It’s crunch time at Terra Firma right now. Despite the unseasonal hot weather we’ve been having since Labor Day (it was 103 on Friday, for example), we are scrambling to get ready for winter.
That’s right. I said “Winter”. I know that it’s officially still summer for another 5 days, but the sun is already getting low in the sky and it’s fully dark by eight p.m.
Preparing for winter on our farm involves two primary activities. The first is planting winter crops. We have just 6-8 weeks during which we can plant vegetables like carrots, kale, beets, and cabbage. It’s still much too hot in July, but by late September, the days are getting so short that the crops don’t reach the critical size before the dark, cold and wet (we hope) days of winter set in.
Planting winter crops in August and early September is a challenge, mostly due to the hot weather. Tiny seedlings need water almost daily when it’s over 90 degrees. And unlike, say, carrots, weeds love the heat. They grow so fast it is tough sometimes to keep them from overrunning the much slower growing vegetables. Bugs like hot weather too, growing faster and reproducing more frequently.
While we are busy watering and weeding, there’s another big job to be done right now: harvesting our many acres of storage crops. Winter squash, sweet potatoes, and potatoes that we harvest now will keep through much of winter and are critical to filling your boxes during that time. Between Labor Day and the end of this month, we will end up harvesting over a hundreds thousand pounds of these crops.
One storage crop that doesn’t make that much work for us is Pistachios. That’s because the crop is shaken from the trees mechanically onto tarps and conveyor belts. We don’t own the expensive harvest equipment, but rather contract it out. This year’s very light crop of nuts took just a day and a half to harvest.
By the end of this month, most of our summer crops will be done for the year and we’ll be watching the skies for the rain we hope will come in abundance. It’s been mostly sunny and dry here now for what feels like 9 months, and we’re ready for a change.