reflections from the southeast PA rural underground
Monday, May 4, 2009
Night shades pt. 2
Kate and I walked up to the garden plot in front of the big stone farmhouse at 9:47 am. We were 17 minutes late and James Weaver was already speaking quickly, captivating the group of 20 or so on-lookers who had come to learn about raised bed gardening. The first weekend of May had turned out chilly and gray with a refreshingly soft mist in the air. A much appreciated reprieve from the unseasonable 90 degree days earlier in that week.
James made a few more comments on the morning's topic which lead me to believe we had missed some kind of a greenhouse tour at the beginning of the session. He then introduced a rugged, wirey looking man of about 30 years as Seth. "His is the new way of gardening," James said enthusiastically. "Of course its really the oooooold way, but we're seeing it more and more again today." He was describing the now 100's of years old style of gardening known as raised bed or intensive inter-planting/companion gardening that would be the focus of his "brother's," as he called Seth, portion of the workshop.
Seth got right into explaining how he had set up the three 4ft. by 8ft. beds that bordered one side of the square garden plot. His accent was definitely southern and Kate remarked that he must be from Louisiana. She along with Casey, who were interning at the farm this year, had come along that morning to pick up some gardening know how but also to discover the great operation that was Meadow View Farm. I remembered that this space was formerly used by James's wife Alma for growing flowers to be cut and then sold. Now it would be a model for large scale vegetable gardening. It was immaculately layed out into about 12 slightly different shaped beds seperated by neatly carved rows all leading to a circular center bed. Each area planned for a different family of vegetable. The pathways perfectly sculpted and mulched.
Seth moved slowly down along his three bed presentation answering questions and giving insights through smiles and a somewhat self-deprecating manner. I noticed how clear and straightforward he spoke. How directly he looked at the person he was addressing. Like James, he loved to talk. He said all this was just plain fun for him and that he was indeed learning himself. "Can you just plant spinach then right down in the middle of the sttttrawwwwbuuuries?," asked a serious looking woman with a flower patterned dress and a refined, mild accent that sounded possibly Indian. "Oh yes, for me the texture and color of the garden is just as important as the rotation of vegetables. You can go so many ways with your layout. We know that spinach and strawberries are good to plant with each other," Seth responded. I kept thinking the way he moved his arms and adjusted his worn John Deere cap was so typical of a guy I might see at a Phish show but that the southern accent was altogether original and through off any stereotype. His energy was seemingly never ending. I wondered if he'd still have it when he reached James's age which was somewhere in the mid-50's. But then again, would any of us?