Sunday, September 23, 2012

More Than Just Frost....

Another bucket load to unload at the garage!
With just a touch of Mother Nature's hand, the growing season is largely done for us!  Friday night was not just frost, or even hard frost: Friday's night's temperatures went well below the freezing mark.  Our thermometer read -7 C (about 18 F) at 6 AM Saturday morning.  Vegetables are done growing for this year!  There had been hope for the summer squash and cucumbers after the touch of frost last week: the tops had been touched but the inner plant was okay and they had started to flower again and had some new growth.  Now, all hope is gone and the plants are all blackened, collapsed heaps, almost unrecognizable.

We had some warning in the weather forecast - although it did get even colder than predicted!  Thursday was CSA day for us so we were busy harvesting for our families, but taking a little extra of everything when we could.  Friday was all-out last-chance harvesting.  Where do you start when it might be your last chance to harvest?  Well, first you prioritize:  anything in the ground like potatoes and beets will be fine.  Then you look at the economic value of our products and those products in demand.  For us, priorities were winter squash and tomatoes.  Everyone is tired of summer squash: they've sauteed, muffined, loaved and frozen to the max!  Winter squash, from pumpkins to Kabocha to Delicata, that's what customers and CSA families are looking for now.  And tomatoes - well, you can never have enough!  Lots of customers are still looking for good paste or plum tomatoes for canning sauces and salsas!
The tomato plants are just crispy now!

So, Friday morning right after milking, the harvesting frenzy began.  I set to work on tomatoes, Farmer Man to winter squash.  Farmer Man definitely had the harder task (as is also so!), because he was cutting squash, filling the tractor bucket, unloading at the garage and doing it all again.  That included twenty pound carving pumpkins, fifteen pound Marina di Chioggia, heavy Australian Blue pumpkins, ten pound Red Kuri and numerous five to ten pounders of everything else.  We briefly considered not attending the Global Market, to get in as much as we could.  We decided we could get enough done, and still be there to sell as expected - just a wee bit more disorganized then usually.  I set to work in the tomatoes, starting with the Romas, Margeritas and Opalkas, using a three bucket system: ripe, almost ripe and green.  We both left lots of small, under ripe product in the field - just not worth our time and space!

Fortunately, Henry and Derrick came to help and got right to work in the tomatoes with me.  We worked feverishly all morning.  About 1:30 we stopped to prepare for the market.  Fortunately, much was at hand and we knew how much we needed to prepare.  Potatoes were already curing in the garage, getting ready for winter storage in the root cellar.  Farmer Man bagged potatoes, I portioned tomatoes, we both weighed and labelled winter squash.  Off to Global Market for me, Farmer Man returned to the farm to keep harvesting!

Basil in the hoop house is largely okay,
except for a little patch right by the wall.
I must admit, even with the knowledge I had, I was not fully prepared for the temperature drop at the market Friday night.  I was freezing, just freezing by the time Farmer Man came to pick me up!  I had big plans to keep harvesting, but after milking the goats, I was assured that there was not much more to do except cover excess squash that was on tables outside the garage.  Up early Saturday morning to prepare for market and we could see the damage had been done!  Prepping for the Global Market Saturday morning was quite easy because everything was right at hand!  A peak in the hoop house, and everything there seemed largely okay!

Even though the 'growing' season may be finished, the work is not done by any means.  There are still potatoes and beets to take up.  Garlic still has to be planted.  Stakes and cages have to be removed from tomatoes, assorted other tags, fencing and such has to be picked up.  We'll leave a lot of plants in the ground, as is, for winter, to help capture snow and decrease soil erosion.  And maybe, just maybe, our late planting of lettuce will still grow and we'll have a fresh salad in a couple of weeks!

1 comment:

  1. I heard about the sudden dip in temperatures there but had no idea how severe it was. What a crazy day that must have been for you. We are getting heavier and heavier dew each morning here, sure to be frost soon so I'll be picking the last tomatoes and gathering basil and other assorted bits this week. Sad to see the fresh produce come to an end but it'll be nice to have a rest after a long summer.