Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Field Notes: Watering without a timepiece

I can’t remember today’s date. It’s been one of those kinds of weeks.

In my field notes, I write down: “Aug. 8, 2010 Mon.” It’s actually August 9, 2010. My watch, the one that belonged to my father and which my mother gave to me after he died, is broken. It’s not keeping time properly. I’ll get it fixed when I can get enough money together.

I feel somewhat challenged without it. There are other ways to monitor the irrigation but I’ve grown accustomed to turning my wrist and checking my watch to make sure I haven’t gone over my 15-minute maximum of watering each section of the field.

For a few moments after arriving at the farm, I wonder how I’ll monitor the irrigation without my watch. There are eight sections to water, each with about 200 plants. About 15 minutes of watering ensures a full moistening of each plant’s precious roots. It’s not too hard, however, to tell when the plants have had enough water.

After 15 minutes, little pools of wetness form around the bottom of the grow bags and saturate the surrounding weed mat on which the bags rest. I decide to eyeball today’s irrigation time. When the weed mat gets wet, I’ll turn the water off.

At first, I protested the idea of wearing a watch, even though it belonged to my father. My mother insisted that I take it, which I did. Eventually I got used to wearing it, and I appreciate having a memento from my father, whose death nearly two years ago still unmans me.

It’s not the kind of watch to wear while working on the farm. It’s an evening, go-to-town watch, a Seiko Quartz. My dad enjoyed getting dressed up and going out. Young women have given me doubletakes after noticing the gold wristband beneath my work sleeve. I’d like to think it’s me they’re ogling but, at 52, I’m pretty sure the looks are for the gold band and watch.

It’s probably not a smart thing to do, wearing a fine watch like this while laboring on the farm, but what do I know? I’ve never worn a watch until now; I never felt the necessity of it. I’ve gotten used to wearing it and if I didn’t wear it to the farm, I’d never put it on because I don’t get out enough.

I protect it the best I can.

Recently, while attending a party at a friend’s ranch, which attracts the usual suspects from the area’s original hippie population, a woman considered an “earth” mama, blurted out in front of a group of friends: “Stacey, what are you wearing a watch for?” Her contempt for timepieces was clear as crystal.

I got suddenly self-conscious, put my hand over my wrist as if absent-mindedly considering taking off my watch. Her question wasn’t playful, friendly, or even conversational. It came off like a snob-filled, judgmental statement, not a question.

It reminded me why so many of my friends hate hippies. “Buncha lazy-assed hypocrites,” says one friend who can see right through the plasticity of people who think they’re better than others. Of course, not all hippies look down their noses at Establishment trappings such as gold timepieces.

A whole bunch of thoughts went through my mind: “She doesn’t even deserve an answer…. This is my father’s watch…. I like to know what time it is.” I looked upwards and gauged the time by the sun’s position in the sky. “Sure, I could live without a watch. I did it for nearly 50 years….”

I fumbled with the watch, rotating the band on my wrist until finally, I thought, “Fuck her! I’m wearing this watch. What the fuck difference is it to her?” It pissed me off. I didn’t know what to say and stared at her as she sat lazily in her lawn chair in the midst of a crowd of friends who stood in a circle above her, chatting away. I wanted to say: “How come you’re such a fat ass?”

I went with my first inclination, which was to ignore her.

The leaves of the plants are turning up and away from the sun, exposing their undersides to the light. I’ve never seen them do this. It worries me a little and I make a note of it.

It amazes me how lively these plants are. They put on a new show every day: Changes in color, erectness, growing and dropping leaves, blooms and berries.

I’m always a little surprised at how dramatic the changes can be in the space of even a few hours, depending on the time of day or year, the levels of temperature, light, wind, and humidity.

Several plants appear limp, especially the young shoots that have begun appearing in recent weeks. The new leaves hang limply, as if fallen and defeated, or protecting themselves from lack of moisture. I check the bags and the soil feels dry. It won’t hurt if the plants receive more water than usual today, I decide.

I don’t really need my watch, but I sure miss having it on me. §