With 7 acres of winter squash still out in the “Val shelf” field, I was uneasy to say the least; light frost can burn the tops of fruits- particularly smooth skinned types like butternut and spaghetti- and take the storage life out of them. And even with the entire crew available to go pick and bring in this crop, it would be slow going to say the least in the mud and rain. The forecast high in the low 60s at best. Bummer.
But once again the crew picked me up and made light work of a tough challenge. It took a bit to tie up all other projects early on, and to get everyone up there. But by mid morning the entire crew was up there in rainsuits, clipping and collecting squash. 22 Spanish speakers. 6 English speakers (we’re depleted in this area after several folks went back to school…) and the newest addition to the crew, 4 German speaking Amish neighbors.
I had a number of loose ends to tie up in the shop myself, and when I came out there in the afternoon it was an amazing sight. Yellow jacketed pickers hunched over in long rows, moving through the field. Three tractors pulling long wagons through the deep mud behind them, with other groups of “yellow jackets” tossing and collecting the squash in bins on the wagons. A light but steady rainfall making everything more trying, to say the least.
What struck me about the scene was that there was such a human element present once again. Joel and Mike were moving full trailers out of the field as quickly as they were filled. Abby was chatting up the Amish gals (in their bonnets and aprons, beneath the rain gear!) in such a friendly way; Nathan kidding around with the Gascas, as always. The echo of chatter and laughter floating over the field, heard even through the steady rainfall. Nobody complaining about the conditions; everyone bent to a common task with a clear, common goal. Fantastic.
By 5:00 we had brought in 120 bins (800-1000lbs each) of winter squash of all varieties… butternut and acorn, carnival and spaghetti and pie pumpkin. What an effort! The crop saved!!
To say that I feel humbled by such community efforts at the farm would be an understatement indeed. It is one of the true joys of what I do day-to-day at Featherstone Farm, to be part of such a team of dedicated collaborators. I hesitate to use the word “employees” here, to be honest… it doesn’t feel like these folks are working for the farm in such a situation; collectively they are Featherstone Farm. I feel so fortunate to be part of this.
I spent another couple of hours bringing squash trailers under cover on Friday evening, after everyone had left… putting away the tractors. Then Saturday I woke to a significant frost on the grass around the Peterson house. How would the crops look down below in the valley… I wondered anxiously… where the frost settles even harder? The answer came in the form of another revelation: the previous day’s rain had blanketed the valley in a thick fog, holding back all frost and preserving life in the melons, the tomatoes and the sweet corn that we still have growing near the shop. Another miracle!