Photo by Sara Lipka
When days seem endless, how do months fly by? Last June I moved to rural Virginia to live and work on a farm for the season, and I spent many interminable mornings and afternoons transplanting lettuce in sunstroke heat or harvesting root crops in torrential rain. Sometimes noon on my mud-crusted Timex couldn't come too soon. But somehow December did.
The pastoral realities of tired muscles and tedium had tempered the wonder I felt in my first week, but hardly trumped it. Each morning I'd walk a few hundred yards from the bunk house to our farm center, eating a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal, almost always exhilarated by the sheer mountainside and fresh country air, which I knew I'd be out breathing, and heavily, all day. Maybe we'd be weeding celeriac to classic rock blaring from the radio of our Ford pickup. I'd scream at the Monsanto ads while munching stray snacks, like a lone dill plant in the carrots or weedy purslane under the snapdragons. Some days there would be a real thrill: finding corn smut or chasing deer out of our main production field.
Other days brought six-hour stretches of harvesting tomatoes. Still, for all my whining, the last day for those sweet nightshades felt somber. The plants were dying, of cold and blight, and my fellow intern Coriena and I were finding more and more contestants for our ugliest-tomato pageant: moldy, black, withering membranous sacs. The time had come, as it would for all crops, to pronounce the tomatoes dead. I savored a few final cherries as Coriena and I ceremonially trampled the fallen heirlooms, all brown and shriveled. "Thank you for all your delicious sandwiches," she said. "Thank you for all your delicious salads."