Tuesday, July 29, 2008

some new kids on the farm...

Today we harvested some usual items like leeks, but some entirely new crops like tomatoes & melons! Pretty exciting. I'll have pictures soon, but today we were in such a hurry to get everything ready that I didn't have time to pause & shoot. Just words tonight.

The earliest tomato varieties were ripe, First Lady and Oregon Spring. Dave thinks that because we mulched heavily with straw (weed control & water conservation) that the soil didn't warm up as fast, and that's why our tomatoes are kind of "late" this year. I don't care if they're late, they're still just as good, if not better because of the wait. I can't wait to make salsa.

Harvesting melons is a theatrical sport. First we got the big wooden bin set up on the forklifts of the tractor & rode into the field in the harvest lane (crushing the buckwheat cover crop we had planted there... it's ok, it's going to seed anyway). Then, while Farmer Dave stands at the bin with hands wide open, Nick, volunteer Pam, & I wade on tiptoes into the network of vines, trying not to crush the plants too much. When we spot a big round melon, we knock on it (the lower resonance is what we want... a higher pitch means it's not ripe yet), and turn it over to see if there's a big spot of bright yellow underneath. If it's ready, we detach it from the vine, and hurl it through the air (various techniques) to Farmer Dave who counts them as he puts them in the bin. Each melon weighs about 9 pounds. We will all have some sore muscles in odd places tomorrow. We only dropped a few... one of which Dave stopped with his foot, and it split open so beautifully red that we all had to have a mid-harvest pause... juices running down our chins as we devoured the fruit like birds.

Cantelopes turn from green to orange when they're ripe and "slip" the vine, meaning they come off the plant easily. Some of them were beyond ripe, and splitting open or mushy in a spot... we saved those for us. There are lots more that are still green out there.

I drove to the Bronx after packing & loading the boxes onto the van... each box weighed over 20 pounds, and there were about 70. That's over half a ton of food, all harvested today and yesterday. And that's not counting the shares that people pick up at the farm... my back hurts just thinking about it!

All of my clothes reek of this sweaty-cheesy smell, and I just identified it--- onion harvest residue. I'll have to do laundry asap, so my whole house doesn't eminate this odor.

When I got back from my drive, having devoured an entire chocolate bar on the way back, radio blasting hip-hop, I decided to trellis the rest of the tomatoes. This is not an easy task. But I like a challenge.

The plants had grown so much and we had so much else to do on the farm besides trellis tomatoes, that they had flopped over into the paths, sometimes completely obscuring passage. I wielded my trellising stick, and my roll of twine attached to my belt, and dove in. By picking up the flopped-over vines with my left arm and using my whole body to hold them up into the space they were supposed to be contained in, I could wrap the twine around the post to hold them up at that angle. Mostly they would flop over to the other side and wait for me to go down that side & pick them up & tie them up again so they resembled something verticle.

In this process my arms and jeans become covered with the sticky yellow resin that tomato plants have on them, that turns black and makes me look like I have some kind of skin disease. It is a real workout too-- I am sweating so much that I need to wipe my face on my shirt so that I can see again! But afterwards I can look back & see that now the tomatoes will ripen up on the vertically suspended vines instead of underneath vines, rotting on the ground, and we will be able to move down the rows with our harvest boxes & pluck the fruit easily. When I shower, the black scum washes off my skin slowly in neon-yellow dilutions... and the cold water feels good on my face.

Another luscious day in the food-production business.

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