Expansion and contraction

Expansion and contraction

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.  

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From seed to salad mix

From seed to salad mix

I was drowning in salad mix at the end of the day.  The coolers were packed full of totes and we needed more room, so I was stuffing bags and bags of leafy greens to free up a few tote spaces.  It felt like a burden, but at the same time, I felt rich.  This stuff is like gold, and not just because it earns us seven dollars a pound at our farm stands.  It's one of the most vibrant, colorful, texturally interesting crops- not to mention nutrient dense and gut-healthy- we grow at the Youth Farm.  It lasts for around two weeks in the fridge because it's so fresh and only a bit of every piece has been cut through in the harvest process, and it's my go-to easiest meal base- just toss in a bowl and add dressing and some sort of protein.  The process from seed to bowl is relatively simple and quick:

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Snippets

Snippets

Experimenting with a new format and combining two days into one post: a first, and a sign that both on- and off-farm lives have been stacked full this week.  There's so much to share.  More prose coming soon :)

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Farm haikus

Another week ending.  Second day for youth farmers.  Sunny once again. 

Strawberries twice picked.  Truck full of greens for food bank.  Apples still to thin. 

David stays to help.  Ted fills out the flower bed.  Field Two finally filled.

Corn and sunflowers.  Cucumbers and summer squash.  Melons.  Watermelons.  Sweet snap peas.

Red beets and spinach.  Salad mix and carrot beds.  More turnips and greens.

It will happen fast.  This soil will fill with roots.  Growth, harvest, decline.

I'm watching.

Cucurbits newly transplanted

Cucurbits newly transplanted

Onions all day

Onions all day

They planted onions all day.  Patterson and Talon: yellow storage onions.  Michael, Phil, and Sophie, with Hao, Mo, and Huiyang helping until three o'clock.  Four beds that we'd prepped a couple weeks ago, covered with black plastic, and waited for the weeds to sprout and die off under the darkness.  Plants six inches apart, four rows in each bed: almost 5,000 onions.  Mo's mother is visiting from China for the next month, and she explored the fields to take photos while everyone tucked in all those plugs, one by one and two by two.

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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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Soak 'em

For better or worse, I'm a perfectionist.  I was a straight-A student through grad school (minus a couple B's in the oh-so-high-stakes game of middle school), never once went to detention, and have always paid my bills on time.  At the farm, this nutty attention to doing things right has transformed into re-sorting boxes of produce for sale that have nearly invisible blemishes, digitizing our volunteer records and labelling systems to keep things more (in my mind, at least) organized and easy, and turning around on my way home after a long day to double check that I turned the hoses off so they don't blow out.  I just have a strong aversion to making mistakes, and I'm embarrassed to admit that it's often as much about my pride as it is about quality.

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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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Moving day for medicinals

Moving day for medicinals

They sat sadly in pots for too many days during that unexpected move, until I found time before and after work to clear out quack grass and irises from a small plot next to the farm stand.  They've survived, shaded by an almond and a hazelnut tree against the shed, for two seasons in that little garden.  They've ignited customers' curiosity and been part of a few medicinal plant workshops I've led for youth farmers and interns.  I've also harvested several of them, lovingly at the peak of their summertime vitality, to make tinctures or salves.  Despite all this though, they've remained pretty sad.  There's just not enough light in that little sliver of garden.

So today I decided to give some of my favorite herbs a new home in my sunny plot at the Whiteaker Community Garden in Eugene.

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