When I arrived at King's Hill farm on Wednesday afternoon, I had no idea what to expect. I had been anticipating the beginning of this summer for a long time, and had fluctuated between complete excitement, and flashes of tingling nerves. This place and my life here are, so far, surpassing the hopes that I had not even allowed myself to have.
King's Hill is set on a huge parcel of beautiful land between County Roads O, C, and G. We're located, basically in the middle of nowhere, close to two thirds of the way from Madison, Wisconsin to Dubuque, Iowa. The closest place with a name is the village of Calamine, which has about 10 houses, and is certainly not big enough to call a town. The towns around here, Belmont, Plattville, Mineral Point, and Darlington, are not quite as tiny, but also quite small. A sign on the outskirts of Belmont, for example, proclaims, "Now Entering Belmont: Population 851." The property on which the farm is located is 850 acres, with 40 acres in cultivation. 40 acres does not sound like much, perhaps, but it is the biggest farm in our study, and the amount of food that is produced here is truly astounding.
Thursday, the first full day of my stay, was the first really huge harvest day of the season. King's Hill is a new farm this year, and so is just beginning to figure itself out, organize systems for everything, and gain a steady customer base. That said, the harvest was not as chaotic as it could have been. Most of the orders to be filled that day were from new wholesale customers, although we also harvested for CSA boxes and markets. The crew right now consists of me, and between 10 and 15 other people, mainly local high school and college students, as well as some 20 somethings with a bit more farming experience. We harvested, washed, and packed over 500 bunches of parsley, what seemed like a zillion scallions and baby leeks, two types of fennel, radishes, chard, three kinds of kale, baby onions, a few varieties of cabbage, and what seemed like a million other things as well. By the end of the work day (which for many of us began at 5:30 am and did not end until 8 pm) I was covered in mud, half drenched, physically exhausted, and unbelievably happy. As I was helping Dennis, a U of C grad of '07 who works here, feed the animals (King's Hill is also home to two llamas and various fowl) at the end of the day, he asked me how my first day had been. I had to think about it for a minute. I didn't really have an answer, since I'd been working too hard all day to really contemplate how I felt about everything. After a second though, I realized that it had been fantastic. I don't think I would have been able to work as hard at anything else for so long, but the sense of community and accomplishment, as well as the physicality of the work had made me exhilarated, not burnt out, at the end of the day. Ever since then I have found myself smiling occasionally, just because I am here and I have the whole summer ahead of me to live on this farm, and learn all I can from the work and the people here with me.
The next few days have not been anywhere near as grueling. There were a few spectacular thunderstorms, a bit of weeding, cleaning, packing, and harvesting, but the days have not been as long, and the crew has not been as big. Every day, though, there are surprises, and a million things to be seen and learned. Thursday night I watched lightning and fireflies in the gigantic, dark sky above my new home. Yesterday, as I was driving down the long driveway toward the farm in the evening, I rounded a corner and came upon two does standing in the road 10 feet from my car. They looked at us in surprise before bounding off into the tall grass. This morning as I made the half hour walk through the property from the intern housing to the farmhouse I found a huge patch of raspberries that I'm sure will be ripe soon. A little bit further along my walk, near one a large pond, I came upon a zillion tiny newborn brown frogs about the size of the end of my finger hopping around in the middle of the path. I can't imagine this place will ever become boring. As soon as I can I will find a way to upload pictures I have taken of the beautiful landscape, the adorable eight-week-old puppies, and the farm, and add more to the story of my time here.