Back on the Farm

Last weekend, I was back in Sonoma for my second day of farm school field work.  The pepper, eggplant and tomato plants that we’d planted in May hadn’t grown dramatically, but at least they’d survived the unusually cold and rainy spring.

The tomatoes had even grown enough for us to trellis them. We learned to weave a thick, plasticky twine around the plants to encourage them to grow up rather than out. But the biggest work of the day was transforming the overgrown potato field from this:

Potato field (before)

To this:

Potato field (four rows in)

It took four people to work the potato field: two people to go down each side of the potato plants pulling up weeds with scuffle hoes; one person to drive the Italian-made tiller between the rows, turning over the soil and the weeds in one go; and one last person to rake up the loose soil up into hills.

By the end of the day, my keyboard-trained hands were sore from gripping the scuffle hoe and the rake. A blister developed between my thumb and my finger where the seam of my gardening gloves rubbed.

One of the primary lessons I’m learning at farm school is what it really means to do physical work: the blisters, the sore muscles, the incredible appetites we build up and the total exhaustion that settles in, unexpectedly, as we drive back to SF. We joke about farming becoming the next exercise craze. So far, it’s been a full-body workout: planting worked my legs and hilling potatoes and using the scuffle hoes worked my arms, shoulders, and core.

I’m also finding that working outside helps me to appreciate the little things, like the breeze that keeps me from feeling too hot or looking up in time to see a kite hovering in the neighboring field or even just taking a break to eat lunch.

We all appreciate the close proximity of The Fremont Diner. Perhaps because we now know what it means to work up an appetite, most of us start and end our day at the Diner. We gather there in the morning for biscuits and fried egg sandwiches before we start our day in the field, and at the end of the day, we line up to order floats and milkshakes to keep us alert as we get back on the road and head back to our city lives.


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