Did you notice it’s getting darker earlier in the evening? That the mornings are, if not quite crisp, at least refreshing. This time of year in the Sonoran desert can feel more like an extension of summer than an abrupt change to fall. It’s fun meeting members and volunteers who are still adjusting to life in the desert, getting used to the unique seasonal rhythms here. Stefanie Lukomski, a Tuesday volunteer, wrote this piece reflecting on her experience so far. She was recently relocated to Tucson at the beginning of the pandemic when she started volunteering at the CSA, jumping into the work of frantically pre-packing shares with us and discovering just how different our local growing seasons are here. Like the weather, eating locally in our region can sometimes be disappointing or frustrating but we think, ultimately rewarding.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. Most likely because this time of year presents a lot of lifestyle adjustments. My kids head back to school which results in a major change in our schedule and causes me to feel like my time needs to be well planned out in order to make the most of it. This time of year also makes me think a lot about the seasons changing. Just last night, I noticed that the sun is setting earlier and I felt like calling it a night before 8. The seasons changing also reminds me of this time of year in Wisconsin, where I was born and raised and resided until 2020. I had volunteered on a CSA farm in Wisconsin and I find myself recalling what this time of year meant there.
The transition to autumn in Wisconsin meant the end of a fairly short lived CSA season. Typically the CSA shares began in mid June with my volunteer work in the fields starting in mid May. By that time, most of the early season seeds had been started in a green house and were just getting planted in ground. There were a few hoop houses that were already started as well and that was where a lot of work went for the volunteers early in the season- weeding in the hoop houses.
Once the field crops were ready to harvest, the summer on the farm was hot and busy. A lot of the crops were the same as what we get here in Tucson in the summer. But, then there was the addition of everything else we get in Tucson the rest of the year. Lettuce, salad greens, kale, beets, celery, carrots, kohlrabi and more, in a 4 month time frame. During this time we would also harvest garlic and have that drying in a barn for later in the season. All this while weeding the fields, processing the harvested veggies and packing shares. It was pretty intense from my point of view as a volunteer.
That brings us to this time of the year. In Wisconsin I would start thinking about the CSA shares coming to an end in a couple months and how I could preserve and where my fresh vedge would come from for the following 6 months. I would also start thinking a lot about what was still to come from the shares. This is where it gets funny in my mind and where one of the biggest adjustments with moving to Tucson has occurred…I always based this time of year on what veggies were to come and how they would line up with Thanksgiving. Basically, all the produce we get in our shares here in Tucson between December and April was what filled the shares in Wisconsin between mid September through mid November. I could always count on having plenty of winter squash that I could make last for a few months after the CSA season ended. I could count on brussel sprouts being ready shortly before Thanksgiving. Other than that, most of the crop fields were all harvested and the soil was being prepared for winter and the coming year.
It’s amusing to me that I based so much on the CSA share and the time I had left with it this time of year. Here in my new home of year round vedge and growth and life, I find I am still adjusting to what I base this time of year on. And why does my mind insist on having something to be on a schedule with. I don’t mind it, but, is it necessary? Soon I will be changing my raised garden over to cool weather crops. This in itself is also an adjustment as in Wisconsin, a home garden would only have one season. I’m sure my mind will adjust and begin to look forward to changing my garden over this time of year. And maybe someday I will be able to recall what is next to come in the abundance of year round CSA shares here. For now, I will continue to be amused by the beauty of change this time of year.