Fall Spirits on the Farm

For years, we farmers waited eagerly for Halloween to fall on a CSA harvest day. Finally, not long ago, it did, and we played lots of funny tricks on our CSA members. We changed all the vegetable signs around, so that the lettuce read carrots, and the kale read beets. We put some rocks in the potatoes, and we drew ghosts and spiders on our harvest chalkboard. We even had a fierce fanged green pepper and a turnip jack-o-lantern.

We were so thoroughly Halloweeny we thought the trick or treat spirit would last us for another good many years. But Halloween happened on harvest day again, a mere three years later, and we didn't have any new tricks up our farmer sleeves.

Luckily, even if we weren't ready, the Halloween spirits were.

A little autumn on the farm background: for two months, we dig our potatoes for the week on a Monday, so that we are ready for the following Tuesday and Friday harvest days. The potatoes are not a quick harvesting job; it takes 3 or 4 hours to dig a 200 foot bed. We had been digging our Monday potatoes for a good month or six weeks before October 31st this year.

But somehow, on the Monday right before Halloween, we completely forgot our potatoes. Of course, we were doing other useful harvest tasks, such as gathering apples to press cider, but potatoes? Never crossed our minds.

Thus it was, on Halloween harvest morning, that I woke with a jerk.

“Oh, no,” I whispered, in great alarm.

“What's the matter?” whispered my sleepy fellow.

“Did you dig the potatoes?” This despite the fact that I had been working with my fellow all day, and we clearly had not dug the potatoes.

“No,” he whispered, very succinctly.

I uttered a mild Halloween curse. “We're never going to get done on time!” I threw off the covers, and leapt into my clothes. My fellow did likewise. We stumbled down the stairs. There in the kitchen was our laughing Halloween clock: it read 4:00 a.m.

“Oh, geesh,” I said. “It's four o'clock.”

“Happy Halloween,” said my fellow.

“Meoooow -puuurrrr,” said our Halloween Kitty, which translates as, “This is fantastic, I love getting up this early, let's go outside right now and catch a mouse!”

By that time we farmers were so overstimulated by our harvest panic that we couldn't imagine going back to bed. We strapped on our headlamps, and went out with our happy kitty to greet the Halloween stars. They were brilliant. The air was still, and it was relatively warm. It was actually quite pleasant. I harvested the lettuce, and the kale, and the Swiss chard. My fellow tackled the potatoes.

At 6 a.m., which is when we might normally get up on an October harvest day, we went inside for breakfast. We didn't linger over coffee and kefir, however, because we still had a lot to do. My fellow went back to the potatoes. I went on to beets, squash, and carrots. The morning wore away. We began to feel we had been up for a good many hours.

Around ten, we had some popcorn, complete with Halloween colors – a little black on the burned  

bits, a little orange from the turmeric, which tastes good, and is anti-inflamatory, i.e., it wards off Halloween devils. The popcorn pepped us right up, or at least kept us harvesting.

We picked, sorted, washed, and labelled. We were getting close to our one o'clock deadline, when CSA members would begin to arrive. Since I had so few years to think since the last Halloween harvest, and so few hours of sleep, I really couldn't seem to come up with any new tricks. I resorted to my old ones: switching the vegetable labels around.

My fellow came over, yawning, with the parsley he'd just picked. It was the last crop of the long morning

“Let's see,” he said slowly, “Why does the kale say potatoes? What happened here with the tags?”

I smiled at him. “Looks like my old trick still works,” I said.

He looked at me, a little blankly, a little sleepily.

“Happy Halloween!” I said.

My fellow mustered up a smile. “Oh, right. At least we got done in time. That's a treat.”

“Indeed,” I answered, and we held hands all the way to our Halloween Harvest lunch.

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Nov 22-28, 2017