Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hay Fever

My first day (6 hours) at Urbavore is over, and I'm kind of dreading going back tomorrow for 9 more hours! I don't know what I was expecting out of today, but it was gorgeous and sunny and I worked hard, and I can't decide if I love it or hate it.

Allow me to explain. I've been struggling with my asthma since October. February finally saw some improvement, but it's safe to say that's over. (I guess February does have one redeeming quality after all!) I'm allergic to dust mites and mold, but I've worked on farms before and never had a problem with pollen or "hay fever." Until today. Urbavore is the second commercial-scale no-till farm in the nation, and definitely the biggest. It's a huge honor to be part of their inaugural year, and also a huge undertaking.

Apparently no-till farming is modeled off of a forest floor. Think of that moist, organic, "woodsy" smell that accompanied your last hike. That's from the constant cycle of natural decomposition that happens when no one is looking. Leaves fall, rain falls, animals poop, the matter decomposes, and earthworms frolic throughout. The forest floor is full of the richest dirt you'll find when you're not even looking.

Since farmers want to produce vegetables and not just vegetation, they move this pattern out into the fields for additional sunlight. Of course, this means the trees don't naturally drop leaves on the fields. Instead, farmers (and interns) have to cover the plot in straw to start this process. Enter, asthma. Straw bales are filled with A LOT of dust and mold. I've been blowing black stuff out of my nose all day, my throat is tight, and my eyelids are swollen. I really hope this doesn't last all summer. I can't handle that.

With 2 experienced farmers and 5 interns working, we didn't finish covering the third vegetable plot today. I don't know how Brooke did the first 1 1/2 plots by herself. (She's pregnant and she's still a better worker than the rest of us!)

I like to say I'm not afraid of hard work, but I don't know if that's true now. The thought of 8 months of days like today makes me want to crawl under the covers and hide. I do know I'm afraid of making my asthma worse and chronic inflammation causing lasting problems.

I also know it's an honor to be part of something so big, something that can and will make an impact on local farming techniques. I'll also learn a lot of "homesteading" techniques I can put to use when I have my own garden one day. No-till is tedious on 13 acres, but it has worked well for decades in home gardens. So here's hoping the work improves, or at least my breathing does.

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