It was Hannah's last day. She's been interning this spring, filling in for one of our season-long interns who had to take sick leave for a couple months. Most other interns come on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, but Hannah's schedule worked out to be Thursday afternoons, Fridays, and Saturday mornings. So Fridays- a relatively quiet day with few volunteers, Michael off, and often Ted away half the day or more- have been rare opportunities for me to work directly alongside her on a diverse array of projects. Today, after several weeks of Friday chaos with the plant sale and Urban Farm volunteers dropping in by the dozens, Hannah and I got one more quiet Friday.
She's an impressive young woman. Just twenty this spring and a sophomore double majoring at UO, she squeezes in extras like this internship, coordinating a bicycle-powered street library, and playing in our recreational softball league. I consistently have to remind myself that she's inexperienced in agriculture because she listens so sharply and learns so quickly, it's easy to assume she already knows what she's doing. When she came for an interview in February, I thought she was a really serious person- rattling off facts about food insecurity and the importance of local agriculture while diligently scooping shovelfuls of potting soil- but she's shown that side of herself to be beautifully balanced with infectious lightheartedness and joy.
"Let's go to the opossum shed," I start with. "Do you know about this one?"
She shakes her head, laughing, as we roll the cart past all the other sheds to a dingy, crooked little shed hiding past the tomato cages under an apple tree. We lift two thickly folded swaths of landscape fabric into a cart, and find that the third is rock-heavy, still covered in mud from last year. She heaves at it insistently across from me, until we decide to get the other cart for its weight. Eventually we lift-roll it awkwardly into the second cart and dump it with the others along Field Two where we'll plant melons tomorrow. She's less than a step behind me as I rearrange the smaller patches of fabric into another pile. I never need to ask her for help.
Next we start pulling out drip lines for the potato field. Hannah sprints down the field with two lines and we each hold the ends to walk them across to bare potato trenches. The whole field's been planted, and we'll get them watered for the first time today. She runs back to catch the lines I'm now pulling out, and we switch back and forth several times, high fiving as we pass each other. She ends up checking all the lines for too many repairs, pulling out the bad ones, and hammering down rebar at the ends of thirty-five or so beds that still need it. Mo and Huiyang arrive, and we work together to cap all the open connections so that we can eventually turn the water on without leaks.
Hannah stays to finish capping the holes as the rest of us work on spreading that heavy landscape fabric over the melon beds. She re-joins us as we prepare to staple it all down, and jumps in with a shovel to secure the sides of each bed. All the way down the bed, she's chatting with Huiyang across from her, asking her questions, keeping conversation flowing.
As a volunteer group arrives from Hyatt Hotel and I get ready to show them around and start a new project, Hannah and I go to close up the widest greenhouse door together. She's pulling the plastic hard across the entryway as I wiggle-wire up the edge to secure it. She's intent as I explain how to close the rest of the doors and use the ladder safely. She's setting up the ladder right away as I go to meet the group, and she's friendly as we walk by the greenhouses on their tour, listening to a podcast about climate change from her phone in her back pocket.
She checks back in when she's done with the plastic, wondering if she should join the group in thinning apples. I'm back to potato irrigation, but there's one other side project she could do.
"It's choose your own adventure now," I say with a smile. "You could go with the group, help get the thinning moving... Or there's a solo project you do in the field. Totally up to you." She opts for the solo project, and I show her how to hoe and row cover a half-bed of poorly germinated radishes way out in the third field. She's out there for a while as I finish extending the drip lines to be long enough for each bed, and returns just as Mo and I are starting to test and repair the lines. I show her how to tape a small leak and cut out a gusher with a repair coupler, and she's immediately on it, finding the thin fountains all over the field and kneeling purposefully to fix them. I think about how much practice she got in skills that most people never get to learn here, just in this one day.
I'm going to miss her.