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Busy Busy Busy ... and then, Time Stops

Some thoughts about someone very special to me, and to the garden - remembering Eastleigh Farm manager Edgar Pless.

I've been crazy busy, trying to stay on top of everything. The garlic and shallots are almost ready to harvest, the weeds (of course!) need to be managed, and now is the time to plan the fall crops. Believe it or not, I'm in round 2 (or is it 3?!?) of planting right now.

So I've been working on what I'm going to share, taking pictures here and there and making mental notes of what might be interesting. But all that was put aside today.

The first day I went up to the farm to meet with Doug and talk to him about taking over his vegetable garden, he asked if I was in a hurry because a cow was in distress. I told him that I'd be happy to go with him. We went out into the field, and there was Edgar. Edgar talked to Doug about a cow who was down and couldn't get up, and Edgar brought out a contraption to help lift the cow. At that point, I was left to drive the truck over a muddy field while Edgar and Doug focused on the cow. Hmmmm ... I realized that was how it would be!

Edgar, I soon learned, was "Farm Manager." He laughed about his title. But he did EVERYTHING. The one thing, I soon learned, that he had NOT done was take care of Doug's vegetable garden. Oh he knew enough about gardening, and he tried to advise Doug on when and how to plant, but apparently Doug kept the garden his own. But Doug was and is a farmer, not a gardener, and it was reported to me that the garden was not always successful.

For some reason, Doug recognized my passion for gardening and handed me the garden to do with as I would. As you might have read, it was a lot of work but it was a job I took on zealously. I think that, at first, the farm workers wondered what was going on. But even after a few days, they could see that I was committed and I received several positive comments, particularly from Edgar and his wife. Whenever I spoke of my plans they nodded and were very supportive.

One Sunday morning, a couple of weeks after I started the North garden, I was engrossed in work when I looked up to see Edgar watching me. I was a little startled, as I had no idea how long he'd been there and he was obviously studying what I was doing. He said to me, "Can I ask you a question?" I told him he could. With the driest of all humors he asked, "Why don't you like the garden? I mean, it's a nice enough place. But there are days when you don't get here until 6:30 in the morning, and sometimes you leave well before dark. I'm just not feeling the commitment." It took me a second to realize he was pulling my chain, but after that I was much more aware of his particular sense of humor!

We chatted about the garden frequently. He was really looking forward to tomatoes, saying that he never ate tomatoes during the “off” season, that they weren’t really tomatoes. He noticed everything.

For example, I had to move a couple of summer squashes to get them out of the way of the fence that we’re putting up. He asked what had happened to them, wondering if borers had gotten to them. I assured him that, no, they were just angry at me for moving them! He said that he’d never seen any sign of borers before, and I realized that even though Doug had been responsible for the garden in the past, Edgar had certainly kept his eye on it.

When the lettuce started really coming along I suggested that they rely solely on the garden for lettuce rather than purchasing any from the store, telling him that we had lettuce “coming out of our ears.” He thought for a moment then said, “Hmmm, I really like the thought of that. That’s a nice vision.”

We chatted all the time about what I was growing, both at the North garden and at home. I mentioned garlic and he wistfully asked, “Do you cut the scapes?” The scapes are the stalks hard-neck garlic throw up in preparation of making seeds, and it’s best to cut them when they grow. The other day I was telling him that, although I was indeed growing garlic at my house, I must have only planted only soft neck garlic this past year because there were no scapes. I assured him that I had ordered some hard neck seed garlic for next year and he said, "I'll wait. It's not a problem. When there's a problem you have to ask yourself, 'Is there a solution? Then fix it, no problem. Is there NOT a solution? Then don't worry about it, no problem.'"

I picked cabbage 2 days ago. I handed them out to people at the farm, to include Edgar and his wife, and they were (as they had been any time I gave them vegetables) very appreciative. I told Edgar that I was going home to make cole slaw, as the only time I liked cole slaw was when it was made with cabbage and carrots fresh from the garden. A vegetarian, he admitted that when he was a child that was the ONLY vegetable he would eat - cole slaw.

So on the morning of July 2, on my way to driving my son down the Cape to have a few days with his cousins, I stopped by the farm and dropped off some cole slaw for Edgar. It was the right thing to do. He was one of the greatest men I knew, and I'd only known him a couple of months.

Edgar had a heart attack while he slept. He died on July 3.

Doug said he was troubled by all the turmoil surrounding Eastleigh Farm, and that it tore him up that people couldn't see what a wonderful and important place the Farm was. I wish that more people could have seen what a wonderful person Edgar was, and that they could have realized that the Farm and Edgar were both valuable and special.

I've been told that Edgar loved the garden, and that he loved what I did with it. That really means a lot to me, and I hope that Edgar realized that I loved him, for as short a time as I knew him. He’ll always be in my thoughts, especially when I’m in the garden he loved.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jim Rizoli July 06, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Sorry to hear about Edgar. I didn't know him personally but have know people like him in the past. He seems like the type of person that stays in the background and does his thing. He probably knew a lot but didn't flaunt it. Content with the simplest of things. and had no aspirations of making a lot of money or being famous. He came quietly and left the same way. RIP Jim@ccfiile.com
Susan Petroni (Editor) July 06, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Eastleigh Farm will host a memorial service forbeloved farm manager Edgar Pless Sinday at 1 p.m. at the Eastleigh Home Farm, 1084 Grove St. All are invited.
Cynthia Turner July 06, 2012 at 11:18 PM
So sorry for the loss of Edgar. That was a beautiful article. Thanks for writing.
Ingrid Peschke July 10, 2012 at 03:31 PM
What a beautiful tribute to Edgar! Our family enjoyed chatting with him at the farm, too, and we will miss him and the sight of him driving on Grove Street.

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