The Season By Thirds

If you like, you can divvy up the farm’s season into three parts. The theme of the first third (March, April, and May) is preparation—anticipation, even. Those months are all about getting ready: gathering seeds and soil, hiring a crew, starting plants in the greenhouse, preparing the field for planting. For those three months, the farm is mostly potential and full of promise. The farm never looks so good as it does in my mind’s eye during that time.

The middle third—June, July, and August—is all about resilience. That plan so carefully prepared in the first part of the season never entirely holds together as the work unfolds in those months. And what a lot of work is to be done! Everything is happening, all at once, and the whole crew needs to be swift and nimble to get it all done.

And the last third, which we soon enter, is about one thing only: endurance. Almost all our time now will be spent harvesting, first the fruits of high summer, then later the bounty of fall. We’ll push through the heat and humidity, then through the cold and rain. We’ll push through the accumulated aches and pains, and we’ll push through our declining energy. Two more months of concentrated effort, then a slower, more easeful month of putting the farm to bed for winter, then rest, and dreams of spring.

One Eye On the Fields, One On the Clock

It’s crunch time. More than usual, I mean. As I’ve mentioned here before, there are so many tasks that really need to be done before the first part of August (I’ve decided, only partly arbitrarily, that August 7 is the date this season), after which our window for effective action rapidly begins to close. If the tomatoes aren’t strung now, beginning to string them then won’t help. If the organic fertilizers and soil amendments the plants need aren’t spread now, starting to apply them then won’t make much of a difference. If certain vegetables aren’t transplanted or seeded now, they won’t have enough time to come to maturity before the end of the season. And if a particular crop isn’t weeded now, better to mow it down and plant something else, or even sow a cover crop, than try to rescue and reap a harvest from it. Late August can be a time of hard choices, is what I’m saying—or, at best, a time of letting go, of accepting what is as the best that could be done under the circumstances of the season.

But we’re not at that point. Not yet. And the longer I farm, the more I know where and when to apply my resources to maximum effect. Hard work intelligently applied now can still bring great benefits the second half of the season. So we’re working hard, with purpose and urgency, one eye on the fields, and one on the clock, making the most of this time that we can.