Although my main job on the farm is planting crops, I occasionally end up doing other jobs as necessary.
The best example of this was the other day, when my follow planters and I were asked to help with a few random tasks.
The day begun as usual, heading straight to Adam’s office once I arrived at work (Adam is my boss). Alex was waiting there too, looking very tired. Alex is a fellow planter with a quirky style and lots of tattoos. She and I had harvested spinach the day before as it was too wet to plant – spinach harvesting is no-one’s favourite job.
Normally, on the side of the office building, there’s a board with all the teams for the day on it. The board wasn’t there, so my heart sunk. No board normally means no planting.
Adam came out of the office. The order of the day was – clear watermelons off some plastic, hand plant kale, patch and then maybe plant. A bizarre menu.
We headed out to the watermelon field, armed with brooms. This was probably the weirdest task I have done at Woodhaven.
Basically, the melons were done making melons and they wanted to plant something else in the plastic-covered beds, but the old dead and dying melons were in the way.
We used the brooms to sweep them away and occasionally bend down to pull out a whole melon plant that was still clinging on.
This job was fine apart from the raw stink of rotting melon. If you’ve ever forgotten about a melon or maybe left the skin on the side a bit longer than you should, you will have an idea of the smell. Now imagine they’ve been out in the rain and sun. Now imagine there’s thousands of them.
Eventually, we were freed from the melon field and sent to plant kale BY HAND.
Planting with the planter can be challenging, however it is a low strain method of getting plants in the ground at suitable intervals.
Hand planting was painful and annoying. It made me appreciate that the planting machines exist, even if they’re rubbish from an ergonomic perspective.
Thankfully we only had to plant three quite short rows.
From there, we went to patch some broccoli we had planted previously. It was very bad (lots of missing plants) so we didn’t get much done before we returned to the yard for lunch.
After lunch, Sita and I went to plant Silverbeet (swiss chard) with Mrs Lee. Sita is another planter who I often work with. She is Fijian and hilarious. Mrs Lee is a Chinese lady who has worked at Woodhaven for 15 years and taught me how to plant on my first day.
The planting wasn’t too bad, but Sita is too tall for the planter, which I am convinced isn’t designed for human adults, and so she was very uncomfortable.
As well as being uncomfortable, she smashed her right thumb between a tray and the metal lip at the edge of the board that the plants are on. Then she cut her left thumb on a sharp tray.
The whole time that we were planting, Mrs Lee kept telling Sita that she was too heavy and was weighing down the planter. Mrs Lee speaks only a little English so she just kept saying “You too heavy. You no eat the food.”
Finally, at the end of the day, Sita slipped into a puddle and got water in her shoes. It hadn’t been a good afternoon for her.
I only have a few weeks left on the farm and it’s been an interesting experience. Weird days like this break up endless days of planting and patching and at least we avoided the dreaded spinach!