September 24, 2012
Splendid September! Crisp air, blue skies, perfect temperatures, golden light, no bugs (well, except for yellow jackets fighting me for raspberries) - these are perfect days.
The only problem with the days of September is that they end much too early for me. I run out of daylight before I run out of work. There are still Autumn raspberries coming in and the last of the elderberries. Tomatoes are almost all gone by, but peppers are coming on strong, daring a frost to take them down.
It's been a challenging season. June was mild and the strawberries did well - the tiny Sparkles having survived spring frosts. The searing heat of July was hard on the brambles and later fruit. (Last October's snow storm had wiped out many raspberry and blackberry canes so we were picking from a seriously diminished planting.) Raspberry yield was just about 120 pints (down from last summer's 500). Blackberry yield was similar. Blueberries did well once we realized that they were beginning to suffer in the heat and needed to be added to the watering schedule. We watered, and watered, and watered. Using sprinkler hoses and soaker hoses and the kitchen timer (20 minutes water, 30 minutes off) we managed to keep everything alive, but not thriving.
Red Currants and Black Currants were both somewhat touched by frost in the spring and yields were down, but still pretty good.
Peaches were damaged in the spring frosts after all. The flowers didn't die immediately, but as the fruit began to size and put on weight, the frost-damaged stem couldn't bear the fruit. We did bring in about 40# so should have enough for Peach Preserves through the end of the year.
Pears were largely lost in the spring frosts, but the fruit that withstood the frost looks superb (with only 3-4 fruits on a limb, they get pretty big!) We expect to make Pear Butter again in October when we harvest them and should have it through winter.
Elderberries did well this year and although we haven't put any into Elderberry Syrup yet, we hope to get some made by the end of September and hope to have it throughout the winter. Last year's elderberries were battered by storms Irene and Lee and we could only make a few jars. I was grateful that I was saving 1 jar for a favorite customer in Keene when my Mum became very ill with a respiratory infection in December. I credit the soothing Elderberry Syrup for helping her fight back and heal. I hope to have Elderberry Syrup throughout the winter, and will probably limit orders to 4 jars or fewer.
Garlic was a super bright spot this year. I think we brought in about 300# of BIG beautiful bulbs. That's WAY more than we need for Farmhouse Garlic Mustard, planting next year's crop and home consumption - even at our garlic-centric table. I'm not sure what we'll do with it all, but we'll surely be bringing some to The North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange next weekend. Read more about Garlic Fest below.
Wild Grapes were another super bright spot. Ralph and his merry band of foragers found more than 250# of wild grapes on the mountain and we've already put up the first "Pauchaug Hill Wild Grape Preserve." "Pauchaug" is the meadow at the foot of the mountain which native people used as a playing field to hold their games. Pauchaug Brook runs from up here on the mountainside down to the meadow
Late September finds me cooking, cooking, cooking - the air is perfect for getting preserves to set up nicely - and happily bringing in the Autumn raspberries, the Carolines. It's impossible to describe what a delight they are and what fun it is to pick berries when the weather is perfect and being outdoors in the glorious sunshine is your job! Sometimes I get frustrated that I haven't time for hiking, then I remember that I hike all year long to keep in shape for raspberry picking. The Carolines have great depth of flavor that makes them more than sweet and they make a lovely preserve. So far we've picked nearly as many as our summer berries and hope they can continue for a few more weeks at least. We'll have Raspberry Preserve through the holidays. We may need to limit quantities.
Fairs, Festivals & Farmers' Markets
The Harvest Moon brings our favorite harvest festivals, next weekend's North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival (Sept. 29 & 30) and Tower Hill Botanic Garden's "Shades of Autumn" festival on Columbus Weekend.
Garlic Fest is a food festival like no other. Created by farmers celebrating the food they love, garlic is given the reverence it is due. Cuisine created by gifted regional chefs includes Peng Yew's Pad Thai, salmon cakes remoulade from The Lone Wolf, superb salads from Seeds of Solidarity Farm, even an Afghan grill.
There'll be plenty of garlic for sale, but also lots of advice about growing your own and cooking demonstrations.
Farmers bringing garlic as well as heirloom tomatoes, squashes, beets, onions, potatoes and other gems of the harvest season are joined by artisans of every hue. Potters, glass artists, weavers, spinners, woodworkers and leather artists. Many demonstrate their craft throughout the day. The Healing Arts are represented by herbalists, acupuncture, massage therapy and more.
Renewable energy and recycling also set this festival apart from any other. The composting operation is so complete that the 10,000 visitors to the festival produce only 3 bags of garbage.
It's a music festival too, with a full line-up on 2 stages and new this year, a spoken word festival as well. Really, it's the most fun you can have with a bulb! To whet your appetite, go to www.garlicandarts.org
Shades of Autumn at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA celebrates the season in a glorious setting with hay rides, hikes, pumpkin painting, nature scavenger hunt and more family-friendly activities. Lovely crafts abound as well. We'll be in the entry alongside The Orangerie. For more information, go to www.towerhillbg.org.
The Farmers' Market of Keene Winter Market - The good news here is that the generous folks at Elm City Brewery in Keene's Colony Mill Marketplace are giving the farmers' market FREE SPACE to set up their winter market twice/month from November - April. It will be on the 2nd & 4th Saturdays, 10 - 2. Thanks Elm City Brewery!
The Four-legged Family
Rosie wants everyone to know that we're all still here! She sleeps a lot and can't get around without help but she's a happy girl who still has a passion for her food, treats, toys, granola, and protecting the farm with her bark if not her imposing presence. We're savoring our time with her. Barley's happily in love with the girl next door and is as smitten as can be. He sits overlooking his domain while young neighbor Nellie prances and dances around him. Auggie the fluffy kitty continues to rule the household and dictates the reveille
Ralph has been busy with firewood, land clearing, recycling projects all in addition to mustard-making. We're looking at winter with a lots of firewood and 5 freezers of fruit. A little short on fruit, but lots of wood. Hope we don't need it all.
I'll write again in late October when I know what the holiday season looks like. Until then, savor September's splendor! Oh, and EAT an apple - and if you're wise, it'll be a Cortland!