Pooh Talks: whoa moments - favorite tractor driver, George - and August on the farm

Occasionally while racing around the farm I have to pull up and stop and stare at a vista. I refer to this phenomena as a “whoa” moment,  primarily because I get temporarily disorientated as to where I am chronologically in the seasons. This photo of the tomatoes is an example, because I took a picture of them last week  and they were less than a foot high and we hadn’t staked them. “It seemed like only yesterday”, the old saying goes. But of course, it was not. Here we are in August, and we are now harvesting cherry tomatoes and the plums for canning are  ripening up.

 taking a hot minute to admire all the loaded tomato plants

taking a hot minute to admire all the loaded tomato plants

The summer goes like that. This one seemingly more so. Alternately dragging on through the drought of the earlier part, we are faced with the struggle of balancing the harvest with the tail end of  a planting season that goes on into early September. Although the sun is back heading south in the sky, the work days are at their longest as we deal with picking fruit and vegetables and trying to find a home for them. This year we are shorthanded as 5 individuals  who approached us for summer and fall employment and we hired decided in the eleventh hour not to show up for the first day. That has put serious demands on the remaining crew and Ray’s ability to manage what takes place in the daily field activities. That said, we have a pretty good crew that seems to be working well and efficiently together, and they seem pretty happy. It would be nice to have the weeds under control and to be doing things in a timely fashion, but I will take a good working atmosphere any day.

Just want to take a minute  to recognize one of our long term employees. This relationship is so long because I first met him as a 5 year old in 1956. He had come to my Dad’s farm to work as a herdsman for the 40-50 cows that we were milking in Hillsboro. His name is George Cilley, he resides and in the house he grew up in in Bradford, NH. George commutes back and forth daily durring the spring and summer and is our go-to guy for tractor and mowing work. He is one of those people for whom a good day of work and having something accomplished defines who he is. Although he is 87, he is patient, sharp, a self starter (if he breaks something, you don’t hear about it unless he can not fix it himself) and can still plow a cleaner, straighter furrow than Ray, myself or Mike. He can also fix old chairs, leaky faucets and happy to run to the Pioneer Valley for  plants or parts if need be. He has as much pride in the good works and efforts as Anne, Sarah, Jenny, Mike or Ray has he does in his own. We had another retiree much like him. Eugene “Pep “ Chabot showed up the day he retired from the Hanover road crew at 66. Put in another 26 years picking vegetables and berries for us, and it was a sad day when he said he had to quit because his eyesight was failing him. Where are these guys? What is the attraction about golf courses and the concept of formal retirement that they resist? Maybe we have just been ultra fortunate to have had the help and wisdom of these highly motivated oldsters.

 our most beloved tractor driver, George

our most beloved tractor driver, George

 In other news, The new storage and pack barn is so near completion that we are already occupying it. When the crew from Ag Structures showed up on March 1st ,  I had serious doubts that we would be in it by the first of July, especially when winter dragged on for extra innings.  But Jake and Jason made it happen and we are grateful. It has been a large project for us and at times a distraction from the demands of the seasonal work. When we first started on this farm in 1974, it was more about taking down collapsing sheds and buildings. It was strictly chainsaw carpentry:  a couple of guys with some old telephone poles, rough pine and no real carpentry skills When I see how much space we have occupied in the new expanse I am amazed how we were ever able to function in the other smaller barn. All this was driven by food safety mandates and the need to protect fall root crops and store them. But the efficiencies and  improvement in ergonomics has definitely improved everyone's disposition. And even the little people are enjoying it as well …there are small Radio Flyers in there and you can refer to the lower photo of Admiral Hobbs, the U Boat commander, whom seems to be enjoying his new ride. So far, all good….

 Hobbes driving ship

Hobbes driving ship

 most impressive cooler space with our current summer crops

most impressive cooler space with our current summer crops

So as we spin towards fall, we are just trying to stay in the groove. Hopefully the weather  (which has been a rollercoaster of late) will not deal us any lethal blows and we can get the fall crops up and out of the field. There is some ancient machinery that needs to function to make that happen, and maybe with the help of a few extra bodies that may yet arrive, perhaps we can slide into Thanksgiving without getting spiked.  I am sure to awaken to a few more “Whoa” moments about the farm when I am caught off guard by the flight of time. At those times I often reminded of the words to a Talking Heads song……” same as it ever was, same as it ever was..”