Now What?

November 29 2009

The night after Thanksgiving, we drove through snow coming back from visiting a farm near Windham. Then 60-mile-an-hour gusts tore the plastic sheeting from our low tunnels, again, and I spent an hour in sleet trying to get them well enough rearranged to keep our turnips and mache and carrots warm during the night’s freeze. The job of stretching taut 50 feet of plastic isn’t made any easier by the mud as slick as motor oil that’s welled up around every bed. It’s a lot of cold and dirty work keeping a small stand of hardy greens alive–with no greater purpose, it seems, than to see how long we can do it.

Here’s what we’ve nurtured through a month of ice and winds: lettuce (Parris Island Romaine, Speckles Butterhead, Wonder of Four Seasons), spinach, radishes (french breakfast and red beauties), sorrel, mache, white turnips, mizuna, cabbage, collards, Red Winter kale, carrots (carnival & chantenay), and arugula. It’s a great feeling to roll back a row cover crackling with frost and find a row of tender greens growing as though it were April in the Smokies rather than Thanksgiving in the Catskills, but I’m beginning to think that it’s that feeling, rather than the produce, that we’re cultivating–and that maybe it’s time to harvest it. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep these beds going. That’s time and energy we could be using to set up for spring.

At some point, I guess, we’re going to have to admit that we’re not yet Eliot Coleman, and that this year is over. There’s lots to do and plan for next year. We’ve already put in hard-neck garlic to overwinter, and some of our beds are dormant under a thick layer of straw and grass clippings. There are seeds to order and produce boxes to build and rotations to plan and a new field to start preparing.

Krissy, who keeps these gardens going, will be attending the Young Farmer’s Conference at Stone Barns Center this week–keep an eye out for her if you happen to be attending.

Cold Weather

November 06 2009

We’re having the best streak of growing we’ve had all year, even with night-time temperatures dropping well below freezing and cold winds shredding any bit of row cover we leave unsecured. Most of the trees around the farm have dropped their last leaves, but inside our tunnels the mizuna and peas and broccoli rabe seem to think they’re on spring break, growing wild and easy with virtually no pests around to hold them back.


We brought a sizable load of our covered crops down for the benefit dinner we held in early November to raise money for the Automotive High School–radicchio, half a dozen lettuces, baby turnip greens, collards, and carrots. We’d thought that event might be the garden’s last hurrah, but even after picking heavily for that dinner we have a lot left, and it’s still going strong. We’ll be bringing things back for at least a few more weeks at least.

Carrots grown almost entirely under cover