We spent all day out on the land on Monday – our first big day of work at First Root Farm.
I arrived in the early morning, the sunlight still cool and golden on our freshly plowed fields.
For me, the farm is getting more and more beautiful with each passing day. Every hour I spend there, I notice a particular detail of the land that takes my breath away – the line of red and gold trees hanging over the western edge of the field, the graceful curve of an old stone wall in the back corner, the way shadows fall across freshly tilled soil. I remember the very first time I set foot on this land. I thought – eh, it’s alright, but nothing to get excited about. Now it strikes me as one of the most beautiful farms I’ve ever seen. True, it’s only an acre and a half of semi-overgrown farmland, with a busy Concord road cutting right through the middle of it, but it is already dear, and places that are dear are always beautiful, no matter how ordinary.
So, on a bright fall morning, sunny and sharp, I spent my first hours working up a true sweat and a hearty appetite on this already-dear land. Ben and Patch gracious drove out from The Farm School with a truck full of supplies: the BCS (a walk-behind tiller that churns up the soil and kills weeds), a scythe, and the more modern electric weed whacker. Our big projects for the day included hand-mowing the wet eastern edge of the filed, overrun with tall grasses, and cultivating the plowed section, which was already rampant with a healthy-looking crop of weeds.
Here’s what it looked like when we started:
And here’s what it looks like after four hours work:
I thought there was nothing sweeter than sitting down to a good lunch under a clear blue sky after a good morning’s work. It turns out, sitting down to a good lunch on your very own land, (or at least, land you’ve been graciously given to steward for a season), is sweeter. There is something about running a farm – a sense of ownership and responsibility – that makes the work all the more meaningful. It isn’t just knowing how to do the work, and knowing that it’s up to you to do it well – it’s something older than that. It’s the desire to create, to see your work through from beginning to end. It’s the need to root down on land, to plant your hands firmly on a piece of soil and be able to say, those peppers, that eggplant, that stalk of corn – I grew that.
As I walk back and forth across our field, I am already filled with pride, and gratitude, and an outwelling of visions, ideas, dreams. I have never paid attention to a piece of land in quite this way before. I’ve noticed things about the field that it took me years to see in other fields I’ve worked: where the shadows fall on field, and how late in the day they stay there, what kinds of weeds are growing, and where, and how many, and how quickly they germinate, the path of the sun across the soil.
In the afternoon, we took exact measurements of our two plots: the main one across the road, and another strip right behind the farmstand. Together, they are 54,00 square feet – about an acre and a quarter. If we can plow up another 100′ by 100′ square on the eastern end (which we’ve been told is very wet), we’ll be farming an acre and a half. That translates into days and days of seeding and transplanting and hand-digging beds, of weeding in the hot sun and thinning tiny carrots and beets, days and days of harvesting chard and broccoli and tomatoes in the perfect early morning stillness, days and days of eating fresh out of the ground, meals made of equal parts vegetables and hard work and gratitude.