It was all-hands-on-deck for the last CSA harvest of the season on Tuesday. We dispersed to each of the gardens with a mission of collecting every last bit of mature food available. As night fell to the point that we couldn’t see what we were doing, we gathered the final bounty and inevitably reconvened in Sundari’s yard. After a summer of endless evenings, the darkness made it feel like midnight as we cooperated to unload bins of springy chard and dense winter squash from our cars. Together, we soaked the greens, tomatoes, and eggplants with the garden hose to cool and preserve them. We moved around mostly in silence, having worked together for a full season and knowing what needed to be done.
With the soft bleating of the goats as our soundtrack and the porch light casting minimal light over the scene, the mood in the yard was one of mysterious stealth. We could have been prowlers, vegetables our prize. I felt engaged in a clandestine operation, full of power, past my bedtime. Actually, it was only 7:15. The evening was young, but cooler times are coming, and the season is saying goodnight.
Last year, the final harvest of the season took place in a sleety snow—the first of the season. It was heavy and insistent. When we called it quits, it only partly because we couldn’t see our fingers—more disturbingly, we couldn’t feel them in the cold. In retrospect, though, the reflective properties of the snow beat back the darkness. This year, our final evening was warm but black. This season has been so different from the previous is so many ways, the unpredictable whim of weather telling us when we can have lettuce (and for how long) and dictating the size of pumpkins. This summer was a new, fresh adventure. Is that part of the way farming feeds the soul? Each year an experiment. A compromise. A surrender. A reward. Before I began to garden, I thought of it as repetitive and monotonous. Now I see how it is constantly changing.
The close of this season is very definitely an ending of a particular combination of conditions and experiences that will never exactly exist again. In the coming weeks, as we put the gardens to bed (a euphemistic way, says another of the working members, of describing how we mercilessly wrench old plants from the ground to make way for the new), we will sow garlic seeds to winter-over for a head start in the spring. We are beginning the cycle anew, but we are also beginning a completely new cycle that will be defined by its own set of challenges and successes.
As we maneuvered around the yard on Tuesday evening, at what felt like midnight (but wasn’t), we were actually orchestrating an ending. Our furtive feeling: perhaps due to the knowledge that we can never resurrect the moment once it passes, and so must sneakily squirrel it away as a warming memory before winter sets in.