Fall can come in many different moods here on the farm. Sometimes it’s a hard frost in mid September followed by cold hard rains and more frost, so harsh that I have actually felt like I was being chased out of the fields. Last year seemed a bit like that and just when it seemed like you might be able to take a breath, another shot of record cold to buckle your knees. This year is another mood altogether. Working in the fields, there is a quality to the light that can be felt with all the senses, not just the eyes; warm, golden, almost as if nature is breathing and giving a long slow sigh. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not letting our guard down and we know that her other shoe is out there in the mist of the not too distant future. We know growing will come to an abrupt end but for now she seems to be taking her time. We have chosen to try to make a living at the extreme end of the season with always, one eye out for the shoe. Still not sure that was the wisest decision but have I explained to you about the light in the fields this time of year?
When we started this Winter CSA thing we were coming from a full scale summer CSA. At the end of a season, when we would have a bunch of extra produce in the fields we would do extra boxes for as many as we thought we could supply. Not really much pressure there, just a market for the extras that will always be there at the end if you are a good CSA farmer. Now we plan for vegetables to mature in the last week of October and the middle of November in the field. That is a little like trying to land a jumbo jet on a cul-de-sac. You can see us out there talking to the broccoli plants….”please, just a little bit more…just a small head…” and the broccoli coming back with “…I..I…i…don’t…think I can….too cold ” . Sometimes you blow it. In June that broccoli would make a head from scratch in about a week and if you plant it a bit later, it would still make a nice head just a few days latter. In the fall, if you miss it by a couple of days, the broccoli just stops growing, never makes a head and then dies. If you try to be smart and plant it a couple of weeks earlier, every plant will make a head in mid September. Hmm, still not sure we made the wisest decision but I think that, this fall, we nailed the broccoli. We have nice big heads for the first delivery next week and some coming not far behind for the second delivery in November. In fact, the warm fall has pushed a lot of crops that we were really worried about over the top. Cabbages are sizing up, beets and Brussels sprouts will be a bit on the small size but still nice, Hakuri salad turnips will be amazing if I don’t eat them all myself. Lastly, the greens are all looking really nice and wow, are they sweet and tender. There are no vegetables like those grown in the cold. They are nothing that you can buy in a store, for any money.
We have been busy harvesting all of the storage crops over the last couple of weeks. Twenty thousand onions, fifteen thousand pounds of winter squash, ten thousand pounds of potatoes, ten thousand of carrots and five of sweet potatoes. With the Winter CSA, it all has to be picked at the beginning of the delivery season and stored. We probably picked more produce for the summer CSA but never all at once! All of the storage crops are looking great this year. Collectively, we call these things the “bottom of the box” because that’s where they end up. So far, the bottom of the box is shaping up nicely. The first box will be delivered at the end of next week and it is looking like a veggie bonanza. Onions, potatoes, butternut and buttercup squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, kale, collards, salad turnips, radishes, Swiss chard, sweet red peppers! and possibly the world’s sweetest carrots.
We plan to keep stuffing the boxes with as much veg as possible for as long as possible. There is lots of time for value added items from the kitchen when the cold really settles in but for the first few deliveries we will be harvesting the very finest of the cold weather crops and hoping that our members enjoy them as much as we do.