It seems that the more activity we have going on at the farm, the less writing I do.
We have completed a very busy and eventful season since I last sent out our farm newsletter. On many occasions during that time I have paused to think that I should be writing about this in the newsletter or blog, but then another urgent matter would crop up and I would be off and running again. Now that I have some time to reflect on the year, I am thinking about how to schedule time for writing so it doesn’t always stay near the bottom of my To Do list. You may see more short posts and (even) less polish, but I will endeavor to be more timely with communications in the next year.
Some time around the turn of the year I will be sending out a review of the year at the farm and plans for next year, but today, with Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, I would like to celebrate the many things we have to be thankful for here at the farm.
I started out by making a list of people and happenings that made an extraordinary impact on our farm success this year. The list rapidly grew very long: my family, our farm staff, customers and farm visitors, friends and neighbors, fellow farmers, Sammamish Valley organizations, seed and other suppliers, our tractor mechanic, the hot summer weather, the WSU extension, and the King Conservation District, and probably more when I decided that I had too much to talk about for a single letter.
Any one of these deserves an entry, but I have decided to focus on one individual: Ken Walker, Friend of the Farm.
I met Ken long ago when The South 47 Farm was first starting up. (The story of The South 47 Farm and our transition to Dr. Maze’s Farm is a story for another day.) Ken, who lives just up the road, built our gravel roads and the parking lot. Since then Ken has always been supportive of our efforts at the farm. However, this year he really came through for us when we desperately needed help.
October is by far our busiest time at the farm. We are busy in the fields as we harvest our crops and prepare the fields for winter. During the week hundreds of kids come to the farm for the group Pumpkin Farm Tour. And on the weekends we are all about pumpkins, the mazes, and hayrides. Every day is a long day, and there is no time for a break to catch one’s breath. If I have prepared properly, our staff runs the farm and I jump in where needed to keep things running smoothly. We have lots of fun sharing the farm with our visitors, but we work hard to make sure everyone has a good time.
We use the vintage 1952 Ford 8N tractor to pull our hayrides. Using this cute little tractor allows us to use our bigger John Deere tractor for fieldwork during our open days. On our especially busy days, we bring the John Deere from the fields to pull a second hayride wagon. However, the Ford is 62 years old and is not as reliable as a new tractor. Early in October, our Ford tractor developed a mysterious fuel feed problem. I called Mick, our traveling tractor mechanic, to come and get the tractor running again. In the meantime we would have to use the John Deere for hayrides and forget any fieldwork on hayride days until we got the Ford running again.
On one of the days Mick was working on the Ford, Ken stopped by to visit. As we stood talking, Bob, our hayride driver, came driving up on our John Deere tractor. Ken pointed out that a front tire was looking flat. We pulled out the air compressor, re-inflated the tire, and sent the hayride on its way. I commented to Ken that we could get the tire fixed, but we would be in awful shape if the mechanic couldn’t get our Ford tractor working before our upcoming busiest weekends. Ken immediately told me that if I ever needed a tractor, I could borrow his. We chatted a bit more before I had to get back to my usual tasks.
I soon had the John Deere tire tube replaced, but the next big weekend arrived before Mick could get the Ford running again. Mick was optimistic, but it would take several more days.
This was one of my big nightmares. I had only one working tractor on a weekend when I would need to have both tractors pulling hayrides non-stop. To add to the pressure, I had promised the Sounders that first thing Saturday morning I would give hayrides to the kids in their kids soccer program.
I called all the rental places without success. No one had a tractor to rent to me on short notice. I called Ken and told him my story. His response was “What time do you need the tractor?” We used Ken’s tractor on Saturday and Sunday. Ken’s son Kyle came and gave some of the Sounders group hayrides, enjoying the cheers and Sounders boosting. On Sunday I sent Ken’s tractor home, optimistic that the worst was over, and that we would have both of our tractors running for the even bigger weekend coming up.
The next Saturday morning it appeared that Mick had solved the problem. The tractor was sounding good. He had driven it around for quite a while with no problems. I hooked up the hayride wagon and drove it around the farm. Heartbreakingly, I barely made it back around. The fuel feed problem was back. The farm would open in an hour on our busiest weekend of the year.
What to do? I called Ken once more. Ken drove back from his morning trip to Seattle and drove his tractor down the road to the rescue. We ran that tractor non-stop for both Saturday and Sunday. Just for fun, and for the experience, I invited Ken to come and drive the last few hayrides on Sunday, which he enjoyed quite a bit.
I am telling this long story to try to convey how desperate I was feeling at the time, and how relieved and grateful I felt to have a friend and neighbor ready to step forward and help us out of bind.
Ken loaned us his tractor for two separate weekends, always cheerfully and at quite some inconvenience to him. He and his son also drove some of the hayrides. Ken almost made me feel like I was doing him the favor by letting him show his support of our efforts with the farm.
In recognition for Ken I created a new farm honor: Friend of the Farm, complete with a farm name badge and lifetime farm entrance for Ken and his family.
There are many more who have supported the farm. I am thankful for those who have been steadfast since the early days, and for those who we met just this year. I like to think that we attract such support due to what we offer to the community.
And by the way, Mick finally discovered a latex glove disintegrating in the Ford fuel tank, hidden behind the slosh-prevention baffle. The tractor would run until a piece of the glove drifted over to block the feed from the fuel tank. In the end, I bought a new fuel tank. I am happy to say the Ford tractor worked fine for the last October weekend.