Saturday, October 13, 2012

Harvest home

One potato, two potato, three potato, four …

Driving from the summer house this morning, we passed some fields near Seapowet and spotted a dump truck filled with potatoes – thousands of them.

These Tiverton potatoes will be coming to a supermarket near you.

Our local harvest reminds us of our connection to this land, something I learned at a very young age.

My mother worked part-time, and my babysitters, Tony and Molly, were farmers. They worked the family farm alongside Molly’s relatives in a nearby town.

Their daughter, Kathleen, is two years my senior; and I have always looked up to her. She taught me about the natural world.

Tony drove a blue, beat-up, flatbed truck; and we, farm kids, rode in the back with our feet dangling over the edge – something my mother never would have permitted so I never told her.

I remember running through fields of corn, hiding and chasing the other kids in the maze with blue sky overhead and endless rows of stalks pointing the way.

During harvest time, the farmers brought in a huge crop of butternut squash, which they prepared for market. My five-year-old self remembers the stacks of countless crates of winter squash; the underside of a huge table where they peeled, cut and packaged the orangey vegetable; and the musty, earthy smell in the old farmhouse basement where they worked. To this day, I have an aversion to the stuff.

But my most vivid memory is of acres of green beans. The farmers picked their produce by hand, working down the long rows and dropping the beans into bushel baskets.

Most of the time, Kathy and I played while they worked, roaming the fields, picking wildflowers and looking for birds and insects, especially fuzzy caterpillars.

But when Kathy turned eight, Tony decided that she was old enough to pick beans; and consequently, Molly gave me a basket and put me to work nearby, where she could watch me.

For hours I bent over the bushes yanking string beans from their hiding places; but by the end of the workday, the basket was only half full. That’s when Molly wandered over and started tossing beans in my basket filling it to the brim.

Tony loaded the baskets onto the flatbed, and when he came to mine, he took a dollar out of his pocket and handed it to me. I still remember the feeling of the crumpled bill in my six-year-old hands, the first money I ever earned, with a little help from a friend.
I learned two important things that day: Money doesn’t grow on trees – you have to earn it; and beans don’t come from supermarkets – they hide under bushes.



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