11 May 2009

Farm Camp, round two

When Orin Martin, the instructor for the Up Garden, arrived late at our very first orientation meeting, his introductory words were: “In the words of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, ‘all apologies.’” Such borrowed references randomly pepper his lessons, and I feel compelled to borrow and apologize for promised stories that have not yet been shared…

Today was the first day of our first Rotation, meaning that the six letter groups (A-F) we’ve each been assigned to are beginning their first 6 week garden site rotation. These first four weeks – I’ve been here a month! – have been orientation-oriented, large-group, and catch-all through different garden sites. My group D has spent much of the last 3 weeks in the Up Garden (nearly a week of which I missed in doing the FAS conference), a messy, chaotic tangle of pome and stone fruit trees, citrus, short and sloped crop beds, roses, bees, and other growing garden accoutrement. All order there is underlying, but its beauty is well enough in your face, aromatic, loud but with demure, quiet corners. Orin would chatter at us in the morning, delivering plant-based information interlaced with stories and planned afternoon tasks. Hard to take notes, but easy to pay attention.

Group D is now in the Down Garden. We work at a site just adjacent to tent land, and the Farm Center, no longer needing to commute the 30 minute hike up the hill to the Up, passing a gorgeous panorama of Monterey Bay that UCSC sports from its athletic hill. I miss the walk, but the time gained perhaps means I can catch up on needed reading? Or naps.

The Down Garden spills into just over an acre of hand-worked rows. We use spades and forks to till and shape the land. Straight, flat, open, orderly. It feels a bit stale compared to the Up, save all the blooming flowers that will soon go into CSA bouquets (presently making our eating and bathroom spaces look soo nice) and various perennials tucked into the bed ends. Today, the two groups assigned to this space (others are in Up and the Field – machinery-implemented scale) walked the site, noted the plants growing, those needing to be pulled, those polka-dotted with the bite of the flea beetle, got familiar with the work to come. We sat in the herb garden and talked about the site, expectations, and what we were each looking forward to the most, worried about the most, and felt we had to offer. Only the middle topic was easy to answer! The others were a ramble of thought and speculation.

We got into some light work before lunch – hula hoeing weeds between rows of crops with a swaying back and forth cut of the tool to slice the tops of weeds from their roots – then really dug into the afternoon’s four hours…though if we were working for money, we’d be a poor bunch. My afternoon hours were spent assisting in bed preparation then planting of fillet beans (haricot verts), running the bed with a drip line, and assisting with a bit of the same in other beds. Hardly taxing, and yet it was.

Plenty of time for dirty-ing hands, drinking water in the hot sun, asking questions, wishing the raspberries and peaches were in already. Our four hour afternoons are now matched with four hour working mornings, a slight change from the Basic Block beginning. The Real Deal now, folks. Which makes me feel less ridiculous for wanting to head to bed shortly after it gets dark out…or napping after eating lunch. You can chuckle at the tent life if you want, but having fresh air at your face pretty much all of the time, being well in touch with the rhythms of the day, and the cycles of the sun and moon…it’s pretty nice.

Walls and private spaces will be welcomed in the Fall, but Extended Farm Camp is fun! Plenty of room for you to pitch your tent, so just let me know when you’re coming, ok?

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