Week 18 (Chicago Week 16)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Tomatoes
  • Lacinato kale
  • Chioggia beets
  • Dragon Tongue beans
  • Little potatoes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spicy greens mix
  • Butterhead lettuce
  • Lettuce mix
  • Sorrel
  • Bell peppers
  • Hot pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic

Of frost, plants & change in Earth’s garden and life

A garden’s lifespan mirrors its human protectors. Seed, birth, growth, fruition, maturity, aging, death.

It all happens so beautifully, miraculously, quickly. It’s all done too soon.

A fire warmed our farmhouse for the first time this fall. Sweaters warmed tanned arms accustomed to sunshine in garden and field. Roxanne, Dewey, Bertha scrambled to the squeaks of mice abandoning harvested grain fields. Old Boots warmed himself on a couch by that fire.

We gathered about a wonderful garden salad and homemade veggie pizzas. Warmth of kitchen and food, helped feed fond, and not-so-fond, memories.

So many years, Dela, the children, volunteers, interns, subscribers and I scurried about the gardens in early- or mid-September, striving often in vain to cover plants against threat of first frost. To a casual observer, we may have seemed strange organic versions of Keystone Kops.

Climate change has surely affected our gardens and fields here in southern Wisconsin. Temperatures have become extremely variable and even more unpredictable than any of us can recall. A forecast of 39 this Friday night is worrisome, but it’s the first time this fall we’ve felt this fear grip our souls.

What was normal for most of 21 years at Scotch Hill, was a series of frostings, increasingly more pervasive across our plantings, increasingly more killing. Too many times by the 17th week in 20 weeks of deliveries, we’d already experienced a killing frost.

A warm spell often followed that. It made us harvest and meet promised shares in view of blocks of blackened, withering plants turned in a single night to goo by a blanket of freezing, glistening moisture.

Dela and I always grieved hard when those frosts took our plants, our garden babies and children, turned too soon old, turned under. A season of our lives as farmers, repeated over and over heightened our sensitivities to lives of friends and family. It’s a hard way to become aware of life’s brevity, to learn what really matters.

Around the kitchen table Wednesday night, talk turned from frosty memories to harvest parties, Monty Python, inane philosophical questions that jollied up early evening and got us laughing good-naturedly.

So much we’ve enjoyed with Jim leading production this season and Jenna sharing in a full season on break from UW Madison, is drawing to a close. Join us for one last celebration of good food and community on October 10th from 11:00 to 3:00, and bring a dish to share in a potluck lunch on the farm.

Our last two weeks of this season, and the month before fall share deliveries in November, Dela and I especially would welcome your company, conversation and laughter. You might even help us cover a few plants before frost.

This week, I started a new job, as editor of the local weekly newspaper, the Independent Register. Anyone should be able to read some of what I report and write for them each week at the paper’s website. Please send us an email at least a day or two in advance of your visit to Scotch Hill, so we can ensure we’re both here to share your farm experience. I can try to work around off-farm work if you give us a little notice.

Please share our fall share invitation with neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers. We’re still way behind what we need to sustain our farm into winter. Your endorsement is virtually our only way of recruiting new subscribers.

And never forget the brevity of life. Learn from our plants to cherish every moment with those you love. It’s all done too soon.