Last week, we had our first real frost, down to 28 degrees for several hours. A freeze like that draws a line in the sand: there’s no turning back now. The flowers are crumpled and brown, and the peppers finally called it quits. The forecast for the coming weeks looks unseasonably cold and exceptionally wet. On harvest mornings, we bundle up and try to keep our fingers from going totally numb with cold as we pick radicchio. If only we could stay cozy inside, but there are two more weeks of CSA boxes to be packed—and beyond that, a whole farm to move. We must push on.
On Saturday, in what has become an annual tradition, we gathered with our CSA members, friends, and family for a garlic party. Usually it’s a big potluck, but we don’t have a covered space yet at the new farm, so this year we kept it to snacks and drinks. Sitting in circles on picnic blankets, we chatted and “popped” (farmer's speak for “separated”) the heads of garlic from this year’s crop into individual cloves. Then we pushed the cloves down into the soil and wished them well for the cold months ahead. This year, we wished extra hard, because those garlic cloves are the very first crop planted on the new land. And we toasted the garlic and the new land with Champagne. We even watered in some garlic with Champagne for an extra dose of good luck!
For farmers, the growing season never really ends. The first freeze marks the end of the main growing season, but garlic-planting marks the beginning of the next year. While most plants are dying back or going dormant for the winter, garlic is miraculously re-emerging into life. Planting garlic on the new land is just one small task in a mountain of to-do's, but it feels like a big step towards building our new life there.
With any luck, in the next few weeks, the garlic will begin to put down roots and send up green shoots. It will grow very slowly over the darkest part of the winter, and then pick up speed as the sun returns in February and March. We can all look forward to sweet green garlic first thing in the spring; by the end of May, we’ll have beautiful heads of mature garlic.
It feels as if something shifted this week. Planting garlic with friends and CSA members makes everything just a little more real and grounded. The new land is no longer just a field. It’s a farm. We can stop pinching ourselves. This is not a dream.