Persephone and Potatoes: Tilting Towards Winter on the Farm

Fall tends to be a time for high drama.  We neglect to check the weather for 18 hours, and the predicted low for Wednesday night has dropped by 12 degrees (cue a scramble to re-cover dozens of beds that had lost row cover in the last windstorm). Days swing between lows in the low 20s and highs in the high 60's, and what can seem like the frozen end of the world in the morning is, a few hours later, a glorious harvest day--one in which we are simultaneously excited and exhausted.  

People have been asking us for at least a month whether we are “winding down” or “starting to button things up” or “wrapping up for the season.”  Depending on the mood we are in, and the task we are in the middle of, people may have gotten a laugh, a long list of everything we are still harvesting, or a snappy “No!  We are still working just as hard as ever!”  It’s a bit of overreaction, in any direction.  Some of that comes from the funny seasonal tension of being tired enough to be ready, in some ways, for things to slow down, to be done whether we like it or not. But at the same time we want just a little more time, a little more nice weather, to have one more shot at a goal we set way back in the dark of last winter, or just one more round of greens and cabbages. I drained the irrigation pump this week, and pulled the intake valve from our little lateral ditch that has now dried up.  I felt a familiar both-and pang, as I was pulled between the sadness of already missing the burbling of that ditch and the possibilities it brings for watering, warming, and keeping our whole farm alive in an arid climate--but also feeling the relief of knowing that it would be months before I would again be racing back to the pump house to restart the pump after a blown gasket, puzzling over where a leak might be, or laying face-down on the plank above the ditch, shoulder-deep in cold water, clearing the intake screen.  If we believe social media, it seems that all the other farmers we know are neatly wrapping up their seasons: garlic is planted and mulched, cover crops are lush and established, interns have been sent off with farewell parties, and the farmers are enjoying their drink of choice with their feet propped up by the woodstove.  
We are sometimes still so young and bumbling as a farm, despite the fact that SweetRoot will soon turn four.  Here we are, just maybe getting to our garlic next week, finally making the call that a fall-seeded cover crop won’t establish in time to be worth the effort by next spring, scrambling to put our row cover back onto those greens for the fourth time after a windstorm, and trying to figure out how to contain the husky who can now break out of the barn by jimmying the cat door.  Getting our last market harvest in as the temperature drops below freezing, even though we don't have quite the multiple truckloads to bring in that we did in the peak of the late summer season.  

For a while this morning, when the turnip leaves were frozen solid even under their two layers of cover, it felt like the end of the world.  This is part of my personal fall melodrama, enacted several times each year with the first big freezes, and Noah was graceful enough to just wait patiently for it to pass.  Because in fact many of our little tender-looking greens are so much tougher than they seem.  They thawed out, we harvested, spread leaves, and moved chickens to a new field block where they are perhaps the happiest they've ever been.  

As we find our way through the ups and downs of the days, seasons, and yearly rounds, we are so grateful to have you all on the ride along with us.  Please come out and celebrate the end of another market season tomorrow  (Saturday) morning. Though things were frozen this morning, and though it is the last market of the year, we will be bringing a wild abundance and hope that's ready to eat.

We'll have more eggs than I think we have ever brought, and plenty of advice on how to use them in good combination with the mountains of potatoes, greens including salad mix, Asian mix, arugula, baby kale, and baby spinach.  Onions, garlic, sweet peppers, hot chilies, cilantro, the last tomatoes (including some harvested today), winter squash, beets, carrots, cabbage, salad turnips, and more will join us for this final Saturday morning market.  We hope we'll see you there. 

-Mary and Noah

p.s.  If market doesn't work for your Saturday, rest assured the farmstore will also be stocked all week!