Farm reflections from Denise
I was tucking a bunch of mint into a customer’s burgeoning bag of veggies when I heard someone call, “Hi Denise!” I looked up and smiled when I recognized a friend I’d not seen since last spring, flanked by her son and daughter (who, I noted, were each a head taller than the last time I’d seen them). In the middle, B was holding a baby, rosy and smiling in tie-dyed tights and shirt. “Did you visit the goats?” I asked her children, who nodded. The baby gurgled. “Beautiful! All of you!” I said and waved, so happy to see her lovely family. The next customer hoisted his basket to my table and my friend waved goodbye, her children ahead of her, swinging bags of veggies.
Last year, I marvelled, that baby was barely a bump when B came to the market.
Helping things grow is a miraculous but vulnerable process that I think about a lot at this time of year.“Have a taste before you harvest,” says Paul. “Some of this has gotten away from us and is bitter.” Bolting is what happens when the plant’s been growing merrily along, producing
tender, sweet leaves, and then suddenly an unusually warm sunny day tells it that it’s time to produce seeds and mature more quickly. The result? A bed of beautiful lettuce that tastes bitter. You can control when you start the growing, but you can’t control the weather.
We’re (im)patiently waiting for the basil and dahlias to catch up to the season after record-breaking centimeters of rain kept the plants from thriving this spring. I cut a slit in the protective cover under the zucchini plants so the water will drain from the pools gathering under quick-growing zucchini, threatening rot if left untended.
“R wonders if we could get away with three days a week of harvesting but then we run the risk of having overgrown zucchini,” says Paul, scratching his head. We can almost watch these little phallic phenoms grow while we stand and deliberate. I sometimes feel as though the farmer is a conductor of an orchestra that is a little out of control: the lettuce heads are clipping along but the basil is a beat behind for this market day. We try to catch the radish before the vole does, but picking some flowers too early leaves them drooping and sad in A’s bouquets. Timing is everything. So is luck.
And then there are the weeds. Last Wednesday, M, B and I meticulously picked each small hint of weed from the frail but hopeful rows of dill and cilantro just coming up. This morning I looked out and gasped: the patch is overgrown with weeds. Another dilemma: how to put in new seedlings, tend to the old, weed out the unwanted, and prune the thriving. And after all that, P and A, like generous Henny Pennys, strive to invite and grow a market of customers that knows the value of organically-grown vegetables. That knows how important these growing things are to sustain healthy bodies as well as the farmers’ livelihood. Whew!
All this runs through my mind as I harvest and breathe in the heady-inducing dill on an early morning in July.
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