Tuesday morning. I pull up to Fuller Street, grab my never-sure-how-the-weather’s-gonna-be-at-Cambridge pile of shorts, tee-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, sandals and sneakers, water bottle, coffee mug, camera, and snack, and walk through the fence onto the farm… ahhhh the simple life. It’s 8:15 and I’m pretty late. I had to do some work early that morning on the Plymouth Local Foods website and had been out late the night before at a Slow Money Meetup. So I’m tired. But excited! It’s day one of a long, but fun, 20-weeks of farmers’ markets.
“SAAAASSSSHHHHAAAAA!!!” I hear. A deep voice. Coming from the field. Full of welcome and joy! This just can’t be Dave. I look to the left, and it’s not. It’s dearest Spencer!! He’s joined us on the farm for June and it’s the first day I’ve seen him. He’s busy picking swiss chard. Bent over the row, breaking off one leaf at a time, creating a handful (and a “Spencer handful” we discover later is about twice the size as normal), securing with a rubber band, and placing in the tray. I shout my hello and hurry along to get started. I see a new face and introduce myself to Mariah, Spencer’s friend, also pitching in for June. I wave to Dave, busily hunched over the lettuce, and dump my stuff in his truck.
When I get over to the wash bins, I see how much work has already been done. Piles of radish bunched and once washed, trays full of lettuce, stacks of loose salad turnips, and bins full of arugula. Jen, our gift from god, is hands deep in cold water washing lettuce. (For those of you who don’t know, our two live-in interns left and we were “help-less” for a while. But within days, we found Jen, who will be joining us for 4 (long) days a week, has tons of energy, loves farming, and along with super-Jamie, our volunteers, and temp help like Spencer and Mariah, is helping to save our lives!!). So I introduce myself (I was at school when she started), and as I submerge my hands into the bin and feel the biting cold water rip violently through my skin, I remember the joys of summer!! I pull my hands right back out, my respect for Jen doubling as she seems to be having no trouble with the pain.
This is the first of many small moments that slowly bring me back to the routine of summer. Within a few minutes, I’m as tough as Jen (numb is really the better word), and back into the flow of agitating the lettuce, grabbing two – one in each hand – securing the base, whipping them up and down with long arm strokes to remove the excess water, and placing them on the drying rack.
Next I move onto the salad turnips. Dark pink Scarlet Queens and hearty white Hakureis. There is a HUGE pile and as I pick up the hose and start cleaning turnip, something doesn’t feel right. I start with one at a time, and then try two or three. I wash them down and place them aside to dry. But at this rate, I’ll be lucky if they’re ready for the Thursday market. Is it that they are in a pile on a tray instead of laid out on the table? The washing seems to be taking too long! What was my routine!?! How could we possibly have been successful when it is taking me sooooo long to wash these turnips?? Then Dave arrives with his next pile of lettuce, we discuss it, and realize that in fact, last year we bunched them. That’s it!! We bunched them on the field (secured 5 or so with a rubber band), then we laid the bunches out on the table, and I washed them a bunch at a time. So I start bunching the loose turnips and laying them out, and only then pick back up the hose and continue to wash.
Everything clicks into place. Suddenly it’s one year earlier. I’m in my first real season of farming, without another job and life is good. The only difference is that it isn’t pouring rain. I know my routine! Steph has been replaced by Jen. Our CSA is bigger. The fields are fuller than they’ve ever been in early June. There are two additional people in the field. And I finally have overalls!