Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Collective Endeavor - this spring....

Again, it’s been a while. The slog from March to now has seemed much like rolling a rock up hill – any temporary relief being in the form of a smaller rock. No good stories. But this past weekend I remembered why I love this place.

The farm has an enormous garden, now shared by seven adults and three children. We never have it together to put the thing to bed in the fall, for the excellent reason that it continues to yield food until snowfall, and at that point picking things up is inefficient. This fact makes spring prep that more daunting, however. There are innumerable pieces of punky firewood to pick up, which have served the function of anchoring the cardboard mulch in places, but which disagree acutely with the tiller’s digestion. There are the monster stems of last year’s tomatoes and brussels sprouts and kale, plus baling twine using for tying things up (see tiller digestion, above), etc., etc. Once that is done, then several tons of manure and lots of lime need to be transported and spread, and then tilled in. Only then do we get down to the seasonal delights of Garden Planning This Year. Last year’s map is dragged out, last year’s errors and omissions rehearsed, and new, better, more successful plans laid. It is very fun, and once completed, my housemate and I were deputized to hitch up the buckboard and make the trek to the seed/set store. We plunged and wallowed there like newly freed yearlings – secure in the knowledge that we had measured each dimension of the plot, having carefully calculated in advance the linear feet needed of each separate item. All we needed to do was disport at this point, throwing bag after bag of seed potatoes into the hopper, flat after flat of this and that into the wagon. We swam and splashed in the tomatoes. And just for good measure on the way home, we stopped at a local farm and chose more stuff – advanced tomatoes with little fruits set already, on the theory that these would egg the younger ones on – sort of like toilet training among siblings.

Once back with our plunder, the games began. We all assembled under the direction of our Gardening Poo-bah, and received instructions. One of our number, however, dislikes garden soil. So he was deputized to clean out the fish pond, on the theory that he and the younger kids would have fun catching the fish and frog for safekeeping, putting them in cool safety in pots under the rhubarb leaves while the draining and cleaning part proceeded. This man was dressed in white pants. You can just imagine the progression….and as it happened, the only thing he likes less than dirt is amphibians: when he caught sight of (the very large) Rupert the Frog, he emitted a cry and fell back. That was it for him. All of us converged in a pack, informing him that only these sorts of toads had teeth, generally venomous, but not to worry so much about him but to watch for the water snake, etc. Several failed attempts to catch Rupert only increased our friend’s dismay, and our hilarity. It was tough to concentrate on planting onions, as I watched his person descend further and further into the wet and smelly depths, being instructed by him children the whole time on a better way to do things. By the time he was finished only his outline was visible under the slime coating, but I will say he did a great job. The pond is immaculate, the waterfall element restored, the fish and Rupert returned to their kingdom.

Meanwhile the garden part proceeded, accompanied by collective arbor repair, outdoor shower repair, and a myriad of small tasks needed for the improvement of the environment. The entire project took most of Saturday, and half of Sunday but by God, it is all in. The raised beds are immaculate, the herbs tidy, the climbing things planted next to fencing elements, the naughty area tarped so as to cook into obedience for next year. I remember standing up and looking around me at the bustle and camaraderie and thinking how much I appreciate this – the feeling of working together. It is the best feeling I know, I think – so rewarding yet undemanding. The feeling of real connection without any baggage.

Only one problem. We planted ten 45 foot rows of potatoes, and still had 140 feet worth of seed potatoes left over…..just a slight miscalculation, but the petty minded people who had NOT gone shopping made quite a mock about it. Never mind. Some were cooked up to eat (potatoes, not people) and the rest given to a neighbor whose garden I tilled later that second day. It would have taken her a month to dig up untouched sod by hand, and the aforementioned tiller made short work of it, churning up a respectable sized patch to a depth of 6-8 inches in three passes (except for that pesky ledge area).

And do you know, that same neighbor showed up here the next day, armed herself with a screw gun and a step stool, and went around the barns and indoor arena unscrewing and removing all the winter windows and shutters? I didn’t ask her to, but she just did it as a thank you for the tilling. I was so grateful – being too tired to do it myself but wincing about the heat on behalf of the horses.

I love living here.