Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

Not in My Back Pocket

seedling closeupWhile walking on the Farm, I am often happily carrying something. It may be a plastic seed tray that still holds a few sunflower starts or leaning tomato seedlings. I might be transporting rocks from the Ox Pasture, as they are better served as a cairn or along a stone wall denoting a dahlia bed, rather than cropping up in the fields and wheel rows, often blocking plants and tripping farmers. I could be pushing a wheelbarrow full of raw manure or finished compost. Sometimes my hands are holding those of a first-time-to-the-Farm kindergartner from Boston who wants to help lead the way to the animals or the woods or the fields that could grow corn or grazing cows. My pockets too may have a tool for weeding, a recyclable bottle from a child’s lunch or some scored gold fish from another child’s snack. It seems as though I would have no room for to carry a cell phone, smart device or electronic gadget that holds paths to many answers.

Phoneless in the 21st century on an historic farm, teaching children, leading adults and often in the weeds pulling quack grass, chick weed and cultivating spinach, onions and a variety of crops. The modern, current and practical farmer has a cell phone (which comes with a camera, lens and shutter included) so as to check the source of a potential plant disease, unknown invasive insect or to spontaneously video an encroaching deer who seeks to nibble the greens of tomato plants. The deer are welcome to call the 130 acres of woods home, but if interested in the fields, they might encounter a slight pinch on the electric fence which surrounds the growing fields, and perhaps they will let the farmer grow crops for humans. No major harm we hope to the deer, just a preventative method. Please dear deer, let us grow. The deer do not have the ability to carry a smart device, as they are left to explore on their own. There are many things I cannot explore on my own and rely on others around me to find a decent restaurant while driving on the highway. The phone can be an essential safety plan if alone in a dangerous situation. And phones are certainly bringing to light the harm caused by uniformed and non-uniformed citizens who lead their life. Lives are being saved with this modern phone and its applications. So perhaps everyone ought to have a phone with camera to catch the mistakes in society, the ills and successes of our neighbors and the glory of a back tuck, set to music. I know I have benefitted and am grateful from those around me who adroitly know how to find our way when lost or to hear a terrific song from the 1980s. But back to the hand-held tools at the Farm.

Holly Hill Farm is a place where much needs to be accomplished. There are plants to heel in, compost to sift, rocks to remove, boards to nail and weeds to extract. The latter is best done by hands, and not synthetic fertilizers, thus leaving the plants of choice: carrots, kale and cukes to name a few. There is also the need to walk with one’s hands free. Hands can hang loosely by your side while walking on one or more of the 25 trails in the woods.  One’s hands can be in a meditative pose while attending yoga on the Farm or sitting at a picnic table in the education garden looking out at the new herb garden, the raised beds and the tall scarlet runner bean pole trellis. And hands can be clasped together while leaning on the rail of a fence, staring at Pumpkin the pony and the beautiful flowers in the Paddock Garden discussing matters of importance. I know I could accomplish more and be more communicative if I carried and operated a phone. Some people even try to operate and text while driving. I know there is room in my pocket for such a cute rectangular object or even a carrying satchel to keep it dry and not dirty. But as the literary character Bartleby the scribener said, I would prefer not to. I am lucky to have my hands in the soil. I am fortunate to hunt and peck on this modern typewriter, err keyboard, that is not a small hard to see key pad.  And maybe some kids along the way will join in carrying things. Putting the tools away, sifting compost, holding a worm, picking a tomato, harvesting spinach by the stem and even bringing their plates to the kitchen after supper. If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s not for me. I am off teaching, farming and most likely engaged with the fields, tasks and plants in front of me.

© 2015, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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