An autumn story

As we enter November, the growing season has largely ended here in Boulder. We had our first soft frost in the end of September, and then had a number of hard frosts throughout October. Late summer and early fall turned out to be highly productive on the farm – some of our best crops were collards, summer squash, carrots, garlic, and onions. But by far the best was our winter squash crop. The farm grew over 20 different varieties, including classics like Spaghetti, Butternut, Carnival, Blue Hubbard, and Pink Banana, and more obscure varieties, such as Ute Indian Squash, Big Red Warty Thing, Australian Butter Squash, and Hopi Pale Grey. Not only did we have more squash than ever before (6,300 pounds of it!), but also they were some of the biggest squash we’ve ever grown. Every year on the farm is different – sometimes it is the year of the pepper, sometimes the year of the cabbage, but this was the year of the winter squash. Our cooks have been hard at work processing the thousands of pounds of squash. We have been serving roasted squash as a side on the dinner plate; we have made our favorite blue hubbard-apple soup and pumpkin-piñon enchiladas; we have been roasting and freezing squash so that we have farm produce when we open in the spring; we even pickled squash this year! Oh, and don’t forget about all of the pumpkins we carved for Halloween…

This year brought certain challenges along with it. After our second high tunnel was destroyed this spring in an epic wind storm, we had to adjust to growing our tomatoes and peppers without a proper hoop house. The farmers made a small hoop house with the remaining plastic, which is where we grew peppers and they did fairly well. The tomatoes, however, we grew outside. Though we had warm summer days, the nighttime temperatures in the high mountain desert are not as kind to tomatoes. We still had some beautiful tomatoes (many delicious Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, Pink Brandywine, and Oregon Spring) that we were delighted to feature on the menu, but it was not a prolific tomato year like we’ve had in the past. Maybe next year!

While the farm looks somewhat bare these days, that doesn’t mean things aren’t growing. We planted our best seed garlic about a month ago, and it is happily mulched under a thin layer of leaves. We also have a few carrot beds in the ground, some of which we will harvest before Thanksgiving (the colder nights give our Scarlett Nantes carrots a wonderful sweetness) and some we will over-winter and harvest in the spring. Finally, the farmers still have beds of spinach growing, which they keep warm every night by covering with row cover. We are excited to serve delicious, nutrient-packed fresh spinach at our Thanksgiving Feast in a few weeks!

This is a special time of year on the farm – it is after the pressure of the heat and harvests, when the farmers can slow down and reflect upon the season. As they spread aged manure and leaves on the empty beds, they plan what they will plant where next year. As they collect and clean the tools, they think about what went well this year and what they will do differently next season. They mulch the asparagus and fruit trees and wonder what this winter will bring in terms of temperature and moisture. As always, another year growing produce in Boulder brings just as many questions as answers, and we excitedly begin thinking about next season. But for now, we all welcome the winter.