I stretch the measuring tape along the length of each wooden beam. 2 feet 6 inches, 3 feet… I mark off increments with a ballpoint pen. Flipping and flopping, the tape makes a tin-foily sound that reminds me of measuring empty apartments and furniture dimensions with my mom. Arranging inside the walls of our new home.
Today, I help build a home of a slightly different sort…
Well, it’s been HOT these past few weeks. We have also had some smokiness wafting through our sky from the recent wildfires. Despite it all, we harvested a crazy amount of food this week! This was our first week at the Main Street Station Vancouver Farmer’s Market, so a lot of the produce was VFM-bound. In numbers: 53lbs of bulk kale, 80 kale bunches, 94 turnip bunches–and those are only the veggies I got to help with! We also had totes and totes of carrots, spring mix, beets, garlic, head lettuce, mustards… a bounty indeed!
This week, I experienced a new level of grown-up-ness.
I learned how to use a DRILL! The heavy, handheld, electric, bzzzzzzzzzz kind that big kids use.
We were transforming the market storage unit at the ICC into a space for curing garlic! Next week we are getting ready for a huge garlic harvest–both to sell fresh and to cure for storing throughout the year. Armed with wooden beams, screws, power tools (the best part), a ladder, and an emptied shed, we spent Wednesday morning building tiers of beautiful wood shelves now waiting to be hung with next week’s big harvest (of BIG garlic)!
I had a lot of fun after Scott taught me the how-to’s of drilling. Press hard on the top of the drill! The sharp sound of screws driving into wood is so satisfying. (Although as I was drilling away, I did have a momentary mental picture of drilling teeth… ouch!)
After getting most of the garlic curing space built in the morning–and feeling grown-up and handier than I’ve likely ever felt–the afternoon offered another opportunity for “maturing”.
Farmer Scott was away at our first Vancouver Farmer’s Market, so it was just me at the farm. With nothing but a weedy but happily sunny farm around me, I felt like a kid being left home alone with the parents gone–freedom!
But alas, with great power comes great responsibility.
I had a 2″ x 2″ to-do list in my pocket. An afternoon of weeding and bed clearing was before me. Ok, let’s do this!
Being one who naturally likes to take my time with everything–including weeding, unfortunately–I was determined to work quickly today. Especially without Scott or volunteers to work and keep pace with, I knew I needed to put extra effort into keeping a brisk speed. I was yanking out old kale plants and demolishing weed patches with a resolve that reminded me of the first time I had to get ready by myself on a school day morning. I had to wake up early so that I could warm my lunch in the steamer before being picked up for school (this was my family’s pre-microwave days). Today, I had to get these beds cleared before the end of the day!
At the beginning, the level of motivation was super high. By Scott’s suggestion, I also set alarms every hour to help keep myself on top of time management. At the end of my third bed, though, I was getting pretty tired. I realized that I’d probably been too thorough with the first couple of beds. To work on: keeping the whole of the day’s tasks in perspective, and tweaking the level of thoroughness accordingly. It is ever a balance of priorities.
At day’s end: three full wheelbarrows of weeds for the organics bin.
It’s kind of astounding, how much a pair of hands can get done in one afternoon! Physically, I was so tired, but at least there was some purslane to nibble on as I worked.
Fatigue is part of the body’s natural energy cycles, just as the fields go through periods of fertility and fallowness. In the tiredness, there is a joy that comes from working, building, creating, and care taking with our hands.
Mechanization removes from agriculture what farmer-poet Wendell Berry beautifully describes as “the intimacy of the body’s involvement in the making of a work of art” (The Art of the Commonplace)–the human, handmade touch. Where is our technological development taking us? what is it giving us?
What does it mean to “grow up”, as a society, as a human community? Does this road that we’re on lead to maturity and integrity, or irresponsibility and ingratitude? With ever-increasing knowledge and industry, what are we doing with it all? what will we do with it all? We know that small-scale sustainable agriculture is being threatened, and we know we must protect it.
For ourselves and future generations, “the intimacy of the body’s involvement in the making of a work of art” (Berry) is something that is well worth cherishing, pleasuring in, and protecting. It is the passing on of life skills: using tools, growing one’s own food, and, yes in our days, even handwriting.
Training the hands in craft and skill has always been a part of growing up. And–if we are to live life to the fullest, as they say–it should always be so.
With great power comes great responsibility.