After months of seemingly endless wet and cool weather, the turnaround finally happened. It’s been suddenly summer. Very hot, and even dry. The cover crops grew inches every day. The greenhouse burst full. Everything grew. And so, it all had to be handled, right away.
This time of year engages every dimension of a grower’s life. To be honest, it won’t slow until Autumn, but the initial throes are some of the most intense and thrilling. Days take on a kaleidoscopic quality. The whirl of sky, plants, compost, soil, water, children, animals, meals, sleep. (Did I mention dishes, laundry, and sweeping the floor? No? oops.) Round and round we go.
There’s no place like the open field to meet yourself, face to face, as the tilt-a-whirl spins. Hopes. Dreams. Ambitions. Desires. Fears. Expectations. Joys. Losses. They rise from the dust, play in the mind-field of the garden, and settle back down in the shade by the end of the day. Field time brings us into immediate contact with the personal bundle of contradictions inherent to human existence. Just a few weeks ago, I was waxing lovely thoughts about leaving the earthworms alone under a thick layer of mulch. Give the seasonal kaleidoscope a whirl and watch that one go by!
Those plants that went into the mulch are growing just fine (some places a little weedier than I’d like, oh well). But when the cover crops lay cut in a golden green carpet, and the best chance of rain we’ve seen in awhile looming in the forecast, I was overjoyed for my Fellow Man to ride through the gardens with our good neighbor’s tractor and spading machine, working the soil into long, smooth, amazingly loose seed beds. Spaders work the soil deeply. They bother the worms, I’m sure of it. Overall, I have mixed feelings about them, but right now it feels just wonderful to see those cover crops be worked under so well, and so quickly.
The beautiful terrifying sight of open ground moved us to frenzied action, and now, with sore muscles and the best chance of rain upon us today, we are not finished by a long shot, but we have made a good start at least.
I can’t pretend that it isn’t exhausting and sometimes stressful. It is. I think about this while I plant, while I push a wheel hoe, while I shovel another load of compost, while I sort tomato and pepper varieties from the greenhouse. None of the small scale growers in our circle of friends are in this line of work for the money. Do we have to make money to survive and make land payments? Absolutely. But friends, there are many more lucrative and less demanding ways to make money than growing good food. Financial greed does not rule the heart of the small grower. We’re in this for the life. We’re in it for the pure glee of seeing a seed sprout and grow. We love the satisfaction of healthy flocks and herds, healthy children, and the feel of sun and wind on our faces and ground beneath our feet. It’s simple. It’s a lot of work. It’s exhausting. And it’s wonderful.