Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog! Learn about our farm operation, public programs, and the people behind our work through the Notes from the Field and Education sections. Peruse the Recipes section for some staff favorites.

Waltham Fields Community Farm (incorporated as Community Farms Outreach, Inc.) is a nonprofit farming organization focusing on sustainable food production, fresh food assistance, and on-farm education. For more information about Waltham Fields check out our website!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Notes from the Field: Dog Days of Summer

When I was little, my father left every morning for work at the marina that he owns. The marina shop and store are right across the driveway from the house, but the short walk seemed like a long journey from the air conditioned comfort in which the rest of our family spent the days, away from the blazing heat and oppressive humidity of the Maryland summer. At that time, his business was relatively new. I don't remember him having a regular day off during the week when the summer boating season was underway. He complained about the heat, but there was never a morning when he did not get up as usual and go to work. I think I thought he was crazy. I know that I definitely believed that I would grow up to work in air conditioned comfort, emerging at the end of the workday to blink in the light and the heat and wonder how folks could make it through the day outside, and why they would want to.

I remembered all of this quite vividly last week, while the farm crew struggled through a few days of 95+ degree heat. As one of our farmer friends likes to say, "vegetables don't take a vacation". Weather of any kind is really no excuse for veggie growers not to work, unless there's something in that weather that means it would damage the plants to work with them. That's usually excessive moisture, which is definitely not the conditions we've been dealing with for the last few weeks.

Last week our vegetables did not take a vacation. They kept growing, needing lots of water to counteract the very hot air and very dry soil. Andy spend the entire week moving irrigation pipe and drip irrigation from field to field and section to section, often following the weed crew to help keep the recently weeded crops from being too surprised by their abrupt exposure to the sun. The squash kept on making squash, the cucumbers kept on making cucumbers, and the okra, bless its southern soul, started making okra despite the fact that we were not remotely ready to start harvesting it. The tomatoes began to ripen. The sweet potatoes, delighted at what they apparently believed was a return to their homeland, seemed to put on a new leaf every time we walked by them -- it would not be an exaggeration to say that they doubled in size last week. In the heat, we kept harvesting the crops that rolled in. We drank gallons of water and everything else under the sun. We got tired, got cranky, snapped at each other,moved pipe, kept planting, stopped planting (too hot and dry), kept weeding, stopped weeding (too hot and dry) and finally got out into the field with hoes to take advantage of one of the benefits of hot dry weather: it can kill weeds really well, if you can keep from damaging the roots of the crop while you're at it. I came home at night clean instead of dirty, because I had sweated so much over the course of the day that the soil had washed off. And I remembered my dad, getting up, going to work, day after day.

Some things, of course, should not be endured. There is sometimes great wisdom in knowing when to walk away. But there are so many opportunities for fortitude and staying power, which we may practice at any time -- in a challenging yoga class, the daily demands of parenthood or faithfulness, all the little commitments that make up a life. Farming is a constant exercise in endurance, the odd liberation of bowing to what is asked of you, day after day, submerging yourself in the task until you sweat clean and the harvest is in. There is some grace in being responsible to things that call you daily to harvest and tend and endure. There is some grace in being able to respond.

Last week the weed crew showed up to work every morning, smiling and ready to go. They worked through the morning when the thermometer showed 106 in the sun, but paced themselves, taking breaks so that they never overdid it. Andy and Rachel, who most recently farmed in Georgia, smiled and shook their heads at our New England "heat". Kind shareholders brought coolers full of water, electrolyte drinks, bananas, ice-cold lemony golden zucchini cake. My husband Mark put up our big tent so we would have a cool place to eat lunch, and made us milkshakes on Friday. I called my father Friday evening to see how he was faring in the heat, which reached 111 degrees in Maryland. I was glad to hear that he had spent the day taking care of a sick neighbor instead of bent over in the bottom of a boat. On Saturday morning, an unexpected shower cooled the air and moistened the top layer of soil, helping the irrigation water soak in better (the term "capillary action" made its annual appearance on the farm). By Sunday the brief heat wave was over, replaced by more manageable summer temperatures. We returned to the regular day to day endurance of farm work, which looks more like commitment and less like what Dan calls "bone-headedness". There will be more hot days, and more work to do in them. For now, enjoy the harvest, everyone.

-- Amanda, for Andy, Erinn, Dan, Larisa and Lauren

No comments: