JOY. Where have you found it, in the midst of a pandemic?
My family found it in a field. In the midst of the summer and fall of Covid-19, we found abundant, unwavering joy in a pumpkin field. Not that we don’t have plenty to be grateful for and joyful about, but this field has probably been the single biggest and most constant source of joy we’ve had over the past four months. Does that sound weird? Well, it’s been a weird year, y’all.
In June, the kids and I watched as the guys prepped the field in front of our house for planting. After digging spring potatoes from this field, we were excited about a ‘prettier’ crop in front of our house (okay, it was me – I was excited for that). In early July, hundreds of pumpkins – Cinderella, Jarrahdall, Fairy Tale, Dickinson, New England Cheddar, Cronus, Atlantic Giants, New Moon, Blanco, and other varieties – were sown with joy in this field. Truly, even in the 90-degree July heat, there was joy in the expectance of what was to come from these small plants.
For the rest of the summer, we watched daily as the small plants became trailing vines, blossoms appeared, and small fruit grew. We spent Saturday mornings and evenings after dinner doing ‘pumpkin checks’ and delighting over the variety of colors, shapes, and sizes that were revealing themselves under the vines. Easton loves pumpkins just as much as I do, and Emmett has quickly learned to love them, too. During our pumpkin checks he would squat his chubby little legs down to peer through the vines, point his fat finger and shout “anudder punk!” every time he spotted a ball of orange or yellow or green.
In a summer where social distancing was in effect, many public places of summer entertainment were closed, and the world generally felt off-kilter – this field saved many of our days. This field that was the product of Matt’s hard work and part of our livelihood was also our entertainment, pride, and joy. This field embraced the kids and I when we needed a few minutes out of the house, and calmed us when anxiety from the world around us crept in.
In late August, Matt stood one day in the middle of the field, waist-deep in pumpkin vines, scratched his head, and said, “There’s just not much out here. There’s a lot of vines, but not a lot of pumpkins. I don’t know what happened.” My excitement wilted under his outlook. Not many pumpkins? He’s usually very good at predicting field and crop output. But then, something happened. They harvested the first picking in early September. And the pumpkins were gorgeous and plentiful! That first harvest from this field brought us SO much joy.
This year, particularly in August and September, I was fortunate to be able to partially work from home due to the school system implementing remote learning. My home office (read: hiding spot from the kids) is an unfinished attic room that, lo and behold – overlooks the pumpkin field. I found so much joy in seeing, over the top of my laptop screen, Matt and the guys sweeping through our field, a straight line of men moving down the rows, combing through the vines, and tossing pumpkins from person to person across the field until they reached their destination of the back of a Suburban or cardboard bin on a skid steer or tractor.
A couple weeks later, they did another sweep of the field, catching what wasn’t ready to pick the first time. Tons more! A week later, the same thing! Matt joked that it was “the field that just keeps on giving”. I lost count of how many mornings I watched them work from my attic window, and how many afternoons I came home to find them picking again. Easton found so much joy in driving his little gator down to the field and ‘helping’ load pumpkins.
At first thought, I didn’t understand how this field became the field that kept on giving, especially after Matt’s grim initial prediction. Of course, a lot of it had to do with Matt and the guys’ hard work to water, nurture, fertilize, and protect it. But I also like to think that maybe, just maybe, those vines felt our careful footfall through the rows, heard the two- and four-year old squeals of delight, and the heartbeats of pure joy each time we stood in wonderment, surrounded by vines and field and sky. Maybe ‘you reap what you sow’ holds true here. If nothing else, these pumpkins were sown with expectant joy and hope in the harvest – and joy we reaped from this field. A lot of joy, and a lot of pumpkins.
Today is October 28, and Matt called me this morning to say they were coming over to do one final sweep of the field. “We need to pick one more time, and then we’ll mow them off so we can get up the plastic.”
I think my heart literally stopped. “What?!” I nearly yelled. Did he say MOW it off? What are they thinking?! This field has been our baby since July. As ready as I am to part with so much of 2020, this pumpkin field was not one of those things. It was one of the bright spots of our pandemic year. Nope, not on my to-do list today to say goodbye to this source of my joy.
But alas, I watched from the window as they moved methodically down the rows one last time for the year. And in true form, the field that’s never failing – they left with two loads of pumpkins. I ran outside to snap a picture, frantically trying to hold on. Not ready to let it go (sorry, Elsa).
So, I am holding on – as I watch my father-in-law mow off the vines as I type (and contemplate throwing myself in front of the tractor to hold him off…too dramatic?), I am holding on to the joy and the promise in this field. To the many pictures and videos I took out here, the memories made, the family time it brought us, the things we learned, and the hope in future harvests. This field was sown and grown with joy, and joy it gave back to us, ten times over. I am holding on to the beauty of farming, and with every season, another chance to sow what we want to reap, despite our worldly circumstances.
JOY. Name yours. Hold on to it tightly (but maybe not so tightly that you try to stop a tractor with your body…), as we look with expectance and hope to the next season.
P.S. Follow our family on Instagram – @theruddfarmer – for snippets of our farm life.