The 2021 garlic harvest is complete. Roughly 10,000 bulbs are now hanging in the rafters behind the Tin House, or stacked in the greenhouse to cure. This year’s haul was 25% bigger than in 2020, thanks to the addition of two new varieties—Inchelium Red softneck and German Red rocambole—and thanks to our seed garlic side hustle. We’ve been planting from our own saved seed for 12+ years, but since 2019, we’ve also been working to expand the supply so we can also sell to other Long Island growers. It’s a nice star to aim for, but in practical terms this means scrambling for additional storage space, rafters being in short supply. Lucky for us, Peter’s 2019 season at Featherbed Lane Farm in upstate NY taught him a thing or two about garlic storage. Using nothing but 2x4s, he assembled a tower of garlic in the middle of the greenhouse that allows for plenty of airflow, a critical element in the curing process. It is a sight to behold, and I feel rich whenever I look at it, which is often—you get a pretty good view from the lunch table in the Tin House.
The past few weeks have been consistently humid if not downright wet—not what you’d want for garlic harvest. But at least we cleared the fields before Tropical Storm Elsa rolled through. During the worst of the rain, I got a text from my friend, Liz Ellis Victorine, who shared her concern for the fields. I reassured her I was not particularly worried—we’ve learned to expect extreme weather, and to plan accordingly. That is why carrots, arugula, and other direct-seeded crops only go in the high field where erosion is least problematic. And why our tomato stakes are anchored two feet in the ground. Our best defense against extreme weather, however, is to keep the fields covered as much as possible. We plant cover crops wherever we don’t have cash crops growing, and in many cases we interseed cover crops with the cash crops. At the moment, Upper Crooked Field provides a visual comparative of this strategy in action. On the eastern side of the field, which has a barely perceptible slope, the sweet potatoes are coming along nicely, but they’re still 4-5 weeks away from a full leaf canopy, i.e. the field is still mostly bare. Elsa’s rain created rivulets between the rows and left the beds looking like a rocky beach—you can literally see the erosion. On the steeper downhill side, however, the potatoes are mulched with leaves and interseeded with oats, which act as a buffer and a sponge, respectively. Apart from the bright green foliage, you’d never know we had so much rain.
Our crew has a few strategies for keeping busy and staying relatively dry in the rain, but there’s not much we can do (here comes the pun) about the damper it puts on CSA pickup. Oh wait…there is! For the past several Saturdays, rain or shine, Joshua Wang has been playing violin at the Tin House, and I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s awesome! Josh has been a CSA member and volunteer since he was six. Barely taller than my hip, he used to help me ring up sales at the farm stand; now he towers over me (they grow like weeds, don’t they?). His music is a welcome addition to the Saturday pickup—when Josh is playing, it’s hard to resist dancing, no matter the weather.
The fields are looking happy and lush. The crops, weeds, and grass are loving the rain in equal measure, and we’re doing our best to encourage the first, discourage the second, and keep control of the third. Unfortunately, we’ve been beset, once again, by staffing woes. Steve Cecchini, who missed most of the 2019 season to fight cancer, has been out due to surgery complications. We hope it won’t be long before he’s back, but for now, please send prayers and positive thoughts. We’re also looking to hire temporary help, to tide us over until Steve is back. The pay isn’t great, and the summer heat can be brutal, but for those who stick with it, farming is an amazing, inspiring experience that looks awesome on any resumé.
A temporary crew member to help with harvest, weeding, and other field tasks.
Hours: Mondays 1-5, Wednesdays 8-4, Fridays 8-4
Starting ASAP, ending in the late-September/early-October