A friend recently asked me how I live with uncertainty. "I'm a farmer," I replied.
Perhaps this time of year feels more uncertain than others. We've spent the winter designing and refining the crop plans and planting calendar so that we can now toss them in the air, as weather and soil conditions tell us what we will do instead. Any winter repairs or unresolved questions lingering at this point can become nagging doubts which hold us back from jumping whole-heartedly into the new growing season. Even after 28 years of raising vegetable crops to fruition, those crops' needs continue to elude us, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the propagation greenhouse where we raise starts to transplant, and in the fields where the early transplants and direct-seeded crops persist in establishing themselves despite early weeds, insect pests, and wildly variable weather.
Shouldn't we know more than this by now?
There is a world of life here on the farm that knows more than we ever will. The osprey return from their winter travels on April 13 nearly every year (this year they came a day early, on the 12th.). The Swainson's thrush arrives sometime in the second half of May each year to sing that summer will, finally, arrive. As new crops squeeze up through cold, wet soil, rows and rows of garlic planted last October stand tall, thriving and confident.
These plants have no unanswered questions. They have everything they need to know. The soil and microorganisms which feed these plants don't worry about what will happen next; they just grow.
There is so much to celebrate about this time of year. How great is it that we can have a sandwich with grilled onions (kept in storage from last year's crop) on the same day we are cultivating this year's new onions? What is not to love about pizza for dinner with cilantro pesto as base and roasted parsnips, dried cherry tomatoes, and corn (last year's, from the freezer) toppings? How can we fail to admire the chard stalks which survived a hard winter and are now blooming right across the way from the new chard we've just begun harvesting?
When walking the fields at this uncertain time of year I am (again, still, and always) impressed by the determination, the fortitude, the elegance of these plants, and the unknowable complexity that supports them. I get the feeling they really love what they do. Which might be all the proof we need that we are also here to