It hailed the morning we planted chestnuts, too. That was almost a year ago, to the day, in the lee of our first winter with the farm. Logan had proposed the (to me) crazy idea of an orchard spanning the northern half of the farm’s “cityside,” comprising an army of 100(!) chestnut trees and 160 hazelnuts. We scaled the ambition back to just chestnuts for the first year, telling ourselves that we’d see how that went, and consider putting the hazelnuts in the following winter.
I don’t know what we were expecting: late February in the northwest? The forecast was for snow that day, and the morning, as I scrambled between Food Co-op and hardware store for last-minute supplies, was punctuated by bursts of hail. And then? And then the skies parted to grace us with a spring day so grand that it would have left Shelley, Byron and Keats at a loss for words.
Well, you can figure the chestnuts went well, because this winter, following Logan’s divinations, we ordered 165 hazelnut saplings and circled February 24 on the farm calendar.
Again, befitting late February, the forecast edged between sun, rain and snow as Saturday approached. Friday morning, “sun” edged out “snow” (there was already a half-inch on the ground some places around town), and we committed.
I recognized the boom that woke me around 7 that morning as thunder, a phenomenon so rare around here that the community bulletin board was alight with questions of whether something had happened down at the Navy yard. And the firm rat-a-tat on the roof that followed was anything but rain. But by the time I was dressed and ready for my obligatory last-minute scurry to the Food Co-op and hardware store, the clouds had already given up their mischief, and the promise of sun practically a foregone conclusion.
And not only were the weather gods smiling on us, whatever deities oversee indoor plumbing were also on our side and we managed to get the new toilet installed and working before it was time for the first volunteers to arrive. The cornbread and chili Lacey started the night before lay ready on the counter, as did eight score hazelnuts in the field. Now all we needed was…
And they came, and they came. Friends from in town, neighbors from local farms, young and old, members of the Swanson family who had entrusted a legacy with us in this beautiful piece of earth. I lost track, but at one point we had over a couple dozen folks digging holes, planting trees and hauling wood chips around the northeast pasture. I lost track of names, trying to remember whether Pierce heard about it from Lacey, or was one of the Finnriver gang, and how exactly Peter fit into the grapevine.
But we shoveled and scooped and placed and patted throughout the morning, not even pausing when the weather gods reconsidered their gift and shook their bag of leftover hail mid-day. It was a bit of a shock to discover ourselves done by 3:00. Not that we weren’t beat.
Gathering around the long tables at Finnriver that night (yes, I was buying), I couldn’t stop admiring (is “adoring” too strong a word?) this community. Keith and Crystie, the founders of Finnriver and anchors of the agricultural revival on the peninsula both stopped by to ask how it went and thank us for what we were doing with the farm. Kate, our Jefferson County Commissioner swung by to introduce herself and meet the “the next generation” of our county’s farmers.
There are precious few times in our lives when we can, in the thick of things, step back and say with absolute confidence, that we’re involved in a Good Thing. Surrounded by these amazing farmers, young and old, who came out in the sun, rain and hail to help us plant trees for a future generation, those moments seem to come much more often than you might think.