And so here I am, hoping that a monster named loses its might. I sit wrangling an essay from my fingers through sheer force of will, hoping that by doing something that I’ve been putting off for a month will open the floodgates of usefulness and productivity.Read More
The light is different. I’m no longer turning away from the sun. It’s lower in the sky, and I’m turning my face up to meet it. This week was further along the countdown to the end of the season. We have two boxes left, and Friday was the last outdoor market in the park in Green Lake. We are slowly peeling off layers just as we’re starting to put them back on. We did the first round of our chicken harvest, and seeing even thirty fewer chickens in the field is a good feeling. Our last pregnant sow of the year (Dot), has been big as a house for weeks. Every day I would go out and do chores and she was bigger and lower and fuller than ever. Every day, it was with disbelief that I reported that no, there was no little pile of pigs out there. Along with the creeping frost and the falling leaves, the ever-ballooning sow contributed to a strange week where time simultaneously sped by and stood still. This week more than most, we had to stop to think about what day it was. Thursday brought the annual organic certification inspection, a five hour process that also contributed to the smearing of the time-space continuum on the farm. The peppers and the tomatoes in the field are wilted and dead. The greenhouse is half empty, planted with some lettuce and awaiting the winter spinach. The sow finally farrowed on Sunday (pictures to come), large enough to feed all eight pigs for years. Time passes. Frost falls, and the sun comes to save us. One of these days, the sun will be too low and the frost will stay. Until then, we’ve got some more harvesting to do.
Thinking about: paperwork, processes, socks
Eating: homemade Indian eggplant and potatoes and cauliflower with rice; arugula with grated carrot, daikon radish, and apples tossed in a creamy lime sriracha dressing; lentil soup with homemade wheat oregano breadsticks
Reading: Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, MOSES’s Guidebook for Organic Certification
It was Homecoming week here in Green Lake, and it was a cold and blustery one. All week, we made preparations for the impending killing frost. There were some last harvests from the warm-weather summer staples like peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. We started to rip out rows of greenhouse tomatoes in preparation for seeding some winter greens. More and more of the growing space is already in cover crops or almost ready to plow under in favor of some cover crops. The pigs are pigging out on the overripe melons and the underripe winter squash. All of our crates are filled with winter vegetables and we’re going to have to get more crates for the second time in a week before we finish the potato harvest. The slate is slowly being wiped clean, and it feels good. As excited as we were for the first tomatoes of the season, the demise of the tomatoes feels just as momentous. My mason jars are filled for winter, and now I just want to be done harvesting them, cleaning them, sorting them, selling them. Our field tomatoes especially are a very visual reminder of our failings earlier in the season, and when we no longer have to pass that mess on the way out to the field, the “better next year” mantra will ring slightly more true. We only have three more boxes to pack, one more Friday market, one more big festival, before things settle down. Well, we keep telling ourselves that things will settle down, but the list of things we’ll finally get down when things settle down is growing rapidly enough to postpone the actually settling down by quite awhile. Whatever that reality may be, the plants themselves are slowing, and the layers are coming back on. It’s a breath of fresh air.
Thinking about: cold fronts, cold fingers, cold storage
Eating: creamy nettle soup, homemade swiss chard mac and cheese, potato leek soup, taco night with refried homegrown black beans
Reading: Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, David James Duncan's The Brothers K
Well, my favorite month is here, and not just because it brings my birthday! September means crisper days and cooler nights, the return of jeans, sweaters, and even wool socks. September means apples, campfires, and the return of roasting weather! Pretty soon, I’ll be able to turn the oven on without dooming myself to a stifling house! On the farm front, we’ve just finished up seeding the last of the fall greens - direct-seeded spinach and arugula, plus the last round of transplanted lettuce. We’re starting to talk about the fall plan to transition the hoop house from tropical tomato heaven to a stash of slowly growing greens for the middle of the winter. We still have a few weeks worth of tomatoes in the hoop house, but we have to make sure the greens get a good start before the winter cold slows their growth altogether. We also harvested some carrots this week, which was more exciting than it should have been. Our spring carrot crop was engulfed in weeds, so we harvested for only a few weeks before we had to mow and till in the weeds. So right now we’re harvesting the first good crop of carrots this year, with two other seedings following behind. The middle seeding needs to be “saved” from weeds, but the last seeding is currently clean. Carrots are tricky, because they take cannot be transplanted and take quite a long time to germinate. That means that weeds have a head start, because they are usually fast to germinate, quick to grow, and set seeds before you even realize they’re there. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. It always strikes me as odd that some of the crops that are the hardest to grow under weed pressure, like carrots and onions, are usually some of the cheapest to buy conventionally in the supermarket. If you priced your carrots reflecting the amount of work it took to get them all the way to market, people would look at you like you had a carrot for a head. There are, of course, always ways to improve your systems, but that assumes you’ll have the time to devote to weeding right when the weeds demand it. These are the things I think about!
If anyone is wondering how my new adventures in babysitting are going, I’m not really going to dwell on that job too much on the blog - minors, privacy, etc. I’ll just say that things are settling down in the house, and I’m sure we’ll be falling into a rhythm as the school year and the fall progress. I’m constantly reminded of things I’d forgotten about being a teenager, and suddenly the last ten years seems like an eternity. I don’t think about my current self and my 17-year-old self as too dissimilar, but from this vantage point, the gulf seems very wide indeed. This year will be an adventure, one way or another, and in the meantime, you can picture me driving a motley crew of kids around in a minivan, lamenting their long showers, and buying ungodly amounts of bananas, peanut butter, and orange juice.
Thinking about: cycles, language barriers, timing
Eating: homemade tomato sauces all over everything, roots roots roots
Reading: Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, Ron Macher’s Making Your Small Farm Profitable
Well, I survived my five days in charge of the farm. The animals were fed, watered, moved, and milked as necessary, the veg was weeded, watered, harvested, delivered, and sold, and I came out the other end relatively unscathed, if with a bit of a summer cold. I can’t blame the farm for that, but I have two small suspects in the hunt for patient zero. It was actually quite nice to be on the farm all day - I’m up early no matter how hard I try to sleep past 6, and I’m usually asleep by 10, but that leaves a quite a bit of time outside my usual “business hours.” I went out early to start the morning chores, attempting to finish them by the time the vegetable helpers arrived at 8:30 or 9. Most days, I was mostly successful. It was also nice to be able to work in the evenings, when the sun wasn’t so strong. I picked tomatoes in the greenhouse, weeded the celeriac and the carrots, added another super to the beehives, all under a much gentler sun. As much as I enjoyed the experience, I kept remembering that while I could keep the farm running, it was on a very basic level, pared down, well-prepared, and well-assisted. I didn’t have to keep track of two young boys or do any caretaking work for the landlord. As smoothly as it went, it actually deepened my respect for how hard and how long Mat and Danielle work on a daily basis. I certainly hope they actually relaxed on their trip, though I doubt they are capable of complete relaxation.
In other news, August continues racing by at a record-breaking clip. I can’t really tell whether we’re still in the throes of summer or whether fall has come early. Our field tomatoes are stalwartly green, and we’re hoping that the weather cooperates enough to give us a pretty good yield. After last year’s near crop failure, I’m looking forward to stocking up on tomato sauces for the winter. We have a few varieties of paste tomato out in the field, and I’m looking forward to canning as much as possible when they finally start ripening (knock on wood). Though I have no basis for this hunch, I have a feeling we’re in for a bit of an Indian Summer. It’s been a bit of an odd year, weather-wise, and I’m just hoping it cooperates long enough for at least a good portion of the ton of green fruit to turn red (and yellow and orange and stripedy). I’m trying not to think about how busy the next two weeks are going to be, and spent a good portion of the morning (dis)engaged in some classic nothing-doing while I have the chance. The next two weeks bring a big event on the farm, a parental visit, a going away party, helping friends move, moving myself, starting a second job, and a trip to the twin cities for a wedding. Oh yeah, and I’m really hoping for some ripening tomatoes, as if I needed something else to fill my time!
Thinking about: coordination, cooperation, condensation
Eating: broccoli-based stir-fries, tomatoes and basil, garlicky eggs, locally (in)famous spaghetti and meatball pizza
Reading: Michael Perry's Truck: A Love Story, Best Management Practices for Log-Based Shiitake Cultivation in the Northeastern United States
Walking down the street to work this week, I can't help making that age-old detour: shuffling through the crunchiest leaves I can find! Besides the satisfying crunching and crackling, there's a certain smell that newly-fallen leaves give off when rustled around that I can never experience without smiling. It's well-known that the olfactory system is closely linked to emotions in the brain, but I'm still always surprised at how evocative aromas can be. Apart from food smells, fallen leaves is right up there with the beginning of a hot summer rainstorm and the first blossoming trees of spring: smells that can't be bottled, and all the better! If I could summon the crunchy leaves smell at will, the effect would be dulled every time. I'll just have to be content soaking it in while I can.
We had a bit of an indian summer this week, with daytime temps getting up to the mid-eighties, and this weekend we're getting a bit of appreciated rain. The fields were getting a bit dusty! Besides our normal harvest schedule, we spent some time chipping away at a big task (weeding the strawberry patch), cultivating our fall greens, and pulling up the outdoor tomato stakes and tilling the plants under. We're still harvesting peppers and eggplant, but the tomatoes are pretty much gone. We have a great fall crop of carrots and beets that we're working our way through, and I'm preparing to make a big batch of beet chutney this afternoon. There never seemed to be enough tomatoes to can any sauces this summer, and cucumbers and zucchini were scarce, so I haven't canned much this summer. Last night also brought a serendipitous good time - I was about to go see a movie when I saw on Twitter that a friend's band was playing in Great Barrington in a few hours. So I cashed in my movie ticket and headed back home to round up the gang. The band was amazing, and anyone on the east coast should look at their tour dates and see when they'll be playing a bar near you. The band is Saint Anyway, from Duluth, but featuring proud New Englander Ben Cosgrove.
Thinking about: ever-filling calendars, visitors, leaf-peeper traffic
Reading: Three more silly detective novels, William A. Owens' This Stubborn Soil, Herman Koch's The Dinner, Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements, Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything
Eating: venison and pork chili, local Macoun apples, lots of tea with local honey, tortellini with green olives and Sam and Lisa's first harvest of winecap mushrooms, ham egg and cheese on English muffins
It was another beautiful week here on the farm - so far fall has been picture perfect. Days are shorter, certainly; it's dark when I wake up now, and daylight fades fast after work. What sunlight remains is more appreciated than ever with the nights and even the days turning cooler. So far, we've been spared a hard frost, and our outdoor tomatoes, peppers, and even eggplant are still producing. The last of our transplants and seeds are in the ground, and we even cleared out the jungle of tomato plants and weeds in the lower greenhouse in preparation for some winter greens. With the cool weather, the weeds have slowed down a bit, and we've moved from cultivation to cleaning up. We're tilling in the remains of old crops, readying the soil for the rye and vetch that will be our winter cover crop. This Monday was another CRAFT visit, this time to a nearby raw milk dairy. It was a nice, if low-key visit, the highlight being the adorable new calves and a really lovely flock of laying hens. Friday night brought another fun birthday bonfire on the farm, which has brought another mellow Saturday. Hopefully I'll be back at 100% by tonight, when we've been invited to a barn dance party. The fun never ends!
Thinking about: warm boots, flannel layers, darning socks
Reading: Gabriel Thompson's Working in the Shadows, Jacqueline Winspear's Pardonable Lies, William A. Owens This Stubborn Soil
Eating: more potlucks, ploughman's lunches, home fries and eggs