The Space Between Us
We had our quarterly Board of Directors meeting on Friday evening: to catch up, plan, and generally gather our bearings in advance of the intense spring blitz ahead of us. Topics of discussion included our last equipment purchases for the season, the husbandry of a few animals, some layout and spacing considerations for garden plots, and, perhaps most importantly, a quarterly work plan for the summer.
We hashed out these decisions in a relatively painless manner, deciding to house a couple of cows from Primitive Pastures’ herd at RSO, to clean up and fertilize the rocky pastureland behind the barn. As Oren so aptly and simply stated: “They get our grass; we get their poop, and some meat for lunches.” Additionally, we agreed on the purchase of a plow, barrel washer, cooler, and other smaller odds and ends — all but wrapping up our capital purchase budget for the season, and setting us up well for land prep at Rising Sand. Work schedules were established; thankfully including a much greater time commitment from our student members, given the exponential nature of our workload. We encountered a bit of inevitable stickiness at times. When are we getting paid, and how are we paying ourselves? How do we cut the losses if the farm isn’t profitable in a given season? How come the animal husbandry discussion had never yet come to light in a more formal setting? Overall, though, we came to consensus, and even made time for a fun little team-building activity; understanding the value of enjoying each other’s company in a collectively recreational space, in spite of general exhaustion.
On Saturday, Fanni and I headed home for an early Mother’s Day celebration around the grill. All the while we talked, ate, shot hoops, and entertained tiny nieces, a mammoth Tractor-Transformer barreled through the surrounding muddy acreage: plowing, discing and finishing the field in one fell swoop, in spite of the near-standing water in low spots. It was an impressive display of human productivity, and while we laughed and socialized, the zombie-eyed man prepped over 100 acres of cropland for corn; all from behind the glass windows of the roaring beast.
I held this picture in my mind on Sunday morning, waching Oren till a couple rounds of our new RSO plots on our glorious John Deere. Each time he passed, a broad goofy smile would cross his face, and his whole aura beamed with excitement at the end of a law school semester, and start of a new season on new land. He would stop at the end of the rows to hold discussions and orient the group, or try (and fail) to converse with Polly on our new walkie-talkies while he cruised. After the necessary passes were made and the tractor shut off, the birds and auditory life around us became abundantly evident. “Wow, it’s so nice without that tractor!” remarked Polly as she tuned into some dramatic salsa music on the solar speaker, evoking an impassioned session of bed-shaping, broadforking, and composting — carried out by the five of us in communal rhythm.
After a few productive hours, we set up a makeshift table and sat in the shade to enjoy lunch: a wonderful curried chickpea dish with sides of bread, cheese, boiled eggs and popcorn. Our lunchtime conversation traveled from harvesting pig methane to the distinction between torture and torment; admittedly strange topics, in retrospect. At any rate, there we were: working together and eating together like true, healthy human beings. This is it, I realized. This sense of community and camaraderie is what brings me out to the farm or meeting rooms after long days in the kitchen, and the energy we share is the energy that sustains the operation. In the time we prepped 7 X 100 foot beds, however, tractor-man worked roughly 100 acres — through seated, stationary and repetitive isolation — crushing the land beneath his massive machine. Our process, however, entailed careful nurturance of the land, and encompassed the physical and social stimulation that enliven us as human beings, and nurture the space between us.