Clarity at Snug Harbor

Marconi Pepper

Raised beds

The fog was thick as we drove over the Verrazano Bridge towards Snug Harbor Heritage Farm early Saturday morning. Thick enough to obscure both Staten Island in front, Brooklyn behind, and the harbor beneath us. For all we knew we were driving up an on-ramp into the clouds, driving back or forward in time or right out of time itself, suspended in air in the tight tension of the suspension bridge.

Once we arrived on the farm, we had clarity. Beds we seeded four weeks ago had sprouted, seedlings trays we filled with soil and seeds were laid out on tables in front of the hoophouse, ready to graduate into the wild elements of the field. The fog had lifted, and we raked ourselves towards enlightenment, to a belief in the wrists and rake to make manifest the plan of the farmer. We moved soil back and forth, back and forth, rocks and sticks falling into the pathways between beds until only a smooth plateau of rich, soft soil remained. A synthesis between raking forwards, raking backwards, skimming the surface, raking only until we could envision the seeds thriving.

After we planted a bed of Marconi Peppers, we discussed the practice of planting a living mulch. Gus Jones, the head farmer, will plant clover in between the peppers. Much like clover planted as a cover crop in the off-season, the living mulch in-season will provide for more nitrogen in the soil, will keep away pests, and will help hold water in the bed. Gus and his apprentices will plant, they will tinker, adjust, try to keep the right combination of nutrients and water in the soil to help the seeds along. But ultimately, they and we and every farmer are nothing more than mouthpieces of the spirit, the spirit that encourages the seeds to sprout and rise to the sun. We announce its awakening with new beds and new seeds planted in the Spring. We attend to its signs and hints, and in the end we step back to let it do its work.

The spirit works through the soil, and through our hands as we shape it. And there is no pronouncement of care and love more clear than the fingers delicately tucking a new transplant into a freshly-raked bed, placed in a position to thrive.

Snug Harbor, Staten Island

Comments
2 Responses to “Clarity at Snug Harbor”
  1. Amber says:

    This post was so beautifully written! I especially like the last paragraph. “The spirit works through the soil, and through our hands as we shape it. And there is no pronouncement of care and love more clear than the fingers delicately tucking a new transplant into a freshly-raked bed, placed in a position to thrive”. It’s so descriptive and so angelic, I feel like I am the one out there working on this farm. I am such a big fan of your work! Keep it up! ☺

    • ehimmel says:

      Thanks Amber! I appreciate the comment and really like the fact that you see the last paragraph as angelic.

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