A weekend storm brought winter to mind. I’d forgotten what it was like to labor under layers of wool and rain gear, and was guilty of looking forward to the shift between seasons. In the howling wind, I cut my last bunch of dahlias, bidding them adieu. I look wistfully where the tomatoes stood, now nothing but mashed vines and the linear marks of a grain drill.Slowly, Sagg opens up again. The leaves go, the sky clears; the emptied fields push their blankets of green. Because there is less, you can see more. A shift between seasons can be as jarring as 25 years away.
Wrens move in on my house. They are drawn to the trickling birdbath, but my proximity to other farm structures intrigues them. In the tin canyons between buildings, the birds have discovered the satisfying effects of an acoustical echo, and they sing. They line up at the chosen lectern and take turns, one after the next, singing the same melody. Sometimes there are four of them hopping around and doing short sound checks from new positions.
We wait for juncos every year, because the juncos are also called snowbirds. It is not that they bring snow but rather the association of their winter habitat: They return here from their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Their strong and sudden numbers signal the potential for snow. Everywhere I look—on field edge, on a low tree branch, in privet, in ditchrow, by the dune banks—I catch glimpses of the gray-and-white flocks.
So the juncos were here but potatoes were still in the ground. This is what I call hammer-down time. You conscript idle friends, you assume tunnel vision, you march no matter what the level of fatigue or frustration may be. Last week, the final week of potato harvest, will not easily be forgotten, because it felt like a week of Mondays. I mean the infamous kind of Monday—a reckoning day, full of logistical hiccups and, in the case of our farm, things breaking down. Each day, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday had a special curse, a significant hurdle to clear or get around.
Luckily, there is a spare of almost everything on this farm, but, nonetheless, the additional manpower and time it took to do the repair made the ultimate objective of completing the harvest seem tortuously elusive. It was hard not to worry, that you might be next, you might break down. Instead, everyone showed up this Monday knowing the crop was in, each suffering with a mild cold.