This is why I've been forcing myself to write every day: because when I set out to document and reflect on an entire week that's somehow slipped past me, the task seems impossible. There are so many details and conversations and colors and projects that happen in one hour, let alone one day-- and forget one whole week!-- that to try to encompass the whole will be woefully inadequate. Nonetheless, I guess, I'll persist.
Friday, August 17th. I'm at the FOOD for Lane County warehouse with Jen and the crew all morning, leading food preservation projects. We chop up and cook apples for sauce, trim green beans for dilly beans, and massage freshly shredded cabbage to make sauerkraut. The crew is lively, playful, eager to spend the hot day inside doing something fun. After we're done, I head back to the farm with David to harvest for Saturday's farm stand and keep irrigation running. A few kids, one by one, show up to help out, and we set them up to trim garlic. While David and I are manuring a couple beds so I can till and water the area, one of them stays, longer than I would expect any kid to stay and work, filling three crates of trimmed garlic and asking for more to do. I'm reminded to never underestimate someone new, no matter their age or appearance.
Saturday, August 18th. The crew plows through a load of projects I thought would take all morning: manuring ten beds, harvesting zucchini, processing other crops for market. By lunch, I'm thinking they can plant a few beds before their day is over, so I set out beets and Chinese cabbage, escarole and radicchio and explain how to use up all the plants so they end up arranged well in the field. Evan seems to think they'll finish in an hour, and they're off. By one-thirty, they're not even close and I ask Gerome to head out and push the project. Still not enough. A few of them end up staying late to finish getting the plants in, happy to see the project complete and earn a little extra money for the week. My afternoon turns out the same: I think I can finish seeding quickly and easily in an hour, but it ends up taking longer with irrigation and clean-up mixed in, so I stay. An extra hour, then push it back another, until finally I can set out the trays to water in, close up the sheds, let out a sigh of relief. I'm thankful that I've learned to let go of timelines on Saturdays when I'm alone-- it always ends up being longer than I expect. And today, I feel accomplished for the week. Okay.
Sunday and Monday. I'm on irrigation for the next two weekends while Ted's on vacation, so I come in late morning, turn on the cilantro sprinkler to keep the seeds moist for germination, and set about watering the nurseries, keeping busy for long enough for the cilantro area to wet down. As I walk around to turn on other lines, I can't help but hear a mounting list of to-dos barrage my mind: gotta pull those potatoes, beds need planting, move that irrigation line, tame those weeds.... I try to let it pass, but my brain makes secret notes to itself to revisit later when I'm trying to plot out the week.
Tuesday, August 21. Chomping at the bit to get started in the morning, I have to tame my frenetic energy throughout the day to match the interns' more laid back attitude. We harvest, and harvest, and harvest, and I break away to do the things I usually don't need to think about: keeping irrigation going, flame weeding, checking on all the crops, texting this week's availability to our restaurant accounts. It feels piled up still, this early in the week, and it's hot and smokey.
Wednesday, August 22. The crew is back for the week, but it's dwindling. Andrea is too affected by the smoke to come in the next two days, Kiya's arm still aches and she has to be on light duty, three members have dropped off the crew for various reasons, and school registration has couple folks leaving early. Oh, well-- nothing to do but forge ahead. Michael gets market harvest off the ground as I help get the CSA packing underway. After splitting up for a while for various projects, the crew finishes out the morning harvesting tomatoes. I drive the haul in on the truck, unload it near the farm stand where Jen is packing CSA shares, and laugh at how many stacks of tomato crates there are. I'll be staying late tonight to sort them all, no doubt. And I do, and we end up with enough for markets, and the rest for the food bank go on a pallet in the new "potato bunker" storage container we've rented to keep them safe from critters. It's incredibly satisfying to hear those doors echo shut at the end of the day. Clean red potatoes, newly dug Yukon Golds, and a few hundred pounds of tomatoes to send out to pantries later this week.
Thursday, August 23. After the morning flows by, market's set up, restaurant orders delivered, and we've strained and bottled last month's tinctures to pass out among the interns, I sit down with Sophie, Rebecca, and Kadyn to talk about bugs. The beneficial kinds-- the bugs that eat bugs or pollinate flowers-- that have consumed my imagination and inspiration over the past week. I got jazzed to make an insectary hedgerow or two on the farm after wondering, while spraying another round of Neem oil on the new zucchini, what eats squash bugs. We just need more of whatever that is! And it turns out the answer is creating habitat for all kinds of beneficial insects, which has benefits beyond just pest control. More on that later. The workshop got cut short when I couldn't ignore the tractor's wheels spinning out in the compost pile. Michael had been trying to build more compost with David when it happened. We tried everything to get it out-- digging, sand bags, using the other tractor to make a path to go forward through the pile instead of backing out.... Nothing. Not a damn thing. So we had to leave it, defeated, frustrated, worried that it might somehow break from the ordeal. As I drove to the food bank that night, I felt on edge for no apparent reason, until I remembered the tractor, wedged into that hot pile by its own back tiller sticking out and down too far. That day felt even longer than it was.
Friday, August 24. It's morning, the crew is out weeding already, and I'm with Kevin near the compost pile. In one moment-- a simple lift of that tiller from a chain attached to his tractor's bucket-- the whole week cascaded away into what felt like crystal smooth sailing waters. The tractor backed out of its wheel holes, the smoke that had been hovering oppressively all week had finally cleared into sunshine, and I felt like running everywhere I went. We hauled nearly two tons of the most gorgeous Yukon Gold potatoes out of the field before lunch. David was off and running on his own with the harvest list. The crew plugged away at the forest of weeds in the carrot and beet beds most of the day, feeling more and more triumphant as the day drifted along.
Saturday, August 25. For all the details and running lists and sweat and grime built up over the week, I was once again feeling giddy once the farm stand began to take shape. Mountains of sweet corn, glistening Swiss chard, bulging eggplants and a sea of cherry tomatoes. The small crew that assembled for the day was eager as ever, ready for anything, thorough and considerate and laughing with each other from across the fields. Every week I feel victorious by Saturday afternoon, but this week even more so. I'd learned to fix new things, replace irrigation parts, ask for help, give positive feedback more often, and discover a whole new area of farming (entomology) that all of sudden has my enthusiasm and curiosity reignited. All that said, a good day off sure feels fantastic.
*For more photos, see our farm Instagram feed, which I've been posting to a lot more than usual this month!*