Friday, September 23, 2011

Surprises of Fall

Fall came so quickly this year.  Today is the first day of fall, but we have had fall weather for the past several weeks.  Spending entire days every week interacting with the earth and plants has made me notice the season's changes much more acutely this year.  Here are the things I've noticed most as the weather has changed:

  • The bees and wasps are already gone.  The flowers are still going strong, but that cloud of buzzing has disappeared.  There are still a few slow bumblebees here and there. 
  • The spiders are out in force.  Many blooms have their own resident flower spider, and there are lots of webs strung up between the plants.  We had the biggest garden spider I've ever seen in the hoop house. 
    Garden Spider Source
  • It feels strange to eat cherry tomatoes when it's cool and cloudy.  The tomatoes taste the same, it's just not as heavenly to pop them in my mouth when I walk by the tomatoes.  Now I want to nibble the turnip leaves.
  • The smell of tomatoes rotting in the field is almost intoxicating.  It's difficult to describe why this is so wonderful, but there's a toasty, dusty, cheesy, roasted tomato smell all around the tomato rows from the unusable tomatoes that makes my head spin.  Rotting squash smell great in the field too.  Don't try this at home - it doesn't work without sunshine and dirt.
  • The crops are all different now.  Instead of tomatoes, squash and melons, we have turnips (the best vegetable), chard and beets.  It happened so fast.
  • The weeds have slowed down a lot, thank goodness.  Even though I can see the scattered crab grass seeds everywhere, and I know what's ahead for next summer, the pressure's backed off a bit for now.
  • It's easy to get a LOT done now that it's not 100 degrees.  In the extreme heat, work slows down due to the body's physiological constraints.  These crisp, cool days mean that I can work fast and easily, and everything feels good.
  • I only go fill my water bottle once or twice a day now, instead of four or five times.
  • Ironically, the work is starting to taper off even as our capacity to do it increases.  Since fewer crops grow during the winter, a lot of the fields are lying fallow, and we have planted cover crops.  Here is the melon field, all disked in and planted with a mixture of vetch, radish and rye for the winter:
    This field is done for the year.
  • The farm is looking more neat and tidy.  With things growing more slowly, there is time to organize and clean up.  June and July felt like a race to keep up with the creeping jungle of crops and weeds, and now it feels like we are getting ahead.
I only have one or two more days to work on the farm, then I'm moving to the heart of Chicago for a while.  I expect the contrast to be a little jarring.  I'll be reporting on what biological phenomena I observe in the city.  In the mean time, I'm savoring the last few hours of fresh air, big skies and working on the earth here in Middle Tennessee. 

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