An onion life

An onion life

They were born in February and March.  Single, grass-like cotyledons springing up from the cold, moist potting soil in the nursery.  Thousands of them, soft and supple, forming a carpet of growing tips that I used to run my hand over as I walked through the winter greenhouse to check on all the babes.  I love the way they come out folded over-- creased right in the middle of that single fine stem-- and hang on to their black seed coats for a while, giving them a brief ride toward the scattered daylight.

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Not today

Not today

I'm so tempted to write every day about beautiful things, lessons learned, precious moments.  I think I've been trying to paint a picture of farming through the eyes of people that come for an hour or two every week, or that are sitting inside with their phones, wishing they were outside with some plants.  The beauty of newness, bright colors, satisfying work, and kind hearted people.  It's so tempting to stay focused on that here, and write about the things I wish I was focusing on.  Like this bean sprout.

It's so cute, standing up tall like a sentinel, surrounded by hundreds of other babies spreading their green wings toward the sky for the very first time.  I could go on and on about the sweetness of tomato flowers bursting open or the nostalgic aroma of wet potting soil permeating the greenhouse air.  I want to be attuned to all those details all the time.  To really savor them.

Yeah, right. 

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Winter's passed

Winter's passed

I think we made it.  Through winter.  I mean, I don't think it's coming back.  It hit me, not earlier this week when I was sweating in a T-shirt or burning the back of my neck in the summery sunshine.  It hit me this evening, when I was walking my friend's dogs in Westmoreland Park, looking toward a rainbow stretching up from a field of camas and buttercup, realizing I was wearing only a thin sweatshirt a few hours after a thunderous downpour.  Just a few weeks ago, such a rain would have chilled me to the bone.  There wouldn't have been any tulips to catch those droplets, or steam swimming up off the freshly tilled fields as the sun shone through the thunderheads.  There's still a couple weeks until the average last frost date here, but this feeling of relief-- six months in the making-- is too great to let that sway me.  Winter's passed, I say!  We made it.

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Reverse engineered to-do list

Reverse engineered to-do list

Thursday, April 26th: A reverse-engineered to-do list

  • Thin and fill out trays of lettuce and Swiss chard for the plant sale (everyone)

  • Prick out tiny ground cherry plants to pot up for the plant sale (Sophie and Alice)

  • Pot up green onions that are left over from a farm planting for the plant sale (Alex and Kiya)

  • Soak the trays we'll be transplanting (me and Ted)

  • Lay out spinach (me and Hao), plug it in (Kiya and Alice)

  • Transplant lettuce, fennel, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage (everyone)

  • Chat about how to get grandkids and nieces to eat foods they claim they don't like (me and Alice)

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The tractor was running

The tractor was running

While I was potting up tomatoes with volunteers, the tractors were running. 

While I was watering in the heirloom tomatoes, dousing the brassicas that'd been wilting, and unfixing a swath of plastic to let more air flow into the nursery, the tractors were running.

While our program manager, Jen, and I were giving short tours to our youth crew applicants, asking them the same set of questions eleven times over, and thanking them for their time, the tractors were running.

As I closed the nursery back up at the end of the day, spot watered a few trays that looked especially dry, locked up all but one shed, and packed my baseball cap into my bike bag to head home, the tractor was running.

On a day like today, eighty degrees after a week of dry weather and a smattering of rain coming toward us in the next few days, every minute counts. 

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Teaming up with Americorps

Today would be a good day to have a guest writer share their side of the story.  I was in my own world for most of the day, giving an orientation and tour to a new Americorps NCCC group in the morning, leading our last plant sale seeding with a few of them until lunch, and again leading them with potting soil and a couple solo projects later in the day.  I overlapped with Michael, Phil, Sophie, the UO interns, and Kiya and David just for a couple hours in the afternoon for a workshop, but the glances I could steal out into the fields toward the end of the day gave me an idea of how hard they worked out there all day. 

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Tomato scars

Tomato scars

I still feel like a mad scientist, and I'm still in awe of how the only evidence of being severed in half ends up a dainty scar, soon to be nearly invisible near the soil level.  I suppose tomatoes aren't the only organism that shows such resilience.  I wonder if, like an ache from a bone broken in childhood or the deep quaking of long-ago heartbreak, these tomatoes will remember the day I cut them in two and made them whole again.

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Racing spring rains

Racing spring rains

Lunch.  I rinse out a bowl from our kitchen supplies and start to wander.  Duck into the last greenhouse and cut a couple heads from a small patch of salad lettuce that still stands.  Pluck a few big spinach leaves from the neighboring bed, and slip back outside.  Turn the corner to the single bed of flowering arugula and mustards, smell the pungent aroma of arugula flowers as I stride past and snip off a few buds, mindfully and playfully.  A few semi-opened tat tsoi flower buds for yellow.  Across the roadway, I grab several red cabbage flower stalks and toss them on top.  Eat the rainbow, they say.  I walk back to eat at the picnic tables, grateful for sunshine and vibrant everything.

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Three photographs

Three photographs

I saw how the light struck each cloud, and marveled at the reflection of clouds on the greenhouse roof, and smelled plum blossoms in the air, and listened to Michael clipping branches and the freeway buzzing in the distance.  And I stopped thinking about how much I loved the sky today, and for one fleeting moment just loved it. 

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Pricking out, filling up

Pricking out, filling up

I was yelling and still not quite making myself clear.  No, I wasn't mad, or even agitated.  I was just trying to give instructions under a greenhouse being pummeled by raindrops.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: the rain on plastic is deafening.  I spent the morning with the interns thinning and filling in plant sale trays of brassicas and lettuces.  It's refreshing and fun for me to help develop new skills with these enthused people.  They pick things up quickly, and so far I just check in every now and again to give pointers on efficiency, another eye to completion, and reassurance that they're doing a great job.

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