As the years pass, we confront the acceleration of time. Weeks become moments and months fly by as the seasons blur and pass far too quickly. We plan ahead almost relentlessly - forecasting budgets or anticipating the next business cycle.
In the catering business we are thinking about Christmas and holiday parties, if not contemplating the Spring Gala Season of 2012. We are worse than department stores that feature the latest fall fashion in their windows as we pass by melting in a 100-degree heat wave.
The challenge is to live in the moment and allow the clock to slow down so we can fully appreciate the richness and all the possibilities that an instant might hold.
I escape to Katchkie Farm to connect with time and timelessness. Nowhere in my life is there a place that embodies the need to embrace in the moment as at the farm. Seedlings need to be planted now. Crops must be watered now. Vegetables are ready for harvest now. Weather impact is felt instantly.
There is a brief moment every summer when the farm feels like it is bursting at the seams with a kind of juiciness that comes with a deep passion for delicious vegetables. A typical visit for me unfolds this way: I grab a shears, a bag and my camera and head out into the fields. I visit them all, from the front rows of brilliant flowers and herbs, followed this year by purple and provocative okra. This year, a few rows of tomatoes follow. There are gaps in the front field as rotation plans leave open spaces. I visit the chard and kale, see if the greedy deer have left any lettuce (in a few more weeks they will be fenced out), and check on the cherry tomatoes to discover that the sungold's are ripening at last.
I zigzag across, always turning back to look at the barn and greenhouses from a different angle. It might be a certain crop or cloud formation that alters the landscape and offers a new perspective.
There are crops that I visit weekly, monitoring their progress. This year, Farmer Bob planted sweet corn in doue spots. For weeks I have been watching the stalks inch up, sometimes imperceptibly, other weeks, dramatically. Last week my heart was bursting when I realized that our first corn was ready for eating. Proud Mama doesn't describe the feeling of satisfaction and wonder.
The zucchini have worn out their welcome with me -- as I suspect with everyone but the most dedicated zucchini lovers. I have had my share of zucchini in soup or grilled or layered or baked or loafed -- well, maybe not pickled -- and I encourage all visitors to explore recipes with squash blossoms, a good form of squash birth control. But I am enthralled to see tiny Brussels sprout buds form on the stalk. I will be watching them closely now as well as the gradually maturing celeriac and winter squash. I walk past the broccoli, nibbling some and cutting a small head for the bag. I never tire of its flavor -- a treat that tastes nothing like the store bought green veggies that pass for broccoli. The tomatillos are taking their time and the soybeans might not realize theirs as the marauding deer have snacked on their blossoms.
Out to the far field where Thunder Pickles are growing along with the sweetest onions we have ever produced -- move over Vidalia! One row over, leeks and scallions reside along with more tomato plants, peppers (hot and not) and eggplant (long & skinny and short & fat).
Not so suddenly, my bag is way too heavy to carry... especially if I am going to grab a small watermelon. This is what happens every time. I leave the bag at the head of a row of onions and continue my walk over the creek, now dry and filled with cattails and wildflowers. The new willow trees along its banks are thriving but are still so small. I wonder when and if I will ever need to look way up to see their bent gracious tops -- I hope so.
The Sylvia Center children's garden is on my left, the field house straight ahead and the pond on the right slope comes into view. The children's garden blends edible blossoms in its rows and encourages climbing -- that is for beans and cucumbers. It has been harvested repeatedly by visiting groups of children who have prepared countless magical meals in the field house this year. Other bounty has been hauled off to sell at the community market in Chatham.
While in the perennial garden that boarders the field house last week, I heard the steady sound of swarming bees. A little nervous, I looked around for its source and discovered that several beehives had been installed a few yards away. Another item off the wish list! Time to start thinking about the uses of Katchkie Honey.
Over to the chicken coop, past the regal row of majestic evergreens, past the row of rhubarb I proudly planted weeks earlier, past the rows harvested of garlic and the patch of grassy field that held two 60 foot long tables where we hosted our annual farm to table dinner 3 weeks ago. I visit the girls and fill half a box with eggs. The sixth egg was laid as I watched and waited, not the miracle of childbirth, but pretty remarkable nonetheless.
A few more farm visit rituals and then it is time to head back to rejoin the rat race before it goes too far without me. It occurs to me that this is an 'endless summer' moment. It is perfect -- everything is growing in unison -- we could freeze the moment and relive it day after day after day and be completely satisfied. We've worked and waited months for this ripening, thriving, jubilant juncture. I want it to stay like this so the urge to preserve, revere, cook, salivate and appreciate every last detail doesn't feel so pressing.
My friend, experiencing his first visit to Katchkie Farm today, tells the story of his serious bike accident. He tells me how his life is different now - how he has changed. I think that I know this story about how tenuous and precious life is. It reminds me of how I came to be a farmer - how the healing soil and the fragile yet vibrant cycle of growing restored my spirit; how each walk in the fields connects me somehow to a joyful and powerful life force that we can share with others. Seasons begin then end then begin again. We celebrate the beginnings and feel sad at the end. We renew ourselves over and over again as time moves at a thousand different speeds.