It is not every day that I am welcomed to an old warehouse building near the offramp of the Maine Turnpike by a bearded man in a safety vest and a sombrero.
Need I say more?
Well, yes, I guess I do. But that's pretty good, right?
This picture is a result of three drive-bys with my camera resting on the top of my car door, window open, as I pressed the camera's picture taking button and hoped for a usable picture.
I think what the cool chicks would have done in this moment is that they would have walked up to sombrero man and said Hi. You look fabulous. Can I take your picture? But I am not said cool chick.
Because from the moment this wonderful man flagged me into the parking lot full of trailers and pickup trucks at the Fedco tree sale, I think I did just that...stick out. Drawn to Fedco for its mission, its quality, its product being right for the northern growing region in which we try to grow our own food, I know that I want to fit in here. But as I planned my outfit early that morning at home, drove an hour and a half north while Jonathan handled school drop off for me, and took deep breaths while I tucked my camera under my carefully chosen stylish but practical spring jacket, I knew this was not my scene...yet.
Because man. Fedco? It has a righteous vibe. People of the earth somehow looking all-natural and chic all at the same time. What would otherwise be an unused large metal building made beautiful with hand drawn signs, and filled with gorgeous plants, tubers, bulbs and seeds. As I stood in line to wait for my preordered loot, I listened to people greet each other as they walked across the parking lot, talked about how their hives and shrubs had weathered the winter, talked about losses to predators, and gave advice about how to do better this year.
I did my best to look self assured and comfortable when inwardly I started to have questions such as is it ok to take pictures that capture people without their permission, would I be questioned if I started in taking lots of pictures and if so, what in the world would I tell them I was doing...what am I doing really??
So I took some quick pictures here and there, returning my camera to its unobtrusive place beneath my jacket, tried my best to not have people be the focus of the pictures, and took more deep breaths. And waited for my turn to give my name and then wait for my bundle of trees and plants to be brought to me.
Even these packages are beautiful. It is as organic as it gets there. Simple brown paper sacs with your name and order number are brought to you and then you carry them to your car. Roots are wrapped in what appears to to shredded Fedco catalogues and order forms...again, strangley lovely. Many orders were huge, for "real farms", which clearly had a good deal of acreage upon which to stow away these new arrivals.
I now find it funny that my sack was labelled not only with Jonathan's name, but also as "1 small bag." As if providing signage for our modest newbie homesteading pursuits. In the moment, I think I likely blushed as it was handed to me and I sheepishly navigated through the crowd, the trailers full of soon to be orchards, to my Subaru. Jonathan had even so kindly folded down the back seats...for that one grocery sized bag.
From there, I headed up the road, looking for my amigo but not finding him, to where the tubers, seeds, and bulbs were being distributed. Again, it was a place of natural unpretentious beauty. And I could not for the life of me figure out where I was supposed to be. There were several LARGE warehouses and I found my way to one that was full of farmers, homesteaders, kids playing harmonicas, lots of pig tails and overalls, and rows and rows of seed potatoes. I asked three people who looked like they were in charge, but apparently lots of farmers who were there to pick up their own supplies, have a look of being in charge about them. They were kindly and very chatty...but not very helpful.
I did find the small warehouse where my order was waiting for me...and listened again to people in line, picking up knowledge and tidbits as I waited my turn. I was told, after the man in charge told me my order had a hole...no explanation of what in the world that meant...I was looking for a hole in the box...and that I needed (please no!) to head over to that large potato warehouse again, find someone in charge, and have them help me figure out how to fill my order's hole.
I had more luck this time and a friendly man found me looking a bit white around the eyes and took me to the way out back of said warehouse to a small office where he might of murdered me but instead, entered my name into the computer box and found out what my hole was...which turned out to be a bag of red onions. He Sharpied this information onto my box and was about to give me instructions about where to go...paused...looked me up and down and said, honey, I am going to take you to where you need to go next. I fell in love with him right then and there.
We then began a rather awkward and slow march, with him walking about 10 feet in front of me and not really acknowledging my existence. I think I may have had boyfriends in high school that treated me this way. A much better human being than these past loves, he led me across the busy parking lot and back to the place where I first found out about my order's hole. And made sure I got what I needed and then walked me back to the parking lot.
I wanted to hug him. But I knew that would be wrong. And weird. And a little bit creepy.
So instead I thanked him. Tried to be nonchalant and friendly and cool all at the same time...attempting to match his distantly loving march across the parking lot, as I thanked him for his help. He smiled his farmer smile, all crinkly around his eyes. And I headed back to my Subaru and he to his tubers. Tossed my small box in with my small bag.
Alone in the parking lot and relieved that I now had what I had come for, I snapped a few pictures. My relief made it all the more beautiful.
And then I stalked the parking lot man...on my way back to the turnpike's on ramp. And headed back toward home.