The Season Commences

Brooklyn Grange, looking west

It was 80 degrees and I was hot. I had potting mix in my hands and sweat running down my face. The texture of the mix, the feel of the bandanna tight around my head, the smell of sun block on my face — this was the authentic summertime feeling, a reunion with an old friend at which it feels no time has been lost.

But time has passed and we have grown and changed and harvested what we planted. I stepped outside of the Brooklyn Grange hoophouse into the 50 degree weather and remembered that summer hadn’t quite arrived yet. There were still long coats shuffling along the sidewalks, with people in there somewhere, heads in hoods, scarves and hats on despite the mild late-winter weather. I would have to put my sweatshirt back on and be patient.

There is a certain incongruous serenity at Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in Long Island City, Queens, just seven stories above the busy Northern Boulevard. It is quiet up there. There is the occasional train whistling languidly, solemnly, calling out like a boat adrift at night in the fog. The trains rumble slowly just south of the farm, crawling westward towards the great mirage at the edge of the horizon that is Manhattan, which rises majestically out of the river.  But always on the rooftop there is the sound of the wind, there is the rustling of plants, the sounds of nature we so often forget to desire. When we are reminded of them, we want them, we are them.

On this day, we planted seeds, cradling potential sustenance in the palms of our hands. We direct-seeded a bed of radishes into the ground outside and then went to work putting kale, chard, scallions and other crops into seed trays, seeds of promise in the nurturing environment of the hoophouse, a temporary greenhouse used to start seeds when it’s still cool outside. More radish beds will come later for the purpose of staggered harvests — succession planting. Many seeds planted on this day, many lessons learned, many more to come — succession growth of spirit in concert with nature. Peppers and eggplants and tomatoes will be sown in time as well, as the weather warms; a time and place for everything on a rooftop, in the ground, under the sun.

At a garden in Washington Square Village on the NYU campus, with the Community Agriculture Club, we planted cauliflower, chard and kale seeds in small jars made of newspaper. The garden is nestled in between an alleyway, a bank, an apartment complex, trees and the infinite sky abyss above. After a small harvest of kale that grew underneath a glass window in a planter bed over the winter, beds were cleared and the season could start anew, the garden could rise again.

At both farm sites, in touch with the changing seasons, we allow the cycles of nature to help us shepherd the seeds along from palm of hand to pit of stomach to energy of life. We let the spirit do its work from this point on, the spirit that courses through all of us but that we can hardly understand. The spirit that paints the pink and orange streaks in the sky at dusk, and flashes diamonds on the ocean surface, that compels us ever onwards through the winter to the spring, onward through the seasons, where we revel in the cycle and revel in the returns, in the sowing and reaping and the circularity of being.

Planter box at NYU, half covered

Cauliflower seeds planted in newspaper jars at NYU

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