Now that you are in the mood for some competition, let me walk you through the weekend’s debauchery that took place at Cloud Nine Farm during the second annual Farm Olympics. We had been practicing for what seemed like forever – when in fact it was really only one week. The training was brutal, but it was nothing compared to the battle that awaited us at each event during the Farm Olympics. Six farms, each full of competitive spirit, participated in six events, which combined agility, strength and precision. The events consisted of straw bale tossing, thistle root pulling, row covering, icy fingers bag tying, precision weighing, and chicken catching. The teams presented two worthy opponents for each event and the stage was set for a bloody battle – filled with laughter and encouragement.
|Proud of our homemade Crazy View patches|
Ulrikke and Val started off strong with a straw bale toss that would have made any competitor weak with fear. Alas, a couple of teams must have taken advantage of such fear and ended up tossing the bale over 20 feet. We were not discouraged, thistle pulling was up next and I happen to be a little obsessed with pulling thistle out of the ground. The clock began and we had two minutes to pull as much thistle as we could, but there was a catch, there were no gloves allowed. It was agonizing, but Chase and I gave it our all and pulled through the pain. The goal was to pull the longest, intact root. This may sound simple to you, but this will only prove that you have not picked thistle in quite some time and you may want to start weeding your garden. The roots can easily extend up to a foot into the ground; with one wrong pull you will yank off the tip and disqualify your thistle contestant. Experience proved to win over excitement in this event. Neither Chase nor I placed in the event, but we did have plenty of thorns in our fingers to prove our effort.
|Measuring our roots with the other contestants|
The third event was the row cover competition. If you are unfamiliar with row cover, it is simply a spun-bonded polypropylene fabric which is sunlight, rain and air-permeable. It captures warmth and protects plants from damaging winds, resulting in healthier plant growth and higher yields. Needless to say, in the rugged landscape of Montana they are a necessary part of sustainable agriculture. The competition was to cover a 25-foot row of crops and secure it with rocks. The winning team completed the task in a mere 37.0 seconds.
Now, that we were all warmed up, it was time to cool off. Farmer’s markets and CSAs are a large part of a farmer’s livelihood and both require that produce is clean and packaged. Produce is cleaned in freshly pumped well water, which means it is icy cold. After removing all of the dirt, it needs to be placed in plastic bags and tied in knots that are tight enough to hold but not so tight that the little old ladies’ arthritic hands have trouble opening the produce. The event had Ulrikke and Caitlen place their hands in ice water for two minutes and then tie a perfect knot in a bag of produce before any of the competitors. Crazy View Farm finally had a winner! Ulrikke managed to tie a knot with her numb, clumsy fingers before any other contender.
A farmer must know how much to charge for the produce that they are packaging and this is based off of the market price and the weight. The next event had Luke testing his skills at estimating an amount of produce and then getting as close to a quarter of a pound as possible. It turned out to be a difficult task and a long-time farmer ended up winning with a perfect 0.250 on the scale. The final event was catching wild chickens. The beautiful bantams had been running loose for the past few weeks and needed to be rounded up. I fancy myself a bit of a chicken connoisseur and thought that I would be able to win the event. However, my confidence could not conquer the chickens. I ran until my lungs burned. I chased the chickens through sagebrush and tractors with no success. Each one eluded my outreached arms. Luke faired much better than I and managed to wrangle up three chickens before the time ran out.
Storms clouds moved in from the North just as we were finishing up the day’s events. We had been jokingly warned not to win the Farm Olympics because the winning farm is crowned the host for next year’s competition. We came to the conclusion that this thought in the back of our minds must have been the reason we failed to win the gold – it was either that or accept defeat. Our evening continued with a wonderful potluck, warm company and two bonfires. I say from now on all weeding has to be done without gloves, in order to train our hands for next year’s Olympics. I will start tomorrow.
If anyone would like to see the other photos taken at this event or get a copy of those included in this blog, I have created a Dropbox folder specific to the Farm Olympics. If you just send me an email, I will invite you to view the shared folder and you will be able to use any of the photos – all photos were taken by the talented Mr. Chase Vreeland.