Hail Mary Delivery

That’s what it felt like, at least, heading back to Vermillion this weekend to check on the gardens and do a CSA delivery.  Especially after, having just sent an e-mail to my members to let them know I was coming, I started seeing baseball-sized hail images from homeowners right across the valley.

So, I headed back not knowing what I was walking into–but hoping that there’d be at least something to salvage.

It's called, "a cryin' shame."

The peppers took a hellacious loss.  The Napoleon Sweets (shown above) took the hardest hit because they were the biggest fruits.  The slimmer sweet peppers like the Jimmy Nardellos fared better, but they didn’t escape entirely.

Sorry, Jimmy

The summer squash was a complete loss.  Especially since, not having been picked for a couple of weeks, all the fruits were quite large and made better targets.  This Papaya Pear took a single direct hit in the midriff:


And then this poor Tromboncino, which was much slimmer, must’ve been in just the right place to really get ripped up:


Over in the winter squash patch, things looked a little better.  A lot of those fruits had cured in the field, and their shells were good and hard.  There were still quite a few flying squash, and since most of them landed along the lower fence, I told H to expect a nice productive hedge there next year.

Dented and dinged

I went ahead and harvested pretty much all the rest of the winter squash, as I don’t expect to make it back before a frost (and speaking of–it hasn’t frosted down there yet.  It hasn’t up here yet!?!?).

Final squash harvest--spaghetti and Delicata

This was all Saturday afternoon.  I waited until Sunday morning to do the rest of the harvest, hoping I’d be able to get in and dig the last row of Purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes.  But there was still standing water in that area of the garden from Saturday morning’s drenching (and a little more pea-sized hail, for good measure).

Sunday dawned chilly, misty, and dewy–a lovely morning for harvesting in some respects (chiefly that it was too cold for the mosquitoes to be out).

Webbed gate

The task of the morning, since the potatoes were out of the question, was to dig the last row of Blue Solaise leeks.  I’d forgotten my digging fork in Minnesota, so I used the broadfork, which turned out to be an even better tool for the job–I just set it along the edge of the row and lifted 3-4 leeks at a time.

Digging leeks

Washing and trimming muddy leeks isn’t the neatest job, but I managed (uncharacteristically) to avoid getting myself totally soaked and mud-spattered.

I kept thinking, as I was working, how I’d better find myself a farm in Minnesota soon, or else I won’t be able to start this, my favorite crop, and transplant it out in early spring.

Washing the leeks

A good leek root system reminds me of white embroidery floss–they’re so strong and thick and glossy.

There were some really good-sized ones in this last of the three rows I started from saved seed–seed saved from plants started from seed themselves a couple of years earlier, since leeks are biennials–setting on gorgeous big blossoms on 3-4-foot high stalks in their second year of life.

Clean, trimmed, and ready for deliveries

Saving seed from this heirloom variety isn’t terribly difficult because they’re an overwintering type.  The only issue I’ve found in getting them through the winter is that they get so sweet after a hard freeze that you have to protect them from the deer.

And, of course, to get the best seed you have to leave some of your biggest and best leeks in the field to face those depredations and hardships.  You can’t even eat them in the spring, when you really want something fresh from the garden.

That’s what parsnips are for–and that is the one crop I can still guarantee delivery of to my members–unless (crossing fingers) something really, really bad happens.  Something worse than baseball-sized hail.

But the parsnips will have to wait at least until a hard freeze, when I’ll dig some for them and some for me.  With the way the weather has been acting, they could end up being a Christmas present.

I don’t know about you, but I’d take a sweet home-grown parsnip in my stocking over a peppermint stick any old day.


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