I was sitting in the middle of the big seat of the market truck, with my phone in my hand, sunburned and punchy, in between Daddy and Val on the way home from the market last Saturday when those dreaded words came through the air waves and into my ear. Mommy was saying, “It just rained a lot here, so there is no way we can plant this weekend.”
When I relayed this message to Daddy and Val, I could see a cloud of worry and sadness drift onto their faces. We had not been able to plant for about a month and were behind on everything, especially the melon and squash plantings. The weather report was calling for rain throughout the week, so at that moment in the market truck, all three of us were thinking in despair: does this mean no watermelon this year?!
Saturday and Sunday came and went with no opportunity for planting, for the ground was deemed too moist by Daddy. Instead, the ninety degree plus high humidity weather of Monday was spent mulching up a storm – or rather, a dust cloud – and by the end, Daddy’s arms were entirely covered in black mulching dust, stuck by all the sweat that had poured down during those long, dangerously humid hours.
Tuesday, Daddy had hoped, would be a planting day. But when the CSA harvest was over, the ground was still not dry enough. It sure was scorching, though, and when Mustard came up to the shed looking pale and suffering from a pounding headache, Daddy, fearing heat stroke, immediately told him to dunk his head into a bucket of cold well water. Later, Matt brought the bucket down to the field, this time filled with ice water, so that all of us could dunk our heads as well, as we perspired and persevered through rows and rows of tomatoes with our scuffle hoes.
Finally, by late afternoon on Wednesday, the ground was dry enough for planting. The sultry morning of weeding left me devoid of energy by the time I took my two hour lunch break, but I could not complain, for Daddy did not even come up to rest – he just kept on tilling beds, afraid of an outbreak of rain clouds. He only stopped to rest for about a minute to gobble up a quick spinach sandwich and gulp water that we had brought down.
Then we planted rows upon rows of muskmelons, okra, watermelons, beans, edamame, cucumbers and corn by hand, dropping the tiny seeds one by one, six inches apart, into a furrow. We fertilized each bed that we planted with fistfuls of chicken compost and after laying out the seeds, covered them with a tamper. Then we transplanted kale and the last of the tomatoes.
While the sun faded into the trees and lightning bugs sparked in the dark, Kazami, Matt and I helped Daddy switch out lettuce seed on the tractor planter, completing eight full beds.
Thursday followed with the same fury of planting before the rains. In the morning the grey sky made us wary of rain as we transplanted kale and planted more with the tractor – greens, roots, everything – but the rain clouds rapidly flew by and only let down a few drops of water.
In the afternoon, we continued the hand-planting marathon with popcorn, summer squash, winter squash and sweet corn. I kept waiting for the sky to spontaneously burst with a flooding of rain, but it never happened, thankfully, so instead, Kazami and I took a short hour-long break, while Daddy worked on. When Daddy finally finished all of the planting he needed to do, he took us all up in the truck and started us on harvesting two hundred and fifty bunches of beets, followed by carrots and radish.
And as the sun set on the second planting day and the air cooled, the Brockman family and our group of intensely hard-working farm hands went home to eat and rest, to ready themselves for another long day on the farm tomorrow – which, this time, would be spent harvesting, not planting.