When we plant a baby squash plant, we often talk about what we're going to harvest. "Future Zucchini!" we say to ourselves, as we tuck it in the ground. But then, when we come back the next day to irrigate it, we find still that baby plant sitting there - a few small limpish leaves still settling uncertainly into the soil. "You are just a little plant, same as yesterday, same as tomorrow." Needless to say, there's no immediate gratification in farming.
But what there is in farming - always other things to do! So once the squash are in the ground we turn our attention to the next planting, the next project. And then? The day comes (this week) when we notice the protective row cover fabric is straining to contain the squash plants. We pull it off and out they spill - already producing their first tiny zucchinis below the bright orange flowers. It won't be long now.
Rapid growth. It's all happening. I can't see a plant grow standing and watching it, and a part of my brain concludes that means things aren't changing. "Last time I saw you, you were thiiiiiiis big," the adult says to the child they haven't seen in awhile. And so it is with me and the farm this time of year.
"Duh," thinks the child, "of course I'm growing." Of course things are growing. Of course the lettuce is salad-bowl sized, the kale is bumping, the spinach is fluffy and dark. The radishes and turnips aren't just leaves anymore - their leaves are only tassels on vegetables growing like balloons under the ground, rotund and packed with flavor. Next week's harvest is already coming on fast. We didn't have a single frost in all of May, nothing to stall out that steady change.
Of course the apprentices are now a capable crew cruising through almost all the farm tasks all at once, in this high-season push. Ellen is managing all the transplanting with skill and an increasing sense of ease, Ben has spread multiple tons of compost, and Jake has seeded acres of cover crops which have grown into higher-than-thigh forage and soil fertility. Alexandra has killed countless thread-stage weedlets that would otherwise be overtaking our crops. Abbe has entered all 500 shares. Karen has fenced all the pastures, and some new ones too, so the cows can move as the grass grows. Leila has developed a first grade curriculum, so now it's not just every kindergartner but every ARPS first grader that comes to the farm on a field trip.
My new (to me) favorite science fiction writer, Octavia Butler says "Everything you touch, you change. Everything you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change."
One thing I admire about Dan is his ability to calculate this constant change into his perception of reality. "Help me figure out how many strawberries to offer each share," I ask. Yes, today it takes 50 feet to pick a pint of strawberries. But at the rate strawberries can be expected to ripen, that will mean by Saturday there's enough for some for everyone and the bulk PYO season isn't far ahead. Dan sees the future strawberries. Sure, the future is always uncertain - a turn in the weather could shorten the season, but with his help, we can include that in our calculations. That rate calculation is experience and expertise, and also a mindset: adaptable, open, un-attached to the way things are at this very moment, informed by the past and awake to the future.
Every time I experience that surprise - that "oh, I forgot to account for you, inevitable change," yields a sweet heightened awareness: things will keep changing. That's what we're all here to experience together. Here we go: Lettuce and spinach will turn into summer squash and cucumbers will turn into eggplants and tomatoes will turn into potatoes and winter squash. Ellen will turn her attention to honing her harvest management skills. Jake and Ben will soon learn many many shareholder's names and faces, and master the farm shop hustle. I will keep learning how to expect and welcome change, as I continue to be in awe of all this transformation. This next wave of change is one that brings so much life and exhuberance to our farm: you are coming! Or we're sending you your box! Either way - the energy of the beginning of the distribution season is palpable: thank you for joining us on this wild, ever-changing ride! We like to call it "reality." Welcome (or welcome back!) to your farm, we couldn't do it without you!
(for Dan, Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alexandra, Jake and Ben)