Yesterday was another glorious fall day and a great day to be outside. I'm so blessed to be home on the farm full time where I can take advantage of such days and not be confined to an office for 8 hours!
The day started out cold, with a low temperature of 28 overnight resulting in a freeze here, That means even row cover wouldn't save the frost-sensitive plants, so my basil and peppers are truly gone until next year, except for ones I've dried, canned or frozen. We've also finished digging onions and potatoes. While I hope to have beets again and the Swiss chard is still growing strong, the last major vegetable to harvest is our winter squash. If you've been to the stand recently, you've seen baskets overflowing with them, but the vines are dead and it was time to bring in the rest for storage as they were as ripe as they will get out there. Although the Kabocha and buttercups didn't do quite as well as they had in the past, we had a bumper crop of butternuts and great success with a new variety called sweet dumpling. It's like an acorn with a lighter, milder flavor and a beautiful white & green mottled exterior. There were still so many out there, I got the garden tractor and a trailer to cart them back to the stand. Although I can drive this little tractor, it's a joke between Dan and I that I can't touch a lawn tractor without breaking it; I get it stuck in a ditch, a bolt for the steering comes loose and I shut it off and abandon it mid-field, a belt breaks, or I jackknife the trailer hopelessly trying to turn. He's always on the lookout for where I've left the tractor around the farm after some such disaster for him to repair when he gets home. Amazingly, it was a tractor problem-free day. The squash looked so pretty, I just had to take a picture of it partway through collecting: you can see various gourds, acorns, buttercups, butternuts, sweet dumplings, spaghetti, and hubbard squash!
Hundreds of pounds of squash later, I was done. After we cut some more sunflower heads and some more corn shocks, all that will remain to do will be to pull up the plastic and fabric mulches that helped to keep the weeds at bay over the growing season.
Every year, there are successes and failures, that's why it's so important to us to have a diverse planting of vegetables. This year, the successes far outweighed the crops that under-performed. We keep careful track of which varieties work well for us, so each year we can learn more and take that knowledge into the next growing season. Although it's always a bit bittersweet to see the seasons change and the plants die or go dormant in preparation for winter snow, I know when the snow really starts to pile up I'll be able to warm myself by the cozy woodstove in the living room, perusing the seed catalogs, eyeing up new varieties and old favorites, and planning for the 2011 garden.