Autumn tasks and thoughts follow our most challenging year on farm
Fall days find us working into the dark to get fields finished before it turns damp, rainy and cold. I scurry from field to field, disking ground to plant winter wheat, trying to get a last cutting of hay, baling corn and sunflower stalks/foxtail and lamb’s quarter as winter bedding for livestock stalls. I stopped by one field twice between these fall chores to look in vain for fall squash. Back in June, I spent about 10 days preparing and planting this field. I went from side to side of this long rectangle with a three-row planting unit and small diesel tractor, planting at least 10 varieties of fall squash. I “hid” the Carnival, Butternut, Dellicota, Acorn, Blue Hubbard, and other squash varieties from insects by interspersing the squash plantings of many varieties of dried beans. I did not suspect as I did all this work back in June that there would be not a drop of rain for two months and that all this seed would sit waiting to germinate when it needed as much as 4 months to mature and yield. Successive dry spells over the late summer and then early frost killed off many of the vines even as they tried late to flower and grow squashes for us. Some varieties, like New England Pie Pumpkin, I could find no more than one squash in the entire planting. Subscribers with us last year will recall getting multiple varieties of fall squash from us. On my trip to the squash planting this week, I remembered returning home with loads of squash each time I walked last year’s plantings. For a moment in the huge field filled now only with tall grasses and dead squash vines, a sob rose up in my heart and out of my mouth. My eyes fell on an Amish neighbor across the road, and I stifled the cry. What would she think of a grown man nearly 60 years old, crying over lost squash? Farming is about death, however, as much as it is about life. Favorite does and ewes die. A skunk or raccoon under cover of night kills a hen. A cold snap kills a baby chick. Plagues of insects descend upon our fragile vegetable plants. We take our vocation, our mission as farmers, from the Old Testament commandment to “till and keep,” serve and protect the fertile soil of Adamah. Yet it means at times dealing with death, facing an inevitable eventuality for all of life. What lesson is there for us in this? Will we learn it before death takes us, too? This weekend –It’s a party! Come late afternoon or early evening to share some of our lamb-pork bratts, good conversation and common enthusiasm for surviving the 2012 drought. Bring a salad or treat to share. Stay late for a bonfire or camp out. Of course, we’ll be working here earlier in the day. Volunteer to join is if you like. Post harvest handling tip Any root item we give you (turnips, carrots, beets, etc.) may go limp waiting for you for very long out of water. You can firm them back up by hydrating them a little in some shallow water.
This Week’s Vegetables greatly exceed the 8 to 10 varieties we promised, including:
- Spicy Greens Mix
- Sweet potatoes
- Bright Lights Chard
- Summer Squash
- Bok choi
- Peppers (you can slice them and put them in freezer bags to use this winter without blanching them OR you can ferment them in salt and water brine over night, add vinegar and can or refrigerate)
Photos of this share help you identify each variety and can be found by the website or Facebook
Cooking Tip for the Week
Dela’s Cooked Collards or Greens: Brown several chopped cloves of garlic in ¼ c olive oil OR bacon fat in a skillet. Add chopped greens (collards, mustard, turnip, cabbage, spicy greens mix). Cook over medium heat (with ½ cup water for collards this is essential, but not necessary for other greens). Add an equal amount of vinegar and honey, sugar or molasses. Cook until tender. Add salt, pepper, spices and herbs to taste.