Friday, September 27, 2013

An Autumn Beginning with a Winter End in Mind

Our very presence on the farm is attribution to Stephen Covey's axiomatic 2nd habit of "highly effective people":  begin with the end in mind.  Comprehending how dependent our food system is on cheap and plentiful energy, I began to wonder what will happen in the very likely eventuality that one or both of those factors goes away.  The only conclusion I could reach was that I was going to get hungry.  Any contrary result would be predicated on my learning how to grow food on different terms.  Hopefully, by the time the draconian eventuality becomes reality I will have learned enough to ward off starvation.

Similarly fore-thoughtful and surrounded by the garden's quietude, I began to think about the coming season and its abundance of tasteless and well-traveled vegetable options.  Present weariness or no, that winter day will eventually come when a fresh salad would taste profoundly good.  And I intend to satisfy that hunger...which means setting in motion the winter greenhouse garden.  Travel conflicts last year delayed the sowing until November 1.  By that time the late autumn cool slowed germination to a crawl and it wasn't until the New Year that anything had matured to the point of harvest.  Fully six-weeks earlier this year I have planted a first round of seeds --

Deep Purple bunching onions
Carmel -- Savoyed Spinach
Winter Density Green Bibb Lettuce
Mache VIT
Rouge D'Hiver -- Red Romaine Lettuce

Yesterday, with that first round already well in sprout, I sowed a second round consisting of more of the same.  Hopefully the time-spacing will insure multiple rounds of harvest.  As long as habitable weather extends I plan to leave the boxes on the deck.  Eventually they will settle into their winter home inside the greenhouse, nestled beneath row cover fabric for warmth.  By that time I will have drained the rain barrels and stored the jugs of water for winter hydration.  If the past is any prediction, eventually I will have to shovel a path through the snow to reach the door.  But if the vegetable gods have chosen to smile on me, the frozen trek will be rewarded, once inside, by leaves of this and that anxious to satisfy the longing palettes of two hibernating gardeners huddled inside by the fire.

That, at least, is the "end in mind" with which I have already begun.

Monday, September 23, 2013

In Autumn's Quieter Embrace

There is a kind of weariness settling in.  Vines that only weeks ago swelled full and green and thickly lush, taunting the trellises with fruited weight, now lean on the same frames with a bleached spindliness; largely spent and languishing.  There are still ripenings in process -- scattered tomatoes of various kinds, peppers at both ends of the Scoville scale, and braising greens.  I planted a fall crop of carrots that are still in their toddler phase, along with some radishes and turnips.  There are cabbages in various stages of growth about which I need to learn when to harvest, and the plums are still softening on the tree.  

But the squash has exhausted itself and all but disappeared; the cucumbers are similarly threadbare.  Okra spears are still coming on, but fewer and fewer; and churned soil is all that marks the place where potatoes and carrots once hid. I gathered this morning the last of the apples that surprised us earlier in the summer, along with a dozen or so tomatoes and a like number of peppers, plus a bundle of collard greens; and I dug up the remainder of the mature carrots.  All that excepted, we are slowing down.

Myself included.  That, blessedly, is the rhythm of things -- imagination, applied physicality, frenzied activity, vigilant attention, gathered reward, and finally rest.  If that sounds rather like the life-cycle in miniature, it should.  Perhaps the garden's accelerated spin on that wheel, in addition to feeding us along the way, is meant to teach us larger lessons about living and aging eagerly and productively and well, and then slowing gracefully until we finally settle in altogether. 

Or maybe fatigue and mortality are simply harder to differentiate in the cooling, wearied days of autumn after a well-spent summer. 

I'll chew on that as I gnaw on one of those carrots newly dug and washed and reclining in the kitchen drain tray.