social media by people from up north. I guess we have different people on our news feeds. Most of our followers for both www.gregoryjoel.com and Opal’s Farm have constantly checked up on us and offered to help in any way possible. I love our community.

The Trinity River normally

We are now dealing with the water issues that come after a long, hard freeze. Yesterday morning I found water running down the driveway. A pipe had burst in our laundry room. Fortunately, it was an easy repair and I spent most of the day wet vacuuming up water from our back room. I never imagined I’d be grateful for such a leak, but if that’s the worst plumbing issue we have then we are blessed. The news was filled with pictures of our neighbors with water filling and destroying their homes.

We lack water pressure and we’re under a “boil water” notice, but we have power and water (and lots of coffee!). My wife’s noticing that I haven’t been able to shower since Sunday. That’s okay. I’ve spent a couple of weeks backpacking in the high country. I can assure you this is nothing. It could always be worse.

The Trinity today

I’ve been able to watch the news the last couple of nights. I’m discouraged to say the least. Everyone spends their time pointing fingers and little action is taken to relieve the misery so many Texans are in. I don’t expect much from the politicians and pundits anyway. Their track record isn’t great. I’d rather spend my energy with folks who are “being” the change, with action.

That’s an update on our little cul-de-sac. Continue in prayer for our neighbors as they struggle through this mess. Please don’t stop either. My gut tells me this is going to be a hard one to recover from. When you tuck your little one’s into a nice, warm bed this evening take extra time to say thank you for that bed and let you goodnight kiss linger a bit…