Monday, October 15, 2007

Changing Seasons and Chores

I hadn't realized how distracting our Summer Market Season is until it occured to me that I hadn't posted anything since that last discussion of growing basil. Well, the basil is just about gone- a few plants are lingering in the greenhouse, but they will soon become pesto, and the greenhouse will be cleared out to accomodate the plants that prefer a wee bit of protection from our wet, windy and chilly winter season.

Last Saturday was our last market of the year, the annual Harvest Festival at Alder Creek Farm, the lovely property in Manzanita owned by the Lower Nehalem Community Trust. It was a glorious day- bright blue skies and warm sun made for a wonderful contrast to the soggy weather we have been having all summer long. It was a bittersweet sunshine- we all knew it was bound to be one of the last truly glorious days of the year, and we all tried to savor and enjoy every moment of it.

This really has been a cool, wet summer here on the north Oregon coast, and we struggled with plants that were slow to grow, bloomed late, or hardly at all, fruit that refused to ripen, flowers that rotted from being continually soaked with rain. More than once we had to completely strip the whole sweet pea trellis and throw all of the rain ruined flowers in the compost, like piles of brightly colored sodden, fragrant tissues. Come to think of it, it did feel rather as if the garden had an ongoing head cold all summer long. Usually I have more statice than I know what to do with, but this year it was miserable, the flowers hardly beginning to bloom before a rain would come and turn them all to brown mush. Our fall wreaths seemed less colorful to me, as I had less color to work with!

There were a few troopers in the flower garden this year, chief among them the Dahlia Gang, who stood up to the rain all season long, and they continue to bloom ridiculously even through the cool nights we are starting to have. I know it is only a matter of time before the first killing frost reduces them to a brown slimy mess, so I savor every flower. We were able to cut enough flowers to bring a last gasp of Ball Jar Bouquets to the Harvest Festival, and they were quickly snapped up by loyal customers eager for one last blast of color from summer.

Fall brings about lots of gear shifting and new chores here at Ostman Farm- with our main selling season done, we shift our focus to cleaning up the farm, putting pots away, getting the garlic planted, sowing cover crop while there is still time, and making sure the hatches are battened down for the inevitable storms that are going to blow hard this winter. Lots of our craft items will be winging their way off to spend the fall and winter for sale in local and regional stores- we will keep you posted on where they will be.

Our work shifts as well, changing to focus some on riparian restoration work, where we will be outside planting native trees and shrubs along our local creeks and rivers to help improve wildlife habitat, working with the North Coast Land Conservancy, and the Necanicum Watershed Council among other groups. It can be challenging work, often done in full rain gear for good reason, but the satisfaction of spending a day planting hundereds of trees that will (hopefully) still be growing long after I am gone cannot be equaled.

This year will find us also filling a few shifts at the fabulous Blue Scorcher Bakery Cafe in Astoria, Oregon to round out the winter work season. I had already been going up there weekly to do seasonal flower arrangements, and it just seemed to be a logical shift to pick up a knife and start chopping vegetables for a pot of soup one day. It is a great place to work, full of fun, talented people who are committed to producing delicious food and the most glorious bread and pastries this side of the Coast Range. Their determination to use locally produced, organic ingredients wherever possible is inspiring, and I think it shows in the quality of the food coming out of their kitchens. It will be great fun to be a part of it all, although I will have to learn to control my lust for Jeff's Cinnamon Rolls somehow. One thing I love about working at the bakery is that it is as much of a communtiy hub as the Astoria Sunday Market is, and many of Ostman Farm's regular customers are also loyal fans of the great Blue Scorcher, so I will get to keep in touch with people over the winter season.

We are already chewing on ideas for next year's market season, debating the tomato varieties that we grew this year, deciding which to do again (feel free to weigh in with your opinion!), thinking about lettuce varieties too, as well as blooming plants. As I pull out the spent snapdragons and sweet peas, I am already planning which ones to grow next year. We had several people ask us for a 'Flower Bouquet Subscription Service' so that they could get flowers regularly each week, and for longer than the regular market seasons, and we are pondering that and will see if we can work that out.

In the meantime, I will work on posting to this blog more regularly, as this season has given me lots to think about.