Friday, October 21, 2011

The cleansing

A freeze is very much like a fire, agriculturally speaking, it cleanses the soil of shallow burrowing pests and microbes. A freeze tells the plants still left in the ground from spring and summer that it’s time to step aside a new season is coming. For someone who grows in the typical seasons of spring and summer a freeze means rest, it means an end to things. Hopefully the previous seasons have been good. For the crazy folk like me who grow in what might be considered the “off season” a freeze creates a certain anxiety and fear. Cold weather crops, what most know as early or spring crops are very hardy and don’t mind a frost, but the question remains on the front of the brain, what about a freeze?  In spite of being very familiar with the cold hardiness of such vegetables as beets, turnips, spinach, boc choi, rappini, chard, baby lettuce, kale and carrots I’m never really sure if this might be the killing kind, even though I know better.

Yesterday morning at 5am the weather reported 36 degrees at 7am it was 28, still amazing to me that temperatures can fall at sunrise. I stood in the field inspecting the frozen tall once luscious arugula that now resembled thin green shrivel sticks sticking up from the ground, and thought, is it possible this could turn bad and I could lose all of this?. One and a half rows of beets and two rows of turnips and one row of lettuce had a frost blanket, I wasn’t worried about them at all and I scolded myself for not covering the whole lot. I wasn’t worried that everything would die (well there was a little of that) I was more worried that the leaves of all the beautiful greens I’ve been babying for the last two months would have too much leaf damage from freezing and they would be unfit for the 65 CSA members I would be delivering to on Saturday.
Nothing left to do but wait for the thaw. I had to work in Stillwater so I headed out leaving my frozen vegetables in the field all by themselves without me looming over them wringing my hands together waiting to see my future.

The hour drive to Stillwater always proves to be a nice time for reflection. It took me half way between until I calmed down. I thought of the freeze being cleansing and that the chances of me loosing anything were at best slim but worst case scenario I could cook my way out of this. If I couldn’t provide my CSA members with vegetables I could provide them with prepared food, rustic breads, soups and casseroles. I have a feeling they would be just fine with that, and even though I know a CSA member is aware of the risks involved I’m they’re best bet of redeeming most if not every cent of their investment, no matter what the weather brings us. 

I arrived home at 3:30, walked out to the field to inspect only to find a garden untouched by the mornings drama. “What?” They seemed to say to me, “you thought we would leave you just like that?” ”where is your farmers’ optimism?” guys, it’s been a long hard summer I got used to expecting the worst.

Soon I was on my knees in the soft damp soil pulling up fat Tokyo turnips, soft delicious soul nurturing soil under my fingernails. Linda came home from work and we washed, bunched and packed them carefully in bins until dark. Our tired hands stiff with cold. It’s good to be back.

So to update you on the last post, the two greenhouses are up and planted thanks to the help of new friends who spent the entire day here seeing through to the end. It turned out to be such an amazing difficult endeavor caused by the slant, and overestimating my own ability. So grateful to have such people in my life. My only regret is that I didn’t ask for help sooner.  Farmers optimism often comes with farmers pride and fierce independence. Can be a character flaw left unchecked.  


Linda E. said...

Thanks for this update. I kept checking back to see if you had gotten it all done and I was worried! It is nice to think about the first freeze as the start of a new season, though far away. Better than thinking of it as the beginning of the cold and dark winter.

Teresa Burkett said...

Silly me, I never wondered what might happen in the event of an ice storm this year, so the frost didn't enter my mind. I will sure be thinking of you on these chilly mornings. Coming from a farming family, I kind of figured we just bet on the come and that if the winter was too much, well, that is just the chance we took. I am elated to think we might receive a few prepared items if the worst happened. Wow! That is real service, above and beyond expectations. Good for you to b so client oriented. Hope the weather stays lovely for quite a while longer. We are loving the bounty of your farm!