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nasturtiums

I put myself through another onrush-of-memories experience this morning.  I stopped by the Dartmouth Organic Farm, three miles north of campus on Lyme Road.  There was a space in the dirt driveway, so I parked my car next to the house I lived in senior year, and walked across the yard that, on my graduation morning, was a brilliant swath of dandelion yellow.

house

Things looked pretty much the same—seedling trays in the greenhouse here and there, the dry-erase board marked up with to-do lists and sunshine doodles, cast-off chairs and tables and grills in the garage—except for the plant life.  I couldn’t believe how overgrown the hillside had become.  I took the familiar path down the hill to the garden, (remembering how annoyed we got when people stepped over instead of around the switchback we’d built to keep the hillside from eroding) but what used to be an airy walk through saplings had become a dark walk through forest dense with vines.  Twelve years have gone by.

a freight train goes by now

a freight train goes by now

The garden, though, when it came into view, looked unchanged.  Beds of lush vegetables, some beds of mixed cover crops, stretching down to the grassy bank of the Connecticut River. The valley fog was just burning off.

Scott Stokoe, the farm manager, was talking with the head intern, John, about what had to be done before the CSA delivery to students this afternoon.  He acknowledged the growth on the hillside when he pointed out the shade that was keeping down the winter squash.

shade

John went off to start harvesting, and Scott and I had a long conversation about the farm’s evolution over the past decade, about that first year, when it was a pilot program and I lived there with three friends—weeding, planting, picking, eating well—and about integrating sustainability into the liberal arts curriculum (which I’m involved with at Auburn).

I walked through the fields snapping pictures, and then helped the interns harvest sungold tomatoes for the afternoon delivery.  They were ripening nicely, but the vines were sparse because of the hungry deer who come for a nightly meal.  The students recently erected a fence, which will hopefully keep the deer away from everyone’s favorite crop—the unbelievably sweet sungolds.

sungolds

I looked up the hill to the north, where we used to swing from a rope into the river and swim upstream as far as we could go until we got tired.

There was another familiar sight: crew practice.

crew

onions

onions

John, who lives in the house now, said he didn’t mind if I peeked in.  The year I lived there, 1996-7, was the first year it was used by the College as “the farm house.”  It had been a long time since it had been occupied.  It’s a solidly built old farmhouse with sturdy hardwood throughout.  I moved in with three girlfriends—Amy, CJ, and Christine—and we brought just a few pieces of furniture and kitchenware.  It was spare and neat.  After twelve years of both female and male undergrads moving in and moving out, let’s just say the house looked lived-in.  I opened the solid wood door to the screened-in porch out back.  You used to be able to see the river.  I remembered the first time I invited Peter—now my husband—over for dinner.  We cooked vegetables harvested that day on the fields below, and ate on the gray-painted floor of the porch (we had no chairs).  I also went up to the room that used to be mine and looked out the windows at the familiar view of the river.  I remember sitting at my desk—a door on cinderblocks with a batik tapestry on top—and writing a poem about the ice on the river breaking up in the spring.

That was a good year I spent there.  I’m glad I went back.

tassels

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