One Last Round of Friday Night Lights

The garlic is safely in and mulched. Of all the things on the list, we agreed that this was the most important.

The garlic is safely in and mulched. Of all the things on the list, we agreed that this was the most important.

A few weeks ago, relishing the way our schedule opened up with the end of markets and regular wholesale harvests, I made the bold statement that the switch from daylight savings time was a good chance to transition to a more sane work schedule.  I would no longer, I declared, be working by headlamp. It was fall, it was time to slow down, appreciate the seasonal changes, embrace the dark, be warm and cozy, etc., etc., etc..   That lasted about a day and a half. Two weeks into it, my headlamp is on even as I sit at the desk to write our newsletter, and I can hear Noah cutting metal by headlamp and work light out by the yurt (a final step in yurt platform beautification and wind-blocking).  It sounds contrary to my earlier declarations, but this week I have enjoyed a quiet, starry night harvesting radishes by headlamp, smelling the blessedly warm breeze coming into to give us one last shot at all the things that have to happen before freeze-up.  I've washed and bagged carrots by headlamp, and just tonight, bulk-harvesting the very last of the final bed of beets, I was struck into stillness by the beauty of a shiny rosette of beet leaves in the headlamp glow.  It's fall, but it's not over yet.  Tonight was, though, our final late-night headlamp harvest. We'll likely see single digit temperatures this weekend, so getting final rounds of greens and roots out of the field before the deep cold, and ready for your holiday meal required a little extra illumination.  

Balance, counterbalance, and stretch to capacity. Fall has something in common with unloading a borrowed auger. Mary steadies the bit as Noah lifts the auger out of the Stanley's truck with the tractor. We got our full value out of the 1950's auger we bought used last year, but had to admit we had finally worn it out. With a few more holes to dig, farm friends came to the rescue with the loan (again) of theirs. Thank you!

Balance, counterbalance, and stretch to capacity. Fall has something in common with unloading a borrowed auger. Mary steadies the bit as Noah lifts the auger out of the Stanley's truck with the tractor. We got our full value out of the 1950's auger we bought used last year, but had to admit we had finally worn it out. With a few more holes to dig, farm friends came to the rescue with the loan (again) of theirs. Thank you!

It's been a wild week, the double-deadlines of Thanksgiving and the ground freezing solid.  We had a scare earlier in the week when temperatures dipped near 10 degrees, and the top few inches of soil froze.  We worried we could be sunk; there were still holes to dig, fields to clean up, and 100 pounds of seed garlic to split and plant. The urgency of freeze-up as a deadline is real; we've been caught out before, assuming there would be one more thaw, and ended up with row cover and field gear frozen to the ground till March. We're always late on planting our garlic, but we've always made it....so far.  Our sense of urgency was heightened this year by news from a friend in Wisconsin who missed his window when their weather turned suddenly, and was left with only the option of planting it into his high tunnel.  The amount of garlic we plant would fill 2 out of our 3 high tunnels, and where would that leave the early season greens, the cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes?  We fretted, and watched the forecast, ready to pounce on two days in the 40's, to tackle all the things.  

And there were a lot of things.  So many that neither of us can clearly remember the beginning of the week....just flashes of a snowy harvest on Saturday, juggling heaters and temperature controllers into various spaces to prevent frozen produce on Sunday and Monday, a giant shuffle of winter squash, a big shift picking up and putting away wire hoops and sandbags and row cover.  A second move of chickens in one week, to prepare more gardens to put to bed.  Many rounds with the manure spreader full of leaves (then taking it to the welder across town for some repairs). Covering the garlic beds with row cover to help them not freeze deeper--it worked, they thawed completely and beautifully by Thursday. Harvesting out beds of radishes, beds of carrots, beds of beets, beds of greens. 

When a warm-up isn't guaranteed, you dig the carrots before the ground freezes any deeper. And sometimes you find secret carrot islands, the tip of the soil-iceberg. We're grateful for our tractor and under cutter bar this week, as the two of us harvested our last two beds of carrots in one afternoon, rather enjoying each other's company. With forks alone, that might not have been the case.

When a warm-up isn't guaranteed, you dig the carrots before the ground freezes any deeper. And sometimes you find secret carrot islands, the tip of the soil-iceberg. We're grateful for our tractor and under cutter bar this week, as the two of us harvested our last two beds of carrots in one afternoon, rather enjoying each other's company. With forks alone, that might not have been the case.

Cracking seed garlic to plant requires hours of time on a repetitive, not mentally tasking job.  It's the moment that, annually, we remember that there are movies and shows that we can watch, streaming through our laptop; and then immediately also remember we are out of practice at watching, and overwhelmed by the choices.  We swung far in both directions....first a thought-provoking and sobering documentary, then a suspenseful series that suckered us into staying up cracking garlic by the barn woodstove till 1:00 am two nights in a row.  We may all have an Amazon prime original series to thank for that sixth bed of garlic, since we had a bit more garlic separated than we'd thought. 

At more than one point, checking in as we crossed paths in different rushes, I could tell Noah had been downing spoonfuls of peanut butter. We needed the fuel. We didn't get it all done, everything from the list.  But we got a lot done--and enough that there are plenty of things in the farmstore for you, enough to be able to clean up the rest of the field on Saturday.  Enough that we're pretty much guaranteed to be back at it again next year. 

What many people don't realize is that all of next year's growing starts now.  The garlic is the most obvious, the crop we plant as the last thing in the fall, the first thing that will show its green next year.  Garlic ties one season to the next, but so much of what we're doing now is about the next year.  We suffered this spring from quack grass and other weeds, when last fall we couldn't get to that critical field prep around so much building.  Slowly, slowly, we get a little bit smarter and better prepared each year.  But the building that fall was also worth it; with that cozy yurt to return to, to make real meals in, between the peanut butter and apple binges, we're reminded every day of the support of our entire community, that keeps this farm going.  As we had towards Thanksgiving, one of our favorite holidays, we'll take a little time to turn off the headlamps, embrace the dark and the season change and the coziness.  And we'll be grateful for all of you.  We'll also eat something other than peanut butter, we promise.