In a muddy drizzle last week, we harvested the last of the oak leaf and lolla rosa lettuce, tilled under the remaining rain-stunted eggplant and peppers, and yanked out the tangled sprawl of tomatoes in the orchard.
The normally solemn end-of-season ritual was buoyed by some cranking iTunes, although “This is the End” by the Doors didn’t do much to lift the mood.
Antonia and Maren, Bavarian Gothic.
So we wallow in it. We top-dress it with compost, we till in manure, we rake and coddle it into cake flour. Winter will be here soon enough, and render it as hard and unyielding as stone.
Besides the Fall ritual of soil farming, we harvested some imperfect organic apples this week–blotched and mottled and beautiful. One antique variety, Hidden Blush, had a tart, rose-streaked interior. Another, Melrose, was the size of a softball, with a complex acid sweetness.
The Downing orchard is planted with historic apples and pears that were cultivated more than 150 years ago by famed landscape architect, pomologist and Newburgh native Andrew Jackson Downing. The orchard’s references to history and place are important to our mission here at Stonegate. Because the farm is on the National Historic Register, we’re intent on cultivating history as well, from antique apples to heirloom greens.
Some fruit this season was too far gone to be more than cider or chicken feed (five weeks of rain and two hurricanes saw to that!), but growing organic tree fruit will always be an unrequited affair. As the Beatles said: “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”
And the love we took from the farm this year was bountiful. Thank you for taking part. –Mb
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