Alfred Hints Around

I follow one of Alfred’s glances to the bar of L & L pub. I see another of the farmers pushes his stool back from Ralph’s bar. “I’m out. Looks like you emptied my pockets again, Ralph. See you tomorrow.”

Ralph laughs. “We aim to please. Thank you, Derrick.”

Derrick pats his other two comrades on the back and heads to the door. He walks into the calm darkness beyond the door. Silence falls on the two guys at the bar until one compliments Ralph’s beer. Then, their conversation turns to whatever news they have heard recently.

Alfred and I do not feel the wind as strongly as we did earlier when Derrick leaves. Hopefully, that means Derrick will have a more pleasant walk or ride home. Alfred grimaces and shivers at the man’s exit though. Alfred leans over the table. “All I have said is that the Burbanks are being successful at the moment.” Alfred sighs and leans back in his chair. “So, how do the farmers you visited keep their farms going?”

My eyes dart between Alfred and the now closed door of the pub. “I think the small focus of the farms keep it going. They aren’t worried about growth, so they just keep planting the same fields with exactly enough for those living in the community. Are you anticipating Joseph and Catherine having some issues?”

Alfred waves away my question this time. “But surely the community has fluctuations. Some people leave and others die, right? How do they adjust the planting when one doesn’t know what might happen in a given year?”

Now, it’s my turn to raise an eyebrow. There is some trouble, I suspect. Well, I can only keep going for now. “The community does have visitors every now and again. I mean I spent a week there. I guess some of the family members visit too. So, they could just use those left-overs to feed the visitors. Plus, they do have some excellent storage to preserve produce. This is a very stable community. There’s very little turn over.”

Alfred shakes his head. “Based on what I’ve seen these past years, there’s no way to be that precise about planting. Even if you manage to know exactly what seeds will sprout, you still have to figure that some will not see the end of the growing season.”

I shake my head leaning it back a bit. “I don’t know about that. I saw rows of produce which looked laid out as they have been for many years. I didn’t see any variation in the planting from years past. The leader of the community linked this very directly with the prayer cycle that they have. He sounded like even the planting is done according to which prayers are said. Maybe they just have a very detailed set of experience built up? Do the Burbanks’ not monitor their yields?”

Alfred jabs a hand into the table. “Of course, they do. They track each breed of plant and its performance in the field. However, weather remains tough to predict and getting water and fertilizer out to the plants is difficult. They always calculate for a certain percentage of loss in the fields. The trade deals have a lot to do with this. I suppose the difference of having outside goals to reach changes the equation. I just don’t see how that farm you visited could survive without calculating for such loss.”

I take another drink from my glass. “I don’t know that. They simply showed me a very particular way of going about their work. Everything looked measured and predicted down to which seed was planted at what time in which field. They have been at this a while.”

Alfred points at me. “So, have Joseph and Catherine Burbanks. They learned their trade from their father. Papa Burbanks allowed them to work on the farms from the earliest age, so they should know what to do by now. They still have crop loss though. Wait, maybe the rapid expansion is part of the problem. You may be right. If this community has farmed the exact same plot of land for many years, they may have just learned what needed to be done. They haven’t expanded the area they till, have they?”

I look toward the ceiling. “That may be a fair point. The leader told me that they have kept things at the current size for several generations. I suppose that such a consistent plot of land would enable them to be a bit more deliberate in what they do. If the land is that predictable, surely the rest of the work becomes repetitious. Much like everything else they do is just repeating the previous work.”

Alfred nods. “Now, that makes some sense. They have just done the same thing for so long that it might work like that. I suppose my experience with the Burbanks’ growth has changed my perspective from when I was working with Papa Burbanks.”

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