Spring has arrived in force! I spent last week at home in Pennsylvania, and when I got back, the farm had been transformed—I left in the midst of an ice storm which almost kept me from catching my train, but now, only a week later, nearly all the snow has melted, revealing the pastures and vegetable fields that have been hidden since I arrived two and a half months ago. With warmer weather, snow and ice are replaced by rain and interminable mud, but the animals and farmers alike are so elated to be leaving winter behind that it would take more than a little mess to bother us. We ride bicycles and run around in tee shirts, the cows shed their winter coats by the clump, the piglets and calves leap and bound and frolic about their pens; if this isn’t spring fever, I don’t know what is.
While I was gone, work in the greenhouse really picked up, too, and one of our hoop houses is now filled with hundreds of trays of early-season crops to be transplanted when the soil is warm enough. It is quite a trip, switching between barn work and greenhouse work—cows are just plain big, weighing in the range of 1,000 pounds, and I must be constantly alert, on my toes, to avoid getting squished or kicked. I need to be sensitive to their moods, and make them feel safe and secure (I have discovered the hard way, more than once, never to startle a cow, or you’re liable to get a hoof to the ribcage), but I also can’t be afraid to use the full weight of my body—cows can be really stubborn animals, and if I am at all hesitant, they will just ignore me.
Plants are different. They require a different kind of intensity and focus, and can be physically demanding in their own way. We spend hours each day hunched over seed trays, placing tiny seeds in tiny cells so that they can grow into tiny plants, which we will eventually transplant so that they can turn into bigger plants and feed the farmers, the 300 families in our CSA, and the countless people who frequent our farm store and markets in Manhattan.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t sometimes feel tedious—count to four, 98 times, cover with soil, repeat—but my eyes have been starved of green lately, and mostly I relish being transported to the tropics for a few hours (when I came to the hoop house one recent afternoon, the thermometer registered 108°F, and I swear I got a sunburn the other day), and our efforts are being rewarded with a sea of early-season crops—lettuce, onions, leeks, scallions, parsley, beets, Swiss chard.
Quote of the day: “For a long time now we have understood ourselves as traveling toward some sort of industrial paradise, some new Eden conceived and constructed entirely by human ingenuity. And we have thought ourselves free to use and abuse nature in any way that might further this enterprise. Now we face overwhelming evidence that we are not smart enough to recover Eden by assault, and that nature does not tolerate or excuse abuses. If, in spite of the evidence against us, we are finding it hard to relinquish our old ambition, we are also seeing more clearly every day how that ambition has reduced and enslaved us. We see how everything–the whole world–is belittled by the idea that all creation is moving or ought to move toward an end that some body, some human body, has thought up. To be free of that end and that ambition would be a delightful and precious thing. Once free of it, we might again go about our work and our lives with a seriousness and pleasure denied to us when we merely submit to a fate already determined by gigantic politics, economics, and technology.”–Wendell Berry in his 1989 essay, “Nature as Measure,” found in his collection, Bringing It To The Table: On Farming and Food