Friday, January 17th Yokna Patawpha Bottoms Farm
After our morning walkabout, we spent the day rearranging the furniture, cleaning, and cooking in preparation for the drum circle / concert / party – I made braised carrots, and Kristin made spinach & wild onion dip, both using veggies we harvested from the Yokna fields.
The potluck was delicious, the bands were fun, and the drum circle afterward was something else. Around 40 people cam through all told – it was a successful gathering and a fun night.
Thursday, January 16th Yokna Patawpha Bottoms Farm
Farm Manager Jeff was heading to an organic farming conference for the weekend, so he made up a To Do list for us to complete in his absence. By 11:30 that morning we had most of it done:
Then we headed out to the field to tackle the last two tasks we could do that day – picking up sticks in the new plot, and pulling and bagging the drip tape lines from six rows.
We hit the drip tape first, laughing as our techniques for pulling the tape in evolved – from Kristin’s pioneering “Texas oil pump” move through several of my arm swinging refinements to Kristin’s finale: the Butterfly Hose Reel, a tactic she’d learned somewhere that created a neat braid-like coil of hose and looked like some kind of ninja ballet.
The stick mission was simply cleaning up the small branches left behind during our previous, much more epic Field Clearing task.
Afterward, we convinced Doug to walk down to the river with us. The little dirt driveway from the house down to the Yokna Bottoms field merges into one other driveway, belonging to the next door neighbor. If you go down partway, you arrive at the chicken coop and fields.
If you continue past them, ignoring the Keep Out and No Trespassing signs, you get to the neighbor’s field and secondary cabin structures, at the opposite side of their property from their main house up by Doug’s. A dead end dirt driveway – but once upon a time, this rutted driveway had been the main road to Oxford.
At the Ping Pong Party, we’d learned, vaguely, about the history of the bridge across the river that had washed out and never been replaced due to weird local politics. What neither of us had realized was that the washed-out bridge road was just a little ways down the farm’s driveway – or that the bridge itself was still rusting out down there.
Also – Faulkner is a big deal in Lafayette County, Mississippi – especially here in Oxford, where Faulkner spent most of his life. Apparently, the spot where the bridge once was had been the real-life location Faulkner had in mind for the key river crossing scene in “As I Lay Dying” – set in his not-so-fictional “Yoknapatawpha County” (and now you get the weird name of this farm – in the bottoms (flood plain area) of the Yocana River, in the heart of Yoknapatawphaland.
Ignorant of the historical and fictional context, we’d seen the river in satellite views of the area, and only our respect for our host and his neighborly relationship had kept us from exploring our way past the tempting warning signs:
Today, when Doug mentioned taking a walk, I pounced at the opportunity, and got him to escort us down to the river through the neighbor’s land, so he could talk to the neighbor if needed. We left the dogs in the house, so they wouldn’t anger the neighbors by chasing off deer – but Widget snuck out past Nate and shot out after us like a little white bolt – she caught us halfway there, so we carried her in until we were sure the coast was clear:
Doug filled us in on the Faulknerian history while we walked toward the river, past the neighbor’s cabin. As the road dipped down, dropping into a side channel of the main watercourse, he mentioned how years ago, the guy he’d started the farm with had found a huge dead box turtle in this side channel.
While Doug went ahead to see if the neighbor was in his hunting stand along the main river, Kristin and I poked around in the little gulley – and found a giant dead turtle of our own.
Then Doug gave the all-clear and we went on to the river, which was down beneath us, beyond a steep, wooded slope. It looked daunting at first glance, but being native river-bluff billy goats, we picked out a zig-zagging path safely downward to the river’s edge, among the defunct support beams.
Tomorrow would be the day of the house party / concert / drum circle – we went to bed early.
Wednesday, January 15th Yokna Patawpha Bottoms Farm
Remember how when we were planting peas the other day, we were standing in the mud puddle trenches between the raised bed rows? Today we worked to remedy that situation – or at least prevent it from being much worse when more rain comes. We were tasked with creating drainage for that wet corner of the field, by digging a trench along the edge of the field, and from there, one crossing over and down into the little pond in the woods. We used the dirt we dug up to fill in a few deep puddley mud holes in the fieldside “road” and in the field trenches in that corner.
With four of us working on it, it got done pretty quickly.
Kristin made pasta sauce with some of Doug’s freshly picked garden herbs for lunch, arranged some dried native plant displays.
Betsy came by the farmhouse in the afternoon, and we did some more work on their Facebook and blog websites – testing some targeted paid ads for their CSA signup, and cleaning up some pages of their website.
Tuesday, January 14th Yokna Patawpha Bottoms Farm
We started the day in our usual way – with a meandering walk across the field, through the woods, across the creek, along the fields, and to the chicken coop to check for eggs.
The hens are getting older, it’s been cold, several are molting, and food is less rich in the nonharvest months, so egg production has been slow – one to three eggs a day.
Their water dish had frozen over in the night, so we filled up the backup waterer from the pump and replaced the ice block with something the thirsty birds were much more into.
Jeff had a couple pails of pea seeds he’d been soaking overnight, to get their growth kickstarted. I weeded the trespassing grass from the edge-most row of garlic, and we both worked with the other two WWOOFers and planted almost 600 row feet of them – each pea spaced about three inches apart, three pea-heights deep.
The fields feature peaked, raised beds – the trenches between them were thick with sticky Mississippi mud, rich enough in clay to roll up into balls by rubbing your mud-coated fingers together briefly. We were extremely grateful for our heavy rubber muck boots as we splooged and squashed and oozed around the wetter parts of the field poking peas into the dirt.
After lunch, we got more red-oak-splittin’ practice for when we get home to the Que Sehra homestead – Yokna Bottoms will be hosting a concert/potluck/full moon drum circle Friday night, and they’re going to need all available firewood on hand for it. I split most of it while Kristin hauled it to the porch & stacked it in a neat, crisscrossed, well-ventilated pile, to get as dry as possible over the next few days.
The day had warmed up nicely, into the 50s, so we took a cue from the cats and did some sunbathing on the farmhouse patio, laid out on our (New) Mexican blanket, reading and talking with Doug, sitting on the porch steps.
When the sun chilled out for the day, we headed into Oxford with the crew for veggie burritos at the Taco Shop.
Another beautiful day on the working honeymoon adventure!
Today we went to Oxford to “Ole Miss” – the local college, where Doug is a professor in the Education department.
I worked on fixes to their blog and Facebook pages with farm employee Betsy, while Doug and Kristin went from building to building putting up flyers for the Yokna CSA. It was raining on and off – Kristin had a raincoat, but Doug didn’t and they quit after he got quite soaked.
Neither the flyer nor the Facebook squad accomplished all we’d set out to do, but we both got a lot done, anyway.
Later, we wandered the woods, conversed a lot with the other WWOOFers and the farm workers , and then Kristin and I harvested Jerusalem Artichokes from the garden, which she made into amazing enchiladas for us all.