I first met Jolly Miller on New Year’s Eve the winter of ‘96. That was a bigger winter than the one we’re in now. We’d had 6 feet of snow; on New Year’s Eve it began to rain. Brooke and I walked up the then – quiet Rendezvous to neighbor Lee Miller’s for a party. Jolly was there and he was the life of the party. Again 3 years later on the eve of the millennium change, Brooke and I made the same walk just after we’d traded wedding vows to our two dogs under a natural arbor, with candles, down along Pete Creek. When we arrived at Lee’s word quickly spread and Jolly with great enthusiasm said “you did it”! Then broke out his signature harmonica and played a celebratory tune. Later at west coast midnight, we touched off some shotgun rounds and other fireworks and so began this century.
Years went by and we’d started Bluebird when I got a call from Jolly. He said he was moving to the Valley full time after his recent retirement and wondered if I would need farming help? Indeed I did, and a fruitful and enjoyable friendship ensued. Aside from being reliable and flexible field help – predominately running his favorite of the tractors “ Big Red,” and then again his truck “Blue” at harvest, Jolly became somewhat of a “Bluebird” poster child. With his broad, well soiled straw hat, western shirts, big belt and an even wider smile to match, Jolly showed up in many a Bluebird picture over the years including a long running ad we had in High Country News.
Jolly and I enjoyed swapping stories of which he had countless, even more than I! We also shared the love of literature and we exchanged many a book and discussed even more. Right up until our last visit when we discussed the latest I’d given him. I then told him I’d bring up some of my latest writing to review and he said: “Cool.” Jolly passed on earlier this month; regrettably I never made it back. I like to think that when he reflected back on his varied and colorful past, that he thought of his days helping us at Bluebird with fondness. Jolly certainly added a lot of enjoyment to my days afield, and his love of music he shared with our daughters. His kindness and loving demeanor will never be lost on the Lucy’s and the rest of the Bluebird crew. Rest in peace, old friend.
As some of the first sunshine for the month makes the snow sparkle and I watch the finches and chickadees crowd the feeder, I realize time simply can not be stopped. The beginning of the year we had continued snow and then perhaps the biggest meltdown I can recall. Even compared to “96”! After 25 below on the winter solstice, temps hit the 30’s by mid-January. It rained several times and things got sort of gloomy. Alas, more moisture! Something I try never to regret here in this Valley. Lots of moisture as this long moisture cycle that began way back in early November has pushed into this third month of winter. That said, high pressure is coming and with the sun I realize that even January – which can seemingly last forever – is slipping away too fast.
Through all the weather, Bluebird has kept on ticking. Our crew has been working hard to keep fresh grains and flours milled, bagged and delivered despite the extra work winter always brings. The new facility is holding up well. We continue to refine some of our new processes and new improvements continue to surface. We bagged and shipped our biggest single emmer order to date and did so with relative ease compared to the “olden” days. Speaking of, I can’t imagine how we would have operated this winter up here on the Rendezvous! Our relocation came just in time. This winter would have been a continued nightmare for freight up here. Now, trucks just swing off the highway, back up to our new freight door, load and go straight back out to the road! Swell stuff alright. Ask the freight drivers.
Farming is as much about relationships as anything. First may be the relationships one builds with the land. Also, it is relationships with other farmers and people as whole, as referenced in my opening. And just as with human relationships actions speak louder than words and respect is paramount for sustainability. The biggest honor for me as a farmer is the relationships I’ve cultivated (ha ha) with the land. It may be more succinct to say, the relationship the land has allowed me to establish. This is not a rosy relationship at times by any means. Truth to tell, it is very one sided in this regard: The land is always right. No argument. The land is my teacher and I am the student. The consequences of goofing off, however, are much heavier in the field than in the classroom. If one treats the land with utmost integrity then at best, she rewards you with a quality crop. But she doesn’t have to. Disrespect the land and she will cost you big time in the end and you may not even see it coming. Examples of this abuse and following consequences are far too numerous to count.
As I mentioned in my end of the year farmer notes, I wanted to begin 2023 by digging into what I believe to be true sustainable organic and Regenerative agriculture. This theme will lead us to the relationships that we have established with a couple other farms and farmers. I will explain how these relationships began and how they’ve come into play here at Bluebird. Why are they so important to us, and the joy we’ve realized? More than just a farm profile, I look forward to sharing some concrete examples of farmer innovation, tenacity and ultimately, success.
Until next time I encourage you to think about relationships of all sorts, no matter what course of business you are in or relationships in your daily lives. What has been our relationship with the earth all these years for instance?
Peaceful New Year to you,