September 24, 2004

Roast 'em if you like 'em

0925_1.jpgI keep missing the turkeys. Frequently, Lorenz comments that there were all these wild turkeys in the fields, but I never see them. Today, same thing. I went and hunted where they were last seen. No turkeys. Then, Lorenz claimed that he *just* saw them there - no, there! way over there! under that tree in the next field! And, like the gullible troll that I am, I trundled on over to that tree way over there, far away. No turkeys, even though I was walking slowly and quietly, as advised by Lorenz. As I squatted in the tree line, thinking that clearly I can't be stealthy, it dawned on me that the only turkey in the fields was me. Lorenz had himself a good laugh and made like a turkey himself, and then was dismayed to discover that a digital SLR camera is a hell of a lot faster than the usual delayed reaction point and shoot. So, we shall call this picture of Lorenz "Greenfields Gobbler". Harumph. Maybe I'll feel less disgrunteld if I also upload the little strip of pictures we can call "Lorenz Pontificates", taken in the kitchen. Only one way to find out.

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Yep, I feel better.

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0925_10.jpgIt's tricky, trying to keep up with everything right now. I could get up early and go up to the fields, to see them do the morning harvest. Later, I could find them weeding, or the see the irrigation going, or harvesting something that you can do later in the day (like, say, pumpkins). If I'm really lucky, I might show up just as Sean decides to check if the cantaloupes that are still on the vines that died are tasty all the same, and then there is melon slurping. There's been so much to do lately that Justin and Sean have been supplemented with Simon and Jen for an expanded field crew.

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Or I could see Lorenz working away on preparing a seedbed for next year, like he has been with the front field (that's the greensand spreading activity in action, there. After that, he picked some stones. Then he spread some manure. Then that gets incorporated. And then some other manure needs to be moved from the pile to the windrow, to ensure a supply of well-rotted manure near where it will be needed next year).

The operation isn't just about growing and selling at farmers' markets. I've often neglected talking about "post-harvest handling", which is farm jargon for what you do with the stuff from the time you get it out of the fields to the time you sell it at farmers' markets, the roadside stand, or to wholesalers (or until the Red Barn Troll steals it, but really, what would you do if you walked past flats of perfectly ripe and wonderful tomatoes every time you left your apartment?)

0925_15.jpg0925_16.jpgPost-harvest handling varies from crop to crop. Some things, like winter squash, don't require washing so they get packaged in vegetable boxes in the field. Most stuff, though, has to be washed, and that means it goes down to the red barn where it gets plunged into tubs of cold water. The cold water serves two purposes: it starts the cleaning process (though mostly that is done with water pressure) and it removes "field heat". Field heat is the residual heat in a crop, and you don't want it - the longer some vegetables stay warm after you pick them, the faster they will spoil. If you do a sink full of carrots, the water actually gets quite warm. Things that need to be plunged and washed include carrots, beets, rutabagas and most greens. They are already bunched when they are washed, since it is much more efficient to make the bunches up in the field when you harvest.

0925_14.jpgOf course, there are plenty of things that just need packing - like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, tomatillos, and zucchini. Those are the things that are stored at room temperature until they are taken to harvest (everybody knows that it is a very bad thing to put a tomato into the refrigerator, but do you also know that summer squash are happier outside it?). Then there are things that need to cure, like onions and garlic - so once they've dried out a bit, you trim the roots and greens and take the dirty outer layers off.

0925_17.jpg0925_18.jpgThere is lots of cold storage, since Lorenz has two walk-in coolers. One of them only runs at this time of year, though, since the big walk-in in the red barn is usually enough. There is also dry storage, in a separate room in the red barn (in winter, this is kept just above freezing with a space heater). And the greenhouse is a form of storage too, I guess: right now, that's where the onions and garlic are, and in winter rosemary plants get dug into the ground in the greenhouse and manage to make it.

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0925_22.jpg0925_23.jpgWhile the farm team is going nuts trying to keep up with everything, I'm having a wonderful time enjoying the last of the season. The wildflowers are lovely just now: we have an abundance of goldenrod, purple asters and white flowers that I think are white asters but could just as well be daisy fleabane (which are a member of the aster family, so close enough), and the last of the chicory. I purposely maintain a small clump of goldenrod in my garden, because it's beautiful and I'd pay money for it if it wasn't so ubiquitous and thus a weed. Lorenz has tried to break off the goldenrod a few times, but I won't let him. I think next year I'll encourage asters, too. It's wonderful how much colour I can have in the flower beds right now, when you'd think it would be all done. The superstar this week is the joe pye, which is pink-topped and showy after a summer of pale green sulking. The morning glories are climbing wherever they can get their little tentacles, and the nicotina and nasturtiums are happy as can be. We still haven't had frost, so petunias, begonias and poppies are still dong their thing, along with dahlias, salvia, violets, impatiens, sweet alyssum, geraniums (which are really pelargoniums, go figure) and beard tongue. I'll have you know that, despite this proud listing of all my currently flowering plants, I've been exercising amazing restraint and have not let this turn into a garden journal. But every now and then, you need to humour me.

0925_24.jpg0925_25.jpgDespite the wonderful weather, summer is over. Lorenz announced last night that he would close the pool this week. Now, I haven't been in since August, so this doesn't affect me, but it's so symbolic of summer being done. Sigh. There is much fun to be had at other times of the year, but August and September are the best of times on an organic farm. As long as you're not one of the ones doing all the work, though, I guess.

Posted by Johanna at September 24, 2004 02:55 PM