Riding the Accordion: Week #10 – 8/11/21
The other day I went to water in the greenhouse.
I delighted in the brief task. It was a little moment to say hello to the baby plants, watch the droplets fall, hear the fans whir, take a moment away from the pulsing push of harvesting and orders out on trucks.
It was peaceful.
I didn’t really think about it. The experience didn’t stick out until our apprentice, Jared, asked, “Are you enjoying the greenhouse again? Cause I am!”
Harvesting scallions across a bed from one another, Jared and I discussed how for the last few months watering the greenhouse has felt like such a chore. During April, May, June, and July watering occurs twice to three times a day. On hot days when the greenhouse is full, each watering can take upwards of forty-five minutes.
But now, the greenhouse is mostly full of curing garlic and red onions. No more new seeding is occurring, and week by week more flats get planted in the field with no new ones coming up behind them. Watering is quick and fast. As Jared says, “Now that the planting season is winding down, it’s fun to visit the babies again.”
What was exciting in March (we finally get to plant again!), gets to be draining in June. In farming there is little balance. There’s nothing, nothing, nothing – and then an explosive flush of something. That first strawberry? Unbelievable on the tongue. Two weeks in after picking quart after quart? The excitement fades. What was a joyous, new thing quickly turns into a chore. And then after a long period of something feeling chore-like, it shifts and becomes something to be appreciated once again.
Right now, field tomatoes are just beginning. My first few slices of tomatoes on pesto were heavenly. But I know that so soon, we will all tire of picking them. We’ll be hustling to process and freeze as many as we can in our off hours. Those delightful tomatoes will become a chore. Then, the weather will cool and threats of frost will come… and the end of the tomatoes will be in sight. Then we’ll be savoring each juicy slice once again.
Trying to find balance is something we all strive for. Whether it’s in cooking meals for your family, trying to balance time between friends and family, or work and home life – each of us tries to find balance so that something doesn’t become too much, or overwhelming, or resented, or a chore.
Yet in farming we only have the choice to delight, surrender, and savor. There is no balance in the way food comes in, of how a farm season starts slowly and then blows up to insanity level, only to be followed by the slow, quiet winter. Like an accordion, seasons and crops start small then seemingly expand instantly, only to contract once again. There is no balance to be found – only acceptance of the pattern of scarcity, excess, and scarcity again.
And so, we delight in the first of something; surrender to the excess; savor the last. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat.
The balance is found only in knowing that the cycles repeat, the patterns are consistent, and that change is the constant.