We celebrated eight years of applewood on September 22nd. Eight years since we opened our doors to a welcoming neighborhood and started introducing city folks to the nearby farmers who were growing their food. We also celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Autumn is an especially wonderful time for food. The heartier, long-growing crops for which we wait all summer finally make their way to our plates and, for the first time this year, to our harvest basket.
While some crops are starting to wilt and die off (string beans, tomatoes, and melons, to name a few), others are just hitting their stride. While we are pulling up the spent vines of our watermelon plants, we are plucking the first brussels sprouts from their stalks. Our final sowing of carrots is coming up strong and eagerly anticipating the first frost, and spinach, baby bok choy, mustard greens, kale, cabbage, and swiss chard are all still producing with gusto. We picked our first “ready” cabbage a day or so ago and Dave turned half of it into cole slaw, which we ate before I could get a picture (!) and the other half into this beautiful kim chee:
As we harvest the last of the tomatoes, we are not only delivering them to applewood, but we are making sauces and even freezing loads of tomatoes for use over the winter. We are really excited for the applewood farm Meet-the-Farmer dinner (sometime in November!) when we will make use of these little bites of summer among otherwise autumnal foods. While we may be saddened to see the tomato plants browning and producing fewer tomatoes each day, we continue to marvel at the success of that hoop house project overall.
Having never farmed in any meaningful way, the hoop house was our very first undertaking. We started building it in December of last year, hammering PVC into semi-frozen ground and sawing wood lengths in an inch of snow. It took time, and a fair amount of help from friends (Geoffrey Young, I’m looking at you), but we ultimately put together a 30 foot by 12 foot hoop house.
I just happen to love that picture of Darwin flying through the unfinished hoop house. Here it is finished:
And our little hoop house, with its five raised beds, produced more cherry, roma, and heirloom tomatoes than we ever could have hoped for in our wildest dreams. It is still home to 16 hot pepper plants which are covered in peppers to this day. It has withstood strong rains and 60 mph winds! We were warned by a contractor friend that the structure would never survive the winds from the south; we happily watched as our sweet little hoop house proved to have the structural integrity necessary to do the intended job. Hooray!
We are going to give the tomato plants another week or two to see what, if anything, they have left to offer. There are still green tomatoes on some of the vines, so we want to make sure we get everything the plants are offering. After that, we’ll pull them up, feed them to the pigs, and set to work on our idea of a modified cold frame. Since the hoop house is by no means air-tight, we thought that we could use our existing raised beds and build five mini hoop houses inside the larger hoop house. In these, we can plant arugula, kale, mustard greens, lettuces, and other hearty greens for use throughout the winter. The hoop house itself keeps an interior temperature approximately 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. Based on that, the mini houses should bring that up another 20.
We planted some turnip seeds in an outdoor raised bed about a week ago and, as they came up, began to worry about an early frost. We used this as an opportunity to build a prototype of the mini hoop houses and it looks like it might work really well after all. Here’s the turnip house:
Finally, we noticed that our herb garden seemed to be coming back more and more slowly after each harvest. We knew that we couldn’t go an entire winter without fresh herbs, now that we’d gotten used to having them just a few dozen feet away. We found a wonderful organic potting soil and some indoor containers and started some sage, cilantro, basil, and arugula. We’re awaiting a shipment of seeds that will include flat leaf parsley, rosemary, and thyme as well. So far, the herbs are slow to start, but the arugula is growing like wildfire!
Next week, join us as we prepare for the “finishing” of the pigs!