The organization which rents us the land and does all the training asked me to remove the black plastic and basically close up shop for the season. Well, asked, isn't really the right word. They told me if I didn't do it by Monday they would charge me for the labor to do it themselves. When I got there and was harvesting the bountiful crops I thought that it wasn't exactly fair considering there was still a few weeks of harvest left, but then again, who am I kidding, now that I started my new job I'm at the farm rarely, if ever.
Yesterday when we had stopped by we picked up a few of the bell peppers and jalapenos and on the way home Saphira, our two year old, was snapping them in half. She thought it was a great game. But then she stuck her fingers in her mouth and howled in pain. We bought her a milk shake to ease the pain. Then today, on the way to the farm she starts crying again and tears are running down her red face. We couldn't believe she had done it again! I'm not even sure where she got the pepper. I assume it was on her carseat. We bought her another milk shake and I spent quite a bit of time wiping her tongue and fingers with a wet napkin.
We drove past a lot of farms selling tons of pumpkins (literally. tons.) I was considerably envious because I had planted two dozen pumpkin seeds early enough in the season that I really should have gotten a few pumpkins. Some of the pumpkins we passed were gargantuan. Timmy asked if the farmers injected them with steroids or something. Although there may be tricks of the trade that I don't know about I answered that there were certain breeds that grew extra large. One of those breeds I had planted and, again, I'm resentful that I didn't get one dang pumpkin out of the bunch. The problem I've had all season is that my crops have been "out-competed" all year by the weeds. The weeds have completed for room, for water, for nutrients, for sunlight. But the pumpkins? I've determined that the competition for the pumpkins didn't come from my weeds, it came from the trees bordering my plot of land. They probably cut the hours of sunlight in half; particularly the pumpkins which were on the edge. This, I suppose, is a good lesson in the University of Life, more specifically, my agricultural major in this university of life. When choosing land for planting, in the future, I will be sure to choose land with nothing blocking the sun. This lesson was hopefully, worth more than the $40 I'm going to shell out to buy pumpkins for my kids to carve. And once again, the reader has been spared the expense and can learn via my mistakes. (Which is the beauty of reading. I do so love to read).
At the farm, removing the black plastic was a lot of work. I ended up having to use a variety of techniques to get it all: standing, on my hands and knees, pulling walking forward, pulling walking backwards, pulling the plants first, pulling the plastic right over the plants, pulling the weeds from the sides, pulling the plastic right out from under the weeds, digging the plastic with my hands when it got stuck, gingerly tugging, ripping and tearing with no regard. It was back breaking work, but I did it. It was the kind of work that made me think: Oh, this is sooooo not worth it.
I got to thinking about my urban farming vision. My vision of doing just what Will Allen did in Milwaukee: bringing the beauty of home grown produce right into the ghetto. Showing people what good food is. Inspiring a new generation of gardeners and farmers and vegetable lovers. I got to thinking about my dreams for America. A roof top garden for everyone. Victory gardens commonplace once again. And I got to thinking that the end result won't necessarily be a lessor dependence on foreign oil, as I had thought before, since we would be shipping less from overseas, but really, if we can get Americans hooked on fresh produce again, hopefully everyone will be eating more and, yes, importing more. And so, the net benefit for America, may not be measured in oil but rather a reduced healthcare cost as we reduce heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and countless other afflictions. Besides, if we can support farmers around the world I am all for that.
I thought about a lot of other things too. Farming is such beautiful meditation. Just you and nature and your sweat and your thoughts. I thought about the two cats we had. One of them had a litter of kittens. Then the other one started breastfeeding them and just took over the mothering. It was the most bizarre thing in the world. But beautiful at the same time.
I remembered the time that we were asked by the cousins if we would like to join them on a group date to see a famous comedian in Boston. Timmy excitedly agreed in his drunken state. The next day when he had sobered up and realized that he had committed to buying two $40 tickets he called to back out but it was too late! They had already purchased the tickets! And so we had to go. But it was a wonderful, memorable evening, so a happy ending to a funny story,.
Timmy told me the whole story behind the chicken stealing event. He said that one day he had tried to buy a chicken from a farmer who was very rude to him. So the next day, he and the rest of the football team were all cruising around after practice and he coordinated a farm raid in which they all ran at the same time, grabbed a chicken (a dozen or so in total), threw them in the trunk and then drove away in their respective vehicles. And (this gets better) then he got pulled over for a broken tail light. The other boys were alerted to drive ahead and wait. Several other cruisers showed up because young minority boys, of course, always require backup. They had their hands on their guns as they approached the car. The officer asked if they could search the car. Timmy said they could search everything but the trunk. "What's in the trunk?" The officer asked. Timmy knocked on it and the dozen chickens all squawked. He said they had just bought the chickens from a farm and were going home to cook them. The officer was still curious to take a peek so Timmy unlatched it and the officer slowly raised it an inch. Every chicken stuck it's head out, squawking furiously. The cop shut it, wrote Timmy a ticket for the light and then let him go. The football team met up at Timmy's house and slaughtered the chickens. I said that there must have been blood everywhere but Timmy said that, no they sliced their throats over bowls and it was contained. He said all the white guys were plucking feathers. They had a great time, made a huge batch of chicken soup and ate every last drop. A memory every boy on that team will never forget.
Leaving all of the beautiful pepper plants to be mowed down broke our hearts. We started pulling them with dreams of planting them inside pots and keeping them in the house. Giving them to our friends. Giving them away on craigslist. But we eventually realized, as the pile kept growing and the knowledge sunk in that we had no pots at home or much room in our small house, we faced the truth that we'd have to let them go. It was very hard. Just like thinning seedlings is very hard for me to stomach. I had to remind myself that farmers every year harvest their crops and then let their plants die. It's the circle of life. It's how it works. It's the very nature of farming.
Someday I will live in a glass house. This isn't some random fantasy. I decided this after visiting a friend who had a "three season porch" which is basically a glass room. It was just one room in their large house, but, they admitted, they spend 90% of their time there. It was just so beautiful and inviting. They even slept in there, on the couch. I would be in heaven in a place like that. Why even build the rest of the house? It doesn't have to be large. I'm content in small (uncluttered) quarters. Give me a Kindle and a computer and a mattress and I'll be happy. So then my idea progressed into this plan to have an indoor garden in there too. I thought of this when I was inside the green house- how I could just live in there. It would be so nice. So, I combined my two dreams. It wouldn't have to be messy and chaotic. Just have some sort of shelving on the top in which I grow raspberries. And a ladder with which I can pluck them every morning for my breakfast.
We wrapped up and drove away with barrels of peppers and tomatoes and basil. A decent season. OK, a disappointing season. But I don't regret it because I learned a lot and that was worth more than what I put into it.