Melon season has arrived!
Summer days are hazy but not lazy at Hutchins, full of frantic activity as we scramble to stay on top of harvesting an expanding list of ripening crops, all the while trying to keep up with a demanding seeding and planting schedule, and at the same time attending to all the other things that pop up (many of which are weeds). Days are long, the heat is punishing, and as the shadows lengthen and the light drains from the evening sky, we are relieved at our daily reprieve, but frustratingly aware of all that didn’t get done-all the quick jobs that we should have but didn’t get to that, with the passage of a few days, become time-consuming jobs, and if further postponed, may become impossible. Each evening requires performing triage on unwieldy lists of pressing projects, ruthlessly dropping those whose long neglect has rendered impractical or pointless.
But wistful summer evenings pass into fantastical summer nights, as the darkness thickens like a velvety sauce, the bright yellow thumbnail moon illuminating fishbone clouds and a world turned grayscale. Down the staid slopes of Punkatasset Hill where the sprinklers rhythmically hydrate manicured lawns under the winking stars, across Monument St. to the weedy wilds of Hutchins Farm, among swamp and floodplain, the plowed and the fallow, amidst the riotous bacchanal of unruly insects and amphibians, the rowdy, hysterical gangs of coyotes loudly planning their cornfield raids, and the fast-moving constellations of blinking fireflies. The belligerent deerflies of the day have given way to clouds of languid mosquitoes, whining softly in the dark like lost souls; bats flutter and tumble overhead with no appreciable effect on the mass of bloodsuckers; skunks bumble along where they will, their secret weapon having obviated the usual survival requirements of stealth, cunning and avoidance. Finally we come to the end, the border, the unctuous river, awash in the shimmering reflection of moon, stars, and the planes that crisscross the sky with their curious wing lights-green on the right, red on the left (unless they’re flying upside down). The throaty belch of a bullfrog startles a deer and his rippling, antlered reflection; distant lightning flashing to the north sends the perpetually anxious creature off at a run, tail up and flashing white, beckoning his colleagues to follow.
To walk about the farm on a warm summer night, humming and thrumming, brimming and redolent with such a profusion and multifarity (not a word apparently, but who cares) of life, full of danger, drama, sex, death, decay, birth, pain, joy and on and on-is a thrilling experience, all the more so when one compares the scene with the same walk on a silent winter’s night, crunching through crusted snow, same sky, in winter full of malice or at least indifference, all life hunkered down, asleep, on the run, hungry, waiting for the return of light and warmth.
Let’s celebrate the summer by partaking in all the gifts of this fruitful season, affirming our membership in the confraternity of all that is alive. At our house, where we’re practicing (but not strict) Delishatarians, we celebrate a string of holidays during the growing season that don’t fall on specific dates on the calendar, but happen spontaneously when the object of the celebration is ready to be eaten. To name a few of the holiest days: the anticipatory Asparagus Day, a forward looking observance that also involves an interesting olfactory component; Pesto Day, mostly about basil, but which usually falls when the first peas arrive, and so involves a big pot of pasta (homemade if you’re orthodox) tossed with blanched pea pods and freshly made pesto; and Eggplant Parmesan Day, which, despite its name, is really about when the first ripe field tomatoes are ready to slice and layer with thin breaded and fried slices of eggplant and basil leaves, topped with fresh mozzarella and broiled until brown and bubbly.
There is still plenty of time to gather sacraments for your own homemade holiday-summer vegetables are going strong, with sweet corn, melons and watermelons currently abundant with plenty more to come, tomatoes beginning to ripen in earnest, and squash and cucumbers still very much in evidence. Stalwarts like lettuce, chard and parsley can almost always be found, green beans are a bit more sporadic, but upcoming plantings look like they will be quite productive. After a spotty carrot year last year, we have (predictably) overcompensated and should be blessed with countless carrots through and beyond the end of the season. Some of our annual herbs like dill and cilantro have been a bit sparse of late, but we continue seeding these for harvest through the fall and should have ample supplies soon. Late summer favorites like celery and potatoes are on the verge of being ready, and fall favorites like winter squash and parsnips are still lustily putting on growth.
August is also the change of season for our staff. With August comes the harsh reality that our wonderful college and high school students, after diligently learning the ropes all summer, will leave us shortly to continue their education, and leave us in a mad panic to find suitable replacements (they are never replaceable in our hearts!)
We hope you are able to make the trip this month and enjoy the summer bounty. For all too soon fall will be here (and with it, its own bounty) and its reminder that winter isn’t too far behind.
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm crew
From left to right: The melon whisperer, Corn getting taller, Hot days on the farm
August 2019 Newsletter