October 2, 2013 ~ Snapping out of the fall frenzy

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

We're clearing out our high tunnel of our tomatoes and getting the space ready for winter spinach. (HBF, September 30, 2013; A. Gross)

We’re clearing out our high tunnel of our tomatoes and getting the space ready for winter spinach. (HBF, September 30, 2013; A. Gross)

Happy October! We’re pretty fortunate to be New Englanders during this colorful time. This is by far my favorite month of the year. The scenery is breathtaking, the food is amazing, and, as a personal rule, I usually equate October 1st with being the unofficial start-date of when sweater wearing becomes socially acceptable again for the season. But what does the first full month of autumn look like here at the farm? If September was the month that we could start to relax and bask in our triumphs from the summer harvest, October, then, seems to bring with it a new form of subtle intensity. At this point, we’re winding down, but I hesitate to use the word “end.”  Our priorities have just shifted. We’re cleaning up the high tunnel, which includes pulling out tomato plants, to make room for our winter spinach crop. Our fields are gradually clearing up to plant cover crops. And, sadly, we’re transplanting and covering the last of our field greens before the much colder temperatures set in.

Last week, I mentioned that farmers have a propensity to be a tad dramatic. Maybe it’s the anticipation of the upcoming season, but we can sometimes revert to some form of crazy – albeit minor when compared to the July farmer. For example, although we carefully plan, watch and execute a crop plan to ensure a bountiful and diverse harvest for the duration of the season, there’s a constant, slightly irrational worry that we are simply not going to have enough food:

Keep calm and harvest on! Nicole and Maureen harvest French breakfast radishes (HBF, October 1, 2013; A. Gross)

Keep calm and harvest on! Nicole and Maureen harvest French breakfast radishes (HBF, October 1, 2013; A. Gross)

On Monday, Teresa, Nicole and I typically do a ride-around of the fields to talk about the harvest and projects for the week. I usually take a notebook out to the field with me, and, while flipping through to find a new page, I came across a CSA harvest list from August. Wow, talk about a line-up, full of squash, zucchini, tons of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, lettuce and all those bright flavors of summer. For a moment I was racked with anxiety and thought, “How can we even compete with that this week?! What do we even have left in the field?! This is a nightmare!!!” (I’m sure Teresa and Nicole might have been thinking something similar, but for fear of sounding crazy and an attempt to keep it calm in the morning, I didn’t articulate my thought process with them.) But, I soon snapped out of my anxious state when we pulled off the row cover to reveal full rows of Asian greens, arugula, radishes, head lettuce and Swiss chard.  Oh, right, we did that on purpose! We do know what we’re doing!!

October has a way of instilling confidence in me as a food grower. The list of projects can be daunting and the harvest is going strong. But, just when I start to stress out about all the things that need to be accomplished, October does seem to have a calming presence. It might be the Jiminy Cricket of calendar months.  It may be a combination of the sights, smells and food, but October sort of always says, “Al, chill out. You’re going to be fine. There’s enough food for everyone and everything will get done on the farm. Enjoy the moment, or I’ll slap you.”

And that’s the advice that I plan to follow over the next few weeks. It’s my final season here at Hunts Brook, so rather than living in a state of constant anticipation, I’m going to do by best to listen to the sage words that October brings, focus on the present and savor my surroundings.

On behalf of the HBF crew,

Alex

Week 17: October 2, 2013

The magic this week:

      • kale
      • lettuce
      • rutabaga or hakurei turnips
      • beets or carrots
      • eggplant
      • peppers
      • radishes
      • arugula
      • Asian greens (braising mix, bok choi or tatsoi)
      • tomatoes
      • potatoes
      • garlic
      • butternut squash!

It’s all about butternut squash this week. To get you started, here’s a terrific recipe to add to your fall cooking routine:

Butternut squash

Butternut squash!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa/Food Network)

Ingredients:

        • 3 to 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded
        • 2 yellow onions
        • 2 (McIntosh) apples, peeled and cored
        • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
        • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
        • 2 to 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (vegetable stock can be substituted)
        • 1/2 teaspoon good curry powder

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the butternut squash, onions, and apples into 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss them with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Divide the squash mixture between 2 sheet pans and spread in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, tossing occasionally, until very tender.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.) When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings to be sure there’s enough salt and pepper to bring out the curry flavor. Reheat and serve hot with condiments either on the side or on top of each serving.

Question of the week/favor for the farmers:

It’s difficult to believe it, but next week is the last week of our CSA program for the 2013 season. But, that doesn’t mean it needs to be a gloomy occasion! We want to celebrate the past season and find out what you enjoyed most. So, tell us: What was your favorite item in the share? What were some of the tasty dishes that you created with veggies from your weekly share?

We’d love to hear the answers to these questions and any experience you’d like to share so we can feature them next week, here, on our newsletter!

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About Hunts Brook Farm

Hunts Brook Farm is a small family farm in Quaker Hill, CT. We grow vegetables, cut flowers, herbs, fruit, and berries and are continuing to grow every year! We use organic practices, although we are not certified. We have a CSA, a farm stand, and also go to local farmers markets.
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2 Responses to October 2, 2013 ~ Snapping out of the fall frenzy

  1. pnc15 @tvcconnect.net says:

    Really enjoyed the lettuce, and it was just about the right amount. Less Kale. Cucumbers and tomatoes wonderful, and always look forward to the butternut squash. Nancy ps made lots of pickled and pickled beets.

  2. cindy says:

    Everything has been wonderful and loved being introduced to Asian greens that I had not tried before. Keep the surprises coming.
    I’m always thrilled to see dandelion greens, not because I care that much for the greens, but because I like the cooking water. Boil up a bunch and let sit for a few minutes. Give the greens to someone else. Tell them they are really really good for them. Then strain the cooking water into some big mason jars and get the liquid really cold. Add lemon juice. I think it tastes a lot like unsweetened grapefruit juice this way.

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