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.