Hail the frost! Hail the blackened vine!"
-- Hal Borland, from Twelve Moons of the Year
It happens every year. This year, we knew it was coming. The radio and weather websites forecast it all week, the predicted low temperature dipping lower each day. On Wednesday, in a cold rain, the farm crew harvested the last of the eggplant and peppers; volunteers helped pick the last green tomatoes. On Thursday, it was clear and chilly; Friday morning there was a warning frost on the grass in the low spots.
After a cold, clear morning, it rained again on Friday. Around 2 o'clock, the skies cleared, the sun came out, and we finished the harvest up. At 3, we went to get the reemay to put a thin frost blanket over the vulnerable lettuce. The wind began to blow, as it does whenever we get the reemay out (Dan says there ought to be some kind of scientific study). We anchored the fragile fabric with black plastic bags filled with soil, and the wind died. The farm was quiet. All day, shareholders had been coming to pick their last basil and their last hot peppers, so we didn't think there would be much left. We wandered over to the pepper patch and picked bags of our own cayennes, green aji dulce, fatalii and serranos, almost ceremonially -- then we split up for the night. It was getting dark, and cold. The sun came out from behind a cloud and blazed briefly on the flaming trees as I was picking a few of the last Mountain Magic tomatoes, still on the vine. It was time to go. Saturday morning, crisp, damp, and blue, felt like a kind of farmer holiday.
Even though we'll continue to harvest, and this week's mild temperatures mean that crops continue to grow, there is a sweet finality to the first frost that is a joy and a relief to a farmer. In a way, the frost is like a good cleaning for our farm. The dead vines of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and sweet potatoes don't need any more help from us this year, and won't survive to carry diseases into next year. Our worst weed, galinsoga, does not survive cold temperatures, so it too falls away in the frost to leave the surviving vegetable crops green and beautiful in their rows. There is a serenity to the bounty of the farm after the frost that is worth celebrating with fried green tomatoes, roasted green peppers, and the last of the eggplant on the grill.
Enjoy the real end of summer, and this beautiful time.
Amanda, for the farm crew
Images by Rebekah Carter (2012).