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Final Lap

It’s mid-September, and we’ve entered the season’s final lap. There's plenty of harvesting and post-harvest handling still ahead, but the planting is done and the weeding optional. Even in the midst of so much abundance and hustle, the end is undeniably near.

As the Tin House fills with food, we’re strategizing to avoid a repeat of last year, when a deep freeze just before Thanksgiving zapped entire plantings of cabbage, broccoli, and celeriac still in the field. Clearing the fields by mid-November may seem straight-forward, and harvesting is easy enough, but finding enough storage space in and around the Tin House is a juggling act that gets harder each year, as the harvests continue to grow. Plus, out of consideration for our backs, I’ve become manic about only setting crates down once. It used to be that someone who unloaded a truck before knowing a crate’s final destination was cheered for their zeal; now they’re liable to get barked at. This isn’t air traffic control, but it’s still serious business. One false move, and you’ve allowed the kohlrabi to block off the carrots. Imagine the riots that would follow.

It’s been a fun trip watching the season unfold through the eyes of our novice crew. Lisa, Michael, and Sean all arrived with a certain amount of gardening experience, but none have ever worked on a farm before. This necessitated more on-the-job training than I’m accustomed to, but the unexpected benefit was seeing the farm from a long forgotten, beginner’s perspective. The other day, as we were discussing the work still ahead, we recalled the intensity of the seasons within the season—something I’ve come to take for granted, but which is very apparent to the novice. Lisa’s first week on the job was spent trapped in the greenhouse, potting for hours, longing for the fields. No sooner was the potting over than she found what she was missing—the weeds! From May through June, the crew weeded as though their lives depended on it, and just when they thought the farm couldn’t produce another weed, we switched over to a solid month of mulching. Then came the harvesting, first the summer fruit crops, then the fall storage crops, for hours, days, and weeks on end. Michael confessed to nearly going beserk at one point while picking tomatoes, and I don’t blame him; for a while, it felt like that’s all we did. Experience teaches you what to expect of these mini seasons—their intensity, their duration—and that makes them easier to bear. For the novice, however, it probably feels like a constant jump from the pan to the fire and back. My hope for our crew is that lots of sleep, good food, a supportive community, and pride in one’s work will carry them across the finish line. Which, lest anyone forget, isn’t very far away.

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