The killing frost came last week and we really couldn’t complain. We were well ahead on picking tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, and when we got frost warnings we had only a few bushels of tender crops to bring in.
When I got home from work, my husband had already picked a bucketful of zinnias and a couple of baskets of peppers and whatever was left of the eggplants. I went through the cucumbers and herbs, pumpkins and greens while he started milking goats. And I picked more flowers.
When we first moved up here 30-something years ago, we’d typically get frost in the first week of September. We’d be frantically picking unripe tomatoes and undersized peppers by the truck’s headlights late into the night. It’s tough to end the growing season at Labor Day when you can’t even plant your tender vegetables until Memorial Day.
But the season is longer now. We dare to plant a little earlier every year, and first frost holds off longer too. This year we marveled that the eggplant and basil were still growing into the first week of October. Then I checked our garden notes from last year and found that the killer frost held off until Oct. 17.
It’s been a good season. The rainy June and hot July got the garden off to a good start. We had the best carrots we’ve ever had — long, straight and sweet.
The peppers were prolific, the cucumbers insane. Luckily the goats liked them, too, because there was no way we could keep up with them — despite daily salads, selling some, sharing more with friends, pickling lots and chopping some up for the animals. I’ve got a pantry full of pickles and relish.
The tomatoes were late, as usual, but with the late frost we still got more than enough ripe tomatoes and we have a few bushels still ripening in the house.
There’s salsa and sauces yet to be made and canned, and more tomatoes to roast and freeze.
The house, as is usual this time of year, is full of vegetables. There are bushel baskets in the kitchen and foyer and living room, herbs hanging to dry, peppers on the back porch, bags of potatoes, onions lying around, vases and jars of flowers everywhere.
Some of the veggies just need cleaning for winter storage. Others — cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts — need to be processed for the freezer. That means there’s still a fair amount of garden work to do, besides pulling up all the frozen vines and plants for composting.
I’ll miss the flowers and fresh herbs, and working outdoors in the dirt and the sun. But this year I’m ready to move onto my after-garden projects: knitting, drawing, reading, hiking. The leaves are turning. We’ve been lighting to wood stove at night. I’m ready.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Oct. 27. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.