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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.

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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!

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Seven Years Today!

Thoughts From the Porch

Happy Texas Independence Day y’all! When I was growing up this was a state holiday, a day off from school. March 2nd was as important as July 4th, if not more so. My first memories of school were about Texas history classes. Learning about Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and the heroes of the Alamo was one of the most important lessons to learn. Now that I’m a grown-up (that’s debatable) I think they should have been called Texas ‘myth’ classes instead. However, I’ll save that discussion for another time…

The real celebration this March 2nd is that Margaret and I have been married for seven years today. I find it difficult to put into words the joy and the love I share with this beautiful woman. Many of you know Margaret. You understand what I mean.

Margaret, I love you more with each passing day. I didn’t think that possible. I’m constantly amazed by your grace and love for others. Your love for God and your quiet strength is probably what the writer of Proverbs 31 had in mind.

“A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds…

She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor…

When she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly…

Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all! Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!” (from Proverbs 31 – The Message)

Happy Anniversary Baby! I love you. It is my honor and privilege to be your husband!

My favorite picture of us!
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Songs About Spring

Thoughts From the Porch: A stunning late winter sunrise started my morning. I drank my first cup of coffee to the varied songs of our resident Mockingbird. Nesting season has begun and my little friend sings once again, reminding me that spring in almost here. He brightened my morning even more that the rising sun.

Sometimes I can’t offer anything more than a simple thank you in my morning prayers. I see mornings like this, and I hear God speaking quite clearly. It’s time to just sit here and listen, to bask in His glory and miraculous creation.

The Mockingbird fell silent around the time of our first early frost. I’ve missed my little friend who greeted me in song each day as I set abut my porch time. This winter has been mild – eighty-degree days in January – and I would’ve thought he’d come by now and then, but his internal timing told him to wait until now. He saved his melodies for me and this very morning. Thank you my little friend…

  

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Rain, Rain…eh…

Down On the Farm: I’d love to wish you all a good morning from the farm, but it will have to be from the desk instead. We had a night of downpours, so I get to greet you all from the warmth of my office. We’re always thankful for the rain. Last month was the second wettest January on record and February is on a similar track.

Rain is often a trade-off for Opal’s Farm. It’s slowed down our Spring planting but all the onions and most of the potatoes are in. The remaining preparations for Spring – spreading compost, bed preparation, etc. – have come to a standstill because it’s too wet to work at the farm. It doesn’t mean work stops. It just stops outside…

It’s that time of year when there is a long “to-do” list, but the weather is so erratic that some needed tasks get put on the back burner until it’s dry enough to work. If you’ve signed up on our volunteer schedule you may wish to call the farm if it has rained the day before you’re coming out to be safe. I’ll be happy to shuttle volunteers from the entrance gate. Every now and then it gets a little too muddy for an automobile.

We recently had an issue with the volunteer sign on our website, www.unityunlimited.org. That has been resolved and the sign-up link is working great. We’ll be emailing each of you who were unable to sign-up because of an expired link. Please don’t hesitate to call us at 817.333.8367 if you have any questions.

A huge thank you goes out to Yvonne and Kiersten for a great day of planting. Please come join us anytime!

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Raining again!

Down On the Farm

It’s a bit quiet down on Opal’s Farm. The last three days have brought rain and cold weather, but it’s not freezing. We’re always grateful for the rain, but especially since we were able to get all our onions planted (all 3000 of them!) and fertilized before the wet weather got here. We are so grateful for our volunteers that helped get the planting done.

We’re excited that Spring planting is under way. Through our partners and donors, we’ve been able to spread compost and organic fertilizer. Building and regenerating our North Texas soil is not only crucial to increasing production, but it’s essential to being good stewards of the land the Tarrant Regional Water District blessed us with. Mom always said, “Leave it better than you found it”!

Ducks where everywhere Monday!
(by the construction entrance)

2020 promises to be a successful second year for Opal’s Farm. Last year, with virtually nothing to work with except donated seed and a few volunteers, we were able to produce over 4500 pounds of food for the food banks, neighborhoods, and Cowtown Farmer’s Market. This year we’ve been able to add composting, fertilization, and a better irrigation plan so the yields from our first acre will be even higher and more of our neighbors will be served.

We’re also working toward better weed control and soil regeneration through the extensive use of wood chips. J. Davis Tree Care Solutions has been bringing truckloads of wood chips over the last few weeks. We are thankful for their help on Opal’s Farm!

We will be expanding into our second acre this year as the Spring planting continues. We hope to be able to utilize more land when Fall planting arrives.

We wouldn’t be able to do all this without some great partners. Blue Zones Fort Worth, Healthy Tarrant Collaboration and Grow SE have been amazing. BBVA Bank worked with Grow SE to provide compost. It’s been a huge blessing to us and to them we offer a huge thank you!

Our volunteer numbers continue to grow as well as our vegetables! Thanks again to everyone who came out to help get compost spread and onions in the ground.

One More Thing…

We have one major issue going into Spring and we need to ask for your help. Our farm truck needs some work done as soon as possible in order to keep up our work on the farm. While grant monies have helped our Spring preparation and planting, they are for seed, materials, and supplies only. They don’t cover maintenance, repairs, and most importantly, salaries. We maintain a low overhead in these areas, but they are important to the continued growth and mission of Opal’s Farm.

Please donate today at www.unityunlimited.org or contact the farm directly at 817.333.8367.

As always, we appreciate your continued support in ending food insecurity and food deserts in Fort Worth. Way to go Cowtown!