Onion Season (Zombie Mode)


On Thursday, I had the opportunity to join Kelly for a live interview on her weekly radio show, The Tuning Fork, on 90 FM. We talked at length about the upcoming Supper Club meal, and touched on fermented veggies a bit before reflecting on our personal experiences since last year’s inception of Rising Sand. It was a wonderful opportunity to rehash those early days, when most of our time together was spent in a white-walled, fluorescently lighted room, watching coded spreadsheet pages blur past at record speed beneath the deft wizardry of the Grandmaster.

Looking back, it’s amusing to acknowledge my cluelessness back then. Not only did I not have a clue; I had, for some reason, unquestioning faith in my peers. Oren and Polly said we were seeding thousands of onions in Mid-march, then hundreds more in succession for weeks into the foreseeable future; that’s what we would do. Certainly we could do it.

And we did. Finally, after months in that room, hashing out bylaws and production plans, we hit the greenhouse with gusto. Inexperienced though we were, our enthusiasm was precipitous, and we seeded those onions like it was our destiny. Week after week; seed after seed. Zombie mode.

Finally, May came, the snow melted, and our activities progressed one step further: out to our land. We tilled the new beds, then got to business planting onions out. Row after row; onion after onion. Zombie mode.

Still weeks later, our freshly developing team coalesced around a new set of tasks: the maintenance of these expansive, vast swaths of skinny onion fingers rolling down our hill. So, we hoed and weeded in the hot sun, and laid down mulch. Hoe, hoe, hoe. Mulch, mulch, mulch. Zombie mode.

From there, we were thrust into the merciless depths of the season, with nary a moment to blink from the frenzied rotation of harvests and plantings; maintenance and construction projects. Monday, harvest. Friday, harvest. Saturday, market. Zombie mode.

Somehow, unbeknownst to us, summer passed by in just this fashion, taking our minds, for a month or two, off of the vast expanses of onions awaiting patiently our attention once more. Then, one day, somebody said it was time for the onion harvest, and we were back to it. Trailer after trailer. Crate after crate. Table after table. Zombie mode.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all acquired some serious zombie mode efficacy over the course of the summer, given the demanding nature of these onions and the season overall. That said, Polly Dalton is the real deal. To see her in action on a repetitive task is to witness the absolute essence of the undead: eyes glazed over; motions robotic; gaze unwavering; pace unyielding. It was here I found her on Thursday at Rising Sand, holed up in the dark depths of the pack shed, impervious to the laughter floating in from the congenial crew outside. She was in zombie mode, robotically sorting and boxing onions.

“Hey, Polly. Just hanging out alone in here, huh? You look like you’re getting into zombie mode.”

“No, actually Oren says I’m a cyborg, because I at least try to be empathetic to human emotion.”


Unsure of how to react, I exited the den and reentered the sunshine, joining the rest of the crew around the mesh table, sitting on buckets and cleaning onions. We discussed in detail the new romantic drama shaping up between Danny W., Monica, and the mysterious other. We laughed about the perpetual dirtiness of Kelly’s face. We explored the legality of the city’s senseless lawnmowing ordinances. We lamented the loss of Danny’s moustache. Lotus the Dog stole off with a massive onion, chased by a laughing and lanky Logan Brice. “Hey, come back here; that’s a $2.00 onion!” We had a blast; basking in the crisp, cool and sunny fall afternoon – the first in nearly a week, and last one since.


We had, it seems, (with the exception of Polly), passed the juncture of zombiehood for the season. And, having reached our carrying capacity for cleaned onions, Kelly and I headed to the small radio station studio and immersed ourselves in the wall-to-wall CD collection, picking out our tunes for the show before getting down to business. As we sat across the table from each other, laughing and beaming into our microphones, discussing those early planning days, I couldn’t help but think:

Wow, we grew a hell of a lot of onions this season…