As a child summer was the season of play. Long days full of sun, birdsong, swimming holes, bike rides and trips to the shore. Summer also means thunder and lightning storms, which we used to watch from the back porch with my mom, waiting in wonder for the next flash that would light up the sky. Counting the beats in anticipation before the thunder shook the air.
No longer is it the season of play. Amidst the frenzy of planting, weeding, harvesting and marketing that makes up summer, rarely is a moment to be wasted on the farm. Storms simply mean shifting the work inside; catching up on greenhouse chores or paperwork, though it may also offer the chance to reflect, or at least reminisce. Lightning (and lightning bugs) brings to mind the shift from endless summer days filled with kickball and camping, to the long days of work: the many struggles and myriad pleasures of farming. The pride that is found in a healthy crop and the frustrations of aphids and flea beetles. A single, perfect cauliflower. Never enough hours in the day. The colors of rainbow chard. A well-weeded onion patch. Darn woodchucks! A customer who becomes a friend.
Despite the frantic pace, there's a peace and a comfort to be found among the plants and the insects of the farm, and a satisfaction in growing not only food, but a community which needs to be nurtured like any other living thing to survive. We can connect people not just to a head of lettuce, but to each other, to us, to the earth. To reestablish the knowledge of growing seasons and the wonder of nature that has created so many varieties of so many vegetables. The miracle of life and its mystery that science can't completely explain or capture. What makes a cabbage grow in such intricate layers, or a cauliflower form it's spiral pattern?
In this age of big business and instant gratification that often moves too fast, it's great to grow for people who understand and appreciate who we are as well as what we do. Who know that farming isn't solely about the vegetables you get at the end of the day, but also about maintaining sustainable relationships with the earth. Thank you for slowing down and taking this journey with us. --Marisa Miller
Every year fall sneaks up on me. I know it's coming, but somehow it seems to arrive quite suddenly; shocking me by plopping down, fully formed into my life. The end of one season marks the beginnings of another. And as far as the crops are concerned, there is a definite line in the proverbial sand between summer and fall, drawn by the hand of Jack Frost. The hot weather crops bow out at the freezing temperatures, leaving the way clear for their heartier cousins. The departure of tomatoes, basil, lettuce and their fair-weather friends is sad, but one can find solace in the arrival of the steadfast winter squashes, parsnips and celeriacs.
I look forward to this time of year only in part because it means the height of the season and its long hours is coming to a close. The biggest draw for me is the arrival of winter squash; that versatile, long-storing gem of winter. Even more than tomatoes (which is saying a lot) I look forward to that first taste of squash. By April, of course, it's a different story, but the beauty of eating foods in season is that no matter how gluttonous and over-indulgent you are during the season, there's always a dry spell to whet your appetite all over again so you're ready for them next season. For me, fall hasn't officially arrived until the squash has.
While I pay little or no attention to dates, I can tell where we are in the season by how many weeks of the CSA are left. But I think the first thing I always notice about the approach of fall is the change in light. The quality of light shifts, becoming golden, with softer edges than in summer. Great color with new shadows, because along with the hues, the angle of light has shifted too.
The air too takes on a different quality. Temperatures aside, the air gains an edge; a crispness that no other season has, like an apple at its peak of ripeness. The wind picks up, carrying with it that smell of cooler weather to come. Cool, sunny days with a look, a feel and a smell all their own.
Here these changes are accompanied by the changing color of the leaves and the flocks of Canadian geese that go honking by overhead in their "V" formations, wisely heading far from the country whose name they bear, before it becomes a frozen winterland. I'm no bird expert, but even I recognize that sound, burned into my consciousness as it is from childhood.
Sadly, fall also indicates a shortening of days, a shift that always seems to start suddenly and progress quickly once begun. While the shorter daylight means shorter workdays it also gets harder to get out of bed in the morning when the alarm goes off and it's still dark outside; a situation not specific to farming, I'm sure. Along with the shortened daylight hours comes an often dramatic difference in temperatures between night and day, and also between sun and shade. The question of when the first hard frost will come to wipe out the summer crops is there, just waiting for an answer.
All these conditions combine to shift the focus of the farmer. The transplanting and weeding are done, as is much of the regular harvesting. Storage crops are the mainstay, and some hearty greens. The storage crops need to be brought in, cleaned or dried and properly stored. We’re cleaning out greenhouses, putting equipment in storage, mulching perennial beds and planting winter cover crops. This time of year makes me more aware of the cycle that is farming. The work is never done, but the pace is less frantic. Thank goodness for fall. --Marisa Miller