We’ve made it! It’s mid-October, that ambiguous time we always said we’d depart. We’re still here though and plan to stay another two weeks. The weather has been very good to us. In these areas, frost can hit as early as September. We’ve yet to get that low, though there have been some long-underwear inducing type days in the past few weeks. Despite the relative warmth (highs in the 60s/low 70s), fall is settling upon these sweeping hills leaving red, yellow, and orange in its tracks. It’s as if the world gets more beautiful when it’s dying. The leaves that grew bright green are now, in their last days, putting up their last stand of individuality, trying to be as sophisticated and beautiful as leafly possible. And then they fall like snow.
We’ve drained and rolled up the garden hoses, dismantled and removed the tomato fencing, and haven’t weeded a bed of anything for nearly a month. Now as the Stamen Winesaps and Granny Smiths are maturing into adulthood, we find ourselves surrounded by the farmers’ fall. It’s about mowing down the plants that once demanded picking every three days, cover-cropping the beds for winter, chopping down trees for firewood, and letting go, with some relief, of the living organisms that were so anticipated and rejoiced just months before. Winter isn’t just a colder version of the rest of the year. It’s a break, a time built into the revolutions of the Earth for death to wait for rebirth and for farmers to regain strength from the summer. We work and work for six months, bodies aching, hands callused, muscles tight, but, ultimately we know there is a giant gift waiting for us, or better yet, a cake (deserved after all those vegetables.)
As our train reaches the station, I, as an apprentice, both anticipate and loathe the day we leave. It will be the end of the hard things like doing dishes with icy water in the frigid nights and getting up at 7 AM every Saturday morning for work. But it will also mean leaving breezy, warm afternoons, local produce 50 feet from the kitchen, the gorgeous view from the shower, and the peace of mind from a lack of cell phone reception. I’m pretty sure this farm would be teeming with former apprentices were it not for the frozen, un-insulated living situation and cut-off of pay. I call this the (un-certified) organic way of skimming off unyielding apprentices. Much like the way frost kills off the summer crops.
For now we are getting everything we can in our last day here. We’re devoting more and more of our time to the cabin project which is progressing nicely as well as continuing distribution of the fall crops. We only have two more Jamborees before we leave! That means there is much flatfooting in the immediate future. And ice cream and blue grass. I’ll just say it now: Floyd, VA you have done me well.
I apprenticed on a farm in southwest Virginia from April-October 2010. This blog contains all the anecdotes and observations from that adventure.
See more of my photos here