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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!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Notes from the Field: Summer Solstice

The sun stood still last week at the northernmost point in its travels up the sky. The weekend full moon was huge, the closest to the earth it will come this year. A double rainbow graced the sky after a brutal thunderstorm pounded the fields with yet more rain. We plowed under the spring's cover crop, driving the tractors through fields of purple and white vetch and pea flowers under a perfect blue sky to prepare the way for the fall's broccoli and cauliflower. Must be summer.

The beautiful weather at week's end was a balm to farmers to whom the spiritual exercise of waiting and acceptance does not come easily in the rain. Dan, Sutton and Zannah jumped on the tractors to cultivate everything in sight, and the weed crew followed behind to clean up what was left. We were grateful once again for our well-drained sandy loam soils as the sun and light breeze quickly dried them out and left them perfect for planting and cultivating. The field crew, who had their first few days with us last week, proved that they are up to the task, picking beautiful bunches of greens and radishes and transplanting chard, rutabaga and beets for harvest later in the season. We ferried a thousand tomato stakes to the fields at the Lyman Estate, ready to tie up the robust, stout tomato plants that escaped their brush with the pythium soil fungus during the wet weather and now stand as tall as our knees. We released our first batch of beneficial parasitic wasps, to try again to cut down on the fuzzy yellow bean beetle larvae that can decimate a bean planting. We seeded a summer buckwheat cover crop on a fallow field even as we turned in our spring cover crops. Fava beans grew. Carrots and squashes lengthened and fattened. Pigs seemed hungrier than usual once the rain stopped and they could forage outside again. The sun stands still, but farmers and vegetables don't.

Still, there is a subtle shift in the tasks of the season at the solstice, despite the fact that weeding, planting, harvest and field preparation continue. The twin hurdles of the summer -- staking and tying tomatoes and planting the big block of fall brassicas -- are still before us. As those finish, we'll turn our thoughts and bodies to the summer's heavy harvests: summer squash and cucumbers in July, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes in August. The fruiting crops remind us that the energy of summer is in ripening, maturing - the work of completion and fulfillment that tends towards the autumn seed. The quick growth of the crops (and weeds!) on sunny summer days is almost visible to the naked eye. Vegetable plants are building their framework, adding on daily, growing above and below the soil during these longest days, resting at night to prepare for more growth, more stretching, more expansion during the day. And although we farmers sometimes barely notice it in the full business of the season, the solstice is an immovable marker on the wheel of the year. It comes, and passes, whether we observe it or not. The crops tell us. The sun tells us. Our tired bodies remind us. Summer's work is upon us.

Enjoy the harvest,

Amanda, for the farm crew

Photos courtesy of Saul Blumenthal.

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