Written by Kristin Jackson, New Media Coordinator, Team Maine
Bend, grasp, pull, repeat. Sun crisping my shoulders, sweat beads forming on my hairline. Everywhere I turn, the telltale knee-high blades of brown and green have sprouted around me. Bend, grasp, pull, repeat. With each repetition, we unearth a bulb of garlic. Reba, one of the owners of Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren, ME with her husband Bill, estimated that we’d be harvesting, sorting, and hanging seven thousand of these bulbs.
Small, large, large, medium, small, medium. Quickly becoming an expert on the size classification of a garlic bulb, we sort them into three distinct piles. Small, small, large, small, medium. Dirt from the root sprays into the wind, quickly covering our bodies with a thin film of grime. Bulb after bulb after bulb, and if you get tired of the sorting, you can always switch to tying.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, pull tight, tie. Hanging the bulbs in groups of ten makes for easy counting, but just be sure to stagger each individual bulb to keep the moist, freshly picked garlic from rotting. 1, 2, 3, 4… I easily lose track of my counting while caught in conversation with the others, or just in my own head.
Eleven of us work on this giant undertaking, cycling through the various tasks, either settling into a niche or switching around for those easily bored. It is easy to get lost in the monotony—each task is nothing but a series of repetitive motions. I find my contemplating how I could do this day in and day out; wondering if I wouldn’t lose my mind in a barn filled to the brim with garlic.
But as this image fills my head, the sound of laughter from the field distracts me. The laughter comes from Lilyanna, who has made friends with Alex, an apprentice for Hatchet Cove. This triggers the realization that camaraderie, with both the new and the old (although it is strange that I now consider my fellow riders as old friends, as I met them only 6 weeks ago) is what propels us through this monotonous work.
When we have finished harvesting and hanging the vast amount of garlic, we celebrate with a big farm dinner. An eclectic mix of people—the climate riders, Bill, Reba, and their family, the apprentices, and neighbors from near and far– all sit together to enjoy a plentiful meal. We are grateful for the time we spent at Hatchet Cove, and I will remember next time during the monotonous routine of pedal right, pedal left, pedal right, pedal left… that all we need is a laughing break.