This week I volunteered at both farms – Wednesday I was at the Dr.’s in Nafferton and there was quite a crew! I met three new people there, a young woman from Poland who has lived in this area for a number of years and is currently studying horticulture, an American PhD student who has lived at the farm previously but I’d never had the pleasure of making her acquaintance, and a young man from New Caledonia but currently studying in France, staying there for over a month to improve his English. A fifteen-year-veteran English volunteer and I rounded out the company of volunteers. What an international crowd.
The focus for the first part of the day was berry-picking. The two Americans searched for raspberries and strawberries, but the birds had gotten the last of both. Ditto for black currant, rats! I was so glad to have gotten a large order the weekend before. Black currants are our fave and I so miss having our own New York back-yard Ribes patch. Gooseberries we found a fair number of, but only on the lowest branches. I managed to get stuck quite a few times with the thorns and wished I’d worn gloves. I next joined the Polish and English women to hunt for red currants, and crouching under the bushes proved fruitful indeed – we filled a number of small containers with the luminescent little jewels. The last morning task was to pick jostaberries. These bushes were under netting, and there were hundreds of berries to be had. I’d never seen jostaberries before, a cross between black currants and gooseberries. We had, actually, planted one in our backyard patch about two years ago, but I must have neglected it, for it never took. Well, these were plentiful indeed, and I both saw and tasted many. I thought they looked like small plump grapes. The dark, ripe ones were quite sweet and very flavorful – but not nearly as piquant as either of their parents. What a lovely morning, save for getting stuck by gooseberry thorns (my thumb still feels sore, three days later).
The afternoon was less eventful. I always move more slowly after lunch. I did enjoy speaking with the fellow from New Caledonia. My French felt rather rusty with him, somehow, but we exchanged information about living in England and about some English expressions while we planted two types of radishes and some arugula.
After a day of agricultural-rest, I went with my English niece to the Beverley farm for the afternoon. The sky was dramatic and the usually-constant wind was there but mildly so. We removed over-mature winter purslane and transplanted both new purslane and baby orach seedlings into the large raised beds. It felt luxurious and calming, working there, especially when the sun came out. The neatness of the raised bed area was somehow relaxing, and the purple of the orach delightfully envigorating.
Then we got to weeding in the main beds. The little celery plugs I’d planted some weeks ago have doubled in size and the main farmer discussed philosophy with me as we cleared out most of the chickweed, thistles and other weeds encroaching on the young celery’s space. Niece-y was deep in conversation with the other volunteer, a young man she’d actually known in sixth form (like 11th and 12th grade for us Americans) but hadn’t seen in years. All four of us then had “fun with mesh”, transferring bed-long metres of mesh netting from one bed to another and anchoring the edges down with logs and other pieces of wood. It actually was fun. The people are lovely, and the farm beautiful. Truly a blessed afternoon. And while walking home afterwards, Niece-y and I found wild plums. What a bonus.