Well, beloved members and farm followers - October has arrived, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Fairmeadow's 2013 Fall CSA season has begun! Woot woot!
This farmer has been too busy out in the garden tending the abundance of vegetables that await you to be a very good blogger at all recently (sorry about that!)....but I'm gonna try hard to make amends for that here, with a photo-filled post, and little fall field update! So welcome back, and away we go! :O)
In the last weeks we've had glorious sunshine, driving rain, patchy frost, perfectly pleasant daytime temperatures, disorienting fog as thick as pea soup, and the return of those ladybug imposters that delight in nothing more than getting into everything, including one's face - constantly - and baby salad mix (boo). But the overall very agreeable fall weather has been great for the garden, and the vegetables are continuing to grow away like mad out there!
The topography of Evergreen field and some chilly nights in September forced the early harvest of the squash and pumpkins (infinite thanks to RJ, JJ, KJ and VS for their help getting the bounty tucked safely onto the harvest wagon!), but the main garden in Barn field is on higher ground, and has been sheltered by the maples and catalpa trees that surround it, so there are some lovely summery veggies and herbs still around there, none the wiser that it's October. Good job, peppers, eggplant, basil, dill, and cilantro - I'm cheering for you to make it into November! Don't let the passing of the autumnal equinox get you down!
I don't really like to throw down with fall weather though (as capricious as it can be), so there has long been row cover either in place, or ready to be rolled out on short notice, over everything that prefers it a little warmer when the air really turns crisp for good. And for our late season greens I'm experimenting with caterpillar tunnels this year - will post some pictures and an explanation of these simple structures a little later in the fall for you! But for now, I am continuing just to bask in the beautiful working conditions for as long as they hold - I always feel quite lucky this time of year to get to be outside most days, enjoying the leaves changing colour, and a break from the humidity and general sticky-ness of summer. Heavy bins of produce just cannot be schlepped around with the same level of enthusiasm in July. But there has been some very enthusiastic schlepping recently, let me tell you!
Speaking of which, two-thirds of the potatoes have been dug and bagged and put into storage now - the rain has drawn out their harvest, but one more long (...well, very long) day in the patch should do it! My exceedingly kind neighbours of Shady Walnut Farm (and their trusty garden tractor and antique potato digger) have been helping me, and it's been going very smoothly, which is a huge relief! The yield has been amazing this year (actually, not quite sure where they're all going to go once the digging is done!), but alas, I am finding some hollow heart (the saddest sounding of all the potato afflictions, wouldn't you agree?!), especially in the biggest tubers. I have been suspecting this might be an issue since the first of the > 9 inches of rain fell from late May into early July. Smaller and medium tubers are less likely to be affected in my experience, so you're welcome to choose these sizes over the more gargantuan, especially in the white and russet varieties (which set some large spuds). The remainder of any affected potatoes around their grieved, empty middles (lip quiver! sob! so sad when your heart is hollow!) are still good to eat - just an FYI - but fortunately, there are more than enough potatoes in the barn to make up for any less than perfect spuds any of you might take home - so please just let me know if you need/want to take extras any week!
I myself am also suffering from a mild case of hollow heart these days, or perhaps more accurately, tiny turkey-shaped holes in my heart, where Fairmeadow's inaugural small flock of 11 used to reside. I am truly amazed at how deeply these personable, chatty birds worked their way in there, over the 17 weeks they were on the farm. I've always really cared for and enjoyed all of the livestock I've helped rear and worked with over the years - whether equine, bovine, porcine, ovine, canine, or....chicken-ine (?!). But these turkeys, throughout this often tumultuous season, seemed especially grounding, and just completely sweet and entertaining. If they didn't already have me as poults any evening I opted to plop down with fatigue against one of the bales of hay at the end of their brooder for a few minutes before heading home - at which time they would immediately scuttle over to nestle into my back and neck in a fuzzy heap - they certainly did the day they revealed their mortal fear of tomatoes and apples (it's a funny story, deserving of its own post another day!). Or when they got their gobbles. Of which I happily have audio archives.
Although I'm very glad to be able to focus wholly on the vegetables during this busy harvest season, and that these lovingly and ethically raised beasts will be at the centre of some amazing holiday meals, I am most definitely missing their quirkiness, and the routine of their chores every day. Despite constantly worrying about whether they were really and truly thriving (turkeys are notoriously finicky, and it's a steep learning curve raising them), I concede they were, in the end, obviously happy and healthy out on their pasture - the smallest hen ended up dressing out at just under 18 lbs, and the largest tom at 30 lbs on the nose! Oops (might have sent you to the butchers sooner, had I known!), but also, hooray (look at how well you grew, little Turkeys!).
Something else that is flourishing this year is the spinach. The moisture and rich, silty-loam soil at the farm is enabling spinach to grow like I have never quite seen spinach grow before. Some of the leaves are reaching full-grown Swiss Chard-like proportions, despite being planted a full week later in August than usual! Anyone on the edge of anemia out there can get excited - there will be an abundance of this deep leafy green, and all its iron-richness in the shares for certain. Thanks muchly to CSA member KO for her help keeping these, and some of the other salad beds, well weeded last month!
I've been stockpiling quite the collection of recipes since our last season together for ideas for cooking spinach and all the other good things that will find their way into the boxes over the next months, and I'll start posting them regularly now in conjunction with our pick-ups. Any of your tried and true recipes are most welcome as well!
Before signing off (for now - as there will be more posts to come with said recipes, info on chicken and turkey, and more farm tales....you know, the usual!) wanted to mention that there are still shares available for the 2013 season - at each of our pick-up locations (at the farm in Norwich, at my parents' in North York, and at the Western Fair Farmers' and Artisans' Market in London)! Yes, it's not too late to join us - for all 6 boxes if you're a Londoner, or for an only slightly shortened season in Norwich or TO. Spread the word!