As ever, October has somehow lept upon us. Indeed so fast this year, that we never got out a proper September newsletter. Apologies for the elipsis.
With all 20 share bags behind us now, it's time to look back at the growing season and see just how things stacked up, or didn't.
By comparison with 2013, the immediately noticeable difference is in the totals: Last year, we provided 154 lbs of produce per share, this year 138. Last year's calorie count was 26,300; this year's is 20,400.
While those numbers are slightly shocking (at least I was shocked when I looked at the bottom of this year's spreadsheet), the 16 pound / 5,900 calorie deficit was almost entirely down to two crops: can you tell what they were?
Hint: They were obviously high-calorie crops, since 16 pounds divides into 5,900 calories at 369 calories/lb, not exactly lettuce and cucumber territory (though we did load you down with 12 lbs of cucumbers this year, double the total in 2013). (Cucumbers, BTW, boast a stingy 45 calories/lb, second only to kale in lowest-calorie-per-weight category among our vegetables).
It turns out that potatos and pears accounted for 82% of the calorie drop this year, and 91% of the weight deficit. We provided half as many potatos this year (8½ lbs. In 2014 vs. 17 lbs. in 2013), returning to what is much closer to our historical standard after participating in a U.W. potato research project last year that required us to trial 20 varieties, twice our normal capacity. (We participated again this year, but with 10 varieties). In case you're wondering (though I didn't hear you ask), our potatos produced a very industrious .87 lbs (316 calories) per square foot, slightly up from our last measurement a couple years ago.
Pears were something closer to an actual crop failure for us; because of the cold spring, our Clapp's Favorite tree bore about half its normal flowers, and about half the resulting fruits were stricken with something that caused significant misshapenness and a larger number of grit cells than normal. (We're still researching this.)
One more missing fruit – hardy kiwi, as we forewarned in June – basically accounts for the rest of the pound/calorie shortfall this year (1½ pounds / 400+ calories in a typical season). We experienced a complete crop failure in our kiwi, with the late May green-up shortening the fruiting season so dramatically that the female vine simply declined to bloom. We anticipate (fingers crossed...) a return to normal kiwi and pear production next year.
Otherwise, production was pretty much as normal in 2014, despite a ridiculously cold and dry July and first half of August. The cucumbers apparently took no notice of this, nor, strangely, did the tomatos – the 16½ pounds we provided you this year was almost double the 8½ pounds we gave out last year. The sweet peppers on the other hand seemed unduly affected by weather and perhaps placement in the garden as well; the disconsolate plants managed a meager ¾ of a pound for your share bags, down from six or seven in a normal year. But, leave it to the summer squash to pick up the slack: the 13 pounds you got this year over the course of an unprecedented 12 week run was more than double last year's 6 lbs. You're probably still trying to figure out what to do with them all.
With any luck, I'll put together some numbers on average production per square foot, calories of food output per calorie of fuel consumed, and other interesting statistics (interesting to me...) for one of the over-winter newsletters.
But as usual, many thanks to all of you who support our farm each year, bear with the viccisitudes of the growing season, and allow us to tinker with ecologizing the food supply and do the work that feeds our souls.
We wish you well over the cold months, and remember: summer squash always work well as door-stops.