Friday, August 9, 2013

The Art of Sorting

Eewwwwww!  This morning I found an earwig in my electric kettle that I use to make my French press coffee--in that little water level indicator thingie that is hermetically sealed for no possible human access.  I am not squeamish about bugs, but earwigs tend to gross me out a bit. Perhaps this is because they have been popping up in such unexpected places this summer--my sugar bowl, the mailbox, the dog dish.  This is a little surprise that I will have to live with for quite some time since I don't see any way to dispose of the body.  A great way to start yet another day of "sorting."  For goodness sake - throw that kettle out!  Now I am never going to be able to drink coffee at your house.  And you make really good coffee.  I will buy you a new kettle for your birthday - which happens to be tomorrow!  Earwigs gross me out a lot.   

The month of August is sorting time on the farm, and I am a sorter. It is such a honored position, I made sure that Eydie was hired as a sorter as well.  Thanks Sharon.  You're always thinking of me.  "What do we sort?" you ask.  Tomatoes.  Bushels, cases, pounds, and pints of tomatoes. 

Three days a week we trudge (actually drive) out to the farm, don our Mickey Mouse gloves, and enter the back end of a used refrigerated truck for six hours of sorting.  Some of you may have seen this lovely photo of Eydie Prairie on our Facebook page.

I would like to point out that this was Eydie's first day of sorting--in fact her first 5 minutes of sorting.  Below is how she looked ten days later.  Where are those jazz hands now, Prairie Grl?  Hey!  I didn't know you were taking my picture.  I would have posed.  Shouldn't you have been sorting???  Or bringing the "yuckums" to the manure spreader???
Doesn't this picture look like it is right out of the Gulag?
And I am sure you want to know exactly what sorting entails.  Well, you start with about 50 cases of tomatoes weighing in at about 20 lbs. each.  Even with my less than stellar math skills, I know that is half of a ton.  Each case has to be gone through and each tomato is graded a one, two, canner, or "yuckums."  Yuckums is the professional term that Eydie and I have coined for those tomatoes that have fuzzy crud, giant bug bites, or other fatal blemishes. These tomatoes make earwigs look like angels.

The acceptable tomatoes are cuddled, praised, loved, and put to rest in neat rows with cushioning sheets of packing paper between layers.  Boxes are marked and stacked.  Then we go on to sort 375 pints of cherry tomatoes--seven red, three yellow, three golden, two purple, and a sprinkle of tiny reds on top.  I LOVE the sprinklers!  Yes, we actually count those cherry tomatoes. 

These are obviously grade one.

The work is a bit mind numbing, and as we work, more tomatoes keep coming in...endless stream of tomatoes.  I have been known to yell at the pickers, "No more!  Take them back!" as they bring the truck in to unload.  They laugh at my silly antics, and fail to see the terror in my eyes.  Sharon.  The pickers  are getting sick of your antics because you never change it up.  You yell the same thing every time. Maybe tomorrow you could try something fresh and new.  They just laugh because we are their elders and they are being respectful.  Being two teachers with two undergrad and two masters degrees between us, we are humbled by all of this, but we need the work, and we like the organic veggies we get to take home.  
"Dang, did I put in seven red or seven yellow?"
The advantage of working with a kindred spirit is that you can talk and sometimes sing, but we never dance. Prairie Sherry, as you may remember, does not dance (see the archives for "8 Things You Didn't Know About Sharon.").  We have also resorted to creating tomato jokes that no one but a person who has spent 5 hours in the cases would understand.  And sometimes we find a little something to cheer us.
I shall not repeat the comments made.
No, we did not think the tomato had a nose.
There seems to be a trend here, and perhaps this is not a post you should share with your pre-teen.  Mother Nature does have a sense of humor.  For the record, please know that I would never post photos of "naughty" tomatoes.  Sharon can sometimes be pretty juvenile. 

Our sorting will continue until we head back to our teacher duties on August 27th.  Ahhh, those classrooms will look good.  Both of us will need to refrain from writing "Yuckums" on papers.

Prairie Sherry (and Prairie Eydie - All together now - Jazz Hands!!!)


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