by Heather Hamilton
As spring fans out and rises green and flowered, the farm is sleepy at first, and then wild. With rains and warmth, all is thriving. I walk through gardens lush with unfurling raspberry canes, blooming strawberries, waving garlic fronds, and seedlings just emerging as tiny, determined indicators of what’s to come. Swallows dance in wide arcs, and bees bump over new blooms. There’s a soft hum to it all, soothing while working bent over with knees pressed in the soil. There’s a waking-up for my eyes, surrounded as I am by green that seems impossibly deeper and brighter each day. And there’s a refreshing nudge in the breeze floating across the estuary and jostling into this cultivated space.
At the same time, grass creeps up and over our rows, horsetail pops through soil, and slugs begin a determined approach from the moist and dense growth on all sides. Nestling young plants as they outgrow their greenhouse confinement requires a patient stealth, outwitting slugs and weeding with speed. A killdeer chooses a row for her nest, and she trembles and trills in a protective crisis, trying to lead us away each time we pass her eggs. We let that part of the garden grow untended.
A killdeer chooses a row for her nest, and she trembles and trills in a protective crisis, trying to lead us away each time we pass her eggs.
Farm at Water’s Edge grows food in harmony with healthy habitat. We take just as much as we need. We discourage what’s most destructive to food crops, leaving the rest to blend the farm into its surroundings. We make choices determined by the interaction of our intentions and the intentions of all that’s living and growing around us. There are intricacies and challenges to creating a food system that works inside a functional ecosystem. At times, the farm is overrun by slugs, or becomes a killdeer nursery, or seems to be a haven for thistle. Despite this, it grows – flourishes, even.
In between battling grass to the edges of the garden, I am ecstatic at the rapid emergence of new beans, spreading their heart-shaped umbrella leaves in what seems like a single night. The leeks, recently transplanted into orderly rows, point their gentle sheaths of green, larger day by day, unconcerned by the approaching mass of seed-speared grasses. As our starts thrive in the greenhouse, as we sow seeds and slip transplants into the ground, we carefully work around the killdeer nest. We celebrate when the eggs hatch, sending feathered tufts on spindle legs running eagerly between and over vegetable rows, stumbling comically across new terrain. A break from routine, a break from work – in these reflections of how the whole of the landscape bursts with life, I am reminded again and again that we are a small piece of a much larger structure.
Our little farm is tenacious, but not ruthless. It is a threading of food crops growing within a diverse and robust ecosystem, a reminder that belligerent avoidance of the dynamics of life around us is impossible. Instead, I see how close each space is: the farm space is neighbor to that of the killdeer; rows of human food brush against a spiraling web of vital habitat. It’s never more apparent than in spring that we must understand and cooperate with each space, lest we lose it all. I breathe deeply and press carrot seed into rich soil. The farm is sleepy at first, and then wild. Spring fans out and rises, green and flowered.
… we must understand and cooperate with each space, lest we lose it all.