Week 18 (Chicago Week 16)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Delicata fall squash
  • Arugula
  • Radish OR turnips
  • The biggest gold beets we’ve ever grown
  • Bok choi
  • Beans
  • Roasting peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Chard
  • Sorrel
  • Tomato
  • Gift of cheese from our farm’s goat milk

A subscriber who hosts delivery of our vegetables with his family at their home in Madison joined me for a day of volunteer work, mostly in one of the fields we rent.

I mowed withered melon vines with the tractor and rotary mower. We removed black plastic mulch and rolled up the drip tape irrigation from work completed back in April and May. We dug out radishes with garden forks and combed ground now overgrown with grasses and weeds for the last of the fall squash.

We had a little lunch together and weeded spinach. When Mark drove off from the farm to see his son play soccer, I went back to the field where we’d worked to disk in the mowed ground and prepare sections for planting winter rye.

Riding back and forth over this ground, I felt as if in a dream. Within minutes, the overgrown foot paths, beds and mowed vegetation had vanished back into the dark soil. Food now for the microbiotic life, the organic matter disappeared into the soil in the wake of the turning coulters of the 9-foot disk.

I felt a loss of life from 7 months of time and familiarity spent within this space. In my memory, I saw Dela, friends, Elise, myself interacting with the plants. I remembered walking, stretching, kneeling, squatting, tending, harvesting, mowing, weeding (especially, mowing and weeding) – up and down the plant rows.

Bare ground, then lines in the dirt from the Earthway Seeder, flanked by chips of mulch from hundreds of bales I opened and laid out for picking paths. Then the first signs of plants, pushing up into our world. Then beautiful, lush plants, yielding long in the frequent, recurring rain. Finally, withering, fading plants succumbing to the life cycle, and bare ground again, waiting for cover crop seed. It all happens so quickly, transformations unfolding and taking place across a vegetable crop season of growth, life and death.

Our work is a metaphor for human life. As long as I perform its tasks, I shall never lose sight of how precious few growing seasons a human being has entrusted to his or her family and community, to hands and heart.

We have two more weeks of harvest and vegetable delivery. We’ll cover fall plantings with protective plastic against the coming, inevitable frost during this time. This week, I managed to get one small hoop house covered, working alone during a few precious hours of calm and stillness that broke the winds of autumn.

I’m holding my breath in hopes this freedom from frost holds out long enough to permit covering our 92-foot high tunnel with plastic. Yet we’ve started warming the farmhouse at night with a wood fire as temperatures dip into the 40s. If you’d like to help with fall chores in garden or field, your visit is surely welcome. We converse as we work and get to know one another.

No one has contacted us about house sitting a week or a few days in mid-October. Let us know of availability or interest. Having someone reliable here, exercising the puppies and tending the chickens will give us peace of mind over a week we want to travel to see family in North Carolina.

A handful of folks signed up in the past week for the two deliveries of our fall share in early and late November. It helped bring us about halfway to our 45-share goal. Thank you. Please get your subscription and payment to us as soon as possible if you still intend to sign up.

Our fall share volume is about 1.5 bushels (two very full brown paper grocery sacks in each of two deliveries), and the price is a little less than I’ve seen Chicago area growers advertising for a single bushel of fall produce. It will make a growing season linger into holiday meals. It will help you savor a little longer all we’ve done together at Scotch Hill Farm.