Summer In May

Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm, Courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

Resting in a prominent corner of our farm, under a native black walnut tree, there’s an enormous Allis Chalmers crawler tractor. This is one of those yellow tractors that were built in the ’40s and ’50s, weighing up to 70 tons, with huge engines, and big blades that could move a lot of earth. I’m not sure how this tractor got to its resting place, but I imagine that someone had finished a job and parked it in the shade, maybe 50 years ago, and it hasn’t moved since.

Image courtesy of Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA

Maybe one day the old-timer will come back to see what has changed since he parked that tractor there. I like to imagine that he might run into one of the farm kids, like Rye Muller, who grew up here. Rye would show him around, maybe pick some hot strawberries, baking in the 95-degree weather we’re having today. “Food tastes better when you pick it yourself,” Rye would say.

Then they would wander into the shade of the walnut orchard and find all the chicken tractors that Rye and his friends built. The hens are all busy – happy in the shade of the trees, some of them resting in the heat of the afternoon. The buildings where they roost at night and lay their eggs in the morning reflect Rye’s humor identified by names like Eggscargot, Winnebeggo, Lay, Lady, Lay, Huevos Rancheros.” Maybe the visitor would like the whimsical humor.

There are many projects to do on this farm in the spring and it feels like summer already. This isn’t just yet another idle farmer comment about the weather. To our eyes, the farm looks like a million projects that we can’t get to. The warm spring means that the irrigation crew is working 7-days a week, the garlic is drying down, the tomatoes are growing and need to be staked, the crews feel very stressed because everyone wants them to be everywhere, doing everything.

Maybe the visitor would come to the melon field. Watermelon is Rye’s favorite fruit. Not hard to understand since he grew up with some of the best watermelons that can be grown and is often the one to find the first ripe, perfect watermelon on the farm. He likes to eat them cool, “but not cold because then it makes your teeth hurt.” Maybe our visitor would arrive at the Allis Chalmers behemoth and they would discover that he was the one who had parked it there, where it had been for Rye’s entire life. They would talk about that huge tractor and the job that it had finished before it was parked. Maybe the visitor would notice that his spade is still resting against the driver’s seat.

Hopefully, the visitor would not notice too much that the farmers were behind in their work and a bit frayed at the seams. Perhaps the productivity, fertility, and beauty of the place would show through as part of a continuum. More likely it would be the flavor of the sugar snap peas and strawberries that would convince him that things really are just fine.

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