Saturday, June 27, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

My apologies, I’ve been a little lax on my blog writing lately. We are in the real thick of it now. Farming, of course, is a very seasonal activity, particularly vegetable farming well up in the northern hemisphere. Even within the growing season, which lasts roughly from April through October, there are periods where an extra effort has to be made all over the farm, and of course the need to sell and market the produce. From mid-May through mid-July, in particular, everything is going gangbusters. Weeds are exploding, and every bed needs near-constant attention. The greenhouse is busy with seeding and plants are going into the ground every day. With the arrival of June we begin harvesting and distributing food to our shareholders.

Within a couple of weeks, we will be virtually done in the greenhouse, and the weed burden will start to lessen (slightly) as the days grow shorter. A week or so after that and most of our seedlings will have gone into the ground, leaving just a few plantings of late season greens and lettuce to go. At that point we will spend most of our time harvesting, managing the fields, working with the shareroom, etc. We will surely also still have a good deal of weeding to do until most of the crops are nearing their time of harvest, but the germination of new weeds will taper off dramatically, leaving us to deal with the billions that have already started growing.

Last week and the first part of this week were difficult for us, and for me. I suppose it’s inevitable that sooner or later any job becomes, well, a job, and loses at least some of its day to day newness and romance. And this is hard work; my alarm goes off at 4:50 am, I work from 6 to 5, I’m working physically the entire day and am often uncomfortable in one way or another and continue to be sore and creaky when I arrive home and when I wake up again in the morning. However, I think this time around I (and most of us here on the farm) were mostly feeling the effects of an extremely cool, cloudy and rainy June. We had about three weeks of deeply overcast days with frequent rain and temperatures in the low sixties (mornings in the fifties). Getting through the day in all types of weather is definitely part of the farming experience, but it takes a rare soul to make it through three weeks of that without some downturn in mood. In addition, we worry about our crops. Though that kind of weather is good for our early season stuff like spinach and chard and radishes and lettuce, our shareholders will be deeply disappointed if that’s still all they’re getting a month from now, and we’re going to need hot weather and bright sunny days to get our tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, cucumbers and squash into gear. Luckily, we turned a corner on Thursday; we started the day out with still more rain but it was noticeably warmer, and by the end of the day we were gooping up with sunscreen and complaining about the heat. Friday was the same, despite a spectacular thunderstorm at dawn, and we can only hope that we transition into a normal summer now, with whatever acceptable mix of hot bright days and hot cloudy days and some rainy days and the occasional cooler day. I’ve regained my equilibrium, anyway, and am looking forward to the rest of the season.

Our shareroom has been expanding; this week we had some napa cabbage, garlic scapes, shelling peas, beets and some new varieties of kale. The spinach is almost gone; we’ll probably have one more week of it, as well as the strawberries (which have unfortunately gotten a little soft and watery tasting in the last week with so much rain and so little sun). Next week the big addition will be carrots; I’ve been pulling them out of the fields for a little snack now and then and they are delicious. The shelling peas are also fantastic; sugar snap peas and snow peas have gotten much more popular over the last few years because of the significantly lower amount of work to prepare them, but I think nothing beats the old-school taste of fresh sweet peas.

I have certain recipes with particular foods that I’ve been excited to prepare when we start getting them in. For instance, with peas, I’ve been planning on making a simple sweet pea risotto. I made it last night and it was delicious. Capping off the effort was a bit of excitement; I went out after eating my meal to put the pea pods in our compost bin, grabbed the lid and lifted it off of the bucket only to see a skunk staring up at me. I freaked out; I don’t know whether to be proud of my reaction time or to be ashamed for being such a fraidy-cat, but in any case I took off as fast as I could in a flash and got well clear of the immediate area, still holding the container of pea pods in my had. After calming down I carefully crept back, making sure I didn’t come across the escaping varmint, and of course was hit with a wall of stink when I got about thirty feet to the compost. That stuff is strong! I am very lucky I didn’t get sprayed directly (or bitten!), and the smell quickly drifted in through open windows throughout much of the house. I believe that I must have left the lid slightly ajar an hour or so before; I certainly won’t make that mistake again (the other possibility is that the skunk can pry it off; I think that’s less likely but I’m considering it – I will be very careful if I go out there and see that the lid is ajar again).

Other special dishes that I’ve looked forward to making and have done so are a chard gratin and garlic scape pesto. Both were delicious, though I think I made the gratin a little too rich, and the pesto is a great change but will never replace a classic basil pesto in my heart. I meant to make a spanakopita with the spinach but I have not done so yet and may have missed my window (emotionally if not actually; I love spinach but have been eating it almost daily for a month and a half now). Special dishes coming up are kim chee with the napa cabbage, a special beet, goat cheese, walnut, citrus and avocado salad and a Moroccan carrot and mint salad.

Anyway, talk to you all later! Peace and love to everyone.


Franny said...

Risi i bisi is one of my favorites too. Our shelling peas are almost ready. We've been harvesting chard, mustards, lettuce, garlic scapes, cabbage, sugar snaps and strawberries. Soon to come are favas, shelling peas, and carrots. Watching the garden grow is wonderful, but putting this good stuff into my body is my favorite part. I do wonder how I might feel "gardening" from 6 to 5, every day, however. Hang in there. I'm always struck by the event of a single, unique seed undergoing any number of unique transformations, until it becomes the delectable miracle we devour.

love you Brian!

Nikki said...

Glad the skunk story had a kind of happy ending!

As a CSA shareholder, I totally believe in sharing the risk, sharing the reward, so I am always grateful for what comes my way. I am sure yours are too.

I agree that garlic scape pesto is great but not a replacement - I made mine this year with lemon juice and loved it. I discovered a recipe for kale chips, and Harper devours them, so I am psyched about that.

Both Harper and Cam love to eat beans out of my garden - enjoy the fresh eats - one of the great perks of the job