Funny, isn’t it?  How years will pass under our noses while all the while the daylight is shifting and the air is drifting, and there’s still so much work to be done.  There is clearly too much to catch up on since I said farewell to Ecuador and this blog (raspberries bigger than my knuckles, kid-hands on goat-teats, folk songs with beautifully simple harmonies…), so I’ll just skip it.  Today was only slightly unusual, which makes it rather usual.  The perfect day to begin again.

I found myself planting true strawberry runners for the first time today, inventing my own way to make their new home stable and secure.  I tore off most of the runner so that just a couple inches poked out from each side of the fresh spurt of leaves, then used the rigid runner to stake the floating strawberry to the ground.  They look like they’re just emerging, ready to huddle and fend off frost and wind with a steady glare and serrated edge.  Or they’ll be dead when I make my rounds in the morning.  I really don’t know, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how quickly I’ve become comfortable with not knowing.  Anything.  Really, I didn’t know when to harvest winter squash, or how to cure onions, or how blossom end-rot on tomatoes might be saved with fertilizer.  I still don’t know how to prune raspberries or identify a single weed, nor did I ever anticipate using my intuition to prescribe the correct space between parsnips.  But I’m learning.  The strange thing about it is that I have no single teacher, no reference books, and no defined schedule; I’m discovering how to access the circuitous and jumbled mass of knowledge that’s stored somewhere in my brain, and to navigate its truths and assumptions amid a daily barrage of decisions on the farm.

Ah yes, the farm.  When I first visited the Laurel Valley Educational Farm in July, I considered it a garden.  I’m the Youth Garden Coordinator, after all.  When my co-worker, Hanni, first referred to it as “the farm” I think I may have betrayed a bit of skepticism, blurting out some rubbish about educational gardens.  A real farm, my subconscious protested, stretches the eyes more than this small slope, and it has more than a couple chickens running about, and there’s trucks and tractors and crews in the fields.  A real produces a bunch of food!  Ha.  Well, it may be just an acre, but it’s an acre under heavy, rotating cultivation and it’s enough to keep two people on their feet all season long– not to mention provide mounds of produce for seventeen CSA members, field crews, students, and us.  The matter of scale is more a matter of sincerity; we care enough to call this a farm.  The fact that I approach the autumn transition with little to no experience does not mean that I’m approaching it poorly.  I check in on the rutabagas, thin the tomatoes that will never turn sweet, and listen to what birds choose to alight on the sunken sunflowers.  I notice how the chard leaves glisten when the sun pokes out, and how well the weeds take root again if I don’t haul them away.  Humble and green as I may be, I care enough to consider myself a farmer.

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