Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The carrots and the heat wave

See this picture of me and the farm apprentices celebrating beautiful bunches of carrots?

The joy, the beauty, the bounty. Looking at us you would never guess that two months before we were on our knees, for hours at a time, thinning miniscule carrot plants. Thinning? Yes, thinning. Carrots have a notoriously low germination rate so when you plant them you have to put a lot of seed down. Which means that when they sprout you get a thick row of them that then need to be thinned to about an inch apart, to make room for a full grown carrot. If you don't thin them, you'll get thousands of smushed tiny carrots and none of them will get big enough to eat. You also have to hand-weed as you go. It's a slow, sometimes tedious, sometimes meditative process, that makes you really, really appreciate the carrots when you finally harvest them.

Carrots were the first thing I seeded in the ground this season (on April 1st) so they carry a special magic. And as a first-time farm manager, I watched over them intently, coming out every day to see if they had germinated, not quite believing that they would. And then came a heat wave. Our irrigation wasn't set up fully so in moment of stress, I came out to the fields and started handwatering them in with a watering can. I needed to save the carrots. About a hundred feet down the bed I realized it was ridiculous, that I would be out till midnight at the rate I was going, and I would have to accept that I might lose them to the heat. By the next week, the carrots had germinated beautifully. Maybe all of my anxiety was actually a growth-promoter. And now in mid-July, we are at the tail end of another long heat wave, and we are harvesting those carrots I watched over like an anxious mother. There is nothing quite as sweet.

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