October 30, 2019

Fig Folly

Fig Folly
 From the Fields - Thaddeus

Precious heat units are beginning to disappear. The hot summer days have come to an end, and our farm finds both of its feet solidly planted into fall. The cool nights have turned the fig orchard yellow, some of their leaves fully browning and falling to the ground. I chuckle at the memory of when these fig trees were my responsibility for the first time.

Our mother had just ended her battle with breast cancer, and I was doing my best to run the farm without her. It had been a long, hot summer and the fig trees started to look terrible. I was so worried because they looked so bad I thought they were going to die. Not wanting to kill the family fig orchard the first season they were my responsibility, I gave them more water. They looked worse. I gave them water again. Their status was downgraded from bad to terrible. Distraught, I confessed my worry to Ricardo. He laughed and told me not to worry, the leaves fall off every year, but they always grow back in the spring.

This happened so long ago, and life is very different now. Today, in the field beyond the orchard, Ricardo disks the butternut squash vines into the soil. Next to the field, the cover crop drill sits waiting to deposit our mixture of legume cover crops. Soon, rains will come, like they always do, and the bare seeded field will grow those cover crop seeds into a green mass which will suppress weeds, protect the soil from erosion, build organic matter and deposit nitrogen into the soil for next season’s crop. As I ponder this, I realize that part of my life hasn’t changed at all. Ricardo is still here, prepping the same fields, planting the same cover crops as we wait for the same rain moving into the same winter, two decades later.

With days getting cooler, our vegetables are not growing as fast as they were, which is fine. The satsuma mandarins are transitioning from kind of orange to mostly orange; the earliest grove will be full orange in a week or so. Three crews plug away in the fall vegetable field. The shades of green and red vegetables are beautiful—this may be my best fall vegetable planting yet! A wind runs across the field, forcing the kales, chard, cabbages, fennels and cauliflower to wave at the world. The air is clean, the hills are crisp in the background and I am ready for the next season. I wave back.