This Saturday may be our last market for the year. We don't quite know how the lettuce will "pick out" but if this Saturday isn't the last, then next Saturday will be. That means that we have trucked on down to the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market for six and a half months this year; that Ken King and designated family members have rousted out of bed at 4:00 AM for almost 30 Saturdays and 25 or so Wednesdays; that friends and family have pitched for just as many Tuesdays and Fridays helping to harvest and make salad mix for next day's market; that countless seeds have sprouted, grown to fullness and offered up their ripe richness to harvesting hands; that brightly-colored rows of vegetation have decorated the garden in a changing patchwork throughout the season; that bowed backs have moved slowly through the rows, keen eyes and nimble fingers creating order in cultivation or harvest; that hundreds of boxes have been filled, trucked to market, emptied and dispersed, and trucked back to farm ready to be filled again; that countless wheelbarrow fulls of compost have been trundled off to steaming piles, to cook and season, creating the miracle of rich earth from vegetable waste -- true alchemy; that the sun has offered its growth-giving radiance over and over; and that rains have nourished thirsty roots; that farmers have rejoiced; that farmers have cursed; that we have listened to birds, seen rainbows, watched butterflies; and that some days we have started early, ended late, and never looked up. It's all in a season's work, and a very good season it has been. Thanks everyone!
And although frogs dig down in the mud for the winter, I plan to continue the frog log with hopefully more insights into organic farming and vignettes from the Holler. Stay tuned!
Okay, the garden really looks different now. Most of the remaining crops huddle under white polyester-filament row covers, hoping to survive the present cold snap. Amid the long white humps of covered rows, only the kale and collards stand tall, flexing their vegetal muscles as they tell Jack Frost to bring it on!
If the lettuce makes it through the next few days, we will have salad mix fior another week or two. We'll also have greens, onions, beets, and some of the best-flavored winter squash we have grown in years. Hopefully customers won't give up on the Farmer's Market just yet. We growers have our tricks to extend the season. There will be plenty of good pickin's at the market, even long after the first frost.
And if you arrived at this Frog Log to learn more about the Oct. 28. party...hope you can make it! With the Tigers winning their third game against Oakland tonight, it's starting to look very likely that they will be in the World Series! And if that is the case, they may very likely be playing on October 28. So we'll include a big television screen in the party!
If you have any questions about the party, feel free to leave them at the end of the blog. I do plan to award fabulous prizes for the best costumes, so start planning! And the music will be stellar, with Billy King and his band the Idylls, rocking the barn to set all the monsters in motion.
Frog Holler has always been so much more than a "working farm" to us. When our community of friends and customers joins us on this beautiful piece of land, sharing music, good food and fellowship, we feel blessed to be part of an agriculture. Hope to see you!
The garden looks different now that Fall is truly upon us. The leafy greens have taken on a darker hue; the reds are more bronzey. And the texture of the garden has become more homogenous. The tall corn stalks have been chopped, errant weeds have been mowed, and even the bushy tomoato vines now lie in a tangle on the ground, pulled from their supports by the weight of plump tomatoes. All the crops are lower, closer to the ground; and as we make the final harvests, the bare earth prepares to be tucked away, to rest and restore until the growing season returns.
And we are on our last bean patch. Now I have written about beans before. And Tom gave me a hard time for saying I was tired of picking them four times in one Frog Log. Okay, maybe that was a little excessive, but then we pick an excessive amount of beans! We start picking in mid-July, right around the Art Fair, when everyone on the market has beans. But when most other farmers go on to tomatoes and corn, we don't stop planting (and picking) those beans. We head down the bean rows three times a week until frost, and I must admit our customers do appreciate the regular arrival of fresh-picked beans.
But beans aren't easy to pick. There's no getting around bending over, and staying bent over, for hours at a time. And once you have been in that position for so long, straightening up is the hard part! Tom seems to stop by often when we are picking, so he is familiar with the "picking beans greeting". When I asked him to describe it, he sort of stammered and blushed. Okay, I don't crawl when I pick; I stand up and bend over. But when my spine has been bent for so long, all I can do is sort of crane my neck slightly, as I turn my head and grunt Hi. You can figure out what part of me remains pointing North.
No matter if you crawl, or stand and bend to pick, there is the same slow and aching return to vertical once the last bean has been picked. If we were characters in a cartoon, the sound effects guy would add one of those creaking door sounds as we all slowly straighten. And I have noticed that some farmers don't seem to accomplish those last few degrees of vertical return, after years of bending toward the earth. When we first started on the market, the stalls across from us were rented by Mr. and Mrs. Van Hoy. Folks called Mr. Van Hoy, "Pappy", but Mrs. Van Hoy, despite being less than five feet tall, was far too formidable to merit a nickname. She ruled the stall (and Pappy) as she dispensed fruit, perennial plants, and undisputed opinions to her loyal customers. And she might have been a little taller if she could have straightened up completely. At that stage in her life, it was no longer an option. A child of the Depression, Mrs. Van Hoy worked hard for that bend in her spine. But it did make it difficult for her to look up.
I want to keep looking up, so I do yoga, and balance the physical work with different sorts of activity. And we don't pick beans 24/7. It might seem like it sometimes, but we grow a diversity of crops, and aren't stuck in one sort of activity day after day. So as we wind up the bean picking, to steal a line from one of my son Billy's songs, "I'm not sorry, but I'm a little bit sad." For when the last bean is picked, the warm weather crops will all be gone; frost will be whistling down our necks, and Summer 2006 will be history. And in the long run, I'm grateful for the bounty of beans, for my strong back to pick them, and for our appreciative customers who have, without exception, snapped up every last basket of green and yellow goodness.
And now I'm off to stretch!