It is the first of October and there is the sharp, rich smell of fall in the air finally. We have had a long and dry end to the summer which has extended the harvest of a number of varieties of vegetables. A cool start to the season delayed the seeding of a number of crops. Now it looks like all the corn, chile and squash will make, despite the late planting.
I remember as a kid my relatives on the plains sent a Christmas letter with a month-by-month description of disasters that befell their crops and animals. It seemed like a lost strand of our western myth – a hand turned against the best efforts of decent folk – narrated in a flat Kansas voice. When one planting was lost, they started again if there was time enough. There is something about this business, that brings out the Stoic. Anyway, our season was marked by flood and hail and a number of plants eventually succumbed to diseases and pests. It was a good test of these open-pollinated varieties and of my temper.
Eventually, though, I gathered seed for dozens of new varieties of tomatoes from the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, France and Belgium. Many are old – dating to between the wars. Nearly all were remarkably productive and unique in shape, color or flavor. The catalog is stuffed with new offerings.
I also grew out new varieties of dry beans with mixed results and tried chile and peppers I had not grown before. It is the peppers and corn that have really benefited from our warm fall. In the spring, when we hold the seed blessing and exchange, I will be able to share a number of wonderful crops.
So it has not been perfect, but with the trees loaded with apples and the vines covered in grapes, it is easy to forget the difficulties.
This is the best time of the year and as good as life on the farm gets.