Double Life

I thought I would write a little a bit about the farm since I haven’t said much about it and my time there is rapidly coming to a close.

I’ve been there since June 3 and so I’ve experienced summer and fall there. Summer was (mostly) hot as hell and very busy. In the fall, things have slowed down some. We have had a reduced number of crops in the market the past few weeks (which makes my job easier). Yesterday we had dried beans, kale, beets, turnips, baby boc choy, fresh ginger root, broccoli, peppers and sweet potatoes, supplemented by a late-day delivery of cilantro and chard. Yesterday was the coldest day yet for me. I had pajama pants on under my khakis, a T-shirt plus thermal shirt plus fleece pullover, and a hat. Most of the time I was fine but my hands went numb quickly when it came time to get out the soap and water and clean everything.

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Someone at the farm told me once that the male farmhands won’t pick certain crops. I forget what they were but something small, like cherry tomatoes. They consider that to be “women’s work.” That always stuck in my mind, and now whenever I encounter the farmhands, I wonder what they think of me, a woman doing kind of hard work, yanking up the truck door and unloading all these crates all the time. Have I crossed a line in their eyes, or is it still women’s work? Probably all the sweeping, cleaning, and customer chit-chat that I do makes it a woman’s job, but I’m not sure. I don’t bother with hair/makeup at the farm and probably could be mistaken for a dude half the time. One time, in the blueberry fields, a customer gave me a baseball hat — they had a bunch they had gotten for free at some event and wanted to get rid of them. So I put on the hat to help with the sun in my eyes, looked down at my “Vermont” T-shirt, Bermuda shorts, and sneakers, and realized, just as in the Progressive insurance commercials, that I was becoming my dad.

In contrast, during the week I am a secretary. (“Secretaries are supposed to smile!” one jokester of a client told me recently. “I’ll try to smile more!” I half-snarled back.) I wear skirts and my knee-high black boots. I wear makeup and do my hair. I don’t do much of anything physical besides put files away. When it is pouring rain outside and I am snug in front of my computer with a Wawa coffee, I give a little sigh of relief that I am not at the farm. But also kind of wish I was.

Oddly enough, quite often the farm reminds me of the beach. The fields ripple away under a big blue sky, flat as the sands of Wildwood. The hard brightness of the sun and the cold wind whipping remind me of winter in Ocean City. A crate of broccoli, still damp, has a briny sea smell to it.

I think my last day will be this coming Saturday, the 17th. I will miss my customers. One of them has promised to bring me her homemade green tomato preserves on the last day, so I can try them. One is moving to Hawaii in a few weeks, and I’m always going to wonder how she made out there. My favorite person, a spritely, dapper Italian man who whistles while gathering his produce — who reminds me quite a bit of P-Pop — already left for Florida.

It was a good experience for me to see for myself that farm life is… hard! This is not a cutesy, picturesque place. It is beautiful, but it is a place of work, of labor. There are tools and equipment and works in progress everywhere — piles of gravel waiting to be spread, greenhouses under construction, trucks and vans that need to be fixed. What labor goes into getting that head of cauliflower or sweet potato to the farm market, from the owner of the farm all the way down to little old me. Then add the vagaries of the weather on top of it. Excess rain was a big problem for the farm this year, it seems.

Last week I paid for a “Personal” box of produce. Usually I don’t have cash on me and of course I don’t have checks anymore, so I never did become an official member of the CSA, but I’ve bought stuff here and there. It was fun to finally fill a whole box like a real member.

So I got carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, turnips, and fresh ginger, and I cut some rosemary as well. The ginger went in the freezer for now. The broccoli got blanched and frozen. The carrots are delicious, I’ve been eating them raw all week. And on Friday I mashed the turnips like potatoes and they were great! Never had turnips before in my life. The rosemary, I just like to smell šŸ™‚

Next week I must remember to bring more money so I can load up on produce for the last time. I definitely want to get some dried beans.

* * *

Heading into another busy week. Coming off a four-day weekend for the kids (teachers’ convention). We didn’t do anything exciting but they had friends over, and two nights in a row their friends ate over, which is always fun. This week features more physical therapy for Aidan, two nights, and we have a birthday party today. Aidan’s birthday is coming up as well (12!!).

 

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