This spring, the installation of Slip Away Farm‘s new well at Wasque Farm out here on Chappaquiddick Island took longer than expected. Farmer Lily Walter had spent long hours in the early spring, poring over and adjusting and perfecting a planting plan for the new fields. She was understandably a bit frustrated to find that her precious baby plants were ready to make their way out of the green house and into the ground, but there was not yet water for irrigation at their new home. Because of this delay, she ended up planting some of the early season crops in “shady grove” (a section of the field by the driveway, next to a big oak tree) back at the Marshall Farm. She and farm hand, Sheny Leon, tucked in peas, baby kale, squash, and flowers–just some of the crops that were ready and raring to go. This approximately five-acre property is where Slip Away Farm has their main base of operations: the farmhouse, the schoolhouse farmstand, and their “high tunnel” green house. The house and its parcel are owned by the MV Preservation Trust, and the land around it belongs to the MV Land Bank.
For the past few years, the farm also grew, on this property at Marshall Farm, the produce and flowers for their 50+ share CSA, their weekend farm stand in the old Chappaquiddick Schoolhouse, a stand at the West Tisbury Farmers Market, and local restaurants. Since the small farm’s move to Chappy in 2013, customers and CSA members became accustomed to keeping track of the progress of the veggies in the fields as they drove or biked or walked by, and it was common to see a neighbor pulled over by the edge of the field just to say hello or chat with one of the farmers.
The plan this year was to grow everything over at the new property at Wasque Farm, located at the end of the only paved road on Chappy. This farm, incidentally, was purchased by my great grandmother in the mid-1900s and was then passed down to my great Aunt Peggy and her husband Curry Jones. Before my Uncle Curry passed away, he donated a large portion of the fields behind the house and barn to the MV Land Bank. It was apparently a decision he made without consulting his children, and now that the Land Bank is leasing the land out to a farmer, his offspring have had to adjust to a working farm in their back fields. All in all, the transition has gone smoothly but the idea definitely took the family some getting used to.
As soon as the well was built and irrigation was laid, all planting was moved to the Slip Away’s new fields at Wasque Farm, approximately five acres of loamy, flat soil. The flowers and vegetables grew well in this soil, much better than the thin, sandy soil back on rolling Marshall Farm. I remember the joy and surprise in farmer Lily’s voice when she found that she was able to grow decent sized, beautiful and delicious beets, which she had been unable to do back on the other property.
In the spring, the fields back at Marshall farm were blooming with a beautiful cover crop, but by mid-summer, the lovely purple vetch and bright, red clover had gone-by and the early planting up the hill in “shady grove” was fighting weeds for space and sun. It was nothing like what we’d been used to in years past–beautiful rows of veggies reminding us to stop in at the farm stand to pick up some fresh summer squash and baby greens for dinner. People began asking Lily, “did you grow the vegetables?”. She realized that it was a valid question. It wasn’t obviously apparent that the veggies were still being grown on Chappy, by her, because they weren’t being grown in plain view there at the Marshall farm as in years past.
Lily asked me to take some photos of the Wasque fields with the intention of getting an image or two that she could enlarge to hang in the farmstand. She wanted to assure people that the veggies were, in fact, being grown by her farm on Chappy even though they were no longer being grown at the Marshall Farm property. As things go in the busy summer season, I took some photos but she didn’t get around to making any large prints of them. Finally in September we sat down together to see about choosing a few images to print in large format.
She was happy with the images, but as we looked closer I realized that they really were not sharp enough for my liking, and that it would bug me to have a large format image of mine where the focus was a little soft. This was disappointing for me, as I had really done my best to get some images for her that I was proud of and that showed the beauty of the lush, productive fields. I realized that even though my technique has been getting better, under some conditions, my equipment is holding me back. It is time to invest in a new lens or two. So, that’s my current adventure…the acquisition of new optics. I’m excited!
I’m considering a Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED for my Nikon D7000. Anyone familiar with this lens? Maybe you’re upgrading to a full frame sensor and have one of these laying around that you’d be willing to part with? I’m also in the market for a fish eye wide angle (maybe this one Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide Angle f/3.5 Fisheye Lens for Nikon F Mount), and this baby…in my dreams: Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED.
Also, a couple of the photos I took of Slip Away made it into my annual Martha’s Vineyard calendar which you can find more information about on the Calendar page.