Why read about farming? Because to distance yourself so entirely from the production aspect of all that you consume, you’ve set yourself and your society up for failure. Clothing, cars, laws, vegetables, public offices, street grids, medicine, soap; chances are you haven’t made any of these things, and you’re depending on others to do the specialized work so that you can continue to do yours. You don’t have to be so passive. Take a moment to learn about something you can’t live without, and feel yourself evolve.
This Saturday morning, we volunteers at Clagett Farm did our best to get legitimate work done without being blown into the next county on a wind that could flash-freeze a cow. Because it’s almost time to set the Spring seeds in the ground, we busied ourselves with mixing soil and arranging seedlings… in the comfort of the greenhouse.
The wind threatened to tear the greenhouse to shreds (or, at least, that’s what it sounded like) but we sealed up both ends and sat in relative warmth, yelling at each other to “PASS THE BUCKET.” or “LOOK FOR THOSE CABBAGE SEEDS, WOULD YOU?”
Because the farm was certified organic, it came as a bit of a surprise that so many supplements were added to the potting soil. Bone meal, kelp, peat moss, limestone; the list kept growing as I tried to keep track. But all of the ingredients were natural, despite how strange and artificial they looked on their own. When the soil was mixed, it looked healthy and smelled exactly right. I’m not sure how great the advantage of this mixed soil is to plain-Jane compost-enriched earth, but I’ll have to save that experiment for a different day.
We planted cabbages and lettuce in plastic seed trays, and then left them in a warm shed until they would sprout and begin demanding hours of sunlight. An electric space heater was plugged in, and we kept a pail of water nearby. The effect was a very cheap salad-sauna, and it was an act of exceptional will to walk outside into the freezing wind.
I took a moment to check our seedlings from last week, and found them in beautiful rows, warm and green in the captured sunlight. It was evident that someone had finished the work I’d started though; my wimpy arrangement had multiplied and become an entire field of seedling cells in perfect geometric uniformity. Still, I felt proud of my contribution. The seedling greenhouse already smelled of vegetables.
The cat had disappeared, and had cost the farm an extra twenty bucks for the spaying operation; a fee veterinarians charge when they are asked to deal with feral female cats in heat, I suppose. We had hoped she’d stay around to chase out the mice, but one never recovers from being locked in a gopher-box for a week… does one? She determined that we were all psychotic bullies and took to the hills.
And even though I smelled of compost and had a lunch date I was almost an hour late getting to; I felt wonderful. A morning of hard work (even if it’s the cowardly kind in the toasty sanctuary of a greenhouse) always lifts the spirits. I’m not sure why I never remember that when my alarm goes off the next day…