In my continuing series of small, curious steps backward, yesterday, I acted impulsively on an idea that’d come to me a couple of days earlier. Instead of the usual junk food “treat” that’s become a Saturday afternoon ritual on the way back from the farmers’ market , we stopped in at a local, independent butcher and bought small portions of beef, pork, chicken and four types of sausage, and at the mega-hardware store, a cheap, old style barbecue ($20CDN). Back at the farm, the meat got skewered, along with farm onions, mostly hot peppers, and three types of zucchini—a prepared rub on the meat, salt, pepper and olive oil on the veggies—and then it was over the coals instead of the usual propane treatment. There was enough to do it all over again late this morning for…brunch, to feed four. It may be a little silly, enjoying every turn to the seemingly simpler, like doing away with fast food and propane tanks in favor of a marginally more basic cookery, but it feels…good. I think this is tiny farming-induced behavior. Demand simplicity!!
Early Saturday from May through October, just before 7 a.m., I’m heading down the road with Bob, making the quick 12 mile (19 km) hop to the farmers’ market in the center of town. Up at 5:30 after only three or four hours sleep, I’m generally a little groggy, and the drive is a pleasantly dreamy trip through peaceful farm country. Once in a while, though, a sharper awareness breaks through. We pass a farm that’d been turned into a seniors retirement home as a way to survive. We travel through a rapidly increasing number of adjoining farms, thousands of acres of them, bought out in the last couple of years by the Mennonite community—the continued farming is great, the seemingly monolithic takeover somewhat unsettling because it’s to me an unknown. The last farm on the way in to town is owned by the municipality and waiting for demolition. You can see the silos and buildings outlined in the fog ahead, right beside the lights of the new, low profile, high tech superprison that’s probably a bigger full-time employer and overall economic force than all of the farms on the drive put together. In the wrong frame of mind, I can really feel the decline-of-farming statistics I read about, and everything seems totally out of balance and more than a little surreal… Luckily, the farmers’ market is always fun!
Jo sports a borrowed rain jacket with snap-on drawstring hood, in striking work yellow—perfect protection for a rainy harvest day. Today was probably the wettest harvest Friday of the year, and it wasn’t bad. A couple of heavy downpours kept us indoors for quite a while (snapping farm fashion shots out of the Milkhouse door…), otherwise, a light drizzle for part of the afternoon hardly slowed us down. For the occasional wet work, Conall favors a full rainsuit, jacket and pants, while I so far make do with a hooded rain jacket—I’ll pop inside and wait out the heavier stuff. Lynn arrived after the major downpours. Today’s four-person crew made good time despite the weather. For the record: mesclun, spicy salad greens (arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, red mustard), collards, kale, spinach, radish, carrots, beets, green onion, summer squash, bok choi, tomato and potato (harvested yesterday), and garlic and onions from storage!!
Various garden experiments are going on here and there. The new oats and fall rye green manure cover crops are doing well. There are five or six tarragon starters, three divisions from a potted lovage, coriander seed dried on the standing plants… Several varieties of hot peppers have to be given a final performance check. And so on. One I keep noticing and promptly forgetting again is the Jerusalem artichoke, planted so long ago. They’re definitely tough. The fuzzy-textured leaves seem rather delicate and wilt alarmingly without water, but they’ve survived with little weeding and maybe one watering all season, and they’re looking happy now.
Another unusual characteristic, compared to almost all of the other veggies and herbs, is how un-uniform they are, at least in this first year, with plants of all heights, ranging from around a foot to over three feet (30-90+ cm). There’s not much variation in leaf size, simply in…height. Well, JA’s supposed to be prolific—we’ll soon see when I check in on the gnarly tubers down below…!
A leisurely late afternoon harvest yielded one trailer and one tiny tractor bucket piled with pumpkins. I didn’t count—there’s more to come—but I’d guess around 70. Pumpkins don’t have a big market value here just yet, but they’re fun to have around and they generally come through with little care. These guys received absolutely no irrigation and suffered somewhat for it, but they managed! The varieties: Connecticut Field and Neon for the bigger orange ones, Snackjack and Small Sugar for compact (3-5 lb), CSA share-ready selections, and Jamboree for that bit of difference (they’re the greenish-grayish ones). We’ll clean ’em up and lay them out on the nicely roofed farm stand to give the stand a bit of a purpose for fall!
Left to their own devices, these heirloom Touchon carrots grew all over the place, an assortment of shapes and sizes. They’re in a bed where the mid-summer germination was spotty, and uneven spacing no doubt had a lot to do with it. Compared to our other mainstay carrot, the generally uniform Nelson hybrid, Touchons definitely show a lot more individual carrot character… As a trained-from-birth first-world consumer, I guess I’ve tended to automatically favor uniformity in many little things, like…carrots. On the tiny farm, that training’s being undone!
Autumn, what autumn? A finer summer’s day it would be hard to imagine… A warm, gentle sun in an absolutely cloudless sky. A silky soft breeze, without a trace of stultifying midday heat. Here’s the widest view possible with this camera, from the highest vantage point around: the market garden where I spend so much of my time! It all still seems a little odd to me, but I wouldn’t want to give it up!!