November 13, 2004
The snow is falling and autumn is clearly here. The short days and low angle of the sun bring introspection, reflection, and a bit of melancholy, even to the most optimistic of us. (The election certainly didn't help.) It's hunting season in New Hampshire so Rosie and I have to be very careful on our walks in the woods. We both dress in red and make a lot of noise. Yesterday we hiked on the trails of a prep school in neighboring Northfield, MA where it's always safe. This is where we ski in the winter (well, I ski; Rosie tries to stay out of my way, or, alternatively, catch an easy ride on the tails of the skis) and she knows the place well. Since we hadn't been there since March she was sooo excited to sniff and investigate everything and had to mark every twist and turn of the trail. There really is nothing like a dog to make you laugh and turn your day around.
The GOOD news is that we picked raspberries as late as Monday, November 8! The greenhouse structure protected the berries until the mercury dipped to 16 Monday night, and the whole autumn harvest was remarkable - 340 pints! Regular readers of this message know I predicted we'd pick berries as far into the autumn as election day, and we picked 12 pints that day and 20 pints the next! (The only reason I didn't pick more on election day was that I left to stand at the polls for John Kerry and our friend, poet Dan Carr who ran for statehouse. Sadly, Dan lost too.) The quality of the berries is excellent...they ripened evenly in the greenhouse, and since Ralph didn't fasten down the sides, air could flow through and we had no trouble with disease or mold at all. This also allowed our friendly honeybees and bumblebees easy access to the blossoms which helps explain the tremendous yield.
Our first killing frost was rather late this year, on October 5 (it's been as early as August 25, and averages ~ September 21). I was at Farmers' Market that day, but Ralph covered all the peppers and chilies and they continued ripening and producing for another couple of weeks.
Looking back at October, it's pretty much a blur of markets, harvest festivals and shows. Whew! Every minute that I wasn't actually at a market or show we were carving out time to make our products or pick berries. It was an especially beautiful autumn in New Hampshire. The bountiful rains of the summer produced lush foliage whose hues were even deeper and more brilliant than usual.
One fun excursion last month was to a meeting of the Monadnock chapter of the Slow Food movement. This group celebrates food that is grown well and prepared well and encourages very small farmers (such as ourselves) and artisan producers. Our friend Roger led this meeting whose theme was garlic. We sampled about 10 different varieties of Roger's garlic and enjoyed an array of dishes starring our favorite bulb. We've been growing garlic for about 15 years here, and our best varieties have come from Roger. We especially like "Siberian", "Zemo", "Georgia Fire" and "Bogatyr." It was a really enjoyable evening spent with a group of people who really love good food.
On Monday, the day we picked the last of our raspberries, the last harvest of our 2004 crops, we planted our garlic - the first planting of the 2005 season. We plant a bed of 4 rows, each ~ 100 feet long. Ralph fashioned a 4-pronged dibble on a pole which he uses to poke holes in the soil and I pop in the garlic cloves. This way, I don't have to even think about spacing or depth and it goes pretty quickly. The promise of another season offsets the bittersweet ending of this one.
And, I must say, (ever the cockeyed-optimist), that things look really good for next year. Raspberry canes are 7-8 feet long and sturdy and the blackberry canes must be 12 feet long and strong. They both still carry their leaves and the blackberry leaves are especially beautiful this time of year with their deep purple hue. The blueberries grew a lot this year also and now most are taller than me. Lara put in some time pulling the weeds from the strawberry planting so they're looking great going into winter ....waiting for just another week or two when the ground is completely frozen to be put to bed under a blanket of straw for the winter. And, my beloved Damson Plum trees also look strong and healthy going into winter. Last year's frigid temps killed most of their fruit buds this season, but the trees themselves aren't damaged and I have every confidence that last winter's prolonged temperatures in the negative 20s won't be repeated. In fact, the new "Old Farmers' Almanac" predicts a warmer and wetter winter than average which bodes well for both our sleeping fruits and my cross-country skiing with Rosie. (Rosie is sleeping on one of her many beds in my office as I write this, snoring contentedly. She's had a tough day chasing squirrels from the feeder.)
The winter birds are back at the feeder too...chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmouses and juncos. No sign of the bear lately, but our neighbors saw the moose just a couple of weeks ago. Of course we see turkeys and deer all the time, and all we can say is "quick, hide, run to Massachusetts, keep your heads down" until the men in orange retreat.
I guess that's all for now.
P.S. Oh, did you hear? THE RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!
P.P.S. Speaking of nice people, thanks more than I can say to Judy Dore, Market Manager of the Newton Farmers' Market, and Jeanne Kavanaugh of The Farmers' Market at Weston Nurseries, for all they do and who they are. And to all our customers and market friends, thank you; I love you!