We have finally crossed that invisible, magical line from the ‘season’ to the ‘off-season’. Each year, we step over with a confusing combination of reluctance, regret, and relief. Although we are blessed with productive land, reasonably moderate weather, an energetic and enthusiastic crew, and useful and appropriate equipment, the stress of keeping up season-long production of our extensive roster of crops begins to fray the nerves after awhile—particularly in a year like this, when certain difficulties occur, and promptly compound themselves.
All in all, a good season, a successful season. Corn was early, plentiful, tasty, consistent, and largely worm-free until September. Berries, which we seem never to be able to produce in quantities large enough to meet demand, were nonetheless abundant and delicious. Tomatoes were full of flavor—they appeared early, lasted late, and gave generous yields in between. Onion quality and yield surpassed anything we have seen for the last few years, and I can’t remember a year when we dug so many (and such beautiful) potatoes. Peppers did their thing admirably; eggplant, shy during the heat of summer, became the life of the party as temperatures cooled down. All in all, a good season—but what happened to the winter squash and pumpkins? Why so little broccoli and Brussels sprouts in October, when they should be at their best? What was with the sporadic lettuce shortage in September and October? And a shortage of kale? Preposterous!
Each season is superficially predictable—spring is cool and wet, summer hot and dry, frost comes in October—but a nearly infinite number of variables with an effect on our crops, many of them unguessed at by us, are busy unpredictably affecting our crops, often in ways that leave no evidence of the cause. We’re always trying to make our production more consistent both in abundance and quality, but even when we do everything right (which actually doesn’t really happen), some unforeseen circumstance can bring everything to naught—conversely, many of our most stunning successes are, to some degree, luck. It’s a humbling feeling (and one not confined to agriculture) to realize that so much of what we seek to manipulate is beyond our control, beyond our understanding even. We are confounded by our successes and by our failures, though we far prefer the former and cling to the (mistaken?) belief that we really do understand enough to provide a positive outcome at least much of the time. With enough successes, we can live with the mystery.
So next year we’ll use what we think we learned this year to avoid this year’s problems repeating themselves—and it might even work, but possibly for reasons unsuspected by us. But we’ll have a lovely crop of red herrings to offer our faithful customers.
Currently, we’re offering a selection of produce on our porch, including the abovementioned potatoes, lettuce, collards, kale, leeks, beets and cabbage, among other things. We’ll continue to harvest and set things out as long as the weather and supplies hold out—at least through the end of this weekend. I would like to express my thanks to all our wonderful customers who continue to seek us out and are so generous in their appreciation of our efforts. Here’s to a short winter, warm days in April, and the first strawberries of 2012.