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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!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

NOTES FROM THE FIELD – Cucurbit Lament

By Rae Axner, Field Crew

There were some weeks on the farm in the heat of June and July where the days seemed to last forever and the thrice-weekly cucurbit harvests (summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers) melded into one strenuous yet meditative motion. And just as a 90-degree day comes to an end and you find yourself singing along to the radio and pulling onto Beaver Street, so too ends the lifespan of a seasonal crop. Three plantings of cucurbits, the first at Lyman Estate, the next in Waltham's "Around the Corner" field, and the last in the East field, were raised from seedlings in the greenhouse, delicately transplanted into their beds, grew larger day by day, and produced an unbelievable amount of food (I hope you remember bringing home as many cucumbers as you could carry as well as we remember harvesting them!), before waning and eventually being mowed and disked back into the ground to prepare the soil for its next purpose.

This week marked our final cucurbit harvest. For me it brings mixed emotions. Initially it's a feeling of relief and excitement to see a particularly tedious crop being turned back into the earth. Shortly following enters a twinge of premature nostalgia and of course, culinary regret. (Hindsight is 20/20 when you realize your fridge will no longer be stocked with a certain ingredient.) Eventually, this fades into a sense of satisfaction. Pulling up irrigation tape and gazing out over the rows of newly empty beds reminds me of what that soil supported thus far this season, in seasons past, and in seasons to come.

Aside from the end of cucumbers, there are many other unavoidable signs this week on the farm that summer is coming to a close and fall is near. The air is crisp and the dew on the kale is chilly. The farm team has started arriving in fleeces and flannels. My personal sunscreen usage has drastically decreased. More importantly, our tomatoes are popping off of the vines faster than we can pick them and our fall harvest crops are thriving. You couldn't fit even one of our collard green leaves in a breadbox these days. There are over a thousand pounds of storage onions in the greenhouse, curing to save for the long winter ahead. And I've heard whisperings of sweet potatoes. If that's not fall, I don't know what is.

We all feel it in the air. This week is different from the last. Just like the end of the cucurbits, the end of summer is bittersweet-met with one part relief and one part sadness. But there is hardly time to linger. We consider our accomplishment and pride of making it through the hottest part of the year for a moment, and then dive back into the cooler to re-arrange bins and make room for the largest harvests of the season.


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