© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm
Let the Leaves Fall Where They May
Quite a windswept windfall of late. The Autumn gusts have brought many a changing leaf down to the ground. Along with the leaves come snow, cold rain and sticks as well. Lots of blow downs and self pruning to contend with and gather. At the Farm, and at home paddocks, the barnyard animals are soaked and perhaps also caught off guard by the early winter weather. But on they go, the hens give us eggs, the roosters crow, the horses whinny and trot and the goats happily receive carrot tops and go for the occasional walk to devour poison ivy, because they can. The bunny remains evasive and cute, responding most to the rare dandelion leaf as a lure to go into her hutch each evening. Hunkered down inside, while watching the storm or seeking warmth, we too trod on, perhaps with a cup of coffee in hand or sitting by a steeping pot of tea. It is a great time, this harvest time, to make some soup with still fresh, recently harvested potatoes, carrots, leeks, parsnips and stones.
A hardy soup can soothe the soul, as we witness the pre-mature snow and wonder about the length and challenge of impending winter. Freshly dug turnips and well-dried garlic, the latter of which is not planted, can make for wonderful ‘turnip demonium’ and batches of fresh humus. Since no chick peas grow on the farm, the purple top turnips make a great substitute, unless one prefers to save some turnips for creaming at the Thanksgiving table. The kale and chard, beets and lettuce can handle this cold and keep on producing. These and many crops will sparkle and sweeten as the first hint of frost presents itself in the early mornings and still warm, sunny days this month. The harvest gives much for our table and for the nearby bin. The bin refers to the one that collects food waste in the kitchen or a larger area in the corner of a community garden, backyard or part of the Farm set aside for compost.
Growing and planting, picking and planning, the farmer has much to consider as we enter this slower time. But right now, these changing November days, is ripe for handling all these chores and tasks. Heading out to the backyard and field edges, as well as the farm beds and garden paths, there is much to collect. With a rake in hand or a wheelbarrow in tow, the leaves are terrific to pile right next to a new or established compost pile. The carbonaceous leaves are terrific to place on tops of any green, nitrogen ingredients. Such green ingredients include buckets of coffee grounds (filters too) from that coffee shop of choice and zen tea house, many vegetable food scraps from school cafeterias and field trips, veggie tops from the soup you might make, plenty of manure from earlier mentioned wet and happy barnyard animals as well as tops of carrots, parsnips and turnips that did not find their way to the goats. The egg shells from the chickens are great too for compost, especially after the contents have been used for warm chocolate chip cookies or Sunday morning pancakes. The fallen sticks and twigs, branches and even tree trunks that were prey to the gales can be set aside for kindling, split for next year’s firewood and put near the wood pile in the greenhouse as it is a good time to start a wood stove fire to warm a home or greenhouse. The sticks and branches will someday decompose, but for now would take up too much room in the compost pile and decay at a different rate from the other green and brown ingredients.
And why not make this compost now and prepare for spring? For after the winter and the less intense growing season, it will be terrific to dig into a pile of ready compost. The micro-organisms, worms and insects will continue working all winter and help decompose that pile you make at this time of year. In winter, if we linger longer at the coffee spot, either staring at the raging and calm ocean, or sit at a desk pouring over field plans and crop rotations, pondering seed orders, re-organizing gardens and figuring out where to plant the new sunflower house and pumpkin patch, the compost will happen. If one tends to the fallen leaves and carrot tops now, as well as the available compost ingredients, then we can save on trash, become better stewards for the environment and have better beds in this still glorious season of the soup and at home for the harvest. Up and at ’em, as the daylight comes earlier and sets all too soon.