Prolog

Farm Journal – week of

May 28 2017 – June 3 2017

Raspberry Morning

Back in the day when our mini farm was part of a larger commercial operation we harvested black raspberries for the aging farmer in early June. Around 7 am, or earlier, the picking crew would sit on the edges of a flatbed jeep, each holding on for dear life, while our one armed driver, a stroke survivor, would juggle his good left arm between the shifter and the steering wheel while working his way up the steep and winding dirt road to the top of the mountain.

The morning air was always cool and crisp. Everyone started their picking chore wearing flannel shirts. By the time we finished harvesting the several long rows, our shirts would be tied around our waists and shorter sleeves were revealed.

 

Farm Journal – week of

June 4  2017 – June 10 2017

The Crew – The Preachers

The old farmer for whom we worked, back in the late seventies and early eighties, came from a big farm family, several boys and two girls. During the season, especially at harvest, two of his brothers, both preachers, would make their way up the mountain to help out.

The kind, easy-going, amiable brother usually brought his good-natured wife. Although they both had health issues, they both worked long and hard without complaint.

The youngest brother, on the other hand, was a holier than thou preacher who preferred to operate the farm machinery than to get down from his high horse and labor on the ground with the underlings and who, camouflaging his arrogance with pseudo piety, was very longwinded when it came to saying grace before a community meal prepared by the participants and served in the farmer’s house. This preacher’s wife was rarely seen at the farm, but would always make an appearance at the end of season celebratory meal, which was usually held at a local restaurant where the old farmer footed the entire bill.

Since the preacher’s wife worked full-time for a major corporation, it was understandable that she was not part of the farm crew. Her participation at special dinners, however, was met with eye rolls and quips from her female in-laws as she sat there, haughty and stiffed back, referring to her husband as “The Reverend” and projecting herself as the long suffering wife of a man who has to beg for a living and performs mundane chores for his brother. It was quite evident that she considered herself to be the better of everyone in the room, including her husband.

Her husband was a major pompous ass.  Nonetheless, since we all incurred his wife’s disdain, he was our pompous ass and aside from the smirks, side glances and groans when he made pious proclamations, he was liberally tolerated by the crew.

 

Farm Journal – week of

June 11 2017 – June 17 2017

The Crew – The Barefoot Woman of the Fields

She grew up in the next valley over. She survived the ravages of the polio epidemic, but some in her family were not as fortunate. She developed a strong work ethic by helping to take care of her family and doing farm chores.  When she moved to our valley, where she settled with her husband, her father’s name helped to get her a job at the farm. She was very pragmatic. After a rain storm, one would find her working in the fields barefoot, to keep from muddying her shoes.

After putting in a full day up at the farm, she would return to the valley to care for her husband and her home. A large part of her home chores, during the growing season, was canning. She loved putting up the season’s bounty and was very proud of her impressive larder.

She was a loving and faithful employee for many years. After the old farmer passed, she helped to care for his ailing wife until she succumbed six months later.

 

Farm Journal – week of

June 18 2017 – June 24 2017

The Rest of the Crew

The Old farmer, along with his determined wife, his obliging brother and his always witty wife, his preachy brother minus his aloof wife, the barefooted woman of the valley and hillside and David and I made up the core of the farm crew.  However, especially during peach and apple harvest, others would join us.

There was the old family friend who lived about a mile down the road. He would derive great pleasure watching my young son run after the metal picking buckets that accidentally rolled down the steep hillside cling and clang, spinning and leaping until they got stuck in the barbed wire fence that separated the pasture from the orchard. Occasionally, to the delight of the others, he would start a bucket down the bumpy slope on purpose and they all watched and laughed as my son raced after it.

Another regular, a younger man who lived in the valley, would make his way up the mountain to help with the apple harvest in the fall.  He kept us entertained, while we worked, with hilarious stories from a black man’s perspective about family, work and the bygone days.

Occasionally, a new face would appear with romantic notions about farming. Once, David was training a young family man to be a farm manager. After a few days of farm work, while up in a tree with David picking fruit, he determined he had left his car lights on and went down the hill to turn them off and was never seen again. Another young woman who bragged about her farming experience and declared that she should be running the place only lasted one day of apple picking.

The old farmer never had a shortage of help. Besides the farm crew, his daughter and son-in-law who lived up the hill and worked full time jobs always helped when they could and there were numerous other family members and friends who occasionally stopped by to work a day or two just to help out or for pocket change.

 

Farm Journal – week of

June 25 2017 – July 1 2017

The Crew – Last but not Least

She waddled down the hill; it was a wonder how her very short legs could support such a massive body. Her breathing was labored and she would collapse when she arrived at her destination.  The Vet put her on a diet; it did not seem successful. Older Dachshunds have a tendency to be overweight.

Once, when her family was away, her house was burgled. Her owners found her shoved into a closet trembling with fright. She was not much of a watchdog, but she was loved by all. This alone made her uniquely qualified to be our mascot.

 

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