Monday, May 20, 2013
For reasons both outside and within our control, this year’s growing season is pretty much at an end.
I couldn’t imagine living in Florida or Southern California where growing can progress virtually year round. We’ve had a bunch of frosts already — enough to kill everything except the Brussels sprouts and remaining kale — and enough rain over the last week to drown anything else. On top of that, darkness is overtaking the land with our return to Eastern Standard Time
As they say, “Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.”
Thank God for all of it. Our last share-up day for the CSA was Oct. 21; our last outdoor farmers’ market was a week later.
Our two great apprentices, Mike and Caitlin, left shortly afterward, having been with us since April. We were happy when they came; we were happy with their great work while they were here, and we were happy when they left.
Mike is going to Guatemala to learn Spanish and work on an organic farm, and Caitlin is looking for other farm opportunities in Maine.
One of their last jobs was to clean out the 10-by-12-foot chicken coop, which happened to be one of their first jobs when they arrived seven months ago. And all hands were on deck to plant 3,300 garlic cloves for next year’s crop. Thanks to them, and Caitlin’s friend Rosie, we got that job done in a morning, instead of the day and a half it would have taken Michele and me.
It’s a lot quieter around here now.
The two lovely Angus heifers, Matilda and Fiona, have made their journey to the slaughterhouse and back, giving us and three other families their beef for the year. Thirty of our 50 laying hens made a similar journey — their age and the low-light conditions of the coming winter determined their fate — so we and a bunch of our CSA members have stewing hens in our freezers.
The root cellar is filling up with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celeriac and beets. Our “cold room” in the house is storing squash, onions and garlic. We are still ripening tomatoes inside until they can be canned and stored.
There is food all over the place. An obsession, perhaps? Yet to make a pasta sauce with our own ground beef, onions, garlic, tomatoes and celeriac makes the obsession seem a little less than madness. I do regret that we didn’t grow our own oregano this year, and that the pasta, salt and pepper and olives were bought in.
Best of all, it is time to make the tally and see how we did after all the preseason planning, the planting and transplanting of thousands of seedlings, the intermittent droughts in May, August and September, and even a visit by late blight on the tomatoes at the end of the season.
This year’s unofficial tally for Long Meadow Farm is 12,279 pounds of vegetables grown, harvested and distributed to our farm-share members (11,070 pounds), or sold at the Gardiner Farmers’ Market (1,209 pounds).
That’s six-plus tons of food grown on less than two acres of clay soil by five people using hand tools only — no tractors or roto-tillers, and no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
And that doesn’t include the other six tons of food we all devoured over the summer or are now putting away for ourselves.
Just kidding, but feeding our hardworking crew out of the garden was no small feat while they were here, and we probably have about a ton of food in our pantries, cold storage and freezers to get us through the winter and early spring.
By comparison, our dismal 2009 harvest was about 8,350 pounds, thanks to extremely wet conditions drowning whole sections of the garden, and late blight reducing the potato and tomato harvest to minuscule.
Also by comparison, if we were Midwestern corn farmers, armed with GPS-guided tractors and combines, planting genetically modified corn, we would have harvested about 300-plus bushels of corn on the same amount of ground, which would translate to three to four bushels for each of our farm-share members.
Of course, our Midwestern corn farmer isn’t actually producing food — something that nourishes the body — he or she is making ethanol, high-fructose corn syrup, cattle feed (that isn’t healthy for cows), and myriad ingredients for processed and junk food for humans (which are making us fat and sick).
We like it that the 70-plus families we provide food for are getting a season’s worth of 38-plus different vegetables that are all fresh, good tasting and good for the body.
So with the momentary quiet in our house brimming with healthy, whole foods, we say hooray!
Denis Thoet and his partner, Michele Roy, own and manage Long Meadow Farm in West Gardiner, firstname.lastname@example.org