Friday, April 6, 2007

Living in Hope

One of the passages of spring is taking the portable scale that I use to weigh produce at Farmer's Market to Pendleton's to have it certified for the year. The "Scale Man" schedules us randomly, and usually there's only a few days' notice. I look forward to it each year with a mixture of feelings. Will I somehow miss it, and have to drive the scale to Topeka to get it certified? Have I already missed it? Will it be before Farmer's Market starts? Will it be a convenient day, or will I drop the scale off the day before and pick it up later?

The smell of Pendleton's back room on Scale Day is indelibly etched in my sensory memory: eucalyptus from Karen's flower arrangements, and the coffee and donuts that are traditional for Scale Day. It's a kind of communion, I suppose--a remembering of community among the market vendors who haven't seen one another for months of winter hibernation on our own farms, and will soon be to busy to do more than wave on our way to the Porta-Potty at Market. This year Scale Day happens to fall on Maundy Thursday, when many Christians commemorate the "Last Supper" that Jesus shared with his disciples, from whence comes the practice of communion. Pendletons are the only growers there when we arrive, but the other vendors are represented by their scales, off-kilter stacks of them around the room.

The scales are stacked higher than usual because most horizontal spaces in the room--indeed, the entire building--are covered with flats of morel mushrooms. It's a little mind-boggling, the sheer volume of them. All mushrooms sold in the state of Kansas must be inspected by an official Mushroom Inspector, and Karen is one of them. They also buy mushrooms for resale at their farm store. Passengers on my bus route have been talking about morel season lately, but while many have gone looking, few have admitted to actually finding any. It's another traditional passage of spring. Ask them where they're looking, and the subject of conversation will mysteriously shift into their cousin Bill's old dog that had to be put to sleep, or something like that. No one talks much about finding morels, only about looking for them.

Iwalked out to the pasture to begin getting things ready for Pinwheel Farm's traditional Easter Sunrise Service. I think this will be the 5th one. It began when Peace Mennonite Church was looking for a place in the country to hold theirs, after the usual host moved to town. Now, it is an ecumenical Pinwheel Farm event that gathers a small, ecclectic group of folks. Those who have attended in the past tend to ask me about plans for the upcoming one in hushed, eager voices, as if it is something mystical, which it is, in a most extraordinary commonplace way. Preparation isn't much--this year, mainly mowing with the scythe some of the tall dead weeds we'll walk through, and checking that the rustic benches are sound. A personal, private passage of Spring for me is the odd vigil I know I'll inevitably keep on Easter eve, thinking of more and more details to attend to and working almost all through the night by the light of the just-past-full moon. (Easter's date is actually keyed to the phase of the moon based on the Jewish lunar calendar, since the Last Supper was connected with the celebration of Passover.)

This year's Easter preparations come at an interesting spell of weather; this may be the coldest Sunrise Service yet. Today Pinwheel Farm apprentice Mae Rose and I walked through the vegetable garden, trying to assess the damage wrought by temperatures in the mid-20's last night and the night before, knowing that there are several more days of frigid temperatures ahead of us. Planting, of course, has come to a standstill. It's hard to tell at first what's been killed. Frosted leaves have an odd, lusterless droopy look, but some of them will turn brown and frost-bitten in a few days, and some will look as if nothing had happened. The cole crop transplants are looking good, many of the seedling (lettuce, Asian greens, radishes, kale) appear to be pretty bad off. The fruit trees are still covered with buds and flowers, apparently undamaged, but the leaves have that frost-bitten droop to them that bodes no good. It may be a year of almost no local fruit--how sad! But this is a time for living in hope, for expecting that all will be lost and preparing to be amazed if some of it isn't. The waiting and wondering is part of the season--of Easter, and Spring.

No comments: