The Dirty Life Excerpts 1: CSA Summer ’14 ” Week #2

 In CSA Newsletter

This winter, a friend suggested I read a book called, The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball.  A memoir, the author shares her experience of becoming an organic farmer alongside her husband.  While their farm size and operation is a bit different than ours, there are many similarities in our experiences as farmers and women. Over the course of the summer, I am hoping to share a few small excerpts from her book with you as a way to share a little slice of our farm life.

Each year in mid-June, we go camping as a family – usually to Governor Dodge.  With small kids and a farm to run, we only do this once a year.  We leave for approximately 40 hours. Sometimes the stress of packing to leave can be so overwhelming that I question whether it’s even worth it to go. The answer is always that it IS worth it, but it can be easy to doubt this in the thick of rowdy kiddos, swirling mental lists, and the feeling you are forgetting something… this experience is one with which I’m sure many of you are familiar.

As a farmer, however, there is always an extra thick, wooly layer of stress that presses down upon us as we try to leave. When I read these words in Kristin’s memoir, I decided I couldn’t say it any better:

€œA farm is a manipulative creature.  There is no such thing as finished.  Work comes in a stream and has no end.  There are only the things that must be done now and things that can be done later.  The threat the farm has got on you, the one that keeps you running from can until can’t, is this: do it now, or some living thing will wilt or suffer or die.  It’s blackmail, really.€ p. 150

This sounds dramatic, I know. But it’s very true to our life.  Take this recent conversation I had with a farming colleague:

She asks “Do you guys really take off a weekend a month?  I just don’t know how you do it! We keep trying, but it’s just impossible for us.”

I respond: “Well we don’t take the whole weekend, we’re usually back to work for Sunday afternoon.”

To which she replies, “But still, 36 hours! That’s great! We’re thinking of putting a tent up in our back fields so we at least feel like we are getting away a little.”

To leave for a Friday night through Sunday morning requires making sure we have people to do the following: feed pigs, chickens, cats, and dog;  water our greenhouse as least 3 times a day; run our Saturday farmer’s market stall, which is a job that typically runs from 5am to 3pm; and work and irrigate in the fields several nights ahead of leaving in order to make sure we don’t return to weed overload and/or wilting plants.

As a family we have committed to taking one weekend each month during the growing season where we don’t work for 40 hours. It’s hard to do, but so important. Not only do we need small breaks, but Wisconsin is a gorgeous place in the summer.  We want our kids to experience beauty both on and off the farm.

So was all that stress to pack and get away for camping worth it?  You bet. Like I said, the answer is that it is always worth it.  At Governor Dodge this weekend we enjoyed beautiful weather and the company of friends. Our sweatshirts and hair smelled of campfire when we woke up to the birds singing.  Zea stayed in the lake for hours, shivering happily… Edie rode a canoe for the first time and loved it. “Boat! Boat!” she kept saying.  Took a solo dusk bike ride along the ridge and saw my first firefly of the season.

Totally worth it.

A special thanks to Jayne, Julie, & Eva who made it possible for us to get away.

Thanks and enjoy your veggies!

the Noltnerwyss family



  • Cilantro
  • Head Lettuce (either Red Leaf or Butterhead)
  • Garlic Scapes (various sites)
  • Kale, Red Russian
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radish
  • Salad Mix
  • Salad Turnips
  • Scallions
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini


  • Broccoli
  • Mizuna


  • Arugula
  • Bok Choi


Summer Week #2: Wednesday, June 18th” Group B EOs