Devoting the Early Hours to Kale

-Erika Rumbley

As temperatures climb, the Langwater Crew loads into trucks by 7:00 a.m. for the daily harvest. 3×5 notecards with scrawled harvest numbers are tucked into the pockets of our work pants. Glove boxes are stuffed with rubber bands. Truck beds are filled with empty crates and sleepy harvesters. Folks on the crew are known for their proficiency with certain crops. Max, who later in the season will spend countless hours picking perfectly ripe red tomatoes, spends his early summer mornings in the strawberry field filling tray after tray of deep crimson berries. Newcomers to the Langwater Crew spend their first weeks being trained on the surprisingly elusive art of bunching. Bunching radishes. Bunching beets. Bunching hakurei turnips. Bunching so that each bunch is nearly identical. Bunching with ever increasing speed.

Tender greens benefit from cooler morning temperatures and so we devote the early hours to Lettuce, Arugula, Mustard, Kale… Kale is a crew favorite. Right now, kale plants are lush and full, making for quick picking. Unlike those pesky roots that must be arranged just so, a kale bunch comes easier to most novice harvesters.  Every 10- 15- 20 bunches, I pause to collect our bunches into crates. By 8:00 a.m. our first truck stacked tall with curly, lacinato, red Russian and all of kale’s cousins is ambling down the farm road for a dip in cool tubs of water before they make their way to you. Periodically throughout the morning, trucks follow the path of the first with herbs, roots and berries until we’ve harvested all of your food for the day. The vegetables are off to our farmstand, markets and restaurants. We are off to our afternoon weeding projects…

Sharp Shovels and Crispy Kale

-Liz Nolan
“Why is the shovel regarded as a symbol of drudgery? Perhaps because most shovels are dull.  Certainly all drudges have dull shovels, but I am uncertain which of these two facts is cause and which effect.  I only know that a good file, vigorously wielded, makes my shovel sing as it slices the mellow loam.”

-Aldo Leopold, from “A Sand County Almanac”

As always we follow the whims of the season.  November brought hard frosts, and we raced old man winter to bring in our storage crops.  Last Wednesday we harvested the rest of the beet crop at Wheaton in the rain and sleet.  We’ve harvested all but one bed of our storage carrots, making quick work of it with the under cutter implement on the tractor.  Now that our storage crops are nearly all safely tucked in for the months ahead we can breathe a sigh of relief.  Yet the harvest continues.  Our fields are still flush with winter hardy kales, the most burly of leeks for winter harvest, and baby greens.  We are able to extend the harvest for the kale and some greens by diligently applying a row cover on the coldest of nights.  The row cover is like a big blanket.  We cover up the greens and tack down the sides with generous spoonfuls of soil.  We remove the covers frequently for harvest and to prevent excessive humidity. The on and off of the cover is a big task and the greedy wind often attempts to wrestle the cover from us- but we are not fazed.  We have sharp shovels and great recipes for kale.