Another Day

Today, as I headed over to Soule fields to prepare for the CSA, I brought my camera as I always do.  It was a perfect fall day.  Jen was full of energy because it wasn’t steaming hot and my parents even brought Sophie, the dog.  We dug huge and beautiful Kennebec potatoes before bunching radishes and digging carrots.  But I couldn’t bring myself to take any pictures.

I was relieved to be back in the fields – to be out in the fresh air, working in the soil.  It was relaxing and something I’d been craving all weekend.  But it was also my first day with the CSA and without Einstein.

I was fine until one of our first members arrived and her daughter gave me a beautiful card that she and her brother had made.  “Poor Goat” it said.  I was touched.  And had to have my first cry of the day.

More condolences, hugs, and tears came as the day went on.  Along with laughter and conversation.  And for all that I cried, I truly appreciated the feelings our CSA members shared.  They too cared for Einstein and truly understood our loss.

As the temperature cooled,  I pulled a sweatshirt over my overalls and started to relax into the routine.  As I watched the kids feeding Plato and pointing at the curious and noisy turkeys, I finally pulled out my camera.

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Einstein

This past Thursday, we lost our dear friend Einstein.

I can’t express in words how important Einstein has been to us and what a central presence he has been in our lives and on the farm.  And I won’t try.  I know we are not alone in our sadness over this loss and I’m sorry to have to share this news.

In memory of Einstein…

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Early pickin’s

Like everything else, the squash came early this year.  Pumpkins were bright orange in the field up to 2 weeks ago.  Butternut was longer than my forearm.  Acorns bore the beautiful deep orange circle signifying their ripeness.   But who wants to pick squash in August?  It just doesn’t seem right!

So we didn’t.  We went past the field each day we were at Soule and focused on tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, beets, and all the rest of the summer harvest.  And then September came.  It seemed time.  So earlier this week Dave took a walk out into the field to take a closer look.  Most of the vines had died away at this point leaving the fruits in the bright sunshine.  This wasn’t good.  Many of the acorns had formed a yellowish soft spot… some type of sun burn.  He looked all around him, 360 degrees, and saw thousands and thousands of pounds of squash that needed to be picked.  Now.

Of course, that wasn’t the only thing that needed to happen now.  Market and CSA harvests, tomato picking, weeding, hoeing, and much much more.  And so squash was added to the long list, with an added needle that the longer it sat, the more we might lose.

Friday came and Jen and Dave decided to go for it.  They spent a couple hours pulling all of the acorn in one row and laying it in rows in the field to later be packed into crates and removed.  But when they grabbed the bins for loading the rains came.  They took their lunches back to Fuller to wait it out.  When the skies cleared, or at least stopped leaking, they headed back.  No sooner were they back on the field then the skies opened up again.  It just wasn’t going to happen.

And so they sat through the night and Dave worried that the rains would continue well into Saturday, ruining our CSA harvest and preventing removal of the squash. But hurricane Earl and its outer bands of rain were in a hurry, and by the time we woke up on Saturday, the skies were clear, the air was crisp, and we headed to Soule to remove 750 pounds of acorn squash from the fields.  750 down, many many thousand to go.

We were a bit discouraged because so many of the squash was sun burned.  There was a lot of fruit out there and that’s a lot of harvest to lose.  And we still had to find the hands and people to deal with what was left.

Sunday morning came and it was another perfect day.  And along with the weather came two wonderful and willing CSA volunteers – Michelle and Scott Hagg.  We made our way back out into the ocean of squash and tackled the butternut.  We probably pulled 2,500 to 3,000 pounds.  We lined them up in the field as we went.  When that was complete, we wiped clean enough squash to fill all the crates we had and the back of the truck.  About 1,000 pounds.  We were very happy to see that the butternut looked great!  They withstood the glare of the sun and were holding up nice.

We’re making progress!

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A Hot Week

The week started out blazing hot.  And it ended that way too.  Jen and I decided it was definitely the worst heat wave of the season.  And it was combined with confused expectations.  One week earlier, we were standing in the pouring rain at the Harvard Square market, dripping wet and freezing.  The next week, I could hardly stand up for the heat.

By Wednesday we’d had it.  Or at least I had.  After my morning Local Foods work, I met my Mom at the farm.  We joined Jen, Dave, and Liz who were already covered in dirt from digging fingerling potatoes.  We grabbed our crates, chose our spots in the row, knelt down in the cool, dark soil, and started digging.  This was ok, I figured.  We were low to the ground, the soil felt good, and there wasn’t a lot of moving.  But it didn’t last.

Next were the tomatoes.  The joys of picking long past, Jen, Mom, and I trudged through the steaming hot rows with the sun hammering our backs, heads, arms, and more, bending, standing, bending, standing, sweating, and picking.  Sadly, the tomatoes are past their prime so we couldn’t even break up the drudgery with oohs and ahhhs over the perfect striped german.

But that didn’t last forever, and as Jen moved on to Melons, I took on the peppers and things got a bit better.  At the CSA we enjoyed some cool watermelon in the shade while our members collected their baskets full of hard earned harvest.

Thursday remained hot.  We whined and complained as we harvested for Plymouth Market.  All in fun of course.  We hit the tomatoes again, and again were hammered with heat.  Much of this paid off though, as our kind neighbors at the market – Blue Blinds Bakery – took a few of these tomatoes along with a red onion, some basil from Web of Life Farm, some mozzarella from Narragansett Creamery and made a delicious – and beautiful – caprese salad to share all around.

Around 4:00 the winds picked up.  The temperatures dropped a bit and we all relaxed.

Although  slow market day, it was a beautiful one.  The water to the east and the lighting as the sun lowered in the sky made for the perfect backdrop.

Friday I was lucky enough to have some business in the city, so I didn’t have to suffer in the fields through the INTENSE humidity.

And this morning… heaven.  The hurricane passed with no winds or damage to the farm, it took the heat with it, and we harvested for our CSA to blue skies, fresh, dry air, and a cool breeze.


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Plato’s Harvest Annual Farm Day Potluck

Warm temperatures and bright sunshine brought over 100 people out to Plato’s Harvest for our annual farm day potluck.  There were hay rides, sheep wrastlin’, grape harvesting, music, dancing, goat games, and lots and lots of great food!

The Lindsays played once again and joining them for the entire gig, direct from Dublin, was Gabriel Roberts.  Stuart – from around the corner – joined later in the day as well.

Dave’s cousin Paul lent us his beautiful 1936 Farmall tractor along with a huge hay wagon and hosted a couple of hayrides over to Soule fields so folks could see where all their tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons and other bulk produce comes from.

Dave hoisted a few brave friends up in the bucket of his tractor so they could pick some of the Concord grapes growing wild off the side of the field.

And there was no end to all the delicious food people prepared and shared:

All in all it was a great day with lots of laughter, good friends, and good food – check it all out in this video:

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And then there were none

or at least, far fewer.

Just as I was finally letting go of the tomato depression effect (the need to horde them, the memory of scarcity, the disbelief that blight wouldn’t strike tomorrow taking them all away), just as I was getting to the point where I could actually complain about having to pick more tomatoes, there are very few tomatoes to pick.

Our Saturday CSA members went from 10 pounds of a variety of huge and beautiful heirlooms in their share last week along with a table-full of extras, to 2 pounds of small hybrids with just a few crates of extras this week.  The rains have ended and we’ve added more ties to the rows of heirlooms, so we’re hoping with this next heat wave that the bounty returns.

In the meantime, it’s all about melons!  I never thought I could get full on melon… not want another bite of cantaloupe… say no to watermelon.  But I can.  All of those things can happen.  We’ve had fields full of ripe, sweet, truly delicious melons.  The best melons I’ve ever tasted.  We eat them in the field, at the market, during CSA pickup, in the car, at home.  Until we can’t eat anymore.  CSA members go home with 20 pounds of melon or more.  These too will be gone very soon, but it’s been an incredible season!

Next up, winter squash.  Everything’s already ready.  The field is full of ripe pumpkins… in August!

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A “TON” of tomatoes

Monday. 1:15 pm.  Week 10 of our CSA.  Week 3 of tomatoes.  Kate, Barbara, Dave and I have just finished lunch at Fuller Street.  We load the black crates and white tomato boxes into the back of the truck, pull the red tomato cart onto the trailer and head to Soule to start picking.

1:30.  Soule fields. Upper 80’s and incredibly humid.  Sun bearing down.  We start picking.  I pull the cart, loaded with black trays down tomato aisle 2, picking from both sides.  Kate takes aisle 1 and Barbara aisle 3.  They hand tomatoes over to me as we go.

2:15.  Hot.  Sweating.  Hands are black.  Dizzy from bending and standing, bending and standing.  Have handed off multiple cartloads of trays to Dave to sort for market.  Aisle 10 now.

3:30.  We’re still doing this!  We’re all past complaining about the heat.  Still hear an “eeeeiiiiwwwww” every now and then as someone reaches in to pick a ripe one and sticks their hand deep into a rotting, stinky tomato.  But we’re having fun and it’s row 14!

Tuesday.  10:20am.  In the truck with Dave heading to Harvard Square for market.  “How many pounds did we end up picking yesterday?” I ask.  “Over 500″ he says.

11:45.  Carrying multiple boxes out to the table for display. “How many pounds did we bring?!?” I ask.  “Over 260″ He says… “I know… too many, but they were beautiful”.

3:30.  Only a few boxes left.

6:pm.  Packing up for the day.  Tomatoes gone!  Could have brought more.

Wednesday.  11:30.  Soule fields. Sunny and 70’s.  Jamie, Jen, my Dad and I start picking for CSA.  Not even an hour later we’re done.  200 pounds.

3:00pm.  First CSA member arrives and selects their 5 pounds of tomatoes.  Wanders over to the extras table for more.

Thursday. 10:30am.  Sunny.  70’s.  Soule fields.  Jen, Jamie and I each take a row.  Jamie has the cart.

11:15.  I find the perfect tomato.  A striped German.  About a pound and a half.  Perfectly round.  Not a blemish.  We all stop for a minute to admire it.

12:00.  Done.  400 pounds.

2:30pm.  Market bell rings and customers line up to grab tomatoes.

6:30pm.  150 pounds of our finest tomatoes sold.  (the perfect striped German hidden in my car)

Friday.  12:15.  I join Jen and Dave at Fuller Street for lunch.  I bring a pile of warm panini’s made with my perfect striped German, mozzarella from the market, our basil, garlic, and red onion.  We share in the delicious taste of summer.  After lunch I tell Dave to call me when they’re ready to pick.  I go home to move mums.

4:15pm.  He calls.

4:30.  Soule fields.  I arrive to start picking.  Should be quick.  Jen takes the cart and aisle 2.  I take aisle one and pass tomatoes over.

5:pm.  Not yet through our first aisle.

5:30.  Running out of trays.

6:pm.  Aisle 7.  Jen has to leave.

7:00.  I forget about making a nice dinner.

7:30pm.  Aisle 11.  We stop.  Can’t get to the hybrids.  Need to finish prepping for tomorrow’s CSA. 750 pounds!

1am tossing an turning. back aches. tomatoes on my mind.

2am.  Half awake.  Dreaming of tomatoes.

3:30am.  back still aches.

4am.  I give in and take some advil.  Lay back down to thoughts of…

Saturday morning.  9:45am.  Sleepy.  I’m filling out the CSA board telling members what they get.  “How many pounds of tomatoes?” I shout to Dave.  “10 each” he says. “Plus extras”

2pm.  I start the sauce.

7:30pm.  We sit down to a wonderful dinner of our own lamb chops and spaghetti with the sauce.  Our sauce.  With our tomatoes.  Thick and rich and tasty.  Full of garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, onions.

Summertime.

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