Though only my third time at the task, I was utterly convinced, in the barely wakened gaze of day, that the ideal time to harvest beets was after a steady night of summer rain.
As I walked myself & a few crates to the back field, the clay-heavy soil grabbed at my olive muck boots like suction cups. I imagined there was a mischievous land octopus that burrowed tunnels across the farm, rising up to play tricks on those who dared work its land.
By the time I reached the highly trafficked alleys between the vegetable beds, the earth’s wet tug had caked a mud ring around each of my feet, which remained there for the good part of the day. Due to this added weight to my steps, I navigated a precise though less-than-graceful line between the butterhead & red leaf lettuce to the first section of beets. I set down my crates, began listening to a homesteading podcast through the headphone buds in my ears, & got to work.
Gently pushing aside the dew-covered leaves, I immediately spotted a beautifully large Detroit Red. I grasped the base of those lovely fuchsia stems, & the wet ground released the beet with ease. As I was instructed by the farm lead, I began removing imperfect leaves there in the field, plucking off any red-veined ears speckled with leafminer or browned with ground rot & letting them fall beside me. The sun would shrivel the discarded plant matter, & the soil would incorporate it into nourishment for the next crop. I sighed in satisfaction at this good work & pulled another beet.
Hours of peaceful harvesting passed, & I collected close to 200 beets of the Detroit Red, Golden, & Chioggia variety. We loaded the harvest in the red farm pickup, & I hopped in along side it, bouncing & bobbing in the truck bed as we crossed the uneven field.
The humid heat of noontime arrived, & I was thankful to be under the shade cloth at the packing station. All of the beets needed to be washed & bunched for a CSA pickup that same day, so our team had to work especially fast & efficiently.
I volunteered to wash; I found great satisfaction in wiping away the mask of muck from a freshly plucked beet’s skin, revealing its vibrant, unparalleled stain. Each one I cleaned, I pondered the seeping & swelling of such colorful flesh under the ground, all from nothing more than a tiny seed & the magic of the earth.
We completed the CSA order with only minutes to spare. The crates of gloriously plump & bright beets waiting to be loaded up shined with the sun & the pride in our eyes. All I could continue to think was, “What good work. What good, hard, miraculous work.”
And tomorrow would bring the harvest of another uniquely beautiful fruit or vegetable, with its own method of growth & way of being processed, more opportunities for the farmer to learn from its flesh, to better tend to it so that it might better serve its purpose to the soil & to its good steward.
Water dribbled down my chin & glistening neck as I guzzled it with gratitude. “What good work. What good, hard, miraculous work.”