Day 25

That’s it, it’s here, it’s all over and done. And how am I feeling about it all? I can’t even tell you. It’s been unbelievably beautiful all day; sunny, warm, a soft breeze every so often, and a robins egg blue sky that kept away the clouds all day. I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect day to farm, which made it even harder to accept that I wouldn’t have to after today. Walking up to the sheep shed to put away the tools we had used today, I said to Ann, “You know, I almost wish it was raining right now.”

“Are you crazy? Why!” she replied, looking at me as if I had gone insane.

“Because,” I said, looking at the ground, “then it wouldn’t be so hard to leave.”

It was sappy and cliché, I know, but true nonetheless. I couldn’t help but wish for worse weather simply so that I might have a stronger desire to leave the ESL garden. With sunny skies and leisurely landscaping, it made working simple, enjoyable and untaxing, unlike many days I have spent here the past few weeks. I know I shouldn’t be complaining, but at the same time I guess I’m not really…simply wishing it would be easier to part from this place. Instead, as I declined a ride in Ann’s truck because I wanted to enjoy one final bike ride back to the house, my chest felt a pang of emptiness, or loss, or…something as I pedaled away.

Well now, this is starting to sound plain depressing, isn’t it? Which is a shame, because even though it was difficult to depart, today was definitely one of the best experiences I’d had yet on the farm. With Ann and Carrie’s help, I learned that when a tomato plant starts growing two stalks off of the same vine, it’s best to snip off the upper limb so that the plant can use more of its energy to grow the actual fruit. So that’s what we started off with.

Then we weeded out the raised beds—but only a bit!—before heading up to the upper plots of garlic and mixed veggies. Here’s where things really got good.

The great thing about living in the sustainability house while I’ve been working out here, is that we get to cook with the fresh veggies harvested from the farm out front: salad greens, potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, and most recently…garlic scapes! Until this past week, I had never even heard of the things and when they showed up on the bottom shelf of our fridge on Tuesday I laughed at their curly stalks. But I’m not laughing anymore…I’m just looooooving them. Sautéed, grilled, baked—you name it, they’re great! So when we got to start harvesting those off of the million trillion garlic plants we have at the ESL today, I was beyond excited. It’s not even that I get to eat these ones (they’re to be donated to Campus Kitchens) but simply the idea that I’ve been growing and caring for one of my newest favorite foods for the past few weeks…without even knowing.

On top of garlic scapes, Ann and I harvested some of the lettuce in the next bed over along with some of the leaves off of the tops of smaller and weaker beets to make room for the more successful ones. Sometimes throughout my past few weeks here I’ve wondered just how worth it all this manual labor was. Last year, the potatoes we harvested in class just went to rotting on the table inside the ESL house…did my baby veggies have the same fate? If so, I often found myself struggling to maintain the stamina to put in so much effort to keep things alive. But it’s times like this, when I finally get to see my work turning into something useful, getting harvested, and eventually being used to feed and fuel the families in this community that make it impossible to regret any of the difficult days I’ve had here.

I knew all along that I wouldn’t be the one to harvest most of my crops—that would be Ann’s job as the summer wore on and things really started to bloom—but there were often times that I wanted to be paid in crops, rather than the checks sitting in my savings account. Money is great, but I’ve come to learn that it really isn’t fully satisfying. It’s immediate, short-lived gratification that provides stability, but what truly makes me happy—what makes every day more than just stable—is the satisfaction you get when you see what you’re capable of producing as a person. Whether that be an artist’s painting, a student’s 3.75 GPA, or a lovely lunch made with fresh lettuce from your own garden…these are the things that will give you more than money ever can.

Because even though it’s nice to be able to get a medium iced coffee black with one pump of caramel from a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through on your way home from work, when there’s nothing left for your straw to sip, then what? Money buys us temporary joys that leave us wanting more as soon as they’re over. And yes, of course I understand that we need to be able to provide for ourselves and our families and money is our means to doing so; paying the bills for water, heat, and electricity, etc. will never be accomplished by handing our government fresh herbs from the garden (though it should), but that’s not what I’m trying to get across.

What I mean to say is that there’s more joy in the simplicity of a salad than in the decked-out decadence of an iced beverage bought through a window without ever having to step outside of my car. It’s nice to treat ourselves with these extremities every so often, but that’s what they should remain: treats and extremities, never expectancies or necessities.

We don’t need all of that shit. So next time you’re thinking about pressing “purchase” next to that new shirt on your computer screen that you absolutely haaaave to have…stop. Stand up. Walk outside, close your eyes, breathe, then open them and see everything good you have in your life already. I promise you, there is more there than you think. Far too often we forget the pleasures already existing in our lives as the media bombards us with ‘semi-annual sales’ and the ‘must-have essentials for summer’. But remember the meaning of essential, and realize there’s nothing more that you need. Be happy with what you have. Be happy with what you’ve been blessed with, with what you’ve managed to create on your own, with everything that surrounds you.

Just be happy.

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Day 24

            With only one day of work left, it was pretty bittersweet taking today as a research day. The weather app on my phone had been telling me all week that it was supposed to storm, so Carrie and I had agreed upon a day to catch up on my independent project studies. Despite the forecast though, there wasn’t a drop of rain—I guess the skies must have dried up from the past few days of showers. So after sleeping in a bit, I felt kiiiiinda guilty eating my breakfast outside in a lawn chair and enjoying the warmth of the sun’s rays on skin that wasn’t covered in dirt and sweat for a change.

            “Maybe I should go in,” I thought as I finished my eggs and toast. Uh oh, here she comes…the perfectionist in me was ready to pounce, nagging at my lazy half because I only had one more day and still quite a bit I could get done at the garden.

 

Still on my checklist:

-Weed out potato bed

-Find a place to put the newly constructed raised beds

-Mow the pathway down to the ash trees

-Clear the newly cut patch so Ann can start planting next week

 

            Ughhh…I reallllllly don’t feel like digging that patch up today (or ever) I thought to myself as I imagined the time and energy it would take to dig up an entire plot of grass with only a shovel. And then, just as my mind was getting all muddled from my checklist and lack of time, the coolest green beetle landed right on my pointer finger. Startled at first, I almost flicked him off in haste before I stopped to see how intricately he was painted with streaks of brown and flecks of gold. And then to add to my lovely surprise the pure, staccato whistle of an oriole filled the silence of the yard, making my morning even more glorious.

So, as you may have guessed, my lazy side won this battle. I stayed in that chair for about an hour reading my book before deciding that if I wasn’t going to be spending my time productively at the garden, I should at least spend it researching. And of course I had to take advantage of the beautiful weather, so off I went to campus with some papers, a packed lunch, and a picnic blanket to prepare me for a day of rest, reading, and relaxation. Not a bad way to spend my time, though I do admit I missed the garden a tad.

So just to keep it in mind even when we’re not there, here’s a photo of a sculpture erupted in the midst of all the chaos that is the ESL. Constructed by a former student, the copper piece stands over ten feet tall and provides a beautifully unique contrast to the backdrop of corn fields whenever I get the chance to take a break from weeding and look at the rest of the world around me. With today’s tales coming to a close, I’m feeling pretty emotional about having only one more post left…tomorrow is it. It’s all about to be over, ended, kaput, donezo.

Am I ready?

Do I really have a choice?

We’ll find out.

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Day 23

3…2…1…and the countdown has commenced, the clock is ticking, the winch is winding down, and we’re in the final stretch! With only three days left of my internship, I’m slowly starting to acknowledge the fact that everything is about to change very, very soon. It’s crazy to think about, really. Each day has come and passed with it’s own unique twists and turns and there have been plenty of times when I wished I could just be done already. But now that it’s actually coming to a close, Im finding myself wanting to shut my eyes, do a 180, and run back to the start with my hands in the air.

            But the days aren’t over yet; I’ve still got plenty of things to take on before I jet on outta here. Today, once again, was filled with overcast skies and dreary eyes as I rolled out of bed and questioned whether or not I should even bother heading in to work. It had been pouring all night and the drizzle was still on and off as I sipped my chai tea at the kitchen table. Hmmmph, I guess I should go, I mean I only have three more days, right? After making the call, I started thinking out loud.

            “Soooo I guess I’m gonna go in…do I bike or drive?” I asked my housemate sitting across from me, who happens to also work at the ESL garden only her job consists of office work indoors.

            “I haven’t biked once in the past two weeks…” she said with a bit of a sigh, “it’s just so terrible biking in the rain, ya know?”

            She was definitely right about that, but at the same time I knew my work outside would only leave me rain soaked regardless, so I figured getting a tad wet on the ride there wasn’t that big of an issue. So upstairs I headed to grab my helmet and rain jacket.

            Surprisingly, the trip wasn’t too bad. It drizzled the first bit of the ride but slowed to a steady sprinkle about halfway, meaning I was simply…refreshed by the time I turned into the driveway. And if there were any doubts muddling my mind, they were quickly washed away as that great, gargantuan, hunter green truck made its way into my line of vision. And that could only mean one thing…Ann’s back!!! Suddenly my energy skyrocketed and I ran inside, slamming the door, and searching the house until I found that familiar face plopped down at the giant dining room table.

            I knew she’d gotten back from Rwanda recently but wasn’t sure when to be expecting to see her, if at all, before I left. Thankfully, she had decided to swing by and check out what I’d been doing at the garden since she’d left and help out with anything that needed to get done for the day. Thankful for her thoughtfulness, the two of us headed outside to start extending the blueberry patch like Carrie had requested. What had come as a rather…unwelcomed task when I imagined how long and drawn out doing it on my own would be soon turned into a much more fun and enjoyable experience. Just like it had been at the start of my internship, Ann and I finished the project in record speed, meaning more time to talk about her trip!

            Knowing that the weather was looking iffy tomorrow, we both decided that we’d see each other Friday, as we agreed upon an equal exchange: she’d help me move out of my (our) room at the house if I’d help her move into it. It’s sad knowing the next time we see each other will simultaneously be the last, but I quickly pushed those negative thoughts aside—no sense in being upset on a day like today. In conclusion, today’s storm clouds weren’t tough enough to keep things dark at the ESL. So here’s to unexpected plans and dirt-stained hands—farmers reunite!

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Day 22

            Taking quite an unexpected turn from yesterday’s sun and heat, this morning’s random rainstorms and high winds made for an interesting bike ride to the garden. After getting so much done these past few days, I felt a little less guilty cutting things short as my raincoat quickly stopped absorbing the pesky pellets, which ultimately left me chilled and not-so-cheery after the ride home.

            While my coat was still doing its job and keeping me dry (somewhat), I managed to trim around the raised beds, lay some hay over one of the potato patches, and start uprooting the edges of the blueberry patch to make it bigger sometime in the future. Nothing too exciting guys, I’m sorry.

Despite dreary days like this though, the garden somehow always manages to find a way to brighten things up. Just as I was getting fed up with the wet weather I trekked up to the sheep shed to put away the rake and hoe I had been using, and as I reached up to place them on their respective posts, I slammed my elbow into the wall—who ever named it the funny bone, really? Gasping in pain and filling with frustration, I bent down to pick up the coil of twine that got knocked over in the process, and as I went to place it back on the nail it fell from I was led straight to today’s ray of sunshine. Resting atop the same nail lay a rose delicately dried.

I must have passed it by two dozen times on my trips in and out of the barn, sadly letting it go unnoticed. And just as I began to think, just how ignorant can you be to never have seen this before?, I realized that that only made it all the more special today. Perhaps I had seen it before even, but on a warmer and sunnier day I may not have really seen it, but only glanced at it without acknowledgement. It’s on days that we truly need inspiration that these small joys present themselves; when we’re feeling low or questioning life and its entirety, that’s when we can fully appreciate individual joys, no matter their size.

So thank you rose, for choosing today to reveal yourself to me.

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Day 21

            It was sooo incredibly hot today, I’m not sure which helped water the crops more: the rain from the night before or the sweat literally pouring off of me as I struggled to get through the day. With a high of 82 and humidity at 40% all the mowing, raking, and weeding taking place were quickly wearing me out.

There’s been some workers painting the ESL house for the past few days and even they commented on how crazy the conditions were: “Looks like ya’ve got your work cut out for ya today, huh? And jeeze, that thing’s gotta be twice the size uh ya,” they said with a chuckle as they measured me up to the mower, “Sure glad we get to paint in the shade, huh!”

Yeah…I’m really glad that you get to paint in the shade, mister. I’ll just keep pushing this thing in the sweltering, insufferable sun though, no worries!

Hey, what am I doing? Complaining is nothing but useless and annoying, and honestly, today wasn’t all too terrible. In fact, I was even proud as I left, knowing just how capable I am of putting myself through difficulties when I have the determination to finish. A “perfectionist” is what my mother always calls me; I used to get annoyed, thinking it an insult, but I think I’ve come to see the benefits of my minor-OCD tendencies. Sure, it takes me some extra time to make sure things get done right and on time, but if I weren’t like that then who’s to say I’d ever get anything done at all?

Speaking of my ability to keep at it when the goings get tough, take a look at this lovely little piece of land that I conquered today.

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Just last week, after weed wacking the entire thing and attempting (and failing miserably) to mow the remaining grasses down, I gave up on the damn thing. Perhaps it was spite, or just a little craziness inside me, but either way my perfectionist self made today the day to get revenge. So after raking the entire thing free from excess debris and picking out random cinder blocks and wood stakes from the middle of it, the mowing monster and I took our second shot and…succeeded!

Other than that, I finished mowing the rest of the garden and basically just weeded out some remaining patches to keep things growing at a constant. And instead of biking home that afternoon, I rode into campus to help out one of my housemates with her internship at Campus Kitchens—a weekly nonprofit community dinner put on by volunteers and kept going by donations from various local farms, including mine! It was a really random decision, and one that lasted about two hours longer than I had planned, but one that was definitely worth it.

Oh, and I almost forgot…look who I found today! Sorry it’s a little hard to see, but isn’t she so cute?! There’s been a momma making appearances every so often and now we know why—three baby kittens to keep me company!

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Day 20

            A pretty low-key day today, as I spent a lot of time yesterday getting my big projects out of the way. Other than mowing about half the lawn before the red monster decided it was done for the day (even though I wasn’t…), the countless scratches from the small locust tree limbs I chopped down to prevent bending, and the two new spider bites to add to my collection, everything went great!

            A little weeding, a little watering, and a little wishing it were ten degrees warmer made for a nice enough time tending to the garden. The best part though? After doing that microscopic weeding I talked about yesterday, I had sent Carrie an email letting her know about my work and hoping (perhaps a little too excitedly) that I might get to plant something there before my internship was up. Because she’s so great, she immediately took me inside this morning to check out the various seed packets on the back porch—who knew I would get rewarded so soon!

            So I spent some time today casually planting some rows of what would soon be little sprouts to surprise Ann with. My victims of choice: corn, onions, green beans, and more zinnias! Because I’ve got to keep things somewhat pretty to those with eyes not quite accustomed to the beauty of a healthy cucumber or cabbage head.

Most people don’t get the chance to really appreciate the beauty of our food before it makes its way into the ground, so I thought I’d share some with you today. One of the prettiest color palettes I’ve seen in a while comes straight from these little corn seeds—reds, oranges, yellows, browns, even purples that are enough to put Sherwin-Williams to shame. The pleasures today were simple ones, no doubt, but they were perfect nonetheless.

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Day 19

            I’d like to take a moment to be one of those sappy, sugary, lovey-dovey girls that I tend to shy away from day to day. Why the switch from farm to fuss, you ask? Because today is my boyfriend’s and mine one-year anniversary!

So of course, I just wanted to say thank you to him for helping me get through all the ups and downs that have led me to being here and doing what I love this summer. It’s been one of the most influential years of my life thanks to him, and I’m so happy to have gotten the chance to spend my time the way I did. Just as much as working on this farm has taught me to deal with all the unexpected twists and turns of life, he’s helped me do the same by discovering more about myself than I thought was possible. Teaching me to realize that there are both good and bad parts to all of us, he unknowingly taught me how to live with both gratitude and exhilaration. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be with.

Phew…now that that’s over, time to get back to business! Because of today’s grand occasion, I decided to switch things up a bit by not heading in to the farm right at the crack of dawn. Instead, I was spoiled to a faaaabulous brunch before biking to work. Once I finally got there (around noon) I started by weeding out some microscopic bits of grass from the asparagus patch I had fully weeded a couple weeks ago. It sounds pretty annoying, I know, but it was actually pretty relaxing with the sun shining down on me and perfecting my forthcoming farmer’s tan.

Next came a new opponent—one I’d been…avoiding…for quite some time now. Remember how I said I wasn’t very good with machinery? Yeah, well, call me crazy because today was the day I chose to take on the weed-wacker. I’ve never used one before, but I’ve heard they’re pretty easily navigable, so I thought I’d give it a go. And surprise surprise—no catastrophes! In fact, I fully chopped down two huge areas, which could now be homes to who knows what kind of crops! After filling up once for gas and restringing the blade things twice, I finished feeling prettttty accomplished…. And kinda cool too!

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Day 18

            Hot, hot, HOT!! The sun, temp, and humidity made today quite a scorcher, folks. Which made trimming and weeding a rather…buggy experience. My grandpa had always said, “It’s because you’re so sweet,” when I complained about the million mosquito bites along my scraggly tween arms and ankles. But today I’m afraid there was no sugar, just the spice of my sweat attracting these pests.

            In between swatting bugs and wiping my forehead of the sweat dripping down into the corners of my eyes, I managed to trim around the larch plot of patchwork crops in the middle of the garden. It really spiffed the place up once I stepped back to look at the rectangle, but that’s not to say there were no catastrophes along the way.

You know, I’ve never been all that great with knifes, hand tools, or machinery of any sort. For some reason we just don’t get along and I always end up hurting myself (or someone/thing else) until I finally just give up on the damn things and finish the job with my bare hands: lawn mowers, blenders, curling irons, you name it and I’m sure I’ve yelled at one or two in my lifetime.

            So, naturally, when I went inside to grab the hand clippers off the back porch table, like Carrie had told me, I immediately looked at the blades like a deer caught in headlights—a mixture of shock and all-knowing fear filling my face. Throwing a past of all-knowing bad luck to the wayside though, I picked up the monsters and began working, determined that my newly acclaimed farming skills were enough to keep me free from the usual harm I get from anything sharp. Perhaps I should have listened to my instincts, considering what happened next…but hey, I got the job done! And what’s a little blood, sweat, and shears anyways?

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Day 17

Weighing in at an unverified weight and relying strictly on the power in numbers, we haaaaave garlic in the one corner. Aaaaand in the other corner, with an astonishing weight of 84 pounds of pure puppy muscle and fiery fluffed fur, he’s got paws that pack a punch and a tongue that flails in a fury. He’s rough, and he’s tough, but he’s a giant teddy bear…McSorely!

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Two surprise visitors join us at the ESL garden today. Deciding it was time for a visit/check-up, my mom made the three-hour trek out to Canton this afternoon to stay for a good ole weekend of life on the farm—yeehaw! Though not much work got done with this bad boy in the fields, it sure made for a good time. We mainly just walked around as I told her what was what in the garden and gave her the lowdown on my pretty low-key life these days. Eh, the weather wasn’t the greatest (downpours…again) but we managed to make the best of it.

Seeing these two familiar faces on the farm was both awesome and odd, and it made me think. Working out here by myself can get pretty lonely sometimes, so getting to share my hard work and newfound knowledge with the people—and pets—I care most about makes it all seem a little more valuable. There’s days when I wonder if the time and effort I’m putting into toiling away at twisted roots and bean shoots is really worth the isolation and doubt that comes in waves and makes the days seem to drag on forever. But when events like this happen, when I finally get to share my passion with the people I love, I suddenly realize how quickly this is all going by. It’s been a month already, and with less than two weeks to go my mind slips into a bit of a panic mode when it questions what’s in store for me next.

But then I remind myself to slow down. It’s not about what’s to come; it’s the here and now we have to love. It’s being aware of our surroundings, being positive about the little joys, and being accepting of the lesser ones. It’s basking in the sun when it shines and smiling even when it rains. It’s the ability to see that you’re doing something real in this world, and making somebody of yourself despite your own doubts, and it’s realizing—even when it seems impossible—that you’re invaluable. Because soon enough it’ll all be another part of your past.

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Day 16

Upon waking this morning, the pitter-patter of rain droplets against my window made me less than eager to look outside. As I slowly rolled off my side and leveraged myself up onto my elbows, I saw the sad truth of yet another rainy day. Though my summer requirements included getting started on researching for my senior independent study project, the library had yet to steal me away from the farm. However, today’s dreary mood proved dark enough to do just that.

            So I spent the day cooped up in the library for aboutttt….an hour before I got bored and transferred myself to a local coffee shop to sip on some Joe and really buckle down. Surprisingly, I managed to stay focused (somewhat) for about three hours there, working through a past classmate’s paper on the same issue: the impact of the rising Greek yogurt industry on local dairy farms in the North Country.

While skimming and sipping away, the rain continued to fall outside. After a while my boredom began to set in and I claimed that I had successfully gotten enough work done for the day. Whether or not that rings true may be questionable by some but for me I was content. So back home to cook up some warm tomato soup I went, feeling somewhat satisfied with today’s toils and looking forward to tomorrow’s much-anticipated visit from my mom and pup. Pictures are sure to come of that—but for now, take a gander at my lovely locale from this afternoon!

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