There are lots of things to celebrate on a New England vegetable farm in November.
First and foremost, there’s already been a killing frost, and the garden plants are all dead. Hooray!
Secondly, since there’s been that frost, most of the root vegetables-- carrots, beets, daikon radishes, purple top turnips, rutabagas-- have already been dug. Hooray!
Thirdly, by now, in November, all the bags and boxes and bins have been properly stored in the root cellar, rather than heaped and piled all over the living room and kitchen, leaving only narrow winding paths through the house. Now we can walk from our front door to the couch to the kitchen stove without stumbling over a thing. Hooray!
Fourthly, our draft horses, who have had a merry the-pasture’s-getting-short-let’s-break-out-and-visit-the-neighbors’-fields time of it, are now happily in their winter paddock, gobbling down all that good hay we put up last summer.
Fifthly, we are nearing the end of our vegetable distribution season, which runs from early June to the week before Thanksgiving. We love our CSA members; we love to have them come to the farm; and we also love the rhythm of six months of farm pick-ups and six months of no farm pick-ups. It gives us a good solid opportunity to miss our nice members.
Sixthly, in November, we can take a bit more cavalier approach to our work: Hmm, shall I roll up the irrigation today . . . or tomorrow?
In this particular farmer’s case, when it comes to irrigation, I would like to say “tomorrow” indefinitely. Though my fellow farmer seems to have no difficulty dealing with our drip (also called “trickle” irrigation, as we’ve heard some folks say around here) irrigation, I find it maddening, to say the least.
In fact, the first time I had to roll irrigation lines, almost twenty years ago, as an intern on a biodynamic farm near Philadelphia, I couldn’t quite believe how onerous I found the task. Though I am normally a patient, non-cussing sort of person, I had to bite my tongue.
The other interns were chatting, rolling their irrigation lines into easy symmetrical loops. My line was thrashing and kicking, kinking and screaming. I too wanted to thrash and scream, but I was fairly new at the farm, not quite comfortable rolling out a seldom-used line of cuss words as I attempted to roll my drip line.
As the other interns walked away smiling, with their quiet, co-operative loops of line tucked cozily under their arms, the head farmer approached, watching my lack of progress closely.
“How’s it going here?” he asked.
I breathed deeply, searching for an appropriate, non-expletive answer. Finally I said, “I’m finding it . . . soul-strengthening.”
The farmer, bless his heart, laughed. And twenty years later, my fellow farmer, once my former fellow intern, is still laughing, in the nicest way possible.
“How’s it going?” he says, loping down the beds towards me and my tangle of irrigation line. “Is your soul really strong yet? Here, pal, let me finish that up for you.”
I’m not sure if his offer is motivated more by sympathy for me, or by sympathy for the mangled irrigation line (which really is a wonderful line, very efficient, water-saving, and all that good stuff), but I don’t care.
I am only happy to hand it over. And happy that is wonderful November, when even the irrigation is rolled up and quietly resting for the winter.
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Nov 27 – Dec 3, 2013