Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Farming women

This weekend was no one's idea of perfect weather for gardening - Friday's cold rain turned to a bit of wet snow to add on top of the tiny bit we had before. But this spring my colleagues Lynne (the photographer and truck-owner) and Kerri will be teaching organic gardening, and since they need to have a place to plant early spring greens, and since the ground is at least not frozen solid right now, they had to take the moment to break ground at Eden Hall Farm. Sunday was set as the start date, and Lynne had the rototiller delivered.

When I was a grad student in weed science, I craved the power of farm equipment. I rarely got to touch the tractor keys until I was pregnant with Emily, and the guys I worked with finally let me drive because they were too worried about my delicate condition to let me help pick the rocks out of the field. Normally I would have objected to any concessions given due to pregnancy, but control of the tractor key was an opportunity not to be missed. So instead, I drove the disk, or the bucket loader, or whatever it took to keep myself useful and busy in the research plots, lurching around the field with my awkward gear shifting and unpredictable hydraulic maneuvering. I didn't win any awards for driving, but I at least got to give it a shot.

But, here at Chatham 9.5 years later, Lynne and Kerri were not checking my credentials. They had 1 day with a dingo-rototiller, and they were glad even of my lurchy-driving help. We were three women alone with a piece of heavy gas-powered equipment and heady with the power of it. Lynne voiced what we were all thinking about the dingo eating the baby, but that was only the first laugh. Kerri and I got ourselves stuck, and then unstuck, and laughed. We shoveled out the compost and caked our boots with mud, and we laughed. We talked about the thrill of doing this ourselves, with no know-it-all male farm managers, and laughed. You can't quite see our faces in the picture, but when Lynne took this photo, Kerri and I were both restraining a laugh.

I can't speak for how the day ended, as I was only there for 2 hours, and I know it took Lynne and Kerri all day to finish. All of us have a very muddy pair of boots and a muscle or two which feels a bit different than it did before the weekend. The soil was too wet, really, and it still wasn't the best weather or timing for plowing. But I can state these facts: no men were present, the dingo still worked at the end, the garden got turned over for spring planting, and I loved every second of our time together with the dingo. I don't plan to clean off my boots, because I hope to get to do it all again. Maybe next time with a tractor.

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