Tilling of the Heart
Tilling of the Heart By Lisa McEnany I am a farmer’s granddaughter. Childhood was a magical time, weekends filled with sensory delights. Sights, sounds and smells of the farm were forever imprinted on my mind. Our family farm was in Commack Long Island, simply known as Prianti Farm. My grandfather and uncles grew the most luscious vegetables I had ever seen. Grandma and Aunt Millie were then in charge of selling the crops at the stand in front. Front just happened to be on Jericho Turnpike which was a perfect location to sell just about anything let alone picture perfect vegetables. If the wonder of the vegetables weren’t enough there were always the cows, chickens, horses, cats and kittens, beagle pups and my beloved pony to keep busy with. Saturdays could never come quickly enough. Life on the farm seemed like it would go on forever, but that was not to be. After my grandparents passed away the farm had to be sold. Our now very large extended family was to be witness to seeing our beloved farm with its warm country farmhouse, barns and out buildings sold and dismantled. The day the buildings and house began to be torn down, my brother called with a heart so broken I could barely stand to hear the tears in his voice. Unable to bring myself to see the destruction I stayed at home in Wading River with my two girls. It was then I became thankful for the distance that had once seemed so far from my beloved farm. Who would have known that years later, on a lovely September day, looking through my camera lens was to bring healing to my heart. It was a beautiful day for a drive out east on Sound Avenue so off I went making sure to bring my new camera to try out. Blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds and lovely vistas filled my day. Rottkamp’s “Fox Hollow Farm” would be my last stop on the way back. The stand was filled with beautiful fruits and vegetables carefully stacked. Corn and pumpkins overflowed their bins. I was in heaven! I asked to take pictures of their produce and happily my request was granted. It was the last photo seen through my view finder that sealed my fate. It read FARM STAND PART-TIME HELP WANTED MUST BE ABLE TO ADD AND LIFT INQUIRE WITHIN. …I got the job! Monday came, my first day at the farm. I met everyone and felt somehow as though I stepped back in time. People there all had the same strong, honest, hardworking way that I had lived with all my earlier life. It felt like home which was unexpected yet wonderful. My jobs were simple yet expected to be done well and as quickly as possible. First thing each morning was sweeping the stand and then to be sure the produce bins were cleaned and filled. Of course, helping the customers was always the top priority. It was ok to use the register to ring up larger orders or when it got really busy, but it was preferred to use the note pad to add up the items by hand. In short the same procedures I had seen my grandmother and Aunt Millie practice since forever. The sounds of the huge tractors in the yard pulling their heavy loads were music to my ears. The smell of the earth sometimes dry, sometimes damp with dew could not have smelled sweeter. There were even ponies, ducks and the family dogs to greet me each day. Just as I remembered, when the weather got colder portable heaters were dragged out of storage. That warmth changed the smells in the air. Scents of apples, crisp and sweet, pears and plums added their fragrance to the mix. Then there were the tomatoes, delicious farm raised tomatoes. Over the fruit was a sign kindly reminding everyone to PLEASE DO NOT PUT YOUR NOSE ON THE FRUIT!! Pumpkins and squash of many varieties filled their bins. Gourds of various shapes and sizes filled the baskets. Beans, lettuce, arugula, cucumbers, beets, eggplant and I can go on, were always plentiful and delicious. Then there was the king of the crops, their amazing corn! Corn so sweet and delicious nothing needed but a pot of boiling water or a grill to put it on. The season starts right around the Fourth of July depending on the weather and goes until late fall, hopefully as long as possible. Oh and yes, the yellow and white variety everyone searches out. Work was always good, tiring but good. I felt stronger and more energetic than I had in a long while. From the few fall seasons I worked there, that little part time job had also done something amazing and unexpected. It had healed my heart. The hole in my heart from the loss of my grandparents and their farm was so enormous, yet that little job mended and softened its torn edges. I was finally at peace and at a place where my heart could sing again. Our east end farms are such a treasure. Cherish them for their beauty, patronize them for their bounties. Respect and thank the good men and women, who till the earth with hard labor and love, we are so blessed because of them. I have traveled to many parts of our great country and I can say with certainty that our east end Long Island farms are beyond compare. Enjoy and protect them.