November 11th, 2009

Dark Days

The week has been wet and dark. It has rained some every day and with day light savings time over, it gets dark early. Sunset is around four thirty, and, if it’s overcast at sunset, like most days this week, it is dark at at five. And the shortest day of the year is still more than a month off. This is the gloomy part of the year.

The Chinese make a point of this being the season when life is about to begin improving. In just six weeks, days will start to lengthen and nothing can be bad about that.

Over the weekend, I did my best to cheer the farm up and hasten the lengthening of the days by turning under the garden and the corn field. The place was looking sorry for itself. The corn field was filled with gray, bedraggled, and collapsing stalks and half the garden was littered with rotting zucchini and crookneck summer squash. The other half was broccoli gone to seed and dead tomato vines and forlorn bean poles. Altogether, a sad sight made sadder by dark days.

The tractor and rototiller made short work of it all, pulverizing the vegetable matter and mixing it into the soil. Now the garden and cornfield are a nice even reddish brown and the soil bacteria are busy tearing apart the turned under green manure. I hope it is all nicely broken down by spring when it is time to prepare for planting. I will probably go over the plots at least once with the field cultivator yet this fall, which will loosen up the soil more deeply. When I dug the potatoes, the soil seemed hard just a few inches down, even though the topsoil is rich with organic matter for several feet. The field cultivator will loosen up the soil and stimulate the bacteria, I hope.

We had a bumper crop of both winter and summer squash this year. The winter squash is all in the barn now– I have to either give it away or find a place to keep it. The basement is too warm and the barn freezes. The pump house is the right temperature, but it is too damp. Dad always had the same problem. He stored winter squash in the pump house and most years we had to throw out rotten squashes before their time toward the end of the winter.

Of course, what you can’t eat must rot, so the real solution is to be generous and give away what you don’t expect to consume.

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