This is the week.
“This is the week,” iterated Oren enthusiastically, stepping back from the busy whiteboard wall with a toothy grin. We’d been in the IDEA Center for the past two hours for the weekly planning meeting; it was closing in on 11 pm, and there was little doubt left that this is, indeed, the week. All hands on deck, all the time. Catch-up planting; scheduled planting; bed prepping; greenhouse care; seeding; weeding; composting; everything. Affairs in order; it’s time to farm now if ever we’re going to do it. Though I hate to admit it, time may indeed be money.
This was actually the first week that Oren had been present for the planning meeting, and it was a damn good thing that he was. We powered through the process of breaking down an astronomical list of tasks into a relatively synthesized day-by-day outline of what we’re hoping to (and need to) accomplish – in large part due to the knowledge and memory he brought to the table: the prep state of beds and what has been planted in previous years; the biodynamic calendar; market and CSA schedules; specific compost and weeding needs for different crops, and many, many other details. Polly brought her usual voice of countering dissent, and their overall exhaustion set the stage perfectly for some classic debates. “No, I remember seeing that tarp on that bed a solid week before finals!” “Well, I’m positive that me and Danny just tarped it last week.” “You’re just saying that now to make a point, and you’re not going to let it go…” While mostly civil, their debates bordered at times on discomfort, and I got the feeling that the ice cream and popcorn on-site was most of what held us together as the night dragged on. In the end, though, we had a plan, and seeing the demands and requirements laid out in organized fashion was a bit of a relief before heading off to bed.
Tuesday started our planned week, and I headed out to Rising Sand after work. A good handful of cars were parked along the skinny driveway, and a line of Sand Risers stretched the length of our brand new 300 foot plot. I stepped out of the car, drinking in the sunshine and conversation. “So then he says, ‘Your next task is to walk through this field of ducks without stepping on any ducks…. And he gets finished with this one, goes back, and Saint Peter tells him…’” The punch-line was lost on me, but the energy was positive and the fresh air a relief. I jumped on the broadfork and fell into rhythm next to Dan, as others carried out various states of measuring, plotting and composting beds for planting. As we rode our forks slowly and steadily up and down the beds, we passed each other in the middle for brief and pleasant conversations. What kind of prep have you got left for law school? How is your home farm doing? What do you think about Steely Dan? As easily as they’d come, the conversations faded as we drifted in opposite directions. At the evening’s end, we came together to plant beds and beds of onions before watering the trays, putting away tools, and riding home west into the nearly-set sun.
Thursday’s work was mainly at Field Notes. It was a blackout on the biodynamic calendar, meaning that we basically didn’t want to be planting anything. While this could be seen as a major hindrance, the sheer magnitude of the workload offers some flexibility in the day-to-day, and there was plenty to be done. The major task of the afternoon was composting, and I spent most of my time Bucket Doggin’: the technical term for muscling wheelbarrows of compost through the obstacle course that is Field Notes Farm. Up the hill to Danny, filling buckets. Full buckets into wheelbarrow. Down the hill to Fanni or Polly in the greenhouse. Hoist buckets out of wheelbarrow. Empty bucket collect. Up the hill to Danny… The sun was hot; the work hard, and the pace rapid. I felt like a perfect beast for about 3 hours, conjuring up physical memories of my 17 year-old self on the dairy farm. Around hour 4, however, my 27 year-old body started nagging some objections, and when Oren offered a Shadow ride for one person willing to come and broadfork at RSO while he plowed another plot, I jumped at the opportunity. The 15 minutes of seat time was a welcome relief, and we wolfed down some Main Grain bread and peanut butter on the way.
Kelly met us out there, and we forked up and down still more beds, surrounded by the crickets and peepers; birds and gentle breeze. The sun set as my pace slowed; body becoming a machine as we edged towards the end of the plots. A couple minutes after our last crossing in the middle, Kelly turned back to me, beaming. “I love it here!” My autopilot mind was slightly taken aback. I stopped, leaned on the handles, and took in the scene around me: rolling hills, sinking sun, tiny tractor, steadily-filling beds of onions and kale… It was actually quite beautiful, once I’d taken the time to notice. Hmm. Returning reluctantly to autopilot, I hoisted the fork out of the ground, backwards 8 inches, and back into the ground. This is the week.