Saturday afternoon found me in the hoophouse. I assessed the situation, and my ambitions for the rest of the day. The end goal was to get a whole variety of beets planted in the northernmost beds. The barrier was tomatoes. I set my intention to get it done, and gathered my tools.
Earlier in the day, I had occupied our Point market stand with my lovely wife, and our hilariously cute 5-month old daughter. It was wonderful. My Mom had shown up unexpectedly out of the blue; we had many good friends stop in to chat, and it turned out to be a great day financially. The resonance of the experience warmed my heart as I jumped into my afternoon task.
First was harvest. I made my way methodically down the two remaining beds of standing tomatoes, and first harvested all near-ripe, feasible tomatoes. From there, I sorted them by variety, and into seconds, ripe firsts, and nearly ripe firsts. I went through again and harvested the green tomatoes for myself – the makings of a huge batch of salsa verde.
Earlier in the day, I had cruised around with the Gator, circling all of our crop fields and remembering the work that we’d done. The beans in Field 0 were growing well, and nearing harvest. I thought about prepping those beds a month or more ago with a couple of workshares, and mulching them heavily with a couple others. They looked fantastic. The oats I’d seeded as a cover crop were coming in nicely, and the barely-germinated clover was a visible indicator that I’d seeded it waaaay to densely. Oh well. No room for weeds, I guess. The old zucchini patch was all but all diseased by now, but had been a steady provider for much of the season. The new patch looked healthy, and I remembered mulching them one cool morning with Asher. Our farm looked great.
Back in the hoophouse, I paused for a second of gratitude, and was suddenly overtaken. Gratitude for the tons of tomatoes we’d harvested, and absence of crippling disease. Gratitude for the health of all of our members throughout the season. Gratitude for my own personal wellness, and desire to keep coming back and working hard. Gratitude for the next planting to come, and the fact that I still have the health and energy to do it. We have been blessed.
Throughout this season and last year, I’ve faced some elements of imposter syndrome. I’ve seen real farmers, and have always questioned whether I’m just a pretender of sorts. I don’t know what they know. I don’t work the hours that they work. I don’t have the drive. I don’t have the ability. I’m just a part of a group, but could never do it on my own. Some of these thoughts accompanied me as I systematically unclipped the tomatoes from their trellis lines.
Having unclipped all, I went through and ripped out the viny stalks, one by one. Grabbing them in clusters, I dragged them out the hoophouse door and threw them on the Gator, running loads of spent tomatoes up to the burn pile.
Late Saturday afternoon found me prepping the beds for beets. They’d been well-mulched, but the remaining hay was now a burden as I raked, trying to unearth the surface area required for planting. By now I’d gotten some tunes going – an old-school rapper named Rakim. His hard-hitting beats and delivery energized my rhythm as I raked, weeded, and measured in the lengthening shadows.
Last season, I had a hard time working independently on field projects. I doubted my ability, and rightfully so. Now, however, having made and experienced enough mistakes to have normalized the process, I understand that the mistakes I make are mine to make, and I can own them just as I own anything else in this life. I chose the beet variety with the shortest days-to-maturity, double-checked spacing specs, and drew out the measuring tape over the uncovered bed. The Boro beet trays would probably cover close to three beds total.
Saturday evening found me hunched over in a darkening hoophouse bed, racing the sun to completion of my project. What had earlier been a jungle of browning tomato leaves and stems was now fresh, clean rows of tiny beets. The last Tribe Called Quest record drew to a close as I neared the end of my final bed, and the sun neared the horizon line. Tribe bade their glorious final goodbyes to the world, when a novel thought occurred to me. People who aren’t farmers probably don’t wake up at 4:15, spend the whole morning selling vegetables at a farmers’ market, and then race to a hoophouse to pull tomatoes, prep beds and plant hundreds of beets. That’s just probably not something that they do.
Saturday dusk found me returning my tools to their rightful spots and parking the Gator. Red washed buckets; Oren and Logan worked on our hemp dryer, and the sky turned black. I was sore and exhausted. The darkness of the sky and soreness of my body conjured within me a physical memory of Spring, when the days were longer and the work more intense.
On my way out, I stopped to close up the hoophouses for the night. The foxtails swayed dramatically in the headlights, and my hatted shadow rose on the hoophouse wall like a superhero.
Saturday night found me again in the hoophouse. I said a quiet goodbye to the quiet life therein. The chill of the nights has begun to set in. The shortness of the days has begun to set in. We have been blessed beyond expectation or enumeration, and the wild, wily Spirit of the land has again seen fit to nurture the life we’ve established, and see us through another growing season. I’m saying a quiet goodbye to you. It’s been an absolute blessing to share the mayhem; the birth and the death, and all the growth between. Be well.