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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, August 23, 2011

Notes From The Field: Order From Chaos

Order from chaos. That's what we do. At least that's what we attempt to do on a daily basis. (This is an uphill climb.) We take a field and cut it into small squares and say "you here...and you here...and you here". We cut those squares into even smaller component parts and assume that the soil will understand that it is now blocks of crops and beds and rows and we coax and plan and design strategies for each species and cross our fingers and hope against hope. We try to be attentive to the wants and desires of the plants, to be respectful of their nutritive needs and environmental preferences. We prepare what we can best imagine to be a lovely place for each plant to be and try with all of our powers to keep it that way.

We kill small weeds with tractors. We confuse insects. We hide plants from insects under covers and clay masks. We kill insects. We kill medium size weeds with hand tools. We curse insects. We inspect for disease, treat disease, curse disease. We pull large weeds by hand with help from anyone we can find. We plant successions to hedge against the conspiratorial force of chaos that lurks in the wings the second that we sow seeds in the greenhouse in the spring. We curse weeds. We sometimes wonder why we do this. We laugh with volunteers as we weed beds for the second and third times and remember why we do this.

We harvest, and I'd be lying if I told you that it didn't stun me every year, the beauty of the bounty and its colors and smells and volume and force. The fields that we've spent the last year planning so precisely, each square inch in such high demand, in places now a near perfect reflection of how it looked on paper with other spots handed over to a roiling madness of green and fruit. Some plants that were planned for, some plants interlopers, having escaped the steely edge, careful hands and watchful eyes of our crew. We haul it in, clean it up, eat some of it quickly and send the vast majority on its way. To the CSA distribution, the Outreach Market, The Salvation Army, Food For Free, our education programs. Out into the world to nourish and bring joy to people in our community. Chaos held at bay long enough to sneak the harvest out of the fields one more time, encroaching again now as we head into the depths of August and the angle of light begins to change and we start to scheme about better ways to do things next year.

We're through the halfway mark and our greenhouse seeding is done for the year. We've begun our final big wave of transplanting for the summer. This is the time in each season when things may come into focus briefly and one may be able to see the season's start, middle and coming end all at once. It's a time for a deep breath and a summoning of energy to begin the march through August into September, reining in the wildness that summer brings for a few more months.


I would like to take a few lines here to humbly thank our 2011 Weed Crew from the bottom of my heart for 12 weeks of stalwart service and almost unimaginable high spirits. This is their last week here and to say simply that they will be missed would be disrespectful. The crops that would not have been harvested without their help are too many to list. They were indispensable

and the most joyful bunch of weeders I've ever come across. Laura, Rachel, Shira, Courtney, Jess, Sam, often Joanna-we can't thank you enough.

And thank you as well to the many volunteers who worked beside them this summer.

Enjoy the harvest!

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

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