8:55 am. I arrive, roll up my pant legs, put extra socks on under my rain boots, pull up my rain bibs and say hello to Phil and Alex as I waddle to the tool shed, unlock it, and find a rain jacket.
9:05 am. After catching up a bit, we pull out our giant double canopy to make a project spot for the day, set it halfway up. And couple minutes later, Ted arrives and informs us that we're expecting 40 mile an hour wind gusts today, so we can't risk putting the canopy up. We break it back down, put it away for now.
9:25 am. We break off into a couple teams to prepare for the day. I'm leading all four interns (a new woman, Alice, came for the first time on Tuesday and will be joining us for half days) to get tools and supplies together for three projects: escarole and lettuce harvest in one of the big high tunnels, chard harvest and weeding in another, and filling 3 inch pots on a big tarp under the same chard greenhouse. As we bring tools to the area, there's a low rainbow in the northwest sky, and Michael hoots and laughs as he takes down the plastic greenhouse doors. The interns and I go over each project so that they feel confident to pair up and lead groups of seventh graders.
10:15 am. A school bus arrives as we get some final materials sorted out. We gather in a light, windy drizzle at the entrance to the farm. I try my best to keep these 27 twelve- and thirteen-year-olds engaged by asking more questions than I usually do, and I'm pleasantly surprised that they're full of questions and comments themselves. We walk through the nursery, pass by the other greenhouses, and end the short tour between the last greenhouse and the orchard. I harvest baby lettuce leaves for them to pass around and try. They remember what fruits I told them grow here (not bananas... and no, not pineapple, unfortunately), and seem unimpressed with the lettuce.
10:40 am. The teacher helps divide them into three groups, choosing the most mature to be in Alex and Sophie's group harvesting escarole with knives. Phil and Alice take another nine students to fill pots, and I have the last bunch to harvest chard.
11:20 am. We've harvested 2/3 of the bed of swiss chard with only a few plant casualties and many delighted tastings of the colorful, crunchy stalks. I start rotating between groups and find that everyone seems to be having a good time, mostly working, and the boxes of produce for the food bank are piling up. We switch gears a couple times (move on to other harvests, start weeding the chard, double the amount of pots we thought we'd fill) before the escarole group is done and there's still time before they need to leave.
11:55 am. I'm weeding chard alongside a group of girls, all but one of whom skipped the gloves and decided that they could just wash their hands back at school. They're grabbing slimy old chard stems, ripping up grasses, scouring the bed clean. A critical mass has congregated in the middle of the greenhouse and is goofing off, slapping each other with chard. After much prodding, Sophie diving in to help model good weeding, and finally the teacher reigning them in like a drill sergeant, most of them get into the weeding for the last few minutes.
12:15 pm. As the kids run off to the bus, the teacher hands me a hand-written thank you card which many of the students signed, apologizes for their misbehavior, chats with one of her volunteers about the photos they took, and strides off to catch up with her class.
1:05 pm. Alice and Michael have gone off site for lunch, and I'm sitting along the only bare benches in the nursery with Ted, Sophie, Phil, and Alex. We talk about how hard it is to be mindful of the work at hand while having a conversation, or vice versa. I confide to them that my mind is often focused more on the work we're doing or about to do than the conversations I'm having while working. Sophie seemed to understand, since she managed a high school garden last summer and had to figure out how to keep squirrelly teenagers busy at all times. I tell them how Tuesdays and Thursdays are entirely different ball games from the other days I'm here. Just sitting together with this team to enjoy lunch is testament to the difference. I even take a few minutes to admire the seedlings.
1:45 pm. Ted's giving his first class of the year to the interns. After a morning crash course with me and Michael, they're now getting a full couple hours to go over details, theory, and hands-on demonstrations of how to prune. Meanwhile, Michael's cruising through the rest of the small plum trees and perennial shrubs in the orchard. The rain comes and goes. I sort through seeds in the farm stand.
2:15 pm. Michael finally puts on his stereo outside the farm stand. He's into old folk rock these days, which makes me smile. I'm deep in zinnia seeding for the summer plant sale. The seeds are the most beautiful earth tone hues, misshapen, some varieties hulled and others still in their bulky casing.
4:26 pm. Sophie asks what time it is. Ted's just left to deliver all those greens to the food bank. We're up in ladders around the cherry tree just outside the farm stand. Their pruning workshop is over and now it's time to just dive in. They surge ahead, then hesitate, then regain confidence and keep cutting. I snip away and get down to consult and encourage every few minutes. They're picking it up, and time passes so, so quickly.
This timeline was inspired by a post I wrote way back when at Fundacion Brethren y Unida in Tabacundo, Ecuador. Check it out.