|The Alleged Farm News – 26 September, 2013|
This weeks share: Beans, Carrots, Garlic, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Onions, Peppers, Hot Peppers Potatoes, Squash, Tomatoes,
I am not sure I have ever written something directly positive about the weather before. Sure, I have offered the occasional grudging admission that the weather could have been worse. But that usually just meant that even with the flash floods and hail and gale force winds, at least we did not have a tornado. That hardly counts as a compliment. But it would be small-minded of me, despite our troubled past, to fail to acknowledge what a bang up job the weather has done these past few weeks.
I cannot claim to understand what the weather is up to. It may well have some deeper nefarious purpose I am not privileged to understand yet. There is certainly a good chance we will pay for this somehow, some day. Or maybe we already did. Perhaps the weather actually feels a tinge of guilt about what it did to us at the beginning of the summer, sees now that it got carried away, and is offering up these glorious fall days as a peace offering.
Vegetable notes: You have two kinds of garlic this week. The larger, white head is German Porcelain. It is cold hardy and generally reliable. It has been our main variety for at least five years (our only variety for some of those).Its main drawback is that it usually only produces four or five cloves per head. That is fine if you want to use a lot of garlic, but less useful when you don’t, and it means we need to use more heads to get enough cloves to plant the patch for the next season. The smaller head of garlic is a purple variety we grew for the first time this year. It made it through the winter fine, but did not size up nearly as well as the German Porcelain. However, it produces a lot more cloves per head. I have set aside the largest heads for seed in the hope that I can increase the size of next years crop, but I need to decide just how much of this purple garlic I want to plant. You can help me with that. Compare the two varieties and let me know if you prefer one of the other. The best way to do this, of course, is to try them side by side raw. This will allow you to fully compare and appreciate their particular qualities. After that, you could roast a clove of each (you can roast them, unpeeled, in a dry skillet over a medium flame for about 15 minutes) to see what elements cooking brings out in each. And then you could use them in various dishes to see how they go with other flavors. In a roasted tomato, hot pepper salsa for instance. Or in pureed carrots with ginger, cumin and vinegar. Or on steamed beans with butter. Of course, once you have done the first part of this taste test, eating the garlic raw, everything you eat for several days will just taste like raw garlic, so the rest of the test–and those several days–may be slightly compromised. But you have to make some sacrifices for science. And if you start to get really tired of that garlic taste in your mouth you can just eat one of the hot peppers straight and burn it right out.
Though why the weather would suddenly feel the need to make peace with us I don’t know. Perhaps, unlike the Republican Party, it has come to accept that we can actually affect it as profoundly as it can affect us and is seeking detente before it is too late. We should be so lucky. Or maybe like some Hollywood character, it has always had a core of decency. It has just been misunderstood, hidden its better impulses behind a show of toughness because it fears intimacy or wanted to fit in with the bad boys or maybe it just had a rough childhood. Or else it is just on vacation, worn out by all that hard work making our lives miserable, and its soft-hearted cousin is filling in for a while.
As always, it is almost certainly best, however, not to ask too many questions. The weather does not appreciate interrogation, and you don’t really want to irritate the weather. Maybe the weather has provided all this warmth and sunshine as a gesture of good will. Maybe it is setting us up. But right now, who cares. This is the best autumn we have had for years, and autumn is the best season by far. Spring has its moment. It also has its mud. Winter offers some compensation–those perfectly clear cold days, the way the snow and bare trees transform the landscape, the sun shining on an icy forest–but not nearly enough. And summer just makes the weeds grow.
Autumn is a particularly good season to be a farmer. The temperature is amenable to outdoor work. The scenery is lovely. You have a huge array of crops available for harvest, and with the cool nights they are far more willing to wait for you to pick them. The seeding and transplanting is all done. I sowed the last bit of arugula, dill and radishes a couple of weeks ago. There’s a lot less to weed. We have cleared out the onion and winter squash patches and seeded them with winter rye. Most of the summer squash rows have been plowed and prepared for garlic. The kale is mulched. The carrot rows are clean. And what weeds are left grow much slower now, removing the sense of fighting a hopeless defensive war that engulfs one in late July. The flea beetles have gone. I don’t know where they go. I wish they would just stay wherever it is. They won’t. But for now we can grow things like radishes and arugula without having to seal them tightly beneath bug mesh. The only really destructive pests left on the farm are the deer, who by this point in the year are willing to eat almost any crop, and a woodchuck that set up house in the pumpkin patch.
Even with all those advantages, autumn can be made miserable by the weather when it chooses. If it rains enough this late in the year the ground never really dries up. The sun’s too weak, the temperature too low. You can spend weeks slogging through cold mud, waiting each morning for the crops to thaw, the wind-driven sleet soaking right through your clothes and carrying off all warmth until fingers stop working and the water from the hose feels soothingly warm. It’s hard to appreciate the folliage–if any leaves have managed to cling to the trees–when you can’t stop shivering.
And for most of the past ten or so autumns, the weather has indeed chosen to taken away the joy. It feels like you are being cheated. You have done all that work for all those months so that you can enjoy wandering around the neat fields bathed in cool sunshine, picking this or that, pausing to stare at the hillsides, watch the skeins of geese honk past, listen to bees buzzing round the hedgerow asters, or just daydream. It is your chance to slow down a bit and enjoy working on a farm. Who would begrudge you that? Apparently, many years the weather would. But not this year, at least not yet. So we are making the most of it, daydreaming as much as possible.
Annual Pie Contest, Open House and Potato Harvest