This will probably be remembered as the year of the pumpkin, thanks to Peter and his affinity for all things sweet, odd, and extreme. His pick-your-own oddball patch was a hit among CSA members, and his giant, 600 lb. pumpkin was a sight to behold. He began hatching plans last spring, when participants from the 2020 Halloween play were eager to know if I would direct another play this year. I wasn’t sure that I would. Last fall, when the pandemic was weighing everyone down, I jumped at the opportunity to organize something unconventional and escapist—an interactive play that led the audience through the fields in search of a witch. It was a ton of fun, but also a ton of work, and I didn’t know if I wanted to make it an annual event. But with last year’s cast hoping for a repeat, and with Peter on board as the set builder, I decided to go for it. His giant pumpkin would be the star and my muse.
In late September, we hit a snag. A crack had formed in the pumpkin’s base, and rot was beginning to set in. There was no way the pumpkin would last until Halloween. So I revised the script, preserving the pumpkin’s role in spirit, if not in body. We performed The Great Pumpkin Chase on Halloween with a 28-person cast that included staff, CSA members, volunteers, and taiko drummers. It was a goofy, slapstick tale of treachery, redemption, and rebirth. Thanks to my dad, Adrian Fanning, and drummer Marcelo Maziero, you can watch a video of the entire performance here.
After the play it was back to work, with garlic taking center stage. We planted on November 2 and 3, and then again on November 10, following the biodynamic calendar, which synchronizes agricultural tasks with cosmic rhythms. If you think that’s nuts, consider this: the moon controls ocean tides, so why wouldn’t it also control water in the soil? Any farmer will tell you there are tasks that require plenty of water (planting), and tasks that don’t (weeding), so to the extent that you can plan your tasks in accordance with the moon, you’re doing no harm and possibly some extra good.
On the last day of planting, we planted bulbils in the flower beds next to the Tin House. Bulbils are what you get if you don’t cut the scapes in the spring. The small, tear-drop shaped pearls are mini cloves that grow alongside the (mostly infertile) flowers at the end of the scape. People often mistake them for seed, but they’re actually clones of the mother plant (so are the cloves). Plant the biggest bulbils in November, and you get a clove-sized “round” in July. Plant that round the following November, you get a full-sized bulb the following July. Why wait two seasons for a bulbil to produce what a clove can do in half the time? Simple. Whereas one hardneck bulb gets you 4-6 cloves, one scape can produce dozens of bulbils. That is, what you lose in time you more than make up for in seed, allowing you to save more of your crop for eating, sharing, sales, whatever. There’s another reason, too…experimenting is the best part of being a garlic wonk.
So Halloween was great, garlic planting was great, but there have been some major headaches, too. A truck stuck in the mud. Multiple flat tires. A broken garage door. The biggest upset came Halloween night, when my computer totally died. I’d never heard the phrase “Mercury in retrograde” before, but now I know. Two weeks later, I’m still trying to dig myself out of the hole. I’ll get there eventually, but in the meantime, please excuse any farm office mayhem.