This morning I took the field mower off the tractor and reattached the roto-tiller, and drove out to the strawberry patch to till between the rows. Spring a year ago I had planted 500 June bearing strawberry plants in five neat rows of a hundred, spaced apart by the width of my tractor. I did this so that I could easily add compost and till between the rows, so that when it was time to replant I’d plant the new rows where I had been tilling, and till where the old rows were, thus keeping the bed sustainable. It’s working pretty well so far.
It gave me an odd kind of feeling today to be back in the strawberry patch, weeks after the first harvest was over. It seemed an abandoned and lonely place all the sudden.
Scattered around between rows were the white buckets that those who came to help with the picking turned upside down and sat on as they moved down the rows. Today they looked more like discarded plastic than serviceable stools…
The plants looked different too. No white flowers. No bent branches of strawberries. No honey bees and no bumble bees zigging and zagging around. Even the small rabbit that lived under the plants was no where to be found today.
I could not help to remember how only a few weeks ago this small patch was a center of all kinds of activity.
My wife and I spent a lot of “down” time picking each night, talking like we don’t get an often enough chance.
Some evenings a neighbor would show up…one was unemployed at the time and it made me feel a bit more useful as a human being that I could offer something to help.
We also picked strawberries to be given to a homeless family through a program called Family Promise. And we shared some more with my wife’s family, and my son took buckets to school to share with his class.
Karen and Bill, members of my CSA and fellow Quakers, came over once a week to help weed rows and pick the CSA shares. They’d bring Hunter, their dog, who would try to spar with my goat, Snoopy. Jessica and Mark would also stop by, and bring their young son Griffin to pick, and one afternoon, they stayed around to watch as I climbed up a ladder to catch a swarm of honey bees in the fir tree in my front yard.
Snoopy was always happy to be near the patch, as everyone who picked would toss strawberries to her the whole time- I think she got the most strawberries of anyone. Even the horses would lean over the pasture fence and “snicker” for a strawberry handout!
It just seems now in reflection that this was not just a patch of strawberry plants, but became a place of community for a time, where we got to know each other a bit better, shared conversations and ideas, enjoyed the animals, and watched the bees. People and beings came together who would not have reason to intersect otherwise…
Maybe this is the way it used to be, long ago before farms became industrial and giant businesses. Long ago, farms also grew community. And as I look back on those few weeks, I can see that this little strawberry patch did just that.