Days like this expand and contract beyond my control. They start quiet, if I arrive early enough to beat the crew and volunteers and barrage of questions they inevitably bring. I can walk the farm, open sheds, check the nursery, get my bearings. The stretching circle with the crew centers us, brings laughter and conversation, and the work meeting sets the stage for the day.
Beyond that, it expands in leaps and bounds until there are twenty things happening at once.
Gerome and Andrea leading weeding in the greenhouses. Michael and Kiya leading harvest crews. Jen setting up for CSA packing. A group of about twenty LDS youth and parents come at ten o'clock to help out, and they set off for a tour of the farm with one of the crew leaders. Gerome helps set them up to glean peas and tear down the trellises while I train a few to harvest bolting spinach for the food bank. I keep circling back, checking in, second-guessing whether I should really be doing something else yet. I keep passing by the harvest processing area, exchanging knowing looks with Michael as he reassures me they've got everything under control. I'm not the only that gets to step up when Ted's gone: Michael's leading harvest like a pro.
The crew takes their morning break-- the day contracts for a few minutes-- and dives back in: this time they let loose on manuring and liming the final frontier beds that I shaped at the end of yesterday, and I don't need to guide them since they've done it many times before. I focus instead on getting some irrigation running, getting transplants ready to go in the ground, gathering more random materials and showing volunteers where to dump all those pea plants. The compost becomes a mountain.
Louisa, who volunteers with her two sons every week, takes a break from washing salad mix to present a gift to me and Michael: two small pots of her famous Chile Manzano, a globe of spice that will survive year after year if we bring it inside over the winters. The plants are fragile and small-- so unassuming for such a flavorful punch of fruit. All the activity washes away in that moment-- another contraction-- feeling the soft stems, asking how to care for it, all attention on the plants for a few moments. Then, woosh!, the day floods back in and we're back to work.
I bang the hell out of the tractor arms to free them from the bed shaper, connect the small tiller, and head out to the field. I'm wanting, amidst harvest and transplanting and moving trellises, so badly to get the field ready for planting our winter squash this week. So I start to till under all the manure and limestone the crew has spread today, back and forth just once. I'm watching the transplanting project unfold nearby, and they seem like they might not finish by 2:30pm when their day ends. I stop the tractor after my second pass, and join the nine young people planting. Contraction.
They've stopped talking as I squat over the turnips and start plugging them in.
"You guys are pretty quiet here," I comment. "Is it me or have you been like this for a while?"
"We're the quiet group," Andrea says. "They're the talkative ones over there!" She gestures to the group down the bed planting onions. "I think it makes us focus more, to have a staff person with us."
"It always feels really different and special, when you or Ted or Jen work alongside us," Casey notes. Different for them, because usually they're among peers who might be goofing off, less focused, or have no idea why we're doing what we're doing. Different for me, because when I kneel low to the ground next to these people, plugging in plant after plant that we've seeded and tended for weeks, chatting about anything and everything that comes to mind-- even for a few minutes to help get a project done at the end of a busy day-- I'm 100 percent there, feeling the expansion of the day fade back to now, making greater connections with the people that make this farm glow.