Calling It

Cool and wet on this harvest day, and much more like fall than it has been. I won’t lie: I did linger a while inside with my coffee more than I usually do. Sure, I’ve been out longer in worse, but I’ve also been spoiled by this stretch of unseasonably warm weather.

Things are winding down in the fields, and sooner than I planned. A couple of things happened. First, the weeks when many of the cool-season crops needed to be planted coincided with the big push in the farmhouse renovation prior to the move, and that fieldwork simply did not happen. Second, this unusually warm fall has made many of the crops that did get in grow all goofy — mainly the broccoli, romanesco cauliflower, and brussels sprouts — and much of it is unfit for sale. And, hey, that’s how it goes sometimes, but I am approaching that point of diminishing returns (as I knew I would), where there is almost not enough food in the fields to justify going out on a cool and rainy Thursday morning to harvest.

Almost, but not quite. So I put on my big-boy pants, went out in the rain, and brought in the harvest, one last time this season.

And I call it a good season, despite the late start and early end. It has been a certain kind of pleasure to rise before sunrise, when all on the farm is dark and still, with the silhouette of the barn black against the starry sky. To load my rag-tag collection of second-hand coolers, packed with the food I grew, into the back of the old truck. To pull into the market lit bright against the pre-dawn gloom, set out my produce, and hang up my sign — the whole responsibility for the operation, its success or failure, on my shoulders alone, so different from being the “hired hand” and a certain kind of unexpected pleasure all its own.

So I have called it. Tomorrow will be my last regular market day of the season: leeks and beets, kale and cabbages, sweet red peppers (still!), and more. If you get a chance, come on by and let me say “thanks” in person.

Satisfaction

Fixing up this old fragment of a farm has had its share of unwelcome surprises, but this weekend the place gave us a gift.

At the front corner of the property, out by the road, stands an old apple tree. Like much else around here, it had been neglected — unpruned, full of suckers and deadwood, hollow. I did not expect it to amount to much, maybe pretty blossoms in the spring and later some windfalls for the deer, but certainly no apples of any quantity or quality.

But this fall, the branches hung heavy with ripening fruit, and last weekend we harvested half a bushel’s worth. Not the prettiest or largest apples you’ll ever see, but plenty for a small batch of applesauce and maybe a pie. Enough, or at least more than I asked for.