Sunday, October 3, 2010

September 4

The feel of a workday in the garden depends on who arrives to help. The garden depends on volunteer labor, and benefits greatly when large groups join the harvest. We enjoy introducing new volunteers to the tasks and pleasures of gardening: how to harvest collards, being sure to leave a few photosynthesizing leaves so that the plant will continue to thrive; how to remove green bean pods so as not to damage plants; how to stake tomatoes. As I am aware that almost everything that I know about gardening I learned from another volunteer, I am always happy to instruct someone else.

Although an important part of our work, such instruction can be stressful, especially when we’re pressed for time. We like to complete the harvesting, weighing, and packing before 11:00 or so, so that we can still deliver to the Vital Bridges pantry before noon: if we arrive much later than that, many clients will already have left, pulled away by the need to catch a bus before their transfers expire. So it is sometimes a relief when everyone at the garden has been there a few times and knows what needs to be done.

On September 4, most of the volunteers were veterans of the workday. The garden hummed with self-directed activity and common purpose. While some pulled carrots and radishes, others dug up the last of the potatoes. We harvested tomatoes and ripe peppers. Some of us gathered summer squash; others clipped collard and kale; others washed or weighed produce. Doug measured our beds so that he could order sufficient cover crop for winter. We evaluated our fruit trees and planned for the next pruning.

Because I have been delivering this season, I have missed the times after the harvest, when the volunteers turn from the tasks of gathering produce and focus on work that sustains both garden and gardener: dropping seeds into holes poked into freshly worked beds; lifting a fork’s worth of loamy soil from the bottom of a compost bin; arranging cleaned tools on hooks in the shed.

On the other hand, the other volunteers rarely get to watch people gather to fill their bags with our produce, so perhaps it all evens out.