We followed this strange pattern for the entire month of June.
The work week typically began with a major storm event that pummeled our field with anywhere from 2-4 inches of rain. It then gave way to lovely weather that would be perfect to work in had the fields not been far too wet to get a significant amount of work done outside of our usual harvest and delivery routine.
Right before the weekend, the temperatures would sore upward. With the soil finally dry enough to do all the seeding and weeding and planting and mowing that we needed to get done, my Carrot and I would be left by ourselves in the blistering heat to work as hard as two humans could possibly work in the span of 48 hours. The weekend ended with another major rainfall making it again far too wet to use our crew efficiently on the days they are there and leaving us again with a giant to do list and 14 hour days in the scorching temps working tirelessly to get everything finished before the next storm. It was like that for a full month: working straight through the weekend, pulling seriously long hours and learning how to work in some pretty dangerous temperatures.
Like everything in farming this pattern of weather was incredibly humbling. And I’ve surprised even myself finding joy in days I swore I would never make it through.
My Carrot’s first year of farming was the season before we started our farm. He was a full time crew member at Tipi Produce back in 2012. That summer was legendary. Every organic vegetable farmer I know still talks about that summer as if they survived a natural disaster. I guess the my sort of did. That year had more days above 100° then we’d ever seen in Wisconsin. It didn’t rain for weeks and farm crews were pushed to their limits. My carrot’s boss, Steve, told him that if he could make it through that season he could make it through anything. I knew that year I could start a farm with my husband because he was made from that cloth of toughness and dedication that I wasn’t sure I possessed. I always joked that if I had worked alongside him at Tipi in 2012 there was no way in hell we’d be doing what we’ve been doing these past several years. I always thought with that heat, that brutality, I would’ve given up right then and there and never given farming a second chance.
Our first five years of farming weren’t really touched by too many days of remarkable heat. When those days did come around, I’d turn into a total baby complaining and holding my stomach feeling disgusting, dizzy and nauseous. The temperatures would rise above 90 degrees once or twice a season and I’d lose my work ethic claiming farming was too hard and retiring to the basement after doing a pathetic amount of work.
But not this year. I don’t know what changed other than experience but I’m learning to just embrace all the craziness that farming throws at me with patience, intelligence, and (dare I say) grace. I drink plenty of water. I eat full meals packed with protein. I stop when I know I need to. I stretch. I’ve embraced farming like I’m training for a marathon and it makes all the difference. I no longer haphazardly throw myself into farming short on sleep, short on calories and high on three cups of coffee. I listen to my body and attempt to understand my limits (mostly because farming has helped me finally recognize that I have limits in the first place).
It hasn’t been easy, and all the rain in combination with all the heat has the weeds growing voraciously and keeping us working long hours into July (when things usually start to slow down for a moment before the intensity of heavy harvests begins in August). The heat and the humidity is definitely pushing our bodies to their limits, but we’re surviving and with that survival we’re deepening our connection to this farm and this Earth and ourselves. It’s in the moments of farming that are difficult that I find my own strength and a deeper gratitude.
And it’s in the moments of farming that are difficult that I lean hard on my grill and eat almost nothing that hasn’t been prepared on it for whole spans of time. Lately we’ve been loving veggie tacos prepared on the grill. The zucchini and chickpeas are cooked until charred over a gentle flame. The chard can also be cooked over the grill in your cast-iron skillet (or another oven-proof pan). Even the tortillas are warmed over the grates. It’s a meal that comes together quickly without having to turn on your oven or even take a step inside. I hope you enjoy and I hope you are finding your own local summer bounty to keep both your belly and soul satisfied.
Zucchini, Chard & Chickpea Tacos
I love this dish over the grill for the char I get, but also because I love cooking outside as much as possible this time of year, but it does require one of those fancy grill pans that could keep small zucchini pieces and chickpeas from falling into the fire. If you don’t have one of those, do the broiler method instead. Both are mentioned below.
Makes a lot of little tacos
Serves 6-8 with a side dish (or 4 as a meal all on it’s own)
Takes 30 minutes
2 medium zucchini, cut into strips (about 1/4-inch wide by 3/4-inch long as best you can)
1 (15 ounce can) chickpeas, rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt + pinch or two
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bunch chard, ribs removed and sliced, leaves rinsed, left wet, and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 scallions, sliced
- Preheat your grill to medium high or preheat the broiler of your oven.
- In a large bowl, combine zucchini and chickpeas. Toss with two tablespoons of olive oil until well-coated. Add chili powder, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, coriander, and pepper. Toss until zucchini is as evenly coated as possible. Place on a grill pan or baking sheet. If using the grill, cook for 15-20 minutes until charred in spots. If using the oven, broil for 10-15 minutes until charred in spots. I had to do mine on two pans (or in two batches) for the best char.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining two tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. If you have a cast-iron skillet (or other oven-proof skillet that can withstand high temps), you can do this step on the top of the grill if you like so you don’t have to come back inside; just be sure to use an oven mitt when touching the handle of the skillet!
- Toss the sliced chard stem into the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the just rinsed chard leaves so that they are still a little wet. The pan will spit and splatter a bit, but don’t worry about it. Add a pinch or two of salt and the red pepper flakes and stir a couple times. Let cook over high heat until wilted. Again, it will char in a couple spots and that’s fine; in fact that’s best. Squeeze half a lime over the chard once it’s cooked to your liking and remove from heat.
- Just before serving, toss your corn tortillas on the grill to warm. Serve with grilled zucchini and chickpeas, chard, sliced scallions, a generous amount of avocado and sour cream.