Days Shorten—As My To-Do List Grows

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Front Page / Sep. 7, 2017 9:05am EDT

Next Harvest
By Jennifer Megyesi

The month of August always seems to wreak havoc with my summer plans.

After the rush of July’s bounty has settled in to a routine—berries, greens, cukes, zukes, and the first tomatoes—it inundates the farm with everything at once. Weeds need to be kept at bay, the livestock must be moved to new pasture regularly so there’s enough left for September when the sun’s angle lowers and doesn’t promote as much pasture growth, and the meat birds are ready for harvest.

The gardens are spilling with so many jewels now that once-treasured golden orbs of yellow squash are just excess for the laying hens instead of being coveted for dinner; beans, beets, peppers, spinach, radishes, carrots, artichokes, parsley, cilantro, basil, sage, and gobs and gobs of tomatoes are ready for daily picking, if only we can get to harvesting them all.

And sweet corn! I didn’t grow corn this year, but Robert at the South Royalton Farmer’s Market and Geo at Hurricane Flats have tons of juicy ears that I can’t stop buying. Even if it’s not consumed that day, I can blanch and freeze the kernels from the husked cobs for later this winter.

By all accounts, a rest from the bustle of summer should be welcomed in September, but I find myself wistfully ticking off the “last ofs” for the year and bracing for the next nine months before the spring peepers will sing again from the wetlands surrounding the farm. It takes me by surprise every time to think that, come Tunbridge Fair (that’s just days away), we could have our first frost.

I’ve got to get the timer on in the laying hen’s house so that they’re still provided with 13 hours of daylight; they’ll stop production otherwise. On the other hand, the cool temperatures and waning light signal the ram with the flock of sheep that it’s time for breeding. The pasture at the solar farm where they’ve spent the summer is still lush and will support them for the next two months before they return to the farm, while the two heifers and the old pet ram here have moved on to their fall pasture down near the apple orchard.

And what a fall for apples it’s going to be! The trees are so full that their branches cascade, almost to the ground, full of ripening, fat fruits. I’ve picked a few already, but they’re still a little tart, and once split open with a knife, the seeds inside are white instead of a nutty brown. I still have enough ap- plesauce leftover from last year’s harvest, but my cider supply is long gone, so I’m looking forward to the new crop.

In the south garden, the Jerusalem artichokes are close to harvest, and wild mushrooms abound in the woods around the farm. The staghorn sumac is ripening, as are beechnuts, butternuts, and acorns. Even the hazelnut trees in the orchard are spilling over with fruits. There’s plenty of food for deer and other wildlife, and since I’m on my last pack of venison, I’m looking forward to trading eggs, apples, and chicken to someone for deer meat in the fall.

As I face September, I gear into get-ready-for-winter mode: prepare the winter animal pens, stack firewood, and harvest, freeze, can, or dry anything I am able to from the gardens.

My Go-To Lunch

With so much to do, and waning daylight, it’s nice to have something to eat for lunch that’s quick to fix and easy on the stomach. My go-to salad consists of a small amount of diced roast chicken from the night before (prepared in the oven at 375° until juices run clear from the thigh. That’s about 75 minutes for a four-pound whole bird, which has been basted with a little olive oil, chopped garlic, kosher salt and ground black pepper), diced tomatoes (different colors for variety), seeded and peeled cucumbers (I prefer pickling varieties to slicers), minced red onion and cubed cheese.

The veggies should make up the bulk of the mix, and the meat and cheese are more for “garnish”. All of this is mixed with a little olive oil and vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste, or if you’re really in a hurry, any prepared salad dressing will do. I can fill up in a hurry without the guilt associated with downing a bag of chips or a sandwich that’s heavy on bread and meat before heading off to more late summer chores in my race to beat the inevitable frost and cold that this month will bring.

The Next Harvest is a bi-weekly column about food and farming written by Jennifer Megyesi of Fat Rooster Farm in South Royalton.

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