Working Through Winter

For a farm and farmers, winter is time to lie dormant and refresh ourselves after the long production season. But to be sure, there isn’t all that much down time on a farm that will spring back to life after a couple of months in the deep freeze. The time passes quickly. We travel a little, hunker down with the early darkness to read, plan, and prepare for spring, and we spend time with friends.

We also reap some of the goodness of the past summer. In the little hoop house that we installed in the kitchen garden last fall, there is still spinach, tat soi, claytonia, arugula and lettuce that grows slowly but faithfully even during the coldest days. On sunny days, the temperature climbs quite quickly inside the hoop, where the plants are protected from the cold, drying wind.  With the mild temperatures we’ve had this fall and winter, we’ve been able to continually harvest fresh salad greens for our family’s dinners.

Likewise, root vegetables are protected under a layer of snow and straw. Last week when the temperatures were in the 20’s and 30’s, we dug white potatoes and horseradish and even a few carrots.  The vegetables convert some of their starches to sugars as a kind of antifreeze, and so are very sweet when harvested in winter. Plus, it’s such a treat to gather really fresh foods during the dead of winter!  A morale booster for sure!

Last summer we decided to try growing fig trees, knowing that they require extra protection in northern climes during the winter months.  We planted four trees in a south-facing, protected area; two each of brown turkey and Chicago hardy varieties. We actually harvested about a dozen or so fresh fruits from one of the trees last summer.  Now they stand covered with burlap and tarps, stuffed with straw for insulation, looking like dark snowmen waiting patiently for the spring thaw.  We are waiting as well, hoping that they will survive the cold Indiana winter and reward our care with some of our favorite fruits next summer.

That’s what’s happening this week; stay tuned for more news about our upcoming 2016 season here on Old Loon Farm!

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