Last week’s winds brought the first forays of winter into our land. We soaked in the wood-fired “hillbilly hot tubs” (old cast iron clawfoot tubs straddling fire pits, cannibal-stew style) as the sun set – these, together with our old iron stove did a wonderful job keeping us snug and toasty through the nights, but the crops in the field had no such luxury to keep the chill at bay.
On Friday night, the weatherpeeps predicted lows in our area to dip to 34 degrees just before dawn’s rays thawed things out – a light frost, perhaps, but still potentially lethal.
We busted out every old bedsheet, bucket, and scrap of row cover in an effort to protect the sensitive crops – but supply was dwarfed by demand, and many crops were left to fend for themselves.
Fortunately, we did get most of the most important and sensitive plants under cover. Unfortunately, the cold was quite a bit worse than predicted – the game camera we set up (it includes a temperature reading with each image it takes) showed the low drop quickly to 32 degrees before midnight, and stay down there until morning.
In the morning, a thick fog lifted only gradually, revealing a rime of white across every surface of the field.
As the sun’s rays weakly pushed through the fog and touched the crops, we could hear the crackle of thawing leaves all around us.
It was beautiful, bringing up conflicting emotions – excitement at the turning of a page, sadness at the death of plants that we’d worked so hard to nurture from seedlings all season long.
As it turned out, many plants survived – more than we thought would, given the extended cold and icy coating.
Fatalities included mostly plants that were pretty much done for the season, or plants that had just managed to finished putting out their long-season fruits anyway – cucumber, zucchini, basil, okra, squash, and melons all succumbed.
Other plants were merely wounded – topmost leaves blackened, margins cold-scorched – but still carrying on to live for whatever little bit longer the whims of weather permitted.
As our work in the field slowed, our efforts off-field intensified. We shelled dried beans, pickled water melon rinds, prepared medicinal herbal tinctures of yarrow, prickly ash, and wormwood, and infused oil with callengula & plantains.
We harvested apples & Japanese pie pumpkins, and took down a couple more standing dead oaks – adding their bark and rotten bits to the growing Hugelkultur mound, and their solid limbs and trunks to the firewood pile.
We planted two new apple trees and fenced them off from the reach of ravenous deer, and added interior bracing to the hoop greenhouse, so the heavy snows of winter cannot crush it.
Anticipating the approach of the season’s end goes hand in hand with retrospection – looking back at the time we’ve spent here so far, having left behind our city lives, salaried stability, and civilized comforts … and appreciating just how fucking lucky we are. How amazing it is that we have this opportunity to seize, this experience to live, this adventure to enjoy.
This has been, without any doubt, the best year of both of our lives.
Thank you again for being a part of it.
the Weekly Box
Christmas Melons – these dark green, leathery-ridged fruits are also known as “Santa Clause melons,” because they’re storage melons traditionally said to last until Christmas. We wouldn’t bank on them lasting quite that long though. Enjoy their firm, smoother-than-cantalope flesh … we like them quite a bit, and are definitely planning to grow them again (thanks for the tip, shareholder Amy!)
Gourds – all of the gourds this week came from one sprawling monster plant. More gourds in other shapes, colors and sizes will be coming in future boxes, to add to your autumnal collection! (we think there should be at least 2 more weeks to go before the frost puts an end to all this)
Spaghetti squash – the last for the season. The mottled appearance some have on one side was from Friday’s frost – this won’t affect the flesh, but may mean they won’t keep for much more than a couple of weeks.
Kale (Dino, Dwarf Curly Blue, & Red Russian mix) – kale is said to be tastier after it undergoes a frost, see if you can taste the difference.
Also – do you know about massaging kale? It’s a thing. Basically you beat up the leaves a bit before you use it, to reduce the strong and almost bitter taste of the raw leaves.
Fennel, bagged with:
Lemon balm &
Spearmint– both can be dried for tea, or used in any if dozens of creative ways … ie: