I surveyed the harvest table with relief. Pink and red radishes, rinsed of the dirt they’d been pulled from minutes before, rested next to white-bulbed Hakurei turnips, their leafy tops still dewy-wet. Tubs of mixed salad greens, spinach, and red mustard sat nearby, ready to be bagged and packed into our brand-new, squeaky-clean CSA tubs. ‘By Jove, we did it!’ I thought. ‘We made it through the season’s first CSA harvest.’
I’ll admit that a few weeks ago I was worried. I fretted over our production plan this winter, trying to pack crop variety into our small growing space while making sure we could plant enough of everything to fill our shares. I scheduled plantings so that several crops would ripen each week from the end of May through mid-October. But living beings don’t abide by plans on paper (or even digital spreadsheets) and April’s cold snap stopped plant growth . . . well . . . stopped it cold. The little sprouts of peas, chard, and scallions we’d planted in the unseasonable warmth of late March shivered an inch above the ground, using up their energy reserves as they struggled to keep their tiny leaves and root systems alive. I began to think it might have been a mistake to start our CSA a week earlier this year. What if the end of May arrived before we had anything to harvest?
Spring always feels to me both tentative and ferocious, a dangerous time, full of tender young things emerging into an unpredictable world. You might say that Diane and I are midwives of sorts in this season, fostering conditions under which new life can emerge and thrive. We tailor our planting to the needs of each crop, sprouting some (such as leeks, tomato, and eggplant) indoors in late winter and seeding others (such as peas and beans) directly into the warm spring soil. We’ve worked intensely these past couple of months—starting transplants on my porch, moving them to the hoop to harden off, preparing raised beds of soil, and finally, tucking the plants and seeds into the earth.
And then we had to keep them alive. Until their root systems develop, the little plants need lots of water, so there’s been much hauling about of hoses and sprinklers (we’re saving up for a drip irrigation system) and much mulching to keep water in the ground and weeds down. We’ve also been plucking bugs and raising fences to keep the four-legged vegetable lovers out! I’d hoped to write more consistently about our farm activities this spring, but most evenings I am almost too tired to stand up, let alone compose a coherent blog post.
But it’s a good tired, a satisfying one. And finally in May the nights warmed and the spinach and salad greens shot skyward, literally growing overnight. The rosettes of romaine bloomed, turnips and radishes swelled, scallions straightened (they sprout bent over double, as if someone had folded them in half), and peas began to climb their trellis. The CSA tubs that I’d worried would look empty filled with colorful roots and leafy greens.
But tomorrow is another harvest day. I begin to worry. Were my plans good? Will we have enough? I survey the field: salad greens, kale, turnips, braising mix . . . by golly, I do believe we’re going to make it through CSA week number two.