Putting a Farm to Sleep a.k.a. Season’s End

Next year's garlic in the ground and tucked in for winter.
Next year’s garlic in the ground and tucked in for winter.

This is the time of year when a farm gets put to bed. The last of many crops get harvested, while some carry forward, weather permitting, a little longer into the winter. When a crop has been harvested what remains gets mowed down and/or tilled into the soil. Cover crops get spread over bare soil and around remaining crop residues to protect the soil from erosion, suppress weeds, and build organic matter. Irrigation and plant row covers get pulled from the fields and stowed away. Garlic is planted so it can go through the cold temperatures of winter that unlock the magic inside each clove. All in all, things get cleaned up, stashed away, and organised for the harsh weather of winter, and the year to come, and it is a good, satisfying way to end a season.

The north field in a cover crop of winter rye.
The north field in a cover crop of winter rye.
Rootdown's oldest kale bed, planted in April and still producing like a champ in late October!
Rootdown’s oldest kale bed, planted in April and still producing like a champ in late October!

Last Tuesday was also Aurélie and I’s last day of work at Rootdown for the season of 2015. It was a little bit shy of our original planned end date, but these things are hard to predict for a farm and for farmers. What can seem like a huge and endless to do list can actually be made up of small jobs that don’t take as long as you think they will to accomplish. Such was the case for Rootdown this year. Once the CSA wrapped up in the first week of October and harvesting dropped down to a minimum the list of farm tasks remaining was completed rather quickly.

And while, on some level I am sad, because I love my job and the work of farming, on another level I am very okay with it, and maybe even glad. That is because a large part of what I love about farming is the seasonal and cyclical nature of it. Seeds sprout and grow, are harvested, and die. Animals grow, and animals die. The seasons change, and as they change, the work, and my desire to do it, changes too.

It is not that I want to stop farming when winter draws near, but there is something about working with plants and doing work of a seasonal nature that has put me more in touch with what my body wants to do at different times of year, on more of an instinctual, animalistic level. As daylight hours decrease, it is harder to get up when it is still pitch black out, and less work feels more tiring. The cold and damp weather can also take it’s toll, as can the heavy rain gear that must usually be worn (although don’t get me wrong – I love my industrial Helly Hansen rain gear!). My body wants to sleep more and go into a hibernation of sorts. Emotions seem to run high at this time of year too, and getting teary-eyed for little reason in the middle of the fall field is not as uncommon as you might think. That probably has do with everyone being more tired than they may even realise; or maybe it is just because fall and winter are the seasons of moving inward into the deeper, more emotional parts of ourselves.

Whatever the reason, the end of the season seemed to come at just the right time this year. While I felt I could have kept going, I wasn’t raring to go, and am appreciating being able to sleep in a bit longer in the mornings, and shift gears a bit. Any farmers reading this probably know what I mean.

As for my next move, I was offered a job at Rootdown next year, and have accepted it gratefully and with excitement. As well as simply getting another chance to work with and learn from the lovely Rootdown ladies (minus Aurélie, sadly, as she is going back to Québec to be closer to friends and family there), I will also be growing a few medicinal herbs for the Whistler-based Namasthé Tea Company using Rootdown land but my own time and muscle power. While there are a lot of details still be to be worked out on how exactly that will play out, I am excited to be in the planning stages of this mini herb farming adventure.

I will say once again how extremely grateful I am for my season at Rootdown. It has taught me so much about farming, communication, and myself. It has taught me a lot about what I want, has helped me to clarify my vision surrounding farming, has shown me that a work/life balance is possible for farmers, and has shown me how much fun it can be to work with an awesome, small crew of positive farm women! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The 2015 Rootdown Farm crew, happy if a bit tired, sporting our work rain gear.
The 2015 Rootdown Farm crew, happy, if a bit tired, sporting our work rain gear. From left: Aurélie, Simone, Sarah, Marisol (Simone’s daughter), and myself.
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5 thoughts on “Putting a Farm to Sleep a.k.a. Season’s End

  1. I just finished reading all of your posts and I can’t tell you enough how enjoyable they were! Such a nice language. I know the season has ended but I think you need to keep writing about something. Because I would love to read more of your stories.

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