What I Am Learning: Changing With the Seasons
Original post: http://www.youngfarmers.org/blog/2012/09/04/what-i-am-learning-changing-with-the-seasons/
With City Grown’s really small land area (1/4 acre total, spread among eight plots), we are able to grow enough produce to supply our two weekly markets, but just barely. This leads to a different type of harvest procedure than I remember from the farms I interned on. On a City Grown harvest day, we go out and get everything that’s ready. We generally keep the plants very well harvested, because we have to in order to have enough to sell! There aren’t very many overripe tomatoes falling onto the ground or baseball-bat sized, got-away-from-us zucchini. However, the month of August brought our first crop that’s really too much to keep up with: beans! We planted six 25-foot beds with pole beans in two different varieties. For our tiny farm, this is a lot! And during the last two weeks of August they came on hard and fast, producing a bounty of gorgeous, delicious beans all at once. Luckily, the beans hold over well in the fridge compared to other crops, so we can save them for the next market when we pick more than we can sell. But they’re also pretty much impossible to keep fully picked the way we’ve been getting used to doing with our other crops. It was kind of a revelation for Noe and me to be out in the field and realize that it would take all day for the two of us to thoroughly harvest the beans. Wow! Now this is what it was like on my internship farm, where our instructions were often to go out and get a certain amount of something or to harvest for a certain amount of time, not to completely clean the crop of all the ready fruits.
Noe and I decided to spend an hour on the beans and get what we could. In that amount of time we were able to harvest plenty enough to sell. There were still plenty of tiny baby beans indicating a plethora of fresh tender ones next time we came to pick. The beans that we had to leave on the vine will get over-mature, but they can be saved for next year’s seed. Maybe we can find time in here to can some dilly beans, too. So the upshot is that it is great to be able to harvest most of our crops thoroughly with very little wasted food. But it is also great to be able to adapt our harvest strategy to fit the needs of each crop.
This adaptability to the requirements of the present moment is really what farming is all about. This is far from being a job in which every day is the same old routine. You are always changing and modifiying based on the season, the weather, pest pressures, available markets, and a million other factors.
To take the beans for example again: This time of year, I go to pick beans twice a week. I walk into the leafy, shady hallway created by the pole bean trellises to pick handfuls of succulent, slightly fuzzy purple pods to fill my harvest bin. As I crunch on the flavorful fruits, I can sort of remember planting the seeds for these beans back in May. I know that I must have watered them and watched for germination, but I’ve forgotten most of the details of those springtime days. And back then when I planted, I didn’t really have a fully formed idea of what the beans would be like now. I knew theoretically that they’d be ready for harvest in August, but I wasn’t visualizing the details of trellis building, climbing tendrils, and laden vines. This is what farming does for me: it keeps me in the now, dealing with each day, week, and season as it presents itself. I do have a general overview picture in my head about crop planning and such, but I also have to just keep showing up at each plot and looking around and having the plants tell me what they need from me today.
I have to adapt my daily rituals to the seasons in a continual flow of gradual changes from April through October. Certain crops can only be planted at one very specific time. Others can be grown during a longer window, but they behave differently and need different care in the spring and fall versus the summer. I rarely have to water seedlings for several months in the spring, but then in August it feels like I’m spending half my time with a hose in my hand.
I love to farm and I am grateful for the opportunity it gives me to spend my days outside, feeling the change of the seasons, watching and reacting to the behavior of the plants. As the days now get noticeably shorter around here and the feel of fall enters the air, I don’t feel sad at the passing of summer. I feel excited for the crispness of fall, apple cider pressings, and the natural slowing down of production that gives us overworked farmers a chance to rest. I am already looking forward to a winter filled with seed ordering, new plot development, and a little more sleep. And then we’ll be ready to start all over again!