It's all history

When I think back over another week that’s flown by without any writing, I try to think of the one thing that a day would be remembered by: a conversation? a new harvest? a challenge? a storm? By this time of the year I tend to think we’re cruising on auto pilot— that every day has become somewhat predictable and blurry under the steady stream of harvest— but it’s not true. Each day in my history continues to feel distinct, new things pop up, old things remain beautiful, and the blur of early autumn harvest time is punctuated in real time and in memory.

Friday was the day that I returned to Breitenbush hot springs for the first time in three years to attend the Breteinbush Herbal Conference. Last year was cancelled because of a nearby wildfire threatening the resort, so they celebrated their 35th anniversary this year instead. Several of the original teachers and attendees, who are all now in their late careers as herbalists, aromatherapists, and teachers, came to teach workshops.

Saturday was the day that I attended a “Backyard Weeds” lecture with Rosemary Gladstar, one of the first herbalists I read and one of the more well known popular authors in the field. I understood why she’s so beloved, brimming with joy and delight in the plants and people around her, staying positive and creative throughout the decades that herbalism has been challenged and revitalized. I was encouraged that my short workshops with interns and youth farmers are worthwhile, and I was inspired to continue using common weeds to be able to share more clinical experiences and tips with others.

Sunday was the day that my mind opened to aromatherapy for the first time in earnest. I’ve always been skeptical of essential oils: concentrated like pharmaceuticals, potentially risky, and often overpowering. A workshop with Tim Blakely didn’t erase those concerns, but it did show me the benefits and safe usage of essential oils and made me wish I had a large collection with which to make various blends and experiments. Just inhaling the fleeting volatile oils from plants can affect us immediately and profoundly, a point that doesn’t surprise me but that was good to be reminded. Smelling the Cascade forests and rich rainy air has taken on new meaning since that talk.

Tuesday was the day that I spent almost entirely in the tomatoes, preparing for rain and our Farm Fest tomato taste-off. I sorted through the many rows and varieties scattered about the field to find a small collection of each type of tomato we grow: Big Beefs to Mashenka slicers, Cherokee Purples to Brandywines to Indigo Blue Beauties. I kept them all separate and labelled to await Saturday morning, when we’ll find a perfect representative for display and then chop up the rest to serve with toothpicks and voting ballots. My fingers were quickly coated in resin, reminding me of the long history of these plants. My knees and pants turned golden green within an hour. The truck filled up twice: our biggest field harvest in weeks, if not of the entire season so far.

Wednesday was the day we hosted our first big volunteer group since the spring. They were therapists and staff from the University’s counseling department, out on a staff retreat to have fun and give back to the community. They were probably one of the easiest groups to manage, being eager, focused, and positive, but I was still caught off guard and felt suddenly rusty and awkward in my project directing. How to prepare for multiple projects at once, have back-up tasks on hand for people that need something else to do, make sure everyone has a leader, check in frequently or work alongside them… We have many more groups signed up to volunteer over the next couple months (including about seven next week for the “Day of Caring”!), so it was a good jump-start and shift toward working with big unskilled groups. Let the chaos begin!

Thursday was the day I spent more time at the farm stand than ever before, and stood around chatting for more time than I’ve done all year. Trillium, the local Oregon Health Plan insurance company, hired a professional film crew to produce a few television ads about the work they do, and as part of their partnership with FOOD for Lane County in the Veggie Rx program, we might end up front and center in one of the commercials. So they were at the farm for a few hours on Wednesday, and came to the farm stand on Thursday to get more footage. Actors fake-shopped for about an hour, posed with produce, and did a couple transactions using the Veggie Rx vouchers. I wasn’t very needed, but they wanted me to stay for a couple potential shots, and we ended up all posing with our sign once Michael and the interns came over after five o’clock. The staged acting is an entertaining, fascinating process to all of us farmers, and we’re excited to see the final product in October.