June 2, 2016

This morning I woke up just before 6:30. I had a restless night, due to unfamiliar sounds coming from outside of the cabin. Bloo woke up in a fright, standing alert and still atop the blankets. Adrenaline flooded my system; he sniffed at the open window, ears perked. I reached for my shotgun, just in case. We stayed still, listening to the rustling until it stopped. Quiet, but heavy with suspicion and ill at ease, we settled back down. It may have been Prince hunting the mouse who I think lives under the armoire, but I’ll never really know. Mom was right. It’s scary when you’re out here alone and something stirs you from deep sleep. Humans forget how vulnerable we truly are until it’s dark, and you’re reaching for a light you can’t find, and there’s a loud rattling outside, or maybe even inside your cabin.

This time, it was not an intruder and the morning was bright and still. Morning reassures. The dew lay on the grass and the birds were singing as I put Bloo out on his run. I brushed my hair for the first time since being here. I gather it up most days to keep cool, so the brushing was desperately needed! All the pretensions of beauty routines seem so outside my concern here. Still, my hair is long and it knots. My mother would call it a rat’s nest. There’s no quick shower or blow drying or curling iron. I am removed from so much here. Our culture is heavy with reminders of how to improve your natural self. There is, instead, actually very little that needs to be done. (Still, a shower or tub with hot water would be fine at the end of a long day in the fields!)

I wash my face in a white enamel pan, unwrap a lemon Luna bar for breakfast, and then brush my teeth outside, holding a cup of spring water as I look out over the fields I’ve planted. Charlie owns the land, but it feels like the gardens are mine.  I head out to the onion patch for more weeding – endless, endless weeding. “I am half way there,” I tell myself as I look out at what I’ve accomplished and what I still have before me. The sun was hot on my head even in the morning, baking me in light. In my weeding meditations I reflect on how it is best to look at what’s in front of you, what you have to do. Do what is in front of you to do; right now, here, weed the row of onions. Don’t look too far ahead down the patch of what’s to come; that cultivates discouragement. Oftentimes I don’t look back either, although it’s important to realize how far you’ve come and to be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

Another meditation from today is that human hands make for great rakes, small scale of course. While moving down the bed, I think of the term “self-motivation.” It’s a critical component in being a reliable worker, a good friend, and a self-sufficient adult. I wonder how many of the people I know would rise at this hour and put themselves on the ground for rows and rows of hand weeding without a supervisor to tell them what to do and to keep at it. I feel pride when I accomplish something on my own, without needing anyone to have jurisdiction over it – although a compliment from someone every now and then feels pretty good, too!

Another reflection that appeared during morning meditation in the field was “The type of success that many are content with has never satisfied me.” My experiences with agriculture, school, and with previous jobs I’ve held have brought me insight about money and its role in my life. Everyone wants to be free from financial worry, but I need more than money to feel gratified. It’s not just about the money, it really isn’t. I can hold the bills in my hand for a moment, but then it’s gone to a grocery store, or to a bank or gas station. It’s not really something I can be proud of, or show to my parents. I can’t hold up the check and say, “Hey! Look at what I did!” Young people strive for those good paying jobs, and it wouldn’t be honest to say that I don’t give thought to how I can earn more money. That just makes sense; money equals security. But I find myself questioning why I am so interested in taking up a lifestyle that doesn’t place money as a main motivator. It has something to do with eating food that I’ve grown, or with seeing the look on a child’s face when they pick up that apple or pepper, and take a huge bite out of it. It’s elemental, it’s about the most basic things in life. And it all goes back to those simple things, the things that really matter. I want to be able to look out on the fields I’m working and say, “Yeah, I did that. I spent all day sweating and kneeling in the dirt and getting beat on by the sun, but look how beautiful it is.” I want to create, I want to imagine, design, and innovate. I want to provide for and nourish and feed people – not just for the money, but for what it’s worth, actually worth.

Alright, enough. After weeding – which is never really done – but regardless, after weeding, I went to meet with Candy at the greenhouse on Creek Road. She handed me several trays of cucumbers, zucchini, and a tray of winter squash. Once my truck was loaded, I headed back to the field. Little did I know I was heading into a small disaster. While driving my truck through the field, I sank down deep into sod that must have gotten soft the night before. I set Brutus on 4-wheel drive, but only sank deeper. To my luck, there were two gentlemen at the neighbor’s house who were cutting hay with an old Farmall H tractor. Being brave and desperate and resourceful, I approached to ask if they could help me get my truck out of the mud. The older gentlemen riding the tractor didn’t say anything, just nodded and began steering the Farmall toward the field that held Brutus. Using a chain, he first hooked up to the front end of my truck. He applied gas to the H, but no success. The old man had a wide grin on his face. “Boy, you’re stuck in there good,” he said. His son, I presume it was his son, signaled him to go to the back end of my truck with the hitch. As he hooked up to the back and gave the H some gas, the truck’s wheel began to grab some traction and soon slipped out from the earth’s hold. I shook both their hands and couldn’t thank them enough for their help. They left, both riding off on the old red Farmall through the field. I smiled, grateful, and respecting their goodness.  I need a tractor, or just friendly neighbors who have one!

My days have their own agenda. With that said, nothing can really be called an interruption. It’s just the course of the day. Call the truck in the mud an ordeal, it doesn’t change that there were still plants that needed to go into the ground. I hooked Bloo up to the hitch of my truck and, as is his habit, he found himself a comfortable spot in the shade to watch me work. I planted zucchini first, remembering Charlie’s warning that these plants get big and need to spread out. I gave each plant a couple feet of open space. After the zucchini, I put in cucumbers. These don’t require as much space between them, but just enough so they can expand outwards. Lastly, I began the transplanting of the winter squash. There weren’t too many in the tray, so they went into the soft soil quickly. Dirty, tired, happy, finished, I headed up to the cabin with Bloo for some dinner after our hard day of work and problem solving.

I was very grateful to those men who took time out of their day to help someone they didn’t know. They were a bit formidable – big, and dirty in that farmer kind of way, from fixing machines and working the land – not the most personable looking. But I asked and they were kind. I’m not naïve, but I needed help. The incident revitalized my faith in humanity. There are good people out there and today I was lucky enough to meet two of them. When I was talking to Charlie later, he said. “Must’ve been the Sawyer boys. They’re working fools.” I wouldn’t have called them boys, but I felt so grateful for hardworking people who are willing to commit to a good deed. Without them, I would’ve been in real trouble for the rest of the day. A couple of lessons learned: Don’t bring heavy trucks into wet fields, they will get stuck. Second lesson? Ask for help when you need it and say thank you when you receive it.

Sara Dougherty

Sara Dougherty


A Red-Tick Coon hound enthusiast. An artist. Recoverer of lost things. Simply a human. Being

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