Farming Without A Farm
“Are you effing kidding me?!!”
Dina’s voice leapt the ten inches from the phone’s speaker and pierced my dazed brain.
“A car ran into our tractor?”
“Something like that.” I blinked at the car parts strewn about Route 2A and our yellow Farmall Cub tractor perched oddly atop a trailer bed. Emergency workers gathered near a red Honda Fit resting on a guardrail.
“Find a babysitter. I may be here a while.”
The last time we wrote, our greenhouse had just succumbed to a wintry death. Then our tractor took a hit. But it seems that in our case, disaster strikes in threes . . .
But lets start with some good news. Last month our high tunnel was crushed by an avalanche of snow from the roof of an adjacent greenhouse. With mere days before our first seeding date, we scrambled to find a new one. Miraculously, Dina found one while out on a run – a disused yet perfectly serviceable greenhouse at an out-of-business floral shop. The owner, a deceivingly folksy 80-year-old named Jack, said sure, we could use it – for $500 a month. Considering that $500 is more than we hope to earn in any given month this growing season, we said thanks, but no thanks, and went back to the drawing board.
The drawing board involved begging the management of a nearby Whole Foods to let us erect a greenhouse in their parking lot. To our amazement, they were all for it and Jack welcomed us to take his greenhouse – if we could relocate it somehow. So on a balmy 5-degree day in late February, Dina and I ate our Wheaties, gathered our shovels and started to pick away at the blanket of ice that encased the 50-foot-long structure. Twenty minutes later we were near tears. Our shovels bounced – they bounced! – off of the frozen ground, which made digging out the foundation impossible.
Suddenly, $500 a month seemed like a bargain.
The greenhouse currently has no running water, which means we have to truck in every drop. And the first delivery of heating oil cost a cool $600. But two weeks ago we planted our first seed and finally we’re in business.
Onto the next crisis.
Our tractor arrived on a large flatbed truck in early March and was greeted by sodden, mucky fields. As the nice deliveryman puzzled out how to navigate the driveway without parking permanently in the muck, an explosion of red metal erupted to my left. The trailer came to rest in a snowdrift, the tractor rocked violently back and forth on the open bed and I scrambled to find a very confused, but intact, driver inside a totaled Honda.
If you ever get to choose a person to run into your tractor, I recommend this lady. She was inexplicably polite, calm – funny even.
“Bummer. I was just admiring your beautiful tractor and I ran into your trailer. I’m sorry.”
The cops showed up, followed by firemen and park rangers. Then our generous farmer friend whose land we are using this summer drove by and stopped to see what the fuss was about. And to deliver some ‘news.’
“We have to talk,” he began…
To summarize what is an ongoing conversation, we are now landless again. Or at least land insecure. We have about a month to figure things out. Meanwhile, thousands of onions, kale, leeks and broccoli are sprouting from their seed trays with the jubilant blind faith of babes. Dina and I have been trekking to the greenhouse three times a day to minister to countless tiny lives. All the while we shake our heads at the stunningly obvious realization: it’s hard to farm without a farm.
“We will find you land,” we whisper as we turn up the heat and mist the seedlings with water. “Soon, this temporary home will be a distant memory.”