Harvest Fridays begin with empty bins. We have around 50 harvest containers right now, the white and the blue and the green trugs (heavy duty plastic baskets with handles). On any one Friday, some are washed and ready, others have to be rounded up and rinsed. Today’s stragglers drain and dry on the harvest tables. To the left, all new this year, a screen table for spraying and draining bunched veggies. Mostly hidden behind it, the ever reliable washer-and-laundry-basins rinsing and spin-drying section. To the right, a trusty 4’x8′ sheet of 5/8″ plywood that has served as a general sorting and packing table for at least three years now. Leaning against the Milkhouse wall beside the door, the old, tiny screen table (sometimes popped onto sawhorses and used for sorting), and further over, the harvest whiteboard. The extra-wide door leads into a clear space with a table for packing safely out of the weather (increasingly welcome as the days shorten and the temperature drops, a big step up from the all-outdoor fall packing of years past). Up on the walls, two bare bulb light fixtures that soon have to be switched to floodlights, for packing after dark. Add water, bags, rubber bands, scales, digging forks, knives, shears and PEOPLE and the harvest is ready to roll!
A specially Thursday-picked Large share, tiny farm flexibility in action for a shareholder who missed the weekend pick-up. A Large is about one and a half the size of the standard Single share. This week: carrot (Touchon), beet (Golden Detroit, Scarlet Supreme), tomato (assorted heirloom), mesclun (9-lettuce), spring onion (Ramrod, Red Baron), summer squash (Sunburst, Golden Dawn III, Ambassador), potato (Gold Rush), pepper (Ace), onion (Stuttgarter), garlic (Music). The shares have been pretty good this year, not over the top (in a superabundant way) as they have been at times in the past, but definitely solid value for the fresh, local, organic dollar!
A week after the last couple of inches, it rained again today, a steady, fairly intense downpour that left about 1.5″ (38mm) in around an hour. It came down quick enough to leave huge puddles in a couple of low-lying sections. Pretty cool, they drained in less than 30 minutes, and it reminded me of what too much of a good thing can look like, as I imagined washed out seeds and floated seedlings in new fall beds if the rain just kept on going. Nothing like farm weather for bringing out the fickleness—extreme adaptability?—in people. It only takes a minute to go from cursing the lack of rain to hoping it’ll stop already. How excellent and effortless growing can be when the weather’s going right… Wouldn’t it be great to just take control of the weather (are they already doing it in China?). Yikes!
Radishes not riddled by flea beetle bites—it’s a slightly startling and definitely heartwarming sight! The winding down side of the season has its kinda downbeat MINUSES, like frost watch and wholesale row covering/uncovering, and the one special night when most tender crops get toasted by a hard frost and die (even under cover)… It has its PLUSES as well. Round about now, pest pressure declines dramatically, soon to vanish, and that includes PIGWEED, and the tiny but savage flea beetles (cucumber beetles stick around in small, determined numbers right into the subzero nights, but their damaging days are over for the year). Also, the need for irrigation is almost certainly over. These Rebel radishes were planted mid-August and with the recent rain, they’ll do well. Over the last few days, we’ve been laying in more beds of radishes, plus lettuce, spinach, zesty brassicas like arugula for salad greens, even some bok choi, in case we catch an extra measure of sun and warmth during the last of the good growing days. Bonus fall crops? With the pests packing it in, pushing for the latest growing date is the easiest gamble of the year!
Chives are great. Usually considered a herb, and like many other herbs, chives are extremely low maintenance, compact, prolific, and never fail to please the senses. Cut them and they come back quick. What more could you ask for in the busy veggie garden?! The herbs section this year is serving mainly as a nursery for new crops (tarragon, lovage, a new variety of rosemary) and perennial holding spot, all for future herb production. It would be great to harvest a nice selection every week, but you also need enough of a market to justify the time spent snipping and bundling, and once you start, you have to keep it up: consistency generates word of mouth! And it turns out that most of the 50+ shareholders are picking up off-farm (mainly at the farmers’ market), else they could help themselves. So full tilt herb production is waiting on other things to move ahead. Meanwhile, no waste. Chives, along with curly and flat-leaf parsley, are occasionally making it into CSA shares. And there’s always…personal use!
Most of my last four years as a veggie grower have been spent on the farm, like, practically every day (this seems perfectly natural to me, although some wonder how I handle it—they just don’t know how absorbing it is and how much there is to do in and around a big garden!!). This year, with more people in the field, I’ve gotten out a bit. Today, as an extended field break, Conall and I headed a few miles down the road to visit a brand new tiny farming operation, Richard’s home veggie plot. Richard is a physician, taking what I’ve gathered is a fairly new view of nutrition. Over the last two years, he’s dropped by the stand at the farmers’ market to buy nice quantities of veggies (he juices) and we’ve had long chats every week, about growing stuff, food and health, and lots of farther ranging topics. This year, he started a veggie garden on his 100 acres of farmland and forest. It was all hand work and learning as you go. I felt connected from all the conversation, so it only made sense to check it out! The garden was started a little late in the season—Richard sees it as a trial run!—still, lots of tomatoes, summer squash, beets, carrots, potatoes, more. Besides my own TF efforts, this is the first time I’ve seen and heard about and commented on a substantial veggie garden start-up… Next year, he plans to more than double the area to over a quarter acre and go for a full-on effort to supply his own garden veggies. The people part of small farming continues to reveal itself to me!! Fun!
From flowers on my my mind back in the planning days of April, the results have been no better than middling. Germination was fine for all the many varieties, and we’ve had a sprinkling of gypsophilia, calendula, zinnias, cosmos and more over the last month, with a strong showing by all of the sunflowers. Overall, though, the cut flower bed was at the bottom of the watering and weeding list and, of course, pigweed reigned. So there’s been no real cutting involved, the flowers are simply taking their course, a good trial run for next year, and a splash of color every once in a while in the corner of my eye. The Claret sunflowers (pictured) are particularly striking, even as they age and decline…