Long Slow Fall in the Garden

Last summer my friend David stuck a couple of surprises in one of my garden beds, and a few weeks ago I pulled two sweet little Vidalia onions. When I called to thank him, he offered to send me a bunch of starts. He just finished planting 1950 of them in his central Florida garden, where they'll grow long and well until they're four or five inches fat. There's no chance of that here! In fact, it's almost certain they won't survive the winter. But the slim chance of success is worth the gamble.

Last summer my friend David stuck a couple of surprises in one of my garden beds, and a few weeks ago I pulled two sweet little Vidalia onions. When I called to thank him, he offered to send me a bunch of starts. He just finished planting 1950 of them in his central Florida garden, where they’ll grow long and well until they’re four or five inches fat. There’s no chance of that here! In fact, it’s almost certain they won’t survive the winter. But the slim chance of their success is worth the gamble.

So here, on November first, I've planted about fifty little onions and watered them in. I'll set up the hoop house over one bed, and gradually mulch the other with a foot of straw, and whatever snow slides off the hoop house on top of that. If i can coax either bed through the winter it will be well worth the effort come summer.

So here, on November first, I’ve planted about fifty little onions and watered them in. I’ll set up the hoop house over one bed, and gradually mulch the other with a foot of straw, and whatever snow slides off the hoop house on top of that. If I can coax either bed through the winter it will be well worth the effort come summer.

First of all, call me crazy. I just planted fifty Vidalia onions on the first of November. It’s not even a root day. But close! I missed that yesterday with errands in town and of course the Halloween frenzy. I did get the beds ready, turning and breaking up the clayey soil, but when I had twenty minutes in the afternoon between other tasks and dressing for the party, I chose to lay on the patio chaise with my feet up the back. Toes up time!

I’d spent the day before canning tomatoes and freezing pesto, and the morning canning tomatillos. Last night at Halloween dinner we were talking about how none of us has ever lived in a place before where so many people know exactly where their food comes from. If we don’t grow our own vegetables, our neighbors give or sell us some. We don’t have much in the way of farmers’ markets, but we have a lot of farms where we can go directly to buy vegetables. If we don’t make our own bread we know someone who does. If we don’t slaughter our own meat we have friends who hunt, or grow pigs or cattle or lambs, or we visit the Homestead Market and buy meat grown without chemicals and hormones on local ranches. We are very connected to our food on the Western Slope, and we revel in our collaborative meals.

Chrysanthemums flowering around one of my few ripe Early Girl tomatoes in late September. I pulled most of the tomato plants up before leaving town the last week of September, and hung them in the tower to slowly ripen. A surprising number of them have turned red and gone into the pot or a sandwich since then.

Chrysanthemums flowering around one of my few ripe Early Girl tomatoes in late September. I pulled most of the tomato plants up before leaving town the last week of September, and hung them in the tower to slowly ripen. A surprising number of them have turned red and gone into the pot or a sandwich since then.

September 22's harvest of carrots, parsley, coriander, and tomatoes, all went into a frittata with Pamela's eggs.

September 22’s harvest of carrots, parsley, coriander, and tomatoes, all went into a frittata with Pamela’s eggs.

One of many rounds of garden pasta sauce in the making.

One of many rounds of garden pasta sauce in the making.

The Romas produced prolifically; unfortunately, not until early October. I learned from this to protect the plants from deer, who ate the first round of tomatoes in late summer just as they ripened. But the plants rebounded amazingly from the grazing, tripled in size, and put out a bunch of late blossoms. Which turned into late tomatoes. Which did, in fact, ripen slowly on the counter, contributing to several batches of sauce and soup.

The Romas produced prolifically; unfortunately, not until early October. I learned from this to protect the plants from deer, who ate the first round of tomatoes in late summer just as they ripened. But the plants rebounded amazingly from the grazing, tripled in size, and put out a bunch of late blossoms. Which turned into late tomatoes. Which did, in fact, ripen slowly on the counter, contributing to several batches of sauce and soup.

The Last Zucchini. I swear, I checked this plant every few days all fall, hoping to avoid another giant fruit. And suddenly, when I started pulling plants up after the first real frost on October 8, I found this biggest-of-all hidden right along the bed wall.

The Last Zucchini. I swear, I checked this plant every few days all fall, hoping to avoid another giant fruit. And suddenly, when I started pulling plants up after the first real frost on October 8, I found this biggest-of-all hidden right along the bed wall.

As much as we celebrate our bounty together, I celebrate the gifts of subsistence that we exchange throughout the year. One of my favorite presents of all time was one of Suzi’s homegrown chickens for my birthday dinner. The best part about the chicken was that she brought it to my house uncooked, so I got not only the delicious, home-grown, free-range, organic chicken, eating the skin without guilt, but I got the smell of it roasting with savory and rosemary for hours during and after in my house, I got three pints of stock, chicken salad, and dog gravy for three days. Other gifts of subsistence in recent years have included dozens of eggs, cords of firewood, a case of organic oranges and grapefruits for Christmas; a bag of elk burger, steaks and loin, wow; a bag full of last summer’s preserves, pickled green beans, pear butter, pepper jelly, peach salsa. Truly the gifts that keep on giving.

I am not the only one who enjoys toes up time on the chaise.

I am not the only one who enjoys toes up time on the chaise.

October 13. Freakish reblooming of some spring and summer flowers, including blue flax and this apache plume, flowering and seeding again even as the leaves of Foresteria in front of it turn an appropriate yellow.

October 13. Freakish reblooming of some spring and summer flowers, including blue flax and this apache plume, flowering and seeding again even as the leaves of Foresteria in front of it turn appropriately yellow.

One Amur maple turns scarlet, while this one bronzes. Hardy plumbago leaves turn deep red while blue blossoms keep coming, in the berm behind the Wall of Inebriation.

One Amur maple turns scarlet, while this one bronzes. Hardy plumbago leaves turn deep red while blue blossoms keep coming, in the berm behind the Wall of Inebriation.

The sum total of my entire fruit harvest this year, one little Fuji apple. The rest, the handful of apricots, peaches, and almonds that survived late spring freezes, fed the birds and chipmunks before they ripened.

The sum total of my entire fruit harvest this year, one little Fuji apple. The rest, the handful of apricots, peaches, and almonds that survived late spring freezes, fed the birds and chipmunks before they ripened.

This little aspen tree that sprang up unexpectedly from a transplant out of Linda's garden comes into its own this fall as a focal point in the garden.

This little aspen tree that sprang up unexpectedly from a Potentilla transplant out of Linda’s garden comes into its own this fall as a focal point in the garden.

A peck of tomatillos from Dawn's garden gave me more than three quarts of salsa for the freezer and pantry.

A peck of tomatillos from Dawn’s garden gave me more than three quarts of salsa for the freezer and pantry.             And for giving away.

Playing with food. Fresh garden salad in the last week of October. Not only have gardens kept producing well past usual, but I've only burned three fires in the woodstove by Halloween. Instead of the usual dozens.

Playing with food. Fresh garden salad in the last week of October. Not only have gardens kept producing well past usual, but I’ve only burned three fires in the woodstove by Halloween. Instead of the usual dozens.

This harvest season various friends have given me tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos. I’ve given away zucchinis, parsley, garlic, and kefir, and traded some carrots for an artisanal dog collar. We live close to the land and we share. I am grateful every day. An unexpected gift began last weekend. Three of us were driving to town for what turned out to be a truly extraordinary Bach and Schubert concert. Bill mentioned that he had an extra piglet. Before long, Deb and I committed to sharing that pig, and ended up picking up a fifth piglet in Montrose which we delivered to Bill’s pigpen. While we’re paying for the pigs and our share of their feed, Bill is giving his time to grow the pigs through spring slaughter for what turns out to be seven households in the neighborhood. It is imperative that I diligently eat up all those packets of peaches, cherries, tomato sauce, soup, pesto, and grated zucchini I’ve stuffed into my chest freezer over the past few months, so there’s room for half a pig by springtime.

Adventures with Pigs: Farmer Dave kicks up dust chasing piglets.

Adventures with Pigs: Farmer Dave kicks up dust chasing piglets.

Pig in a net on the way to the dog crate in the car.

Pig in a net on the way to the dog crate in the car.

IMG_0931

Farmer Dave in Montrose last week, where the cottonwoods still blaze in fall glory.

Farmer Dave in Montrose last week, where the cottonwoods still blaze in fall glory.

Unloading the fifth piglet at Farmer Bill's pigpen on Fruitland Mesa.

Unloading the fifth piglet at Farmer Bill’s pigpen on Fruitland Mesa, Zeke and Rocky supervising.

The fifth piglet joins his four litter mates two days after they arrived in Crawford...

The fifth piglet joins his four litter mates two days after they arrived in Crawford…

At first, they turned their backs on him, as if they didn't know him...

At first, they turned their backs on him, as if they didn’t know him…

...but then they gave him a warm welcome. Actually, they chased and bit and humped him for about fifteen minutes, then they all lay down. Bill said the next day it was as though they'd never been separated.

…but then they gave him a warm welcome. Actually, they chased and bit and humped him for about fifteen minutes, then they all lay down. Bill said the next day it was as though they’d never been separated.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s