A week, a journey through another food shed, a rain, a flurry of breakdown, and just like that: I can see the end. Only three more market weeks. Six more CSA packings. Eight more apple trees to strip. Three and a half greenhouses to flip into winter crops. Another acre of crops to till under, and four acres to cover crop in a frenzy before the rains come. Seven beds of garlic to sow. Five sections of black plastic to lay out for next year’s early plantings. A few tons of potatoes to wash, a dozen tours to give, and a couple hundred volunteers to train.
Piece of cake.
The feeling started once the field tomatoes started coming down. We picked them super hard last week and let Johnny loose on the first couple beds: undo the baling twine that supposedly holds them up, cut apart the cages, pull out plants, remove any leftover clips or stakes, pull out T posts and plants, and roll up the thin plastic mulch. Each bed felt like a triumph: three to go! Only one bed to go! Michael and I spent the end of last Thursday finishing off just one bed. The next day, after harvest was wrapped up and the rain came off and on, I worked with David, Casey, and Christopher to pick away at the rest of the knots, wind up all that cord, hug the now-heavy wet plastic against our chests as we exposed the soil to rain again. Almost five months under that cover. The rain must’ve felt sublime.
We prepped about ten beds for tilling that afternoon, racing from tomatoes to zucchini to tomatillos. Teenage boys have an unbeatable energy for ripping plants out of the ground: Casey and Christopher were racing each other face to face, side hopping down the cucumber beds with rosy cheeks, glaring and laughing… I swear I saw one of them beat their chest at one point. Oh that energy! How many ways could they be letting it out unproductively or destructively? How better could they possibly spend a drizzly autumn afternoon?
I think the same thing for anyone, really. How could you better spend your time than loosening tight knots with cold hands, feeling thick tomato resin on your fingers, smelling the soil come back to life? What in the world are people doing in front of their computers that could possibly be more satisfying than getting mud streaks on your face, uncovering curled up snakes, or snipping off the last big eggplant in the field? And then bringing it home and cooking it for dinner?!
It’s not just because I work with young people at the Youth Farm that I feel like a kid every day. If it were just that, I’d probably feel like an old woman most of the time, trying to wrangle all the young’uns, scampering after them to grow up and stay on task. (Okay, some days I do feel like that, but I try to catch myself when it happens!) I feel like a kid every day because there are miracles everywhere around me and I get to experience them in my body, out in the fresh air, with people who are equally as awed, humbled, and amused by it all.
So when I say that the end is finally in sight, that the countdown has begun, that I can taste the flavors of Thanksgiving— and a long, well deserved rest for the winter— the giddy relief in my voice is tempered. First comes a hesitation, a short pause to recognize that I need to keep my energy high for another six weeks, which is no short order. And then comes the bittersweetness you get from seeing a kid you love go off to Kindergarten or turn ten years old: that feeling that time is passing so, so quickly, and these golden days will be gone in a flash, and all you can do is love more, love more, love more.