As fall is fully upon us, we’re finishing up the last two weeks of share distributions at the farm. This time of year we’re spending half our time harvesting, and the other half buttoning up for the winter. Our cover crops are all planted, and there are little rye seedlings just poking out of the soil. We’ve plowed the ground where garlic will be planted, to wait under the dirt blankets for spring, when the little garlic plants will be the first green things to emerge.
We’ve had pretty good luck with the weather recently, something I wasn’t prepared to ever say this year; since the spring was so cold and we had to delay the entire season by two weeks, I was a little nervous that the last few distributions would be freezing cold and miserable. Instead we’ve had a nice extended Indian Summer of an October, which has made things much more pleasant (with a couple exceptions; days when we needed to do jumping jacks in the field to get our fingers working again). The peppers are still producing, and even though we’ve had a few frosts, they were light enough that row cover kept the plants alive. Same story with the beans. It also hasn’t been cold enough to kill the lettuce, while all the fall greens like kale, spinach, arugula and mustard (which can all survive frost fine) are growing nicely.
There were some crops that did worse than I was hoping this fall, mostly due to unusual weather earlier in the season. The broccoli and cauliflower did ok, but yields were down from too much rain – stunting their growth – followed by unseasonably late heat, causing the cool-weather loving plants to produce heads early. The result was much smaller heads than usual, and earlier than planned on. The same thing happened to the cabbages… smaller heads mean that it takes a greater number of them to make a decent share, so we run out of them much sooner than planned. I planted enough extra that share sizes haven’t suffered too much, but it does mean that I don’t have enough surplus to offer the usual “Thanksgiving Share” that Mud Creek has had in the past. My hope is that our members understand what a tough year it’s been for every farmer in the area, and that moving to new land this year has made it even tougher for Mud Creek… all things considered, I think we did pretty well!
We have 2 weeks of shares left, and they should be pretty nice ones. We’ve saved lots of storage-friendly veggies for the end, in the hopes that they will last until everyone’s Thanksgiving feast. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I usually go home to Vermont for Thanksgiving with my family. My dad’s farm is the best place to eat… pretty much everything on the table comes from right outside, including the turnkey. Nothing tastes better than well grown food. When energy and thought don’t have to go into storing food and shipping it across the country, that energy can instead go into variety, quality, health, and taste. Everyone who’s ever joined my family for Thanksgiving has been amazed by the taste of the food, and I think they usually assume it’s the talent of the cooks, but it’s not that simple. I grew up eating my dad’s “experiments” for dinner. Sometimes they were good; often they were just weird. He’s come a very long way, and has definitely learned a lot about cooking since then, but honestly, Thanksgiving at my dad’s house is never a fancy affair… there’s turkey, peas, mashed potatoes… your usual stuff, no gourmet twists on stuffing or cranberry sauce. What tastes so amazing is the love and skill that went into the food when it was still growing in the garden, or eating bugs in the back yard. My dad starts cooking Thanksgiving dinner in January, when he orders from the seed catalog.
As a kid, I was always jealous of my classmates’ school lunches – peanut butter and fluff on white bread, fruit roll-ups, chocolate pudding. I was the weirdo with avocado and sprouts on sourdough rye. And although I was never a picky kid, and I actually really liked avocado, sprouts and sourdough rye, no one ever wanted to trade with me. Now I know I was lucky. I will forever be disappointed by salads in restaurants, and even the Wegman’s produce section will never have everything I’m looking for. Eating the way I grew up eating is one of the main reasons I run a CSA. I realize that very few people know what Thanksgiving can taste like when it’s grown in your back yard, because most people don’t have the back yard I did. Being a CSA means that I get to be my dad’s back yard for 400 families. My goal is that every year on our new land, I can make Mud Creek grow more and more of my community’s food. I want every one of my members to feel like they got to go to my dad’s house for Thanksgiving.