The Fall Finish Line

Image courtesy of Good Humus Produce, Capay CA

by Jeff Main of Good Humus Produce, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

OK. Can we finally stop and say summer is finished? We have crossed what we assume is the finish line still standing, wobbly and exhausted. Looking around, we notice that we have crossed several starting lines while approaching this finish. The muddy trail of the winter work winds down into what looks like a peaceful, yellow-tinted valley, frosty and quiet, misty with foggy spots laying along the banks and trees of still water. That is an attractive walking trail with a beginning and an end, but also with time for reflection, maybe even Annie and I walking together on occasion. There are some nice layover spots out there a ways, warm kitchens and long evenings, tables filled with family and friends and with the good smells of a lived-in, warmed-up house.

If we choose, there are still true races to be run, the dashes that will finish with the first heavy rains that soak the ground. The dash to get the last of the open ground covered with a winter blanket of growing plants. The dash to get the last of the fall cover into the ground so that the final crops can be seeded and planted in November to give us all that essential February and March food. And because we are pretty good and getting better at what we do, we will run those races to the finish, whether the finishing rains come this week or next month. If anything can be said of us as farmers of nearly 40 years, it can be said that we will be there for the start and the running of those races. We may finish first, last, or indifferently, but we will show up. On a chaotic path, full of unknown and unstable ground, full of uncharted new terrain, that is about the only pledge that can be taken by us as committed farmers, that we will show up for the future and we will run.

Image courtesy of Good Humus Produce, Capay CA

So, yes, I think the weather is finally taking up fall patterns, and so we can say that the big race has been run and we finished. While it has in no way been a decisive win, there are many bright spots with future potential. In the midst of all the exertion of the summer days, I felt a strong healing spirit at work. This summer, for the first time in several summers, I dedicated myself to fieldwork, to the daily rhythms of picking and irrigation and hoeing as higher priorities than making sure the operation ran smoothly. The healing that occurred for me as I relied on myself and was relied on by others, day after day, to pick the apricots and peaches, lemon cucumbers and melons and green beans, was a reawakening of the nurturing qualities of the daily cycle of repetitive work.  Slowly, ever so slowly, and to the relief of those around me, the angry wounds of last year have begun to close. At the same time, the re-assertion of the native resiliency of those who care for and about the earth has begun. We will not be the same as we were, and the boundaries, initiated in anger and betrayal, may crumble and blur but will remain. The beauty of three weeks of delicious apricots came like a rainbow to let us know that last summer’s no-show was a passing storm. The glow that showed from the vibrant health of the summer squash, melons and cucumbers during the mid-season heat kept us all feeling that something we were doing was good for the farm, while the peaches, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, and peppers let us know that there is plenty of room for improvement.  And improve we have. The peppers and basil have responded to our efforts coupled with the reserve strength of the land to produce beautifully. Watching that happen is perhaps the strongest testament to the healing qualities of a strong, fertile soil and knowing caring hands. The winter squash has seldom been so vigorous and productive.

As a final note, there is longer-term healing. We are in the process, constantly, of sharing our wealth with the extended family that has found Good Humus to be a desirable location. The animals, insects, fungi, and bacteria that have moved, and continue to move here, provide the structure within which we can assess the health of our relationship in the world around us. If Good Humus can continue to provide the habitat and nutrition and productive life for all its inhabitants, including its people, through the universal process of giving and receiving, of death and life, then healing is occurring. If, on the other hand, any of us insist on the entire harvest for our own, then, of course, the healing is incomplete, and adjustments, either physical or in our case mental, are needed for the healthy life of Good Humus.

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